Image Courtesy of STX Films
California School of the Arts

Director Ric Roman Waugh reteams with Gerard Butler on his comet disaster film ‘Greenland’

The latest action-packed disaster thriller “Greenland,” depicts a global apocalypse as a comet hurtling toward Earth threatens billions across the globe.

In the midst of a global pandemic and it almost seems like the world is ending, watching a disaster sci-fi movie seems ironic. It’s even a bit frightening to see the fear and chaos of a world on screen that mirrors the mindset of the world over the past few months.

In the film, John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan are among the few to be selected by the government for air transport to a secret haven in Greenland. However, when they arrive, they are turned away, separated and set on their own journeys. They experience the humanity of others, as well as the lengths people will go to keep themselves safe. 

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, a former stuntman turned screenwriter, producer and director, “Greenland” will be Waugh’s second time collaborating with Butler. They also have two other action films in the works, with “Night Has Fallen,” the fourth film in the “Has Fallen” series and “Kandahar.”

“Our trust and our chemistry becomes more experienced and more galvanized and more seasoned. We had known each other for a number of years prior to working together on ‘Angel Has Fallen’ and I was very blessed when I got the call from [Butler] to see if I wanted to come in there and reinvent the franchise,” Waugh said, in a phone interview. “It’s been a great experience thus far and only want it to continue.” 

The film’s original release was on June 12 but was delayed several times due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Filming and testing were already done before the general public even knew of Covid-19; however, after March, their production hit a speed bump. With around 175 visual effect shots and 250 people trying to finish the film from home, it took around 10-12 weeks until it was completed. 

“The entire time, I really thought a lot about ‘Would somebody want to watch a disaster movie in the middle of a disaster?’ I remember watching it back and I got really emotional because I remembered what the movie was about,” Waugh said. “It reminded me…we have to have a sense of hope that we can make it though things like this. when it becomes life or death, sometimes that has a way of knocking the rust off the relationship and truly remembering why we love each other in the first place.” 

Image Courtesy of STX Films

Over the past few months, Hollywood has eased back into production with caution. Waugh believes that working on a movie set is one of the safest places to be, with new regulations of regular testing for every crew member. 

“I think that the one thing that’s going to come out of this pandemic is that we are going to be a lot more diligent with our safety protocols…Why can’t we actually have a little bit more resilience with our own kind of safety measures?” Waugh said. “I do think that there’s things that we took for granted. I know I did, and hopefully some things come out of it for the better.” 

As a stuntman, Waugh understands what it’s like to be near the action and makes sure he shows his respect to everybody on the set. Just like in his past films, he sticks to his mantra of never relying on just VFX and special effects to complete the shot. Waugh shot real-life explosions to mimic a rain of magma and, while shooting at the Robins US Air Force Base, cast 90% of the extras from active duty Air Force men and women who had never been on camera.

“I have twin boys that are 13 right now in middle school. We constantly talk…[how] it’s about organization and it’s about understanding teamwork. We preach heavily to them as brothers about not being so individual,” Waugh said, when asked about the key components of an efficient set. “The sets that run the best is when a team works as a team. I’m very much a crew member. Yes, I’m the director of the movie but I consider myself part of the crew.” 

Image Courtesy of STX Films

“Greenland” isn’t a typical disaster movie. From the jump, the audience is drawn into the life of a messy, but real, family. The film tells a story of love and resilience that Waugh believes can inspire us to hope in times like these. 

“We’re more resilient than the cockroaches. We’re going to still be here and anything can be thrown our way, but we’re better unified than we are divided,” Waugh said. “We have a way of putting material things in our world and our vanity in front of our own individuality of what really matters, which is that we just want to love somebody and be loved back.” 

“Greenland” is scheduled to release domestically by STX Entertainment through video on demand on Dec. 18, then on HBO Max and Amazon Prime.