Die Hart screenwriter and executive producer Tripper Clancy spoke with Solzy at the Movies over the phone about the new series streaming on Quibi.
Die Hart stars Kevin Hart, John Travolta, Nathalie Emmanuel, with Jean Reno and Josh Hartnett. The series launched July 20 on Quibi and new chapters will be made available daily through July 29.
The first episodes of Die Hart are now available to stream through Quibi. How did you and Derek Kolstad come up with the story?
Tripper Clancy: Well, it all really started with Kevin and Kevin kind of talking to Jeffrey Katzenberg about this idea for it. Derek and I actually never crossed paths. Derek worked on it with Kevin for a little while, and then I kind of on board and kind of had some different ideas. I think, combined together, we all kind of generated what became this story that I wrote this for, which is I think we all have in mind this idea—what does it look like if Kevin Hart as a comedic actor wants to be an action star? That’s something that originated with Kevin’s first talk with Jeffrey and kind of at each step of the development of this process of this project. We’ve kept that thing (inaudible)—how do we best exploit the idea that the biggest comedy star in the world wants to suddenly be taken seriously as an action star?
When I came on board, my idea was, well, what if he really wants to do that and nobody is going to let him do it? Except maybe there’s one director that says okay, but only if he attends this action star training school that’s run by this total lunatic that I called Coach Ron Wilcox. Kevin got really excited about that idea and so that’s kind of how this version of the story took off. Of course, when you catch somebody like John Travolta in that role, it adds a whole other layer and makes Ron Wilcox come to life with an even crazier, kind of almost antagonistic that can lay down the gauntlet that Kevin must complete in order to get what he wants. I think it was a it was a fun process and it was cool seeing it all come together.
Is it easier writing for a fictionalized version of a person than completely fictional characters?
Tripper Clancy: In this type of show, I think it definitely is. I’m a big fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm and there’s something really fun—it’s a fun sandbox to play in, too. At times, you can treat it like it is pure fiction. And other times, you can do something that actually forces that actor to make a joke about themselves and make fun of themselves. I think in Die Hart, you see it with Kevin’s character and also, you’ll see it in later episodes with Josh Hartnett’s character—where they’re not afraid to poke fun at themselves and Kevin and his relationship with his agent and how they view the studio, all of that is very inside but I think there is some truth to that. I’m sure Kevin will tell you himself that if he wants to suddenly become the leading action star, not every studio is gonna be receptive to that. I think there’s truth in it, which is where I think I mine the most comedy.
As I binged through the series this weekend, I felt that the premise could also work as a feature film. Do you feel the same way?
Tripper Clancy: Totally. I think that’s something that I don’t know if every Quibi show can claim that. I think some are better suited to short format TV shows. Writing this, I was really aware of the idea of let’s try to write a movie that also is really compelling in these seven or eight minute standalone episodes. That was the goal. Anytime anybody says it feels like a movie, I’m very excited because I think that’s how it should be viewed. I think even when all the episodes are up—which I think will be next week—I’m excited for people to be able to binge all 10 episodes. It’s basically like a movie that’s got—in a movie, you wouldn’t have these kinds of cliffhangers every seven or eight minutes, that’d be a little extreme. I think it’s a really fun way to keep everybody’s attention and keep the story twisting and turning as much as possible.
You’re no stranger to action comedies having written Stuber. Were there any action films in particular that you studied while writing the series?
Tripper Clancy: Yeah, I kind of looked at—I can’t name anything specifically but I definitely thought about action tropes and that’s something I did on Stuber, also. I think it’s really hard to reinvent the wheel. I wanted to look at tropes and figure out how to turn them on their head. And for Die Hart, that’s part of Coach Ron Wilcox’s school is let’s take those things we’ve seen in a lot of action movies like running into a burning building to save someone and then let’s build an entire episode in set these out of that. There’s a green screen episode with Kevin and Nathalie that is one of my favorites. That’s born out of watching actors doing green screen action and I was like, how can I turn that on its head. It’s really just taking my life experience of making movies that I love and just kind of toying with those tropes a little bit.
Is there an action trope that you feel is overused and wanted to avoid if possible?
Tripper Clancy: I would say something that I read it for stunt coordinator Walter Garcia is there are fight scenes. When I write a script, I’m not the best about being super-specific about the way a fight goes down like hand combat. With Eric Appel—our director—and Walter—our stunt coordinator—they were able to take those fight scenes that might have been something that seems familiar and try to put a twist on it in the action that makes it feel unlike anything else. I think that bothers me when I watch an action film or action comedy when I’m like, I’ve seen this same choreographed fight ten other times in other movies. I think that’s one of those things that people might not notice it but as the writer of it, watching one of those moments that I was like, that’s okay in the script and then watching come to life and it’s better than what I wrote—that’s really exciting.
From a writer’s standpoint, how has the pandemic affected you in terms of work?
Tripper Clancy: It really has not affected me at all. I feel almost guilty about that. I’m used to working in an isolated environment away from people and having very little social life when I’m on a project. I think the biggest difference for me is just that I’m writing in my backyard and my kids haven’t been in school for months. It’s just getting used to one of my kids running in and showing me a bug they found in the yard or something like that while I’m trying to write a project and taking 10 minutes away from the computer to play in the middle of a workday. That’s the kind of way it’s changed for me but I’m very lucky as a writer that it hasn’t forced any major changes to my normal day-to-day lifestyle.
Do you think we’ll see more comedies produced in response to living through a horror film in real life?
Tripper Clancy: G-d, I hope so. I hope so. I think if you’re like me, every day on Twitter is just kind of walking into this kind of dangerous gauntlet where everything is negative, apocalyptic. All we need and I hope Die Hart can do this is to just give some kind of reprieve from that and just something to laugh at and to be entertained by for just even for a few minutes. I think we all really need that despite how you feel politically or otherwise. We all could use that break.
Yeah, I feel like it’s one of the few new things I’ve actually been able to get through with the focus being 100% there.
Tripper Clancy: Oh, totally.. There’s been a couple of really dark documentary series. I’m like, I can’t do this right now. I have enough darkness every time I go on Twitter. I don’t need that. So yeah, I want people just to laugh and have fun and just forget about that stuff going on for just a few minutes and it’ll make your day a little bit better.
What have you been watching for comfort?
Tripper Clancy: I have been watching a couple dark things. I’ve been watching I May Destroy You on HBO Max. Have you seen that one?
Well, I’m waiting for HBO Max and Roku to make a deal.
Tripper Clancy: Ah, what a bummer.
Yeah. HBO Max and Peacock are two things I want to watch and Roku is holding me hostage.
Tripper Clancy: Well, I would say I May Destroy You has been really, really well done. I just started watching The Great on Hulu. It’s been pretty entertaining. I just caught up on Devs, which is an FX show which was really good. Those are three things I’ve been watching that I’ve really enjoyed.