Kelly McCormick Interview

Nobody is an action-thriller with an unlikely hero played by Bob Odenkirk.  I recently had the chance to speak to producer Kelly McCormick about the project…

Matt:  For the most part, Australia has been on top of the COVID-19 pandemic and cinemas have been open here but I know cinema managers and the public have been disappointed by the lack of product coming out of Hollywood.  Nobody was originally scheduled for release in August 2020 so what’s behind the decision to finally push the button and get it out there?

Kelly:  You can’t wait forever and I think people are really wanting new material.  Universal has been bullish in making sure there’s a theatrical release for this.  It’s a great film to experience with an audience.  We expect that a lot of people will come to theatres for something like this and for those not yet comfortable, it’ll be released on streaming 3 weeks later in the U.S. and they can watch it in their own homes.

Matt:  You’ve been involved in a few action films like Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw and Shadow in the Clouds.  In your eyes, what are you looking for if producing an action flick?

Kelly:  The company 87North, which is David Leitch and myself, are looking for iconic characters that are rich, detailed and complicated.  They go on a journey that’s relatable and the journey is heightened and improved with action moments.  I think Nobody has that in spades in that he’s an “everyman” and has a lesson to learn in that he needs to show up and be there for his family.  When Bob Odenkirk came to us with the idea, we were over the moon.

Matt:  I was going to ask where the idea first came from.  Did it come from Bob Odenkirk?

Kelly:  It did.  It’s based on a true story in his life.  His house was invaded and he wished he had acted in a different way.  I told him he probably acted in the right way in real life and it’s for the best that we live out this alternate version in movie form.  You can feel the passion in his performance.

Matt:  It is a genre that get stale and repetitive but writer Derek Kolstad gave us something fun and original with the John Wick franchise.  This is his first effort since John Wick so how did he get involved?

Kelly:  It’s his first produced since John Wick.  I’ll note that he has a lot of scripts in motion in a lot of places in town.  Bob’s dream writer was Derek.  Both Braden Aftergood and I had previous working relationships with Derek and so we could connect them.  Derek and Bob have become close friends and they did a lot of tailoring of the screenplay together.  It’s been a team effort and a wonderful experience.

Matt:  If you asked me to put together a list of actors who might transition into the action genre, I have to admit that Bob Odenkirk wouldn’t have been the first name that popped into my head.  I realise it was his idea but did he always know he would star in it himself? 

Kelly:  I don’t when he decided he wanted to become an action star to be honest.  Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad had action adjacent to him but he often wasn’t involved.  We at 87North are always looking for who that next “unexpected actor” would be that you could put into something different.  It allows you to do some unique things because they don’t look and seem like a typical action star.  That’s exciting.

Matt:  I don’t know a lot about Russian director Ilya Naishuller.  What can you tell me about his approach?

Kelly:  Ilya is awesome.  Biting Elbows is a great music video and then he also did Hardcore Henry which is inventive.  He’s bold, lyrical, organized and thoughtful.  He knew what he wanted and we loved the experience with Ilya.  He brought so much to the picture including some of the most authentic Russians in American action movies.

Matt:  I love the touch that the villain is a fan of karaoke and he opens with a musical number.

Kelly:  Isn’t it ridiculous?  I love it.  That guy, Aleksei Serebryakov, is a serious actor in Russia and then he comes over here to the United States and plays this fantastic villain.  He’s quite a performer.

Matt:  With any action film, it’s always a question about how far to push things when it comes to violence.  I’d say this film doesn’t overdo the gore but there are some moments that’ll catch audiences off guard and there are some “creative deaths”.  What was your approach in terms of that?

Kelly:  87North always works with the director to find the right style.  With the main character, we find out what they can do physically and then what they want to do physically.  We then create the energy and the choreography around that.  That allows you play.  For us, it’s not trying to shock every time but rather, it’s about what’s original and what hasn’t been done before.

Matt:  Without giving anything away, there was one moment with a drinking straw that will certainly stick in my head for a while.

Kelly:  That was actually Ilya’s idea and it was pretty intense.

Matt:  Nobody is an action comedy set in the current day but the soundtrack list includes Andy Williams, Louis Armstrong, Pat Benatar and Gerry and the Pacemakers.  What was behind that creative decision?

Kelly:  Isn’t that a cool throwback?  It was about “what does Bob hear in his head?” and “what informs us about who he is?”  He’s also a throwback character in the sense that he’s older and we thought – why not go with an old-school, classy vibe as he kicks ass throughout the movie.  It’s one of my favourite parts of the movie.

Matt:  Hopes to make a franchise out of this or is it intended to be a one-off?

Kelly:  Lots of hope.  Derek planted a lot of seeds and Ilya allowed for them to grow.  There are a lot of different ways for it to take off whether it looks more at the family or Chris Lloyd’s character or the other mysterious characters in the middle of it.  What is this agency?  There’s a lot of things we can play with.

Matt:  I realise COVID-19 has made life difficult but is there anything you can share that you’re working on at the moment?

Kelly:  Yeah.  David and I are shooting a movie now called Bullet Train and it’s a crime caper set in Japan with Brad Pitt, Joey King, Bryan Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.  We’re having a ball.