Karen Gillen, Angela Bassett, and Carla Gugino Talk About Their Work on ‘Gunpowder Milkshake’
The stars of the over-the-top action movie talk about learning new stunts and bonding with each other on set.
In the new Netflix movie ‘Gunpowder Milkshake’ Karen Gillen (‘Doctor Who,’ ‘Jumanji’) stars as Sam, a contract killer that has been betrayed by the very syndicate she works for. Searching for refuge with a young witness, played Chloe Coleman (‘My Spy’), that she refuses to kill, Sam finds support in the form of a trio of librarians that curate a bit more than just books, and may know where Sam’s mother has disappeared to.
Sam’s long-lost mother is played by Lena Headey (‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Dredd’) and the librarians are played by Angela Bassett (‘What’s Love Got to Do With It,’ ‘Black Panther’), Carla Gugino (‘Watchmen’, ‘Spy Kids’) and Michelle Yeoh (‘Tomorrow Never Dies,’ ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’). None of these women are strangers to action movies, and a few of them sat down with Moviefone to talk about making their new movie.
First up, Karen Gillen talks about a specific scene that convinced her to pursue the role of Sam.
Moviefone: Can you give us a brief description of Sam?
Karen Gillen: I play a character called Sam in 'Gunpowder Milkshake,' and she is a fierce hit woman who was abandoned by her mother when she was 12. And so she's dealing with a lot of issues, and then she goes on a crazy journey one night where everything goes wrong and stuff happens after that.
MF: That scene in the hospital hallway is amazing. What's it like choreographing a scene like that when you can't use your arms?
Gillen: I remember when I read the script, I was like, when I got to that scene. I rang my agents and was like, I have to do this film. It's just like nothing I've ever seen before, but it was really difficult to not use my arms because they are paralyzed in a full fight sequence. I think I forgot a few times, and then we had to re-shoot it because it's like, you're using your arms. But no, they just had to go fully limp. It was definitely a challenging exercise.
MF: Chloe is so great in this, and you guys have great chemistry. What was it like driving that Porsche around with her? Is she like actually sitting on your lap the whole time? Does that get exhausting, because she's not that tiny?
Gillen: It did, actually. It was a challenging scene though. So yeah, we were really sitting there, but she had to do the heavy lifting there because we had to match all of the car movements up to this background that was already filmed and on screens that were playing. So we were static, and she had to match all of her driving movements. So I was really impressed by that because she was acting and while also doing that. And I was like, you are incredible. I had the easier end of the deal there.
MF: How much time do you spend choreographing the fight scenes across the movie and training for this movie? This isn't new ground for you, but what's the training process like getting into this?
Gillen: It was really intense because, yes, I've done action before in films, but nothing on this level. It just is so intricate and there's just so much of it. It's a full action movie. It's not just like one or two sequences within a movie. It's like the whole thing. And so I was only able to train for about three weeks beforehand because I was already on 'Jumanji' finishing up and then rolled right into this, which is probably a good thing because I was already sort of trained up by the 'Mission: Impossible' stunt team on 'Jumanji.' And so then I came into this, and then I felt like I was going to be ready, but then I saw the routines, and I was like, oh my gosh, I've got to get to work. So for three weeks we went hard at it, and then throughout the shoot, we continued.
MF: There's a terrific shot at the beginning of the movie that's so noir, where you look at the camera, and there's a line of light right across your eyes. How do they achieve that type of lighting, and how much do you have to work on not squinting when you suddenly turn at that?
Gillen: Our DP Michael [Seresin] was so incredible, and he's done so many amazing things that he's just a genius with light. I think the hardest part was getting me to stand in the exact right position every time. It was okay not to squint, it wasn't too bright, but if I was even an inch off of my mark, then it just didn't look so good. So that was definitely a technical challenge.
MF: And how was it working with Paul Giamatti?
Gillen: Amazing. So cool. That was my first scene I ever filmed that it was opposite Paul, and I was like, whoa, you're really amazing at this. I feel like I was just subtly star struck throughout this entire movie.
Next, Angela Bassett and Carla Gugino talk about their own action scenes.
Moviefone: Ms. Bassett, would you describe Anna May for us?
Angela Bassett: Anna May, I mean, she's take no prisoners, she pulls no punches, she has a bit of a mouth on her, but she's the leader of this group of librarians, she's had to scrape and come up, she's a very hard worker, and she kicks ass when she has to. She is scary, she's the mother of his pride.
MF: That's a great way of describing it. Ms. Gugino, could you give us a little bit of Madeleine?
Carla Gugino: Yes, Madeleine is a librarian, but librarian different from librarians that we know of because there's a lot more going on there, but she definitely is. Madeleine has always retained this sort of innocence in the midst of this profession that you would think that would be impossible to maintain.
There's not a jaded bone in her body, and yet she is extremely capable, and I think is the sisterhood that she has found over the years has sustained her. And when one of her favorite children of all shows up as a grown woman, I think it brings her back to how important it is to have kids in her life, and I think there's a sadness that this library has been without children and that kind of energy for so long. And so when she has to protect, she will fight till the end.
MF: I love the irony of a librarian operating that extremely loud minigun on top of the van. How loud is that on set as you're using it?
Gugino: (laughing) It's pretty loud, but we didn't use full loads. So it's not what it would actually be because I think everybody would have... I mean, we still had to wear ear plugs and all of that, but it's the kick that you get that you know, that's no joke.
MF: Ms. Bassett, we see Anna May's got this great fight with hammers. What was that training like? Because you've done action movies before, but this one's a little different with the hammers, isn't it?
Bassett: Yeah, it felt really tricky. I mean, we've maybe had about a week and a half or two weeks at most with it and to have these two things in both hands and not to consider yourself ambidextrous, right-handed, but to try to find a way to work it and then get fancy and twirl it and then also, as you find out, when you arrive on set that day to do it in the dark. So it was really very much a challenge, you know, and to do that all in heels as well.
MF: You all clearly look like you're having fun in this movie, and it's infectious. Was it that much fun on set?
Bassett: It was that much fun. It was that much fun because of the players, Lena and Karen, Carla, and Michelle. I mean, we just fell in love and embraced each other from day one and the relationship and the camaraderie, and the tribe and the game, it just solidified on day one.
And that's a wonderful thing because, we were there for brief amount of time, but we solidified the relationship. We were able to talk, the way that we work as actresses, so complimentary, and so much in alignment. And I think that definitely jumps off the screen at you and big part of why you enjoyed it so much.
Gugino: You know, I think to get to do what you love, which we all do love this, and be together with people who are at the top of their game doing it, it was hard work, but hard work is the best thing in the world when you're doing something you love. And then when you get to look around the room and go, oh, we're all in this together and we want to make it the best it can be and also have fun doing that, you know, there's no complaints there.