A dream fulfillment for bald eagles, gun owners, and young men, the original Red Dawn is a unique American classic that doesn’t joke about its pulpy plot of teens fighting against conquer-hungry Soviets. The 2012 remake of the film, released a day before Thanksgiving, carries much of the same spirit of the original, but with bigger scale, louder explosions, and Chris Hemsworth playing the character formerly embodied by Patrick Swayze.
In this movie from director Dan Bradley, Hemsworth plays Jed Eckert, a former Marine who returns home to live in suburban peace with his father and hot shot quarterback brother Matt (Josh Peck). The stillness of the Midwest is abruptly canceled when they are invaded by North Korea, sending the Eckerts into the woods, and turning these budding soldiers from boys to men.
Peck might still be best known for his work on the cable sitcom “Drake & Josh,” in which he starred alongside Drake Bell. Since then, Peck has been in movies like The Wackness and ATM, and heard in the Ice Age movies as Eddie.
In an exclusive interview, I discussed with Peck the making of the film, his fandom of Charlie Sheen and Paul Walker, and his Hollandaise pun he uses to describe Daniel Craig. Of course, we ended our interview with a “Wolverines!” chant.
Red Dawn opens November 21.
When I was young, my boyhood fantasies often involved plots like that of ‘Red Dawn.’ When you were younger, what action fantasy did you enjoy playing?
I think it was more like 3 Ninjas. It had to do with martial arts. I just wanted to be like left to my own defenses, and no sort of weaponry except my hands and my feet, and the art of Ninjutsu.
Favorite ‘3 Ninjas’ movie?
The first one was classic. And then the one with Hulk Hogan (3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain). Enough said. Holy shit.
You hadn’t seen the original ‘Red Dawn’ when you were filming this movie. But now, you’ve seen it. What struck you the most about the original?
It’s just an ’80s glory fest. Everything that I have come to love about those kinds of movies, between the template, and the way that it’s shot, and the acting; having the ’80s all-star cast. Unfortunately, I feel like less and less movies like that are being made, where kids are kicking ass. For me, I immediately understood why people held it so dear.
It goes to a deeper level. It is a fantasy, but it does have a level of seriousness. When you were acting for this movie, did you have to take it all serious, or can you keep in the back of your head that “This is all fun and goofy”?
It’s sort of a trap, because you’ll catch yourself in moments feeling a little ridiculous, which is the nature for anything in which the circumstances are so fantastic. You find yourself, maybe if you’re acting against a green screen, being afraid of something that isn’t there or behind the camera. But in other ways, you have to give yourself over to the idea that you have to be true to the movie you’re making. And in many ways, this is just the kind of fantasy fulfillment for me. I got off on it. In many ways it was like I got to really play pretend for four months. That was awesome.
When this film was being made, was the set vibe conscious of the original film?
I think in many ways it was like we wanted to pay homage to certain elements to the original, or certain things. We want true fans to see the movie, and be blasted with nostalgia. We also wanted to make a movie that stands on its own as a reboot, is how to describe it. The opportunity we are afforded now with how technology is, Dan Bradley the director is able to capture action sequences, the scope and the perspective of the film is so much broader. There are a lot more stakes.
In the movie you play a hot shot. What was that like? Did it feel unusual?
Definitely. I understood my character, and the idea of feeling like a man when you couldn’t be farther from it; what constitutes being a man. In that way, I understood it. I don’t know if the real Matt Eckert would have been friends with the real Josh Peck. Unless he liked theater [laughs].
Do you ever feel that way as an actor? Where you think you know what’s going on in the professional scope, but maybe you don’t?
In the last year or two, I have found myself entering into a weird age, especially for a lot of male actors. Women tend to mature quicker than men do, because they are the superior gender. It is sort of hard to play the real man roles, and then you grow out of the college high school roles, and so you’re caught in limbo a little bit. In many ways, you have to ride it out, maybe you’ll find the perfect part that maybe brings attention to those mid 20’s years, when you’re not an official dude yet. That can be a little bit of a challenge, but I’m willing to ride it out.
With your history on the Nickelodeon show “Drake and Josh,” are you conscious of your audience with that background? Are you trying to grow with that same audience, or consciously trying to move on from that?
In a perfect world, you’d be able to satisfy everyone. For a majority of it … I did “Drake & Josh” from 14 to 19. So, when we started shooting the demographic was between 9 and 12. And now I’m almost 26, and they’re 21. Hopefully as my tastes have grown and changed as I’ve gotten older, I hope they have as well, and that they have carried along with me, and that I’m able to keep entertaining them. I’m so proud of the “Drake & josh” years, and then to go from something like that to The Wackness or Red Dawn. Keep trying to introduce different colors to the palette. And I don’t want to turn my back on that. If there was ever a really dope kids movie that I could go and have a really fun time and keep kids laughing, I would jump at the chance.
Has this movie made you want to do more action movies? Or pursue more fantasy action characters?
That’s up to the public. If they want me, I’m there. I really enjoyed it. I think it’s exciting to be a part of these movies. Especially watching the Jason Bourne movies and different action movies that are re-imagining the genre and what not. I’ll take any excuse to look tough. I need all the help I can get.
On a related note, ‘Skyfall’ is awesome.
Daniel Craig is so tough. He’s baller-naise.
I’ve never heard of hollandaise used as a pun like that.
Yeah, bro. I like Daniel Craig’s version of Bond. Roger Moore and Sean Connery, that shit is classic. But Casino Royale was dope. And I have a crush on Eva Green.
Have you seen ‘The Believers’?
Of course I have. For sure [laughs].
Considering the training you did for the film, how good are you with an AK?
I am pretty good. I look good with it. I had a 1911 .45 pistol that I used in the film. I was given a replica of it, it shoots BBs. The weight and the look of it, you still have to be careful with it. But I would practice taking it apart with my eyes closed. I was ready to go.
What was the most exhausting part of your training?
The physicality was tough. The first six weeks was just me alone with some Navy SEALs. They’d say, “Drag this tire for a mile.” And I would say, “What for?” They’d reply, “We’re Navy SEALs, we just told you to do something. Do it.” You better pray that you have a friend who is a Navy SEAL during an invasion.
If the invasion in ‘Red Dawn’ were to happen in real life, where would you be?
I’d be way behind the lines, in a USO fashion, entertaining the troops. That’s all I got. I’m not tough enough to be saving anyone. I’d be the troop jester.
Where are you going to be opening day? Partying, or spending time alone?
For my own sanity, I might just hang out with myself. Although, one of my favorite DJs is spinning at the Shrine Auditorium on November 21. I might just cop tickets and hang out.
You’ve said that you are particularly a big fan of Charlie Sheen. Why?
If I could in any respect channel ten percent of the Sheen greatness, I’d be a happy man. I’ve never met him, but I’m a big fan of him and I don’t want to piss him off.
Do you want to meet him?
I would love to. If he ever wants to get milkshakes, or Hibachi, I’m in.
Is that an LA thing?
That’s a Josh Peck thing [laughs].
What is your favorite Charlie Sheen movie?
Platoon, or Navy SEALs. Have you seen that?
No. But I think my dad bought it at Wal-Mart for five dollars.
What are you doing with yourself? Do it.
This movie is patriotic, and has the power of the soldier. Patriotic movies sometimes can be a bad wrap, or patriotism in movies can get a bad wrap. How do you think ‘Red Dawn’ fits with that?
I just think in many ways it’s like … the movie we intended to make was something that is totally true to an action blockbuster escapist film that is the perfect relief to Thanksgiving-itis meal-itis that you get after too much time with the family and too much Tryptophan. If you go into it with that expectation, you’ll get exactly what you ask for. But then there will be people looking for subtext, and I hope they aren’t disappointed for how we intended to do things.
For someone who will be submerged in all of these “award” movies, ‘Red Dawn’ will be a nice antidote.
What are you trying to say? [Laughs] We’re making a big People’s Choice campaign for this one. In between all the heavy dramas, go see Red Dawn.
The original ends on an open note. Does this one have any vibe of being a continuation of the story?
“Aliens” — next sequel we’re fighting aliens. No, maybe! I guess the public has to decide. If you want more, we’ll make it. It could go either way. If they want more, I’m in.
Quick Questions with Josh Peck
Tough. Pineapple. Tropilca, but easy to get.
What did you have for breakfast?
Eggs Benedict. Light on the hollandaise. A little bit of potatoes.
Favorite summer movie?
I’m trying to think of what I love. Independence Day was pretty massive in my life. I was eight years old when it came out; I was already a Fresh Prince man.
If you could be somebody else for 24 hours?
You want to make a good answer … Paul Walker. Paul Walker circa Fast Five. His hair looked so good in that one. It was straight up. I just want to know what it feels to look like that for 24 hours.
Age of first kiss?
Could it have been during a kiss game? 14. There were other kisses, and other kiss games, but I remember one kiss at 14 where the girl went for it, and I thought, “I didn’t know you were allowed to kiss like this. I hope I get to kiss more like this in the future.” This feels awesome.