For producer Bradley J. Fischer, the 2022 thriller Ambulance was a long time coming. After the project was initially greenlit in 2015, he, along with his fellow producers and screenwriter Chris Fedak, dedicated five years to crafting and perfecting a film that was as much an action movie as it was a complex, in-depth character study about the meanings of family, brotherhood, good, and, evil.
Fast forward five years later, into the autumn of 2020, Covid-19 had wreaked havoc on the movie industry, and it seemed like Ambulance was fated to the seventh circle of ‘Production Hell’. Fortunately, news circulated that Michael Bay, of all people, was looking to film a fast-paced action flick in LA within the confines of lockdown: and from there, AmbuLAnce was born.
The movie was shot in just 39 days, but didn’t compromise on production value or on any of the qualities that make a movie quintessentially Bay. From explosions to drone shots, nothing was off the table despite the lean production schedule. To learn more about how such a movie came to be, The Digital Fix spoke to Fischer, whose impressive movie CV includes the likes of Black Swan, the Transformers franchise, and Shutter Island, amongst other things.
The Digital Fix: Hi Bradley! It’s great to meet you. We really loved watching Ambulance. Firstly, we’d love to ask you what made you want to option this movie.
Brad Fischer: So, the project was brought to my producing partners and me by Chris, who is the screenwriter who adapted it, and you know, the element of the movie that he really was drawn to was, I mean, first of all, it’s the heist movie, obviously, and heist movies are it’s a fun genre.
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But the thing that was somewhat singular about this was really the characters and the idea of these three people. Two of them have this, you know, this connection as brother/best friends, and then there’s Eiza’s character Cam who is just on, you know, her day at work and gets thrust into this absolutely chaotic nightmare of a day, where all of this tension starts to unfold in the back of this very small space.
The stakes continued to rise in a greater way. So it’s, you know, it’s one of those things where there’s like a split-second decision. There’s really two split-second decisions that get made in this movie that sort of change the lives of the people that are at the centre of it.
One is when this character will make this decision to jump into this bank robbery with Jake’s character with, you know, his best friend, his family who he has known over the years who is not the kind of person that he should be spending time with despite their connection.
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And the second split-second decision is when this ambulance shows up. They basically hijack it and figure out, you know, how they’re going to be able to get out of this, this huge circle of police that makes it impossible because they’re completely trapped inside the space by the LAPD.
But putting on those EMT jackets and pretending that they’re taking this wounded police officer to hospital and they get away, which sets everything in motion. That, to me, was a really interesting and original idea to set an exciting bank robbery story into motion.
TDF: There are a few changes from the 2015 Danish movie. The person on the back of an ambulance is a heart attack patient, instead a cop Will shot, the reason the brothers are robbing the bank is to help their ailing mother rather than Will’s wife. Why were these changes made?
BF: Again, I think that really, we looked at the original film very much as a jumping-off point because there was so much about it, as you said that that worked quite well and quite effectively. But I think it was really Chris, our screenwriter, you know, kind of sitting with it, and figuring out his way into the story and figuring out, finding those characters that sort of spoke to him that you know, that he was able to, to sort of live inside the heads and hearts of and, really, that’s how he drew them.
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It wasn’t something where, you know, we really sat down and said, “Okay, instead of this, let’s do that, instead of that, let’s do this.” In fact, even as you pointed out, the adoptive aspect of Will’s character didn’t come up until the casting process when we were just thinking about real chemistry, right. Because Jake, who was the first one in, Jake and I worked together years ago on Zodiac on the David Fincher film. And so I had approached him about the idea of working with Bay and which he liked and then he read the script and Michael reached out to him.
And then our next step was which character should Jake play? Right, because he actually could play either in a way. And we talked about that as well. And, he kind of gravitated toward the idea of playing Danny, who you could say is the villain but, you know, there’s something inherently charming in a somewhat sociopathic way.
But you kind of can’t take your eyes off him. He has this, this charisma. And so then it really was, it was like, just picturing other actors alongside him. And it was the studio actually, Peter Kramer who threw out the idea and we thought, okay, well how would that work? Because then, are they just friends?
And, then we sort of hit on I think Michael had come up, you know, with that notion of, well, you know, what if they would if they were friends early on, but Danny’s family kind of took him in and, and so they grew up together as brothers, which added a totally new dimension to it, right?
Because as much as the idea of brothers who are in a circumstance like that also has a great layer. You know, you can choose your friends, you can choose your family.
So there’s another kind of aspect to it and to their connection growing up, obviously, the trust that goes along with it, but also, you know, here’s someone who came to his brother, his best friend for help. And the help that Danny offers, of course, is sort of the worst hands he could have extended and he changes his life. You know, irreparably.
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So, yeah, it was really an evolution, you know, and I find that that that really is the best way to go about the process in terms of development and when working with you know, with writers and, and directors and actors is, is it’s a given take, and it’s kind of like, you know, you hear how a certain project resonates with someone and then the ideas start to flow from there.
TDF: Speaking of Bay, why is he the best person to tell this story?
BF: I consider Bay to be an auteur. He has a distinct signature visual style. And you instantly know a Michael Bay movie when you’re inside of it within seconds. You know, people even said when they saw the trailer for it, within five seconds, people recognise that this is a Michael Bay movie. He captures worlds, whether it’s a city or an environment, in a larger than life way.
But it’s also the characters. I thought back to Armageddon, and Bad Boys. Bad Boys, in particular, has this dynamic between these two characters where there was always some humour in the script as well. And there’s this sort of swagger, you know, that they had, and that was a vessel that was always part of his signature as a filmmaker, but it wasn’t something that I had seen in a while.
The characters are fun in the Transformers movies and their grand spectacles, but they didn’t go as far as being able to push the envelope, I thought, with the actors in some of those movies in the 90s. So yeah, so that was the other thing that made us like, ‘Okay, if we could get Bay, this could be extraordinary.’
Ambulance is available to watch in theatres from March 25, 2022 in the UK, and from April 8 in the US.