Kevin Hart becomes 'action star' in Quibi comedy
Posted July 31, 2020 2:51 p.m. EDT
ATLANTA -- Even in 2020, there are actors who love the idea of being an action star. There's the glamour, the excitement, the potential for ever bigger fame and fortune.
Kevin Hart, who has been the comedic star or sidekick in many films over the past decade, decided to play a fictional version of himself thirsting to be a Matt Damon-like action star on Quibi's new series, cheekily titled "Die Hart." To ensure Hart is prepared for an upcoming action film, he signs up to learn the craft at a special "action star school" run by a quirky oddball played by John Travolta.
The series was shot in metro Atlanta -- mostly East Point, Stone Mountain and the West End -- and wrapped just a few days before the pandemic shut down all production in Georgia in March. They still had to do post-production editing but managed to stay on schedule. The series debuted Monday and all 10 episodes are available now.
"It was really hard," said Tripper Clancy, the show's writer, who also wrote the 2019 buddy cop comedy "Stuber" starring Kumail Nanjiani. "Directors and editors are used to working in the same room. I was watching clips from my house giving notes. We had to work harder. It was crazy. But you can't put a caveat on a show that we did post virtually. People still expect the same quality as if the world is not on fire."
Shows on Quibi are 10 minutes or less, so each of the 10 episodes of "Die Hart" are about eight minutes long. Clancy said he had to write the script with a cliffhanger of sorts every eight minutes. But even taken as a whole, it could still work as a continuous movie.
He said he loved the title of the show -- "Die Hart" -- but was not surprised people on social media got confused and incorrectly presumed it was Hart playing the John McClane/Bruce Willis character from the "Die Hard" films.
"Die Hart" tweaks the idea of who an action star could be, noting in the series that Matt Damon went from "Good Will Hunting" to "Bourne Identity." So why not Hart?
Hart is already well known for his work-out regimen so he is in shape to do stunts, which he has already done in films such as "Central Intelligence" and "Jumanji."
But producers had to be careful. Filming happened just a few months after Hart seriously injured his back in a car accident last September.
"It was definitely a concern," Clancy said. "Kevin is somebody who wants to go 200 percent every day. He does have a stunt double but he does a lot of his own kicking and punching and spins. He goes up on wires. He had a couple of days where he had a little pain. He did a good job hiding it. He's such a professional. He's not going to let anything get in the way of production."
Travolta as Hart's "teacher" was a no-brainer, Clancy said.
"He was the first person we went to. He wanted to work with Kevin. He loved the script. I don't think he's been sent that many comedy scripts recently. He's been doing more villainous roles in recent years. He really got into this role. And once he was at the table read with Kevin, you could feel the energy of them feeding off each other. That's when I knew we had something that was going to be special."
Clancy said he wanted an action school alum to show up who could have conceivably gone through a school like this but not someone obvious. His pick in the end? Josh Hartnett ("Pearl Harbor," "Black Hawk Down").
"He hasn't done a lot of comedy," he said, adding that Hartnett was all in, even allowing Clancy to write some obnoxious behavior for him. "He had a lot of fun playing a fictionalized version of himself."
Quibi, which debuted in April and targeted on-the-go people when it launched, has been struggling to build a subscriber base in a pandemic environment where many people are not on the go at all. And the streaming landscape is even more crowded with the recent additions of Peacock and HBO Max.
"I am hoping that 'Die Hart' and other shows coming out like 'The Princess Bride' show recently will be a turning point and get eyeballs to Quibi," Clancy said.
Story Filed By Cox Newspapers
For Use By Clients of the New York Times News Service