The new Brad Pitt movie is an off-the-rails action-comedy set on Japan’s fastest locomotive. But how well do you know the Bullet Train movie? From Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s loss of control to the punch that almost ruined Pitt’s good looks, here are ten nuggets to know before boarding the Bullet Train.
Bullet Train release date: 3rd August 2022
Praised by The Times as a “locked-room crime drama played out at 200mph”, Japanese writer Kōtarō Isaka’s 2010 cult novel has taken twelve years to go from bookshelf to ODEON (via a script treatment by screenwriter Zak Olkewicz). Now, as the titular bullet train whizzes from Tokyo to Kyoto at top speed, spilling corpses like confetti, it’s making up for lost time.
See that Brad Pitt lookalike getting punched in the head during 1999’s Fight Club? That’s Bullet Train director David Leitch. As a young stuntman and martial arts master – who happened to share Pitt’s sandy surfer hairstyle – Leitch doubled as the star for the hairiest moments of movies like Troy and Mr & Mrs Smith, before moving behind the camera. “As a stuntman, you take a lot of hits,” Leitch told Deadline. “It’s not easy on the body. I had a couple of surgeries and things that were related to stunts. But that experience, having the access that you have as a stunt performer to all the filmmakers and the physical production process, it was invaluable to me becoming a director.”
In a parallel Hollywood universe, it could have been the pop provocateur’s lips purring into the microphone as Brad Pitt’s unseen handler, Maria Beetle. But Gaga was gone after a clash of diaries, clearing the path for Sandra Bullock in the same role. “It really all came down to her schedule with the Ridley Scott film, House Of Gucci,” Leitch told Entertainment Weekly. “There were short discussions and then, this isn't going to work because she was preparing for the Ridley movie. They shot right before us and overlapped with us and it really didn't work.”
Hollywood is built on backscratching, and Bullock agreed to appear in Bullet Train if Pitt returned the favour with a cameo in The Lost City. We know the Gravity star will be giving Pitt’s reluctant assassin his orders, but ScreenRant believes there might be more to the pairing. “The lack of another obvious love interest for Brad Pitt’s character in Bullet Train makes the movie a perfect opportunity to play the two screen veterans against one another,” wrote Cathal Gunning. “Playing Pitt’s handler gives Bullock a role that balances a professional relationship with the character with, judging by Bullet Train’s trailer, a level of moral support, making the duo perfectly primed for a romantic relationship – provided Pitt’s hero survives the movie’s many bloody gunfights and brawls.”
As a young martial artist growing up in Wisconsin, Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon was the favourite movie of director David Leitch. “When I wrestled in high school,” he told Black Belt magazine, “I remember playing scenes from the film to get me psyched up for matches.” But as Leitch added in the same interview, it was Chan’s trailblazing mix of heroics, humour and humanity that had the biggest impact on Bullet Train’s madcap fight scenes. “His capacity to make empathetic characters that are super-relatable pushes against the classic über-masculine Western trope of ‘I’m invincible’. None of Jackie’s characters are invincible. They’re all vulnerable. He’s the only action star that did that until Die Hard.”
Playing rival assassin The Wolf, Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny told GQ he was pumped to be on the same film set as Pitt (“Sometimes during filming they’d yell ‘Cut!’ and I would think, 'I’m here with Brad Pitt!’”). But as he sheepishly shared with Apple Music 1’s Zane Lowe, one misthrown punch during a fight scene almost dented the most celebrated cheekbones in cinema: “I f**ed up Brad Pitt’s face…!”
As the star of three Kissing Booth movies, the 22-year-old Californian actress should have been past first-day nerves when playing Prince. But as Joey King told Collider, the calibre of Bullet Train’s cast and crew took her a minute to process. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, but with such heavy-hitters in that movie and David Leitch directing… I felt like a kid on the first day at school. Because he’s the king of stunt work and action.”
To prepare for his role as British assassin Lemon, the Eternals star could have drawn on any number of celluloid hitmen from Francisco Scaramanga to Vincent Vega. Bizarrely, as he told Empire, his performance channelled the spirit of a kids’ TV favourite. “Lemon knows how to tell his marks based on certain characteristics of Thomas The Tank Engine," explained Henry. "He can tell if there's somebody that's reliable, somebody that needs to be killed right away or somebody that is actually up to little schemes.” The actor added: “I would find myself whistling the Thomas The Tank Engine tune in-between takes. One time I pulled my phone out to check something and Aaron Taylor-Johnson was like, 'What the hell are you doing?' I told him I really need to understand the difference between a diesel and autonomous engine.”
Bullet Train is tipped for critical acclaim, but you’ll struggle to find a reviewer who enjoys it more than Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who plays the British hitman Tangerine). “I watched the movie last week,” the Kick-Ass star told Variety, “and I was literally howling with laughter, to the point that I almost peed on my seat a little. But honestly, this is the summer movie you do not want to miss – I am not kidding.”.
Bullet Train has shapeshifted many times since production began, evolving from a brutal R-rated actioner to a more comedic mood. But as David Leitch told GQ, one goal has stayed constant, even in the depths of the pandemic – to deliver a movie that thrills on the biggest scale. “In the conversations I had with Brad,” explained the director, “the number one goal was to make a movie that’s entertaining and escapist and fresh and original, that will make people want to come back to the movie theatre.”
Bullet Train release date: August 3rd