Exclusive: BATTLE: LOS ANGELES’ Adetokumboh M’Cormack Interview
Adetokumboh M’Cormack’s first feature film was Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio and he followed that up with stints on television’s ‘Lost,’ ‘Heroes,’ and ’24,’ so he’s no stranger to high profile, intense projects, but he’s hitting a new peak this year with a role in the upcoming high octane alien invasion film BATTLE: LOS ANGELES. Adetokumboh plays Jibril Adukwu, a medic who, along with his Marine platoon, is sent into Los Angeles to rescue any survivors of the alien attack.
Daemon’s Movies recently talked to Adetokumboh about how he would describe Battle: Los Angeles, what kind of training he and the rest of the cast had to go through before filming, and whether the effects are as amazing as has been rumored.
I think that at least everyone has seen one of the trailers for ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ floating around, especially since the Super Bowl. We know there are aliens attacking the globe and that the Marines have been called in. Can you flesh it out at all?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: Well, that’s pretty much the premise of the film and I think the only thing that I can add is that we try and see what’s happening across the globe simultaneously and we just try and figure out a way to stop the invasion. That’s pretty much it.
I’ve heard it described as ‘Black Hawk Down’ meets ‘Indepdence Day’. Is that fair or is that hype?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: Well, actually I think it’s probably more ‘Black Hawk Down’ meets ‘Alien’ with a little bit of ‘Saving Private Ryan’. I think that’d be a more accurate portrayal of the film. It’s very interesting. There is a lot of hype behind it, but also just having been through it and seeing quite a lot of it, it’s just a really intense film. I think that comes from the fact that the director did everything in real time.
Jonathan Liebesman is just a complete genius. He just follows this one platoon into the battlefield and he stays with them and it shows what they go through, the trials and tribulation that they face as they attack this enemy that they’ve never encountered before.
Your character is a marine in this platoon and your mission is to get survivors out of Los Angeles?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: That is correct. Our mission is get them out of Los Angeles because there are a few civilians who have been left behind and we’re supposed to go rescue them. My character is actually a medic. I play a Navy Corpsman, so I’m the guy who goes in with them to save as many people as I can, be they civilian or military, save as many lives on the battlefield as I can.
How much do we learn about your character? Is there any of his back story or are we just following you on this day?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: The film takes place a little before the actual battle takes place. You do get to know a little about my character beforehand and then of course as we go into battle a little bit more is revealed about my character. So you do get to see a little bit more through dialogue and through action, see what happens over the course of the film.
What kind of training did you go through for this? Did you actually get any Marine training?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: Yes. We went through three weeks of boot camp prior to film. So, it was really intense. I tell people that I think I’m in pretty good shape until I went to the boot camp because it was really physically intense. What we’d end up doing is pitch our own tent and sleep in our own tents and then we’d wake up at five in the morning and we’d run several miles. Then we’d literally have to do hundreds of sit-ups and push-ups and jumping jacks and we’d learn how to assemble and disassemble various weapons like M4’s and M16’s. We also learned how to shoot .50 cals.
Plus we’d just be completely in character all throughout the boot camp. So we’d be calling each other by our character names. So, for example, if I was talking to Cory Hardrict’s character I’d be like, ‘Lockett, pass me a mag.’ Or if I’d be talking to Michelle Rodriguez’s character I’d refer to as Santos and Aaron Eckhart’s character we’d refer to as Staff Sergeant. I think the director wanted to make things as real as possible and in order to do that he wanted us to authentically be able to play Marines. So that when you’re watching the movie you’d think, ‘Oh, these guys are real life Marines.’ You’re not once thinking, ‘They’re actors on a stage.’ You really want to believe that we’re there doing our job. So I think that authenticity was a huge part of this film and I think ultimately it helps to add a lot of realism.
Staying in character like that must add to the realism of not just being a Marine, but being a platoon –
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: Yes, exactly and forming that camaraderie with your fellow man. At the end of the three weeks I felt that I was a part of this platoon. You think I’d die for my brother and that’s how we felt at the end of that period. It was amazing, really amazing.
To be fair, it wasn’t exactly…I don’t know that I’d last in a real boot camp, but it was as close as we could get to a boot camp in the movie world. At the end of the experience I have an enormous amount of respect for Marines. We got a glimpse into their lives and what they do is really intense. I really respect what they do and who they are.
I’ve heard that this movie is a love letter to the Marines. Would you agree with that?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: Yes, I think so. I was talking to one of my friends who is a Marine, and I said, ‘Listen, I just really wanted to do your story justice.’ I think that a lot of people don’t really realize what the United States Marine Corps do and I think that this gives a little bit more of an insight into their lives and their position in the military. So in some ways I feel like if they’re watching and they’re saying, ‘That guy handled his M16 really well,’ or ‘That’s exactly what I’d say in that situation,’ then I feel that we’ve done our jobs.
How are the FX? Are they as cool as we’re hearing?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: The FX are amazing. They are amazing. Really and truly, it’s just brilliant and it’s not overkill. There are some movies that you see and it’s just a CGI fest and this battle–I think it was just the right amount of it. It feels real when you’re watching the movie.
There’s not one moment that you think, ‘That’s not realistic.’ Everything feels so real and even though you’re fighting against aliens I think that as an audience member you accept it because there’s a certain amount of reality that CGI brings along with the acting and the story. It just feels like a real story.
How, as an actor, do you keep it real when you’re doing CGI?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: Well, sometimes we actually have nothing to react against. You’re looking at a green screen or something and you have to call upon your imagination and think, ‘Okay.’ The director might say, ‘In this scene there’s an alien aircraft coming to your left and there’ll be aliens attacking you from the right,’ and there’s actually nothing there. So you have to call upon your imagination and almost act like a kid again where you just accept the reality and say, ‘This is really happening in real time and I’m going to attack those aliens.’ So I think that you had to really had to use your imagination.
There were other times though when we had to interact with the aliens. There would be these guys dressed up in these motion references suits and be on these pogo-shoes, I think they’re called, and so they added some height. So we got to really interact and react, give honest, genuine reactions when we were reacting to these people. So it was interesting because we did have a chance to react to something.
Have you seen the film?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: I’ve seen about thirty minutes of the film in doing ADR and what I saw completely blew me away because you talk about CGI and while you’re shooting you’re acting opposite a blank screen sometimes or you’re just in downtown Baton Rouge which doesn’t look like Los Angeles and you’re thinking, ‘How is this movie going to turn out? I don’t know.’ But in watching the movie and looking at all the post-production and the sets that they put into it, it’s just really blew my mind more than any other project has.
We haven’t seen the aliens yet. The trailers don’t give that up. Will we be blown away?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: Yes! The aliens were unlike anything that I’d ever seen. I think the director, Jonathan Leibesman, hired – I can’t remember exactly who he hired – someone who just created alien design that’s never been seen before. We got to see the anatomy of the aliens and basically what makes them tick and how they operate and how they survive and how they live. I was completely intrigued. It’s unlike anything that I’ve ever seen. I think it was really intelligently designed. I think that people when they watch it will be like, ‘Wow. This is unlike anything anyone has ever seen.’
What do you think most sets this alien invasion film from other films in the same genre?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: I think what definitely sets us the most apart is just the real time that this film is shot in. It’s so specific and it’s so focused and the acting is so…what the director did for us is that he allowed us the freedom sometimes to improvise and I think that given that we had that three weeks of boot camp he would just basically say, ‘Look, you’re in a certain situation. How would you react as your character?’
There’s a lot of real-ness, which probably isn’t even a word. But there’s something in it that feels real. When you’re a certain situation and he’s like, ‘Listen, these aliens are attacking you from all fronts. People are falling. How would you react? As a medic how would you respond to a certain injury,’ and we all had to do so much research so that if we had to improvise in certain situations it had to be believable. It had to be completely authentic. So there’s that sort of documentary-esque reality in the film.
You’ve been a part of high profile project like ‘Lost’ and ‘Heroes’, but this is a whole other level. This is the summer blockbuster season starting in March. What’s that like for you?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: It’s amazing. It’s funny because you always want to do something better. Every single time that you work you want it to be new and interesting and be a unique challenge and this film, it took it to a whole new level, really and truly. I remember that I auditioned for it a year ago now and I remember reading the script and thinking, ‘I really want to be a part of this project because I think it’s something that’ll be special.’
When I got cast I was ecstatic because it was just unlike anything that I’d ever seen or read, rather, and I remember getting together with all my costars, going, ‘Dude, this is amazing. This is fantastic. Can you believe we got cast?’ Jonathan Leibesman, he showed us a short presentation of test footage that he’d shot prior to the shoot just to give us an idea of what we were getting ourselves into. We gave him a standing ovation after we saw that. We were like, ‘This is amazing, it’s incredible.’ I thought if the shoot was even halfway close to what we say that it was going to be a great film and that people will be in for a treat.
How are you going to top this?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: I don’t know. It’s going to be interesting. We’ll see.
Any upcoming projects?
Adetokumboh M’Cormack: I’m producing and I’m writing and I’m starring in a film set in Africa. That may end up being my next project. I’m really excited about it and we’ll see what happens.
Battle: Los Angeles premieres in theaters March 11, 2011.
You can read all our Battle: Los Angeles coverage here.
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(Photo: Matt Sayles)