Gander’s Brad Peyton just finished directing the biggest movie of his career

Peyton has worked with superstars Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa and Jennifer Lopez.

Director Brad Peyton works with actor Dwayne Johnson on the set of the action thriller San Andreas. (Jasin Boland/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Film director Brad Peyton traded in central Newfoundland for central California and is finding success every step of the way.

Peyton has worked on multi-million dollar projects with stars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jason Momoa and N.L.’s own Allan Hawco.

Peyton returned from Los Angeles to visit his hometown in Gander for first time in about 20 years over the holidays.

He sat down in studio with CBC Radio’s Newfoundland Morning to talk about his career so far and his next film project — Atlas, starring Jennifer Lopez.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Q: Let’s talk about the last year. How would you recap 2022?

A: It was better than the previous two years because I got to leave my house and do something. I’m still making, but I shot my biggest movie I’ve ever worked on. It’s called Atlas, it’s for Netflix. It stars Jennifer Lopez, Sterling K. Brown, Mark Strong. It’s a gigantic science fiction move that takes so much world building. It’s the most complicated thing I’ve ever done. It’s been a really busy, really good year.

What’s is like directing Jennifer Lopez? 

Jen is a force of nature. She’s so prepared and she’s so focused, thorough and professional that you’re just helping guide more than anything else. It was the most collaborative effort that I’ve ever had with a lead actor, where they’re constantly communicating with you and guiding you and making you aware of where they’re comfortable and uncomfortable. It was like having a dance partner, that’s the way I’d describe it. It was someone who was sort playing in there with you. People like that don’t need a lot of direction. Some actors it’s just sort of better to get out their way as a film maker and try to make it as focused on performance as possible. So that’s what I did, I really just focused on sort of guiding her or supporting her in finding the performance that was best.

She’s amazing in the movie. She’s unbelievable. I think people are going to be very impressed by what she pulls off. She goes to some very heavy places in this and she’s also very funny. She’s a superstar. She can do it all. I had a great time working with her.

It’s going to be on Netflix in 2023, what do you have to do now to make that happen?

I have a year of post. I have an insanely large number of visual effects. This movie takes place largely on an alien planet 200 years in the future. It involves artificial intelligence, it involves [mechanical] suits, it involves an enormous budget of visual effects to make all of that real.

We do a director’s assembly, which is what I’m doing right now. We put in basic effects so the story can be told so that anyone who’s aware of what the movie is wouldn’t be confused, and once that’s given the OK by the studio or they give their notes, we massage that cut and the we go and start putting in visual effects in earnest, like designing the plants, the creatures, the moons, all the environments. This movie has five or six alien environments in it, a huge amount of technology, ships, crafts, all that kind of stuff. It’s going to be a couple of months of designing and then 10 months of executing those things. It’s a lot of post production. These movies generally take three months to shoot and then a year to finish. All the technical stuff comes into play now.

Newfoundland-born director Brad Peyton attends the UK Premiere of San Andreas at Odeon Leicester Square. (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

IMDb says you have a couple of other projects happening, too. Are you juggling those at the same time?

In the position I’m in, you’re constantly engaging things and talking to people, studios and producers about finding the right thing that’s next. The hardest thing in being a film make is it’s not like being a musician where you write a three-minute song and then you’re onto the next thing. I’m very jealous of that. I always think of myself sort of how Neil Young describes himself where you put everything you have into something and then you’re done that. I just empty myself into something. The problem with a movie is it’s two years of your life, so emptying yourself for two years is an exhausting thing and by the time you get to that you’re not really sure what you want to do next sometimes. You just have to take a break and go “what kind of story do I want to tell now?”

It’s a very strange lifestyle. A lot of people don’t understand and a lot of us who do it don’t understand it. I wasn’t an actor before I was a director. I wasn’t a technician before I was a director. I came into directing as a director, that was one of those things that I kind of suffered through early in life. There was no financial support because I was this other thing. I just said “OK I’m going to go be a director. That’s really where my passion is. I’m going to try my hardest to make that happen.”

I don’t sit still so I’m writing a couple of things and doing meetings and having conversations. You definitely only talk to people about things that you’re really very, very interested in doing because there’s only so many hours in a day.

When you think about that, do you ever go back to that little boy who was interested in film and that maybe never dreamed of leaving his hometown of Gander?

I don’t go back to that as much as I used to and I think it’s because you mature as you go. I feel like that’s tapping into naivety in a way and my work, or where I’m at in my career, isn’t about tapping into naivety as much anymore as it is about looking forward and trying to progress outside of myself and advance in a way that I’ve never been able to advance. It’s sort of like a reverse exercise.

At this point I’m an instinctual film maker. I don’t over-intellectualize anything. Even when I’m on set and an actor is doing something, I know when they’ve done it and not because I can intellectualize it, I know when it feels right. It’s an intuitive process.

How do you best enjoy your success? 

I don’t enjoy my success. I’m not a person that takes joy in success. I’ve come to understand that in the past couple of years. Anything that people think I need, I don’t need. People think that if I want something, I don’t probably want it. Everything I want and need in my life is not things that you can get from success. I’ve checked that box. I’m good. That’s not where I am in my life. So I don’t necessarily enjoy my success.

It’s complicated. I enjoy parts of it and parts of it are just really hard. That’s why I talk about the “why” of things because I think it is important to get back to enjoying as much of it as humanly possible.

I just finished the biggest movie I’ve ever shot and I’m very tired. I’m not the type of person who celebrates anything until it’s done. I’m also sort of like “I’ll enjoy it when it’s finished and I’ve proven to myself that it’s good — that it’s good enough for me.”

Jason Momoa, Allan Hawco and Brad Peyton at the world premiere of Frontier in St. John’s in 2016. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

You’re here for a little bit of a rest, how much rest will you get?

I don’t really rest that much to be honest. I get up and I write and I kind of consume material. I’m just going to use the time in Newfoundland to see everybody that I know here, just kind of recuperate, take my time and slow down for a minute. I’ve never really idled well. I’m trying my best not to do anything. There’s an extra vodka cranberry in the evenings that I don’t normally do just to slow down as best I can. Then I go to bed and read for four hours and make notes on ideas. You just never stop. You can’t really stop. So I’ll slow down as best I can.

One last question, when are you going to bring The Rock to the Rock? 

I certainly don’t have the power to bring The Rock anywhere. He’s a hard man to bring anywhere. I’ll do my best, I’ll put in a good word but I don’t know if I can promise to get Dwayne to go anywhere.

Dwayne is a busy man. He might do that. I think we can talk him into that.

Source: cbc

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