STACK chats with the director of Sniper: Assassin’s End, Kaare Andrews, about the longevity of the action franchise, Tom Berenger, and a missing finger…

Directing the eighth instalment of the Sniper film series, Kaare Andrews has a few theories on why this franchise – first launched in 1993 starring Tom Berenger – has been so successful.

“There’s only a handful that have survived that long. Star Wars, Rambo…” muses the Canadian director. “I’ve wondered about it a lot and I think the films are timeless because they’re not trying too hard to be something else. It’s an action adventure series with characters you like and want to follow. There’s a simplicity to the movies which make them strong.”

A prolific comic book writer and artist whose work includes The Incredible Hulk, Iron Fist, Ultimate X-Men, Hawkeye, and The Amazing Spider-Man, Andrews, 45, marked his feature film debut ten years ago with the monster sci-fi flick Altitude, going on to direct episodic TV.    He leapt at the chance to direct Sniper: Assassin’s End in his Vancouver hometown, with Berenger and Chad Michael Collins reprising their roles as father and son snipers.

“These films all have a simple structure and archetypal heroes where you can just enjoy the process as a viewer,” he argues.

This current Sniper instalment sees Special Ops Sniper Brandon Beckett (Collins) set up as the primary suspect for the murder of a foreign dignitary on the eve of signing a high-profile trade treaty with the US. Narrowly escaping death, Beckett realises there may be a dark operative working within the government and seeks help from the only person he can trust, his father – legendary Sniper Sgt. Thomas Beckett (Berenger). Both Becketts are on the run from the CIA, Russian mercenaries and Lady Death, a Yakuza-trained assassin (Japanese actress and singer Sayaka Akimoto in her Hollywood film debut) with sniper skills that rival both legendary sharp shooters.

“Tom loved the script from the start because he knows his character so well. The camera loves Tom. He just has one of those faces. There’s something about him that just wants to be photographed,” he says of his leading man, who at 71 years old can still pull all his own stunts. “The shoot-outs, racing through the woods… He was up for everything.”

An ongoing theme of the Sniper movies is that Berenger’s character is missing his trigger finger, and the actor has become adept at folding his finger out of sight.

But Andrews was determined to capture the missing finger properly this time out. “It was cut off in the first Sniper film and in every other film since, they have to hide the finger. He’s really good at disguising it – he knows where the camera is.

“But I wanted to do an in-camera gag, where you can actually see that missing finger. I was talking to my producer out loud saying, ‘There must be someone in Vancouver with a missing finger’. And our set driver literally turned around and said, ‘Like this?’ And he was missing the exact same trigger finger from a farming accident years ago.

“So we gave him a tattoo and dressed him in the same clothes as Tom and he became Tom’s hand double.”

The son of social workers, Andrews developed an early passion for comic-book writing, drawing and photography – a passion he has since passed down to his own sons, aged six and nine, who he says are already adept at making their own movies on iPads.

“Directing is like social work because it’s part psychology. If I wasn’t a writer or artist, I would have become a counsellor or psychologist like my parents,” he says.

His speedy drawing skills are super helpful on set: “Comic books are great training to learn how to draw people very quickly, connecting the panels to tell the story. I describe it as the difference between a fire fighter and a policeman – two totally different jobs but a lot of overlap.”

Andrews says he would love to direct a film featuring an Aussie sniper. “I‘ve never been to Australia but what a pool of talent! I hear the crews are top notch, too.

“North American actors have got a bit soft over the years and I don’t think it’s a mistake that so many Australians seem to embody the strong actor whether it’s Chris Hemsworth or Hugh Jackman. I think it’s where we turn now to recapture that lost scene of masculinity and physicality.”

He hopes Sniper: Assassin’s End serves as a calling card to actually direct a MCU film, having created so many comic books within that universe. But he’s in no rush. “There are many other projects I’d also like to do. I’ve kept my comic book life so separate from my directing life and there’s really no crossover. There hasn’t been a single project yet which integrates my Jekyll and Hyde existence.”

He will admit to a certain longing to direct a Spider-Man movie, however. “Years ago I wrote a story called ‘Spider-Man: Reign’ about him in the future as an older man, which I think would make an amazing film. Maybe now isn’t the right time for an old Spider-Man title, but maybe one day…”

When STACK suggests that Tobey Maguire, 45, may almost be old enough, he laughs: “Yes, but maybe we should wait a bit longer for him to get older.”

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