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Ian McShane & Gonzalo López-Gallego On American Star & John Wick’s Future


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Summary

  • Golden Globe winner Ian McShane stars in American Star, a character drama mixed with a tense hitman thriller.
  • McShane and director Gonzalo López-Gallego enjoyed creative freedom throughout the making of the film.
  • The movie was shot on location in the Canary Islands, providing a beautiful setting that plays a significant role in the story.


Ian McShane returns to the world of assassins in a different fashion with American Star. The Golden Globe winner stars in the thriller as Wilson, a hitman sent to the island of Fuerteventura to take down an unknown target, though after meeting a local who opens his eyes to the tranquility of the area, he finds himself contemplating his next steps.

Alongside McShane, the ensemble American Star cast includes Army of the Dead‘s Nora Arnezeder, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny‘s Thomas Kretschmann, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon‘s Adam Dagaitis and Fanny Ardant. Combining gorgeous direction from Gonzalo López-Gallego and a compelling turn from McShane, the movie proves to be an engaging character drama as much of a tense hitman thriller.

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Ahead of the movie’s release, Screen Rant interviewed López-Gallego and McShane for American Star, the creative freedom they enjoyed in putting it together, shooting in the Canary Islands, and McShane’s thoughts on the John Wick franchise’s future.


Ian McShane & Gonzalo López-Gallego Talk American Star

Ian McShane as Wilson looking out of his car in American Star

Screen Rant: I am very excited to chat with you both for American Star. Ian, you are a producer and a star on this. What about this project inspired you to wear both hats for the movie?

Ian McShane: We made a movie together before, about 10 years ago, little less than 10 years ago, called The Hollow Point, which is a western noir movie. He’s a very good filmmaker, it’s a really good western noir movie with John Leguizamo, and Patrick Wilson, myself, and Jim Belushi. We made it in Utah, but it got lost in distribution hell in a way, but we remained friends and wanting to work together again. But a year later, he said he had a script written by this friend of his, Nacho, but it was just this title, Wilson, who was a hitman. Then, Gonzalo came up with a connection, because he lives in the Canaries, and this story about the American ship that was grounded there, and seemed a metaphor for me, and over the next few years, we’d talk about it.

He and Nacho worked on the script, and we went on doing other things, and then, I made a movie called Jawbone, with the producer Mike Elliott, who makes very good independent movies in England. Mike and I talked about this, I brought Mike in, and he met Gonzalo, and then, in early ’22, bingo. We had a period in time to make the movie, and we did. It was interesting, because you get to make the movie with nobody looking over your shoulder. You get to make the movie you want to make. And I think I’ll hand it over to him saying that’s exactly what you saw. Thank you for your kind comments, because we like it too.

Gonzalo, what about Nacho’s idea and script really spoke to you to want to be at the helm for this?

Gonzalo López-Gallego: Now that I’m thinking, I don’t know, for the first time, sometimes you don’t have time to really think about it. But I needed to do something different. I needed to do something that somehow made me connect more with the kind of films that I wanted to do. I started doing really independent and experimental, art house movies, and then, I did other things, and maybe with the last movies, and the last experience I had in Spain, I felt I needed to change something. I was lucky to be able to change it, because sometimes, you want to change things, but then you cannot do it, you cannot change it. So that, and then the whole story, of course, Wilson’s story, the fact that we did this movie together, and there was this opportunity for us to have Ian doing Wilson’s character.

Then, my wife, Catalina, told me about the ship, because I was living in the Canary Islands, but the ship was already sunk completely, it was not there. But then she started showing me the picture. So, I talked to Nacho, the writer, and he changed the original idea about the script. We did this mirror of the character with the American Star ship, but it was like at the right time when I needed to do something more grounded, something that I could feel really proud of. But, it took us a very long time, like seven years, or even more. But I don’t regret, I don’t have problem with that because —

Ian McShane: The script got better and better.

Gonzalo López-Gallego: — it went better and better. I was getting older with the script, and I was knowing even better what I wanted to do, and being more confident about how I wanted to do it, and about the ending, and about everything. You know, how you want to protect the movie, and how you want to do it, and if the movie has mistakes and problems are going to be my mistakes or my problems, but because we did it our way.

Ian McShane: And you worked with a cinematographer, José David Montero, they’ve worked together for God knows, over 25 years, I think. When you move around on an independent show with a really small gifted crew, you do what you want. It’s a very civilized way to work, and you don’t realize the work you put into it until the end, and you’re flying home after six weeks. We had a few days’ rehearsal, costume tests. We shot for 25 days. It didn’t seem rushed, and suddenly, “Wow, it’s over. You’ve made it.”

And here we are, a year and a bit later, talking about it. It’s going to be in the cinemas, and you think, like all good films, the curtain goes down, the lights go off, and then, you’re taken somewhere else for two hours. And this location is as much a part of the movie as everybody is, and that’s the look to the whole movie, which I think is great. A North African feel, wind swept island changes the main character’s view for a while, and as a result, changes his entire life.

Ian McShane as Wilson enjoying a drink with Nora Arnezeder's Gloria in American Star

As Ian mentioned, you were living in the Canary Islands around that time. What was the location scouting like on this, and how did you go about finding the look for this movie? It almost feels like a documentary in a sense with how grounded and natural everything looks.

Gonzalo López-Gallego: The first thing we did was with Nacho, the writer, we went to do some preliminary scouting before the script was finished to really write the scenes specifically in those places. So, when you read the final script, it was already saying exactly what beach, or what hotel, or what street, all the places, because we’ve been there. We did it, and then, we did the whole scouting. I don’t know how many times I went on my own, or with a crew, to Fuerteventura. I was really driving along by myself.

And always, when I make a movie, I have the feeling that I’m missing things. You’re shooting something, but then you look through the corner of your eye, there’s something that is happening over there, and I never have the luxury to stop what I’m doing and shoot what’s happening over there, because you can’t do it. If you’re doing these, not big budget movies, you have to focus on the schedule.

But in this one, I was so obsessed with portraying those landscapes and the island, how the island looks, that I don’t feel that I missed anything. I was able to really go deep into the landscapes, and it’s not about the landscape. It’s about the mood the landscape gives you, that feel. And as you said, it’s not that we wanted to do a documentary style, but we wanted to be with him. We wanted to be with Wilson from the very beginning, so, how we approach the camera angle and how are we going to follow the character, so we created our own rules.

José David, the director of photography, and my friend, he had the idea of just choosing one lens, and doing the whole film with one lens. So, that’s probably what you saw, that kind of documentary style, because we’re not changing lenses. We just changed the camera angle, and if Wilson is listening, we do it in one way, and if Wilson is looking at something, we’re doing a different way, so that helped shape the style of the film. Those little decisions you take, you create your own rules, and you don’t do things because you just want to do it. You do things because you’re just following your own book of rules. Then, at the end, that makes a style.

Ian, you’ve been on blockbuster productions that use lots of green screen, and you’ve been on movies like this, where you are on location. What do you feel is a benefit in being immersed in a place like the Canary Islands for a character like Wilson, in comparison to some of those other projects?

Ian McShane: Again, it is a great way to make a movie. It’s a large subject matter, the human psyche, but the location is small, the crew is small, and you have a chance to do exactly the movie that you want to make. But again, the budget never seemed to come into it, because nobody was standing over your shoulder. You had a very responsible crew, responsible actors on the set, everybody. We rehearsed before, there was no, like, every morning arguing or quibbling about a script. You just got on with it. We’d had table reads, we’d gone through it, we had costumes. We had only four days, but it seemed perfect, didn’t it? The timing, it rarely happens that you arrive on a set like this.

It’s all a bit like Wilson. I arrived, did test, whatever, costumes, we talked about it, met Gonzalo. We’d already worked together, then we made the movie, and then you flew home. And I was like, “Did that happen?” But then, over the next year and a half — and there’s no wasted movie, there’s no wasted footage. I think there really isn’t. I did also become an extremely adept driver, it seemed. I was never out of the car, but we could sneak things occasionally. We’d finish driving, and we’d do some extra driving, just whatever.

Gonzalo López-Gallego: That thing you said about there’s no footage that we didn’t use —

Ian McShane: No, he knew what he wanted to do.

Gonzalo López-Gallego: I edited it, I think, in four weeks, because we shot it like that. I shot it like that, because I knew what I wanted to see. It was just about putting all the pieces together, like the storyboard.

Ian McShane: The music works wonderfully. I think the music has a purpose, the soundscape —

Gonzalo López-Gallego: Yeah. But the fact that we had music before working on the script, because I worked with Remate, with the composer, he’s always giving me the music to write the script, or to go on location, so I don’t have to start listening to music from other composers that then you feel cheated, because you’re using other things. [Chuckles] So, I use things that he’s already giving me. And how fast we did the editing, it’s because we were surgical. We know exactly what we want to do.

Winston says goodbye at the end of John Wick Chapter 4

Ian, I did have a couple of questions outside of the movie. I adore you in the John Wick movies. I love at the end of Chapter 4, Winston’s farewell to John, but at the same time, it does raise the question that people have had for a lot of the movies of whether Winston is actually John’s father. Do you know that answer, or is that something you feel could be true?

Ian McShane: I know nothing, señor. No, I’m sure they’re working on another John Wick, possible 5, script. Keanu and I talk about it. The next chapter is Ballerina, which comes out in June, which is the spinoff with Ana de Armas, which takes place between 3 and 4. I get to work with my dear friend Lance Reddick — God bless you, kid — again on it. But yeah, that was my idea at the end of that, to have the tattoo on my hand and to say in Russian, goodbye in Russian, “Dasvidanya, moy syn.” But, it’s just a tease to the audience, who knows what they’ll come up with. I’m sure, at one point, they had me killed off in Chapter 4. They kill everybody until they decide who would really remain. So, there’ll be a spin-off between me and the Bowery King, I’m sure, at one point.

That’d be nice, I would love that.

Ian McShane: Who knows? But, no, it was good. Again, that was a great example of working in a big movie. I love Chad, because he’s like working on a small movie, he works everything out. That last chase scene was like a week’s work at Sacré-Cœur when, at the end of the evening, the priest wanted us to get the hell out of there. He couldn’t stand us, having us around. [Chuckles] But the great thing is, that was a great crew.

But again, there’s nothing like working on a movie like we did on American Star, when you can concentrate and everybody’s there. We had one camera, well, we had two cameras, but on John Wick, we have, like on all big films, 17 cameras working at various times. [Laughs] It’s wonderful, the film business, I’m very lucky to be part of it, but this is a special occasion when you get to be part of the producing of film. Now, this is a very gifted filmmaker, and I’m sure you’re going to make many more movies.

There have been scattered reports about a Chapter 5 coming, but I actually like the idea of things like Ballerina, or even a Winston and Bowery King spinoff, of just focusing on the other characters and letting John rest. How do you feel about where the future of that franchise should be?

Ian McShane: I think Keanu deserves a good rest as long as he wants. I spoke to him the other day, he’s resting for a while after the beating he’s taken over the last 10 years from all the assassins of the world. Let him rest until he decides to rise from his grave once again, or wherever he sleeps, because really, I’m his father, and he’s the vampire. So, I’m Vlad, The Impaler. [Laughs]

That would be a weird twist, but I would accept it!

Ian McShane: There’s a whole horror film to be made out of this. Everything can zoom into something else. There’s no rules.

About American Star

Seasoned assassin Wilson (Ian McShane) is on final assignment in the island of Fuerteventura to kill a man he has never met. But the target is delayed, and Wilson’s plans must change. Instead of following protocol and returning to London, Wilson decides to stay on the island. It’s been a long time since he’s had a vacation.

When his target finally returns, Wilson is there waiting for him in his house, as he had been a few days earlier. But in this brief time, everything has changed. He came to kill a man who he had never laid eyes on. That was easy. Now, nothing will be.

American Star is now in select theaters and on digital platforms.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

American Star Movie Poster Featuring Ian McShane Holding a Gun

American Star

American Star is a 2024 thriller starring Ian McShane. Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego, American Star follows an assassin who, during his last mission, becomes drawn to a secluded island, its people, and a mysterious shipwreck.

Release Date
January 26, 2024

Director
Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego

Cast
Ian McShane , Thomas Kretschmann , Nora Arnezeder , Adam Nagaitis , Fanny Ardant

Writers
Nacho Faerna

Distributor(s)
IFC Films

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