AVENGERS EXCLUSIVE: Fight Coordinator Jonathan Eusebio
It’s not easy to intimidate Jonathan Eusebio, who’s gone toe-to-toe with Blade, Wolverine, Iron Man and Conan the Barbarian. But this time it’s a little bit different; this time he’s dealing with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
But truth be told, he's STILL not intimiated!
Eusebio's career in stunts and as a fight coordinator has seen him transitioning over the years between television (ANGEL, NIKITA) and features (SERENITY, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, THE BOURNE LEGACY).
In this exclusive interview conducted by CBM's Ed Gross, he shares some thoughts on THE AVENGERS -- which at the time of the interview, had still not been released, hence he couldn't talk specifics.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: Obviously when you hear the credit “fight coordinator,” you kind of surmise what it means, but I’d like you to provide a broader understanding.
JONATHAN EUSEBIO: I’m involved with the design of the action sequences, specifically anything involving fight sequences with the actors or any other players in the movie. I develop the style, I train the actors, and I teach the stunt people how to do those fights.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: Is the challenge making sure that all the fights feel different from each other?
JONATHAN EUSEBIO: That’s always the hardest part, especially with a movie of this scope where there are fights everywhere. You don’t want anything to seem like it’s being redundant, or repetitive. In the case of THE AVENGERS, I’m kind of fortunate because each character is so different in what they do, and how they look in terms of movement, that it’s easy to keep them a little bit different; to keep each fight different.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: Obviously you worked with Robert Downey, Jr. on IRON MAN 2, but how do you go about training someone like him?
JONATHAN EUSEBIO: There’s a big process. I work with a fight choreography team and usually when I get hired by the producer or stunt coordinator, I spend four to six weeks doing research and development, and in that four-to-six weeks we’re researching style, so we know the background of the characters they’re playing and that they fight with a certain style. THEN we train the actors and develop certain choreography pieces, while trying to figure out what the strengths of the actors are. Once you figure that out, you have to tailor make that style fit that actor, whatever their strengths and weaknesses are. And as soon things start going, we do pre-visualization, which is like an edited video version of the fight choreography.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: More or less animated storyboards.
JONATHAN EUSEBIO: Exactly. And then those things constantly evolve over the course of the whole movie, but within that four-to-six weeks, I should have a pretty good skeleton already built, and once that skeleton is built, I can train the actors on the changes to their choreography, and that involves also training some stunt men and stunt doubles to do some sequences.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: Is there a way to give me a handle on the approach taken with the different actors?
JONATHAN EUSEBIO: I was kind of fortunate that they’d already done their individual movies, so they already had the way they move, the way they fight; it’s already been kind of established. So basically when we we’re designing any fight scene, once I get the choreography down and I get the OK from the director, or the stunt coordinator and I’m going in the right direction, I take the actors and teach them the choreography. We also teach them a series of base movements and drills that we can incorporate anywhere in their choreography, and once they have those drills down, we design the choreography around what they do the best. Regardless if it’s Chris Hemsworth or Scarlett Johansson or Chris Evans, we already have a game plan when they’re coming in to learn their choreography. But for this movie, because the style was already established, we already know how they can move, and 50% of the work is trying to figure out what they’re style is. Coming up with choreography is not just coming up with this series of movements, it’s like a visual dialogue – so whatever movements I come up with, they have to tell the story and keep the story moving forward or convey who these characters are as people. So when we make up these things, I have to incorporate all those internal elements in the fight, too, not just making up moves for the sake of making up moves.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: Not to be crude – though I suppose that’s exactly what I’m doing – is a movie like this a fight coordinator’s wet dream?
JONATHAN EUSEBIO: I have to say I was pretty excited! I mean, I’ve worked on a lot of movies, and I’ve enjoyed them all, but this one is special to me because I grew up reading comics, and I grew up with these characters. They’re like almost a part of your life. Even if you don’t specifically know the actors, you know who the characters are – so to be part of something this big, and to work on something that you grew up with, where it’s almost like it grew up being a part of you, is pretty special I think.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: One of the highlights of the trailer is Loki saying, “We’ve got an army,” Iron Man says, “We’ve got a Hulk,” and you cut to this big sequence where Hulk catches a blasted Iron Man. Does something like that involve you or is it all CG?
JONATHAN EUSEBIO: I think what’s cool about Marvel is there’s a collaboration with everybody – we’re all involved in some capacity with that, because a lot of the CG – a lot of the people Hulk is fighting are being added later. In a sense, when you’re making the film, it’s like you’re playing make-believe superheroes, and THEN you’re getting to be part of something that you can share with the rest of the world. I think that’s pretty exhilarating.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: Despite the fact that you’ve worked on so many different movies, is there something special about the fact that this is something that becomes part of a bigger legacy?
JONATHAN EUSEBIO: Something like this has never been done before - taking all these individual characters from their own franchises and putting them all into this big movie. The expectations are so high, and you’re wondering if you can pull it off, but they did. You can tell. The energy on set, the energy that was involved in the training was so positive, and everyone was so enthusiastic, it shows up on the screen, and I think from that experience, that positive experience in the making of the movie, and then to see that positive experience of the crowd enjoying the movie, it makes everything worthwhile.
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