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Tuesday
Sep242013

Our Exclusive “Escape Plan” Set Visit with Arnold: PART 1!

Schwarzenegger, in light gray prison stripes and dark gray hair, descended the steps from the set of the interrogation room and walked directly towards me. I hopped out of the director’s chair for a handshake.
“Randy, how are you? I’m glad you could make it. Are you having a good time?” asked my bulked-up Austrian host.
I assured Arnold I was beyond okay and expressed to him how amazed I was with his acting from the long scene that I had just witnessed. When I was on the New Orleans set in June of 2012, this was before Last Stand was released so this was this first time I was watching Schwarzenegger act since my Terminator 3 set visit. Had his many years as Governor rusted his acting skills, I wondered? Oddly, he seemed to have gotten much better. I was not just kissing his ass like so many around him in the business might do. I was genuinely blown away by his natural ability to deliver his many believable lines in one long, continuous shot without a break or without mistakes. He thanked me for the compliment and returned one of his own. In a surreal moment, The Austrian Oak himself expressed to me what a great job I was doing with TheArnoldFans.com. 

The day’s shoot was focused within a constructed interrogation room, built within the massive New Orleans sound stage. When I first walked onto the set, filming was already in progress and all eyes were on the actors within the interrogation setting, which was roughly a 20’ x 20’ room. At least 25 production assistants were quietly watching Schwarzenegger’s and Jim Caviezel’s performance.

Now if you’re confused about what upcoming film I’m talking about, perhaps you’ve just gotten out of prison yourself or maybe you want to learn all about the film that thrilled crowds at an advanced screening at San Diego Comic Con. Escape Plan, AT LAST, stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in their film together. Hasta la vista, cameos! This is Arnold and Sly with lead roles in a big action/thriller motion picture. 

Directed by Swedish filmmaker Mikael Håfström, the film follows Stallone's character Ray Breslin, a structural engineer who is wrongly convicted of a crime and is incarcerated in a prison of his own design, aided in his escape by the tough and delightfully vulgar-tongued Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger).




I was given my own director’s chair for comfort and I was then given a headset to perfectly hear Arnold, in the role of prisoner Emil Rottmayer, deliver his lines. In my chair I sat in front of two monitors, each showing a different camera angle. Next, I was given a call sheet, showing the dialogue, props and other notes from the day’s shoot.

Standing behind Arnold, stood two eerie security guards, dressed in all black. Their sci-fi looking attire with expressionless masks made me think of the creepy prison guards from THX-1138, only these guards looked even more soulless.




I was captivated by this intense scene, in which the Warden, played by Jim Caviezel, threatens Rottmayer with a slow countdown. Schwarzenegger has ten seconds to draw a map of where to find a criminal at large or else he’ll suffer the wrath of the Warden’s guards. Arnold’s map is truly a work of art. You’ll love it when you see it on the big scene! In –between each counted-down number, Arnold gives a line of dialogue as if to calmly test the Warden’s patience.

I witnessed roughly ten takes of this pivotal interrogation scene, (perhaps six with the cameras on Arnold and a few more takes with the cameras on Warden Hobbes. Later in the day, I got to say hello and give a quick handshake to Caviezel, but given his Christian Bale-like intense acting performance, I was rather intimidated in meeting The Tomb’s warden.

This was Arnold’s last day of filming for Escape Plan so I was honored to get the invitation and since I was the only media on set this day, it allowed more time with Schwarzenegger and other cast and crew members. On other set visits, when there are 12 to 15 reporters, you can sometimes get lost in the crowd but today I was personally addressed as “Randy” often by my lifelong role model. #BestDayEver

Soon Schwarzenegger was called back to the set to film additional camera angles and new takes of the guard charging at him. I witnessed the guards in black forcefully grab Emil (Arnold) in a chokehold and began to throw him backwards to the floor. Rottmayer took a hard fall to the ground and instantly gets repeatedly beaten and kicked by the swarming guards before suffering an even worse fate to follow.


Arnold walked over to me again. “Randy, are you hungry?” he asked. “You need to get some of this chicken.” I was not at all hungry, but there was no way I was going to turn down a Terminator. “Come on over here. Let’s get some before they’re gone,” Arnold demanded. I followed Schwarzenegger to the servant holding a tray of chicken tenders and a squeeze bottle of sauce. “Eat three chickens,” insisted Arnold. I began to take just one since I was feeling guilty that there might not be enough to go around for the swarming crew.

“I’ll take just one,” I said, laughing.

“No, three,” Arnold insisted.

“Okay, okay, TWO,” I responded without an appetite. These were in fact large tenders.

“No! Come on, Randy; get in there. Take three. Do it before they’re all gone,” ordered the action hero. “These guys are going to take them all. Get da sauce. Yeah, good.”

I stood there next to Arnold for a minute as we feasted on our delicious chicken. While eating, I asked him if he had experienced any of the local New Orleans food. I questioned if he had yet tried the delicious alligator. “Yeah, I had some. I had these alligator balls...”

“You ate alligator balls?!” I shouted in disbelief before he had time to finish. Smiling, Arnold reassured me he’d had an alligator po’ boy sandwich, which had diced alligator-balled chunks, but they were certainly not the scrotum from local reptiles. Now I knew exactly what he meant as I’d had the same delicious blackened alligator po’boy sandwich the previous night.
I sat back down in the director’s chair to finish off my chicken and soaked up my experience and surroundings. A nearby wardrobe rack held about ten costumes. Most were prisoner outfits hanging on the hooks along with some of the black guard outfits.

Dieter Rauter, Arnold’s stand-in who also plays one of Emil’s prison posse, recognized me from our previous encounters and came on over. Here, he enlightened me of some upcoming future film work with Arnold while he snacked on two child-sized boxes of POPs. “They’re high in fiber,” he proclaimed, sounding like a contender for a Kellogg’s spokesman.  




While Schwarzenegger took a break, the unit publicist took me on a tour to see all of the other constructed rooms and sets for the film. Several of these sights included a long cylindrical shaft that the Arnold and Sly would run through (like a ship corridor from ALIEN), the mess haul where a major fight would take place, the torture room containing isolation iron boxes with heat lamps to bring the prisoners to the brink of insanity. There were perhaps 3 to 4 addition isolation boxes built away from this main room to be used for tricky shots and different angles. Coolest or perhaps cruelest of all, I was invited to step into the prison hotbox and the unit publicist was sadistic enough to show me what it would feel like for Arnold’s character to be locked inside. He shut the door on me. Luckily, I was set free before too much claustrophobia would kick in or before the heat lamps came on. I was also brought up to look in the control room where the black guards would activate the torture level.




 Other sets and sights were a large silver water tank and several passageways in which Arnold and Stallone would kneel, duck or climb through in tight corridors. 

 Since I was on the set for roughly four hours, you can trust me when I say I have much, much more to share with you. Did I ever get a cigar from Arnold? Did I have an epic encounter with Sylvester Stallone? Did I talk King Conan with The Austrian Oak or get a photo with my hero? Who knows, in PART 2, I might even address your most anticipated question…would Dieter ever share a box of Kellogg’s POPs with me?! Stay tuned for PART 2 and TheArnoldFans will share more stories and exclusive photos! Now I’m off to eat THREE pieces of chicken.

Be SURE to see Arnold and Stallone kick some prison guard ass in theaters next month! That’s right, Escape Plan opens October 18th domestically and opens sooner in other parts of the world. Click HERE to see when Escape Plan opens in your country! This is an opening weekend film! Don’t be a WIMP and wait for DVD and blu-ray; see this event film immediately upon its theatrical release! Click on this official Summit Entertainment image to the right to see the FULL Escape Plan Infographic!


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