We caught up with director Steven S. DeKnight and star Scott Eastwood to talk about the spectacular sequel to the Guillermo del Toro film.

“It’s fantastic to be back in Sydney,” says Steven S. DeKnight of returning to Australia to promote Pacific Rim Uprising, which was shot at Fox Studios last year.

Tax incentives aside, it made perfect sense to film the sequel Down Under, given Australia’s location on the actual Pacific Rim. Indeed, one of Uprising’s big battle scenes takes place in and around Sydney Harbour.

“Plotting out the story, I knew I had this big attack at the end of the first act and I wanted the Pan Pacific Defence Corp headquarters on one of the Pacific Rim cities,” explains DeKnight. “We looked at a lot of different places, but I really needed it to be iconic and immediately identifiable. The great thing about Sydney is that it has a little cameo in the first film, so it harkens back to that.”

L-R: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood and Steven S. DeKnight

After four years in development, the sequel finally received the greenlight in 2016, with Spartacus and Daredevil creator DeKnight at the helm and original Pacific Rim director Guillermo del Toro onboard as a producer.

“It’s always nerve-wracking doing a second installment, especially since Guillermo did the first one,” admits DeKnight. “I’ve been a fan of his since before I had the privilege of getting into the business and I didn’t want to let him down, and I didn’t want to let the fans down. I didn’t want to give them the same movie again. We wanted to mix things up and push the franchise forward.

“Guillermo could not have been more supportive. I had to get his blessing with the final sign-off, and he was totally open to handing me the reins and saying ‘go do it.’ To have that vote of confidence from him was huge.”

Set ten years after the events of the original film, Pacific Rim Uprising sees the return of the monstrous kaiju and the giant, human-controlled robots that combat them, the Jaegers. The sequel introduces Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), a former Jaeger pilot who must uphold the legacy of his famous father (played by Idris Elba in Pacific Rim) following the emergence of this new threat.

Joining Boyega at the controls of Jaeger ‘Gipsy Avenger’ is rising star Scott Eastwood. A fan of the first film, the actor didn’t hesitate when offered the role and was impressed by what DeKnight brought to the sequel.

“I thought there were a lot of great story arcs in the script,” he says. “[Steven] had a really interesting take on the film and I loved that it was a continuation ten years into the future. Fast forwarding a decade or so let him change things and put his own spin on it.”

Eastwood describes his character, Lambert, as a Jaeger pilot instructor who doesn’t suffer fools. “He’s also a best friend to Jake and they had a lot of history there that needed to be worked out. I liked that they were best buds.”

The Pacific Rim countries are once again united against a common enemy in the sequel, which DeKnight notes upholds the positive message of the first movie.

“I wanted to push it even further. In this movie there’s no longer a Russian Jaeger, or Chinese Jaeger, or an American Jaeger – they are all Pan Pacific Defence Corp Jaegers. It’s a completely united world organisation.

“The idea that it’s a next generation of Jaeger pilots is also a very important message,” he adds, “because no matter where you’re from, who your parents are, or the colour of your skin, you can make a difference. You can be a hero. That’s something very positive that the world wants to hear right now.”

Pacific Rim: Uprising is in cinemas on March 22.