Sam Hargrave has pulled off a rare feat, going from stunt doubling Chris Evans as Captain America in 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” to directing Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in “Extraction,” the high-profile action film that premiered on Netflix on April 24.
Hargrave, who earned his chops as stunt coordinator and second-unit director on the last two “Avengers” movies, the Russo brothers’ “Infinity War” and “Endgame,” landed his first directing gig on Extraction thanks to the Russos. They not only agreed to produce “Extraction,” but handed him Joe Russo’s screenplay for the film, the adaptation of a graphic novel about a black-market mercenary (Hemsworth) hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord.
“I really liked how kind of simple and primal it was and I liked the all the action set pieces,” Hargrave told TheWrap in a video interview. “Joe is very descriptive when he writes and it really spoke to me and I thought this could be an amazing opportunity.”
The film has won early raves for its highly choreographed action sequences, with The Wrap’s Steve Pond dubbing it “a brutally efficient action flick.”
He follows in the footsteps of Chad Shahelski, another stuntman-turned-filmmaker best known for his work on the “John Wick” franchises (co-directing the 2014 original with David Leitch and then solo directing the two hit sequels).
See an edited video of the conversation above.
You have a very storied background. You started out with Marvel and stunting and then?
Yeah, I started out in the film business way back, I don’t know, 15, 16 years ago now as a stuntman. I was performing for many years and then my big kind of claim to fame in that world was doubling Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before all of this hair, clean-shaven, I looked enough like Chris Evans to make a Captain America double and had a really amazing career there. And so grateful to (Marvel Studios President) Kevin Feige and all of the Marvel creators and producers. And also especially the Russo brothers, Joe and Anthony Russo, who brought me in after “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” where I first met them. I was doubling on that show and they brought me in on “Captain America: Civil War” to stunt coordinate as well as double. And then “Infinity War” and “Endgame” — I was a coordinating and second unit directing, so they very much in the Marvel Universe were a huge part of that in my success.
So how does this then lead into you directing “Extraction,” which was based on a graphic novel (“Cuidad” from Oni Press. So were you on set and the Russos just give it to you and say, “Hey, would you like to direct this?”
Basically, I read the script “Ciudad” many years ago, probably six or seven years ago now. Unrelated to the Russo brothers, I think it was Chad Stahelski who was attached at one point to direct the movie. He had it, he shared it with me, we were designing action at one point and he was going to direct it. And then things changed, went to a different studio, forgot about it, doing my Marvel thing.
And then we were all on the set of “Infinity War” and over the years working with the Russo brothers we got to become friends and I would tell them that I was going to direct movies, I want to direct and then tell stories. And they would, in their classic style, would just go, “Oh, OK, OK, that’s great.” And they wouldn’t say much about it. But then on “Infinity War” and I was directing second unit and Joe came up to me and he said, “Hey, I think I have your first movie that I’d like you to direct. I wrote this script many years ago. Take a look, see if you like it.” I read it and I said, “This is very familiar.” And it was, it turned out I’d read it before, changed the name, changed the location, but the same story was there and I really liked how kind of simple and primal it was and I liked the all the action set pieces. Joe is very descriptive when he writes and it really spoke to me and I thought this could be an amazing opportunity.
Wow, so was that on the set of “Infinity War” or “Endgame?”
We were on the set of”Infinity War” and I’d been directing a number of sequences on second unit for that and they came to me then. We had a little hiatus, it was 10 days I think between when we wrapped “Infinity War” and then right into “End Game,” those 10 days I spent scouting in Bangladesh and India because we were already kind of wanting to get the movie going. Chris had expressed interest at that point, Chris Hemsworth. And I was directing him on “Infinity War” and a lot of different sequences, so we were talking about it and he was getting excited. So I went and scouted and spent my hiatus sweating profusely in the Indian summer.
Post-“Extraction,” what do you have next? Has Kevin Feige called you to come in for a meeting, pitch a Marvel movie?
It’s a really crazy time in the world as you know. Things are a little bit on hold at the moment but I’m spending my days writing, trying to come up with my own ideas. My writing partner and I, we’re adapting a book that we found that was very exciting.
Action’s in my blood. I love action and I think I would probably lean towards another action movie, but I’m not against pushing myself in that regard. Hey a musical, comedy… I’ve been talking about with my team bring a lot of scripts and we’ll see what comes out of all this.