The Glen Powell Network

11 Jul

Perfect storm: How Twisters continues the legacy of a classic blockbuster with some, well, twists

Photoshoots > Outtakes > Session 045

Read the full article at the Entertainment Weekly website.

Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell, Anthony Ramos, and director Lee Isaac Chung take EW inside the making of their blustery “standalone sequel.
“We got cows.”

The Twister line was inescapable following the blockbuster disaster film’s release in 1996, but it’s just as apropos over a quarter century later on a Universal soundstage as Anthony Ramos joins his Twisters costars Glen Powell and Daisy Edgar-Jones on the Universal City, Calif., set of their Entertainment Weekly photo shoot.

Powell’s rescue pup Brisket has been everyone’s favorite guest all morning, but Ramos walks in with his own companion: an inflatable cow he’s named Nancy. “Nancy’s a star,” Ramos declares of the petite plastic pet he’s carried with him since CinemaCon in Las Vegas the weekend prior. Indeed, Nancy has been all over social media — but she’s about to be upstaged as Ramos enters the set and discovers a life-size cow statue. “Oh, s—,” the Hamilton and In the Heights alum exclaims. “It’s Nancy’s mom!”

The talk of offspring is fitting, given the actors have gathered to promote their follow-up to the Helen Hunt-Bill Paxton hit. (All involved avoid calling it a traditional sequel, instead using terms like “standalone sequel” or “current-day chapter” — meaning it exists in the world of the original film but with no continued story or returning characters.) Smiles burst across their faces when discussing the 20 million views their Twisters Super Bowl trailer has racked up on YouTube and the thunderous applause they received at their CinemaCon presentation. But they get more serious when asked about the first time they saw the original, Powell leaning in to share his memory. “Growing up in Texas, Twister was one of the most iconic movies of all time,” the Top Gun: Maverick and Anyone But You star tells EW. “You grow up in Tornado Alley, and that’s the monster that exists in your own backyard.”

It’s an experience Powell shares with his Twisters director, Lee Isaac Chung, the Oscar-nominated writer and director best known for his quiet, semi-autobiographical 2021 Best Picture nominee Minari. Twisters executive producer Steven Spielberg & Co. learned of Chung’s ability to direct action from his work on Lucasfilm’s The Mandalorian and upcoming Star Wars series Skeleton Crew, but, more importantly, the Golden Globe winner grew up in rural Arkansas near the Oklahoma border. “From what I understand, they were hoping that they could find a filmmaker who comes from the area,” Chung explains. “There’s just a feeling when you’re living in that part of the country where you have to be humble to nature and to weather. I wanted to bring that feeling of what it’s like to live in that part of the country and deal with nature: to be in awe of it, to fear it, but also to be in love with it. I wanted to combine all of those things in this movie.”

The team started working off a script by Mark L. Smith (The Boys in the Boat, The Revenant) from a story by Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski, who’d signed on to helm Twisters in 2020 before leaving for another project. (In 2021, Helen Hunt expressed interest in directing a Twister sequel she was writing with Daveed Diggs, but it never came to fruition.) Chung loved Smith’s “smart” script but also collaborated with his cast to flesh out their characters: Edgar-Jones as Kate, a former storm chaser who gave up her pursuits after a fatal “wrong call” while studying at Muskogee State University (the alma mater of Hunt and Paxton’s Twister characters, though neither is referenced in the new film); Powell as Tyler, a former rodeo star who has amassed a large social media following as a “tornado wrangler”; and Ramos as Javi, Kate’s former classmate who persuades her back into the field to help his company, which is developing technology to help predict tornado strikes.

“It really felt like a story just about Kate and Tyler, and Javi was kind of like the segue,” Ramos says of the first script draft he read. “But now, it truly feels like he’s in the center of that. We feel the connection between him and Kate throughout the film. We really worked to develop Javi in a way where it felt like, ‘Oh yeah, no, we need this guy.'”

And Javi needs Kate, traveling to New York to convince her to return home to Oklahoma and the profession she left behind. “What jumped off the page to me was that this character had sort of PTSD, really,” Edgar-Jones says of Kate. “But she’s trying what she can to move past it in order to help other people. I found it very interesting that throughout the script, there’s this idea of taming a tornado. Storms can be such a great metaphor for inner turmoil, and I think Kate is trying to tame both.”

When Edgar-Jones and Ramos heard Chung was attached, they jumped at the chance to work with the director, whom the cast refers to by his middle name. “The idea of seeing someone like Isaac — who’s so incredibly good at crafting relationships and stories and character — take on this huge scale of a project was so exciting,” says Edgar-Jones, who wrote a letter to Chung detailing how she felt she was on a similar career trajectory, ready to graduate from smaller projects like Normal People (which garnered her a 2021 Golden Globe nomination). Adds Ramos: “Sometimes when these big movies come around, maybe the script doesn’t feel like it’s all the way there. Or it feels like they pick a director who can just get bossed around by the studio. But when I saw Isaac was directing this, I was like, ‘Nah, this feels different. I know that this guy’s going to do this film in a way where we really care about the people, and we really want them to survive, and we really want them to win.'”

Then there’s Tyler, established in the movie’s first trailer as an arrogant influencer who sells merch with his face on it. “I understand that when my function within the movie is fun, I get to be a wild, rowdy cowboy,” says Powell. “While everyone else is driving as quickly away from a tornado as they possibly can, I’m the guy driving directly into it. It was just a blast to play. Tyler is who everyone wants to be, the guy that’s hollering and screaming and laughing when the chaos is happening.”

But, unlike the original film, Twisters gets cloudy when it comes to who you’re rooting for. Kate and Javi? Tyler? Tyler and Kate? Even visually, things are inverted — with Tyler’s ragtag team of chasers (played by Brandon Perea, Sasha Lane, Tunde Adebimpe, and Katy O’Brian) much more akin to Hunt and Paxton’s band of misfits, and Javi’s crew uniformed and well-funded like the group led by Cary Elwes’ arrogant Jonas in Twister.

“I found those dynamics of shifts in characters and allegiances very refreshing because I feel like, culturally, we’re at a moment where we often look at each other as black-and-white antagonists, that we are polar opposites of other people,” says Chung. “We often don’t look at the gray zone that all of us are in. But what I like about Mark’s script is that he’s portraying people in their complexity, with this idea that all of us have good and bad — and the hope is that we find a way to come together, especially in the context of greater societal issues, such as the fact that storms are intensifying in this country.”

According to Chung, the closest thing to a Jonas character in the new film is Javi’s business partner Scott (played by James Gunn’s new Superman star David Corenswet). And stepping into the fish-out-of-water (cow-in-the-air?) role filled by Jami Gertz in Twister is Downton Abbey and The Crown actor Harry Hadden-Paton as Ben, a risk-averse British journalist writing a profile on Tyler.

“This is an incredible ensemble, so many amazing actors who have been the lead of their own movies,” Powell says of the cast, which also includes Maura Tierney, Kiernan Shipka, Daryl McCormack, and Nik Dodani. “I wouldn’t say that this movie’s like a normal movie in the way that you know who’s going to end up in a tornado and who’s going to end up on the ground because everybody’s a star in their own right. The fact that Lee Isaac Chung was able to bring this group of people together, I think, is really going to keep the audience on the edge of their seat to see who makes it to the end.”