Yesterday morning, director Allan Ungar (Gridlocked) unveiled an Uncharted fan film that gave fans something they’ve been wanting to see for ten years: a live-action Uncharted story that starred actor Nathan Fillion as treasure hunter and video game […]
Yesterday morning, director Allan Ungar (Gridlocked) unveiled an Uncharted fan film that gave fans something they’ve been wanting to see for ten years: a live-action Uncharted story that starred actor Nathan Fillion as treasure hunter and video game protagonist Nathan Drake. I spoke with both Fillion and Ungar on the phone about filming their adaptation, Fillion’s history with the franchise, if a sequel is in the works, and more. Read our full Nathan Fillion Uncharted interview below.
In case you missed it yesterday, you can watch the fan film below:
Allan Ungar and Nathan Fillion Uncharted Interview
Nathan, can you tell me about your history with Uncharted? Had you played the games before fans began asking if you were going to portray Nathan Drake in a movie?
Fillion: Yes, absolutely. I played the first game. I was making my way through the second game, and I got stuck. I got frustrated and I never went back. I skipped the third game, and right now I’m playing the fourth and I’m almost done. But I’ve watched the cut scenes from every game.
So how did this short film come about?
Ungar: Obviously, it goes without saying that we’re both huge fans of the game and the franchise. This idea had popped into my head a few years ago and I was really puzzled as to why nobody had thought of doing it. Go and make a fun film and see if Nathan would be interested. I’d been aware that he had expressed interest in the past, and I wasn’t sure if that was still the case. We both have a mutual friend, and because he’s Canadian, we trust him. (laughs) I trusted that he would get in touch with Nathan, pass along a message, and see if he’d be interested in chatting about the possibility of doing something like this.
So he put us in touch, we sat down over some vegan Thai food, and I pitched Nathan and his manager/producing partner Michelle this take that I had. This idea of what I wanted to put together. We all really clicked and got along, and decided we were going to go for it.
The video games in this franchise tell sprawling, globe-trotting adventure stories. Allan, from a writing standpoint, what were some aspects of the games that you wanted to make sure you could include here?
Ungar: It’s interesting that you said that. We knew that it was going to be very difficult to try to emulate in any way – trying to go international was not something that was going to be feasible. We had to figure out ‘How can we convey the tone of Uncharted, nail the character and the story?’ and know that we could not compete with these very beautiful exotic locations like temples and castles, things like that. So I went back to the drawing board. I went and re-played the games and watched them again as YouTube cut scenes, and just plucked what really made the franchise work, which is really Nathan Drake. We decided by containing it a little bit, and setting it in Mexico, it seemed to be the simplest thing considering California and Mexico have very similar terrain. We just went from there.
Nathan, I think part of the reason the fans have wanted you to play this character for so long is because they thought your personality was such a perfect match for Nathan Drake’s. Did it feel that way when you were playing Drake, or was it more challenging than you thought?
Fillion: It feels that way when I’m playing the game. It feels like this is a character tailor-made for me to play. That’s what it feels like – maybe everybody feels that way where they’re playing the game, I don’t know. But what you need in a game, the reason to go from Point A to Point B, that through line, the story – it has to be enough to make you care. ‘Why am I doing this? I have to go from here to there?’ The reason why you push through a video game, it just spells out for us: amazing characters, a story you care about. It invests you in the game moving forward, and the benefit is, now we have these incredible characters that we care about, that we want to see succeed, that we want to see more of. It just worked out really well for us.
I remember seeing that you actually sent in an audition tape for the feature when David O. Russell was attached. Is that true? How far along did you ever get with the powers that be in terms of the official feature film?
Fillion: That is a rumor that is untrue. That is a total – I have never auditioned for the part of Nathan Drake. This short film is as close as I’ve ever gotten to playing anything Nathan Drake-related.
Tell me about the third-person video game shot – how did that come about?
Ungar: Originally, that sequence was a lot grander. We’ve noticed there were a couple comments today saying, ‘Oh, Nathan’s not climbing or jumping or doing anything like that.’ We had a sequence originally where he jumps out the window and instead of landing on the ground like he does now, it was a sloped roof that you see in a lot of those chateaus. He was supposed to slide down the roof going ‘No, no, no, no, no!’ like he does in the game, hang off the eavestrough, [heave a sigh of relief], the eavestrough breaks, and he falls. It was never going to happen. (laughs) We had to think about how we were going to scale back, but also nail something you would see in the game. My co-writer Jesse, when we were going through the shot list, he was like, ‘Maybe you should scale it back. This is super ambitious.’ And then the oner came to be, and the conversation, from that point, went to, ‘Oh my God. What if we essentially try to mimic what it feels like for you to be Drake?’ Because this is really what this all stems from, this relatability to this flawed hero who’s not a perfect archetype. I’ve seen today, people are saying they want to grab their controllers when they see this, they feel like they want to play the game now.
We spent a couple days rehearsing it and figuring out the choreography with a Steadicam operator, and I really just wanted to throw in the best homage I could to the game. It’s not something I’ve seen. We’ve seen the first person thing ad nauseam. The first Doom movie did it, and they did it in Hardcore Henry. But trying to time it with a zoom and ending up over the shoulder of the character, I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t think this has been done before. This would be a really great opportunity, and I think if we execute it right, fans are really going to dig it.’ I think that’s probably one of the questions we’ve been asked most about today is that sequence.
Fillion: It seems to be a trigger. When you watch a cut scene and the camera comes around to the back of your character, it’s like, ‘All right, this is me.’ There’s a build of excitement like, ‘Now I’m in control. Here we go. This is the action part.’ People who play the game are tuning into that moment and feeling that sensation. I think Allan did an amazing job.
What was filming the jump punch like for you?
Fillion: (laughs) That was ambitious, too. I was wearing a flying harness. I was cabled in to a crane, there were guys on the other end of it pulling me, and at the same time we had a cameraman and a camera also in a harness jumping up behind me to film it. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever done in a harness.
Ungar: It’s something we really, really wanted. That angle, that view, the last one where he hits the guy, is again a nod to the game. It’s the angle where you’re high up above Nate and you’re landing on someone. It’s something that we brought Nathan in to do earlier a couple days before so we could get him familiar and comfortable with the rig.
It turned out really well. Allan, can you tell me about the casting process for this? How did you get Stephen Lang on board?
Ungar: “Slang,” we have to call him “Slang.” Slang was a friend. My Netflix film Gridlocked, we became really good friends on that, stayed in touch, and his sons are both huge fans of the game. His oldest son is a great producer, Noah Lang, and I said to him, ‘Hey, what do you think about me asking your Pops to do this?’ And he was like, ‘Oh man, you’ve gotta do it.’ I think they were already familiar with this sort of fan film. Do you remember when they were casting Deadpool 2 and a lot of people thought Lang should be Cable? I think he had a little bit of that going on in his mind, and he was like, ‘You know what? This would be fun to take a stab at.’ I asked him for the favor. I basically was like, ‘You’re going to be doing it for lunch. Is that cool?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah! All right, let’s do it.’
And Nathan was kind enough to call Mircea Monroe [who plays Elena in the short]. They’d been friends for a while. And Ernie Reyes came from the stunt coordinator, which was really cool, as well as Geno Segers, our big bad guy, were all through the stunt coordinator.
Do you guys have any intention of continuing this story and making a sequel to this video?
Ungar: When we sat down and I pitched this to Nathan, I said, ‘Look, regardless of what happens, I’m going to be totally thrilled if this just lives and dies as a well-received fan film, bringing something to the fans that they’ve been wanting to see for the last decade. That being said, the best case scenario for us if we felt this way is that maybe someone asks if we can continue this story and Sony was interested in exploring it.’
I think right now, we’re at a very interesting time in this business where you have cross-platform distribution. You’ve got Marvel and DC, who are going from theatrical to digital to network. You’ve got different actors playing the same character. Look at Gotham, and look at the DC films. You’ve got two people playing Batman. You have the same thing on the Arrow show. You’ve got Viola Davis playing Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad, and another actress on the show. I could go on and on. Obviously, we would be thrilled to see if there’s a world that existed where we could continue telling this story. But we will be very happy knowing that it ended with everybody loving it, and everybody saying thank you for doing this.
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