Why We Can’t Dismiss the Star Power in ‘Red Notice’

We talk to producer Hiram Garcia about the new Netflix action movie. Plus: why we should be super pumped about the Black Adam IP he and Dwayne Johnson are currently crafting.
Red Notice Hiram Garcia

Welcome to World Builders, our ongoing series of conversations with the most productive and thoughtful behind-the-scenes craftspeople. In this entry, we chat with producer Hiram Garcia about assembling an impossibly charismatic cast in Red Notice.

They say stars don’t attract audiences anymore. Intellectual Property (IP) is the new precious commodity. But how do you explain a film like Red Notice with Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot? Their magnetic pull is invincible. You cannot resist. They hit the screen, and you’re on your knees, worshiping the box in your home like an alter.

Hiram Garcia still very much believes in star power. As President of Production at Seven Bucks Productions (co-founded by Johnson and producing partner Dany Garcia), he spends an exorbitant amount of time considering and calculating casting. Garcia grew up in the ’80s. He remembers that glorious era when a particular combination of actors could sell us on whatever silly concept.

Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lethal Weapon, Midnight Run, Red Heat — some plots were better than others, but the charismatic maniacs navigating them were undeniably entertaining. With those movies, you left the theater laughing to yourself, perpetually recalling their adventures as if some scheme committed by your own crew. Those movies became cherished memories as important as anything you attempted in real life.

Garcia wants the same for Red Notice. The movie smashes Johnson and Reynolds together as a disgraced FBI agent and the world’s greatest art thief and forces them to collaborate so they can out-steal Gadot’s trickster criminal. On their own, these actors exude charm, but together, that charm transforms into an addictive, intoxicating substance. Red Notice leaves you high, tripping on a delectably alluring performative fusion.

Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds kicking ass and knitting sweaters

Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds offer two unique vibes. Reynolds laces his comedy with venom; there’s a bite within every verbal jab. Johnson radiates warmth and strength. You receive his smile, knowing he could punt you across the room if you ever turned that grin upside down. The actors provide a beautiful counterpoint for each other, which was evident from the moment they first worked together.

“Coming off Hobbs & Shaw,” says Garica, “I think people got the idea, ‘Oh, man, these two guys are awesome together. This is really fun.’ Together, you’re getting that crazy chemistry. It’s in how they interact, how they love to play characters. The way they play Hartley and Booth [in Red Notice] just makes for something explosive and really comedic. They’re both big guys. Ryan’s 6’3”, DJ [Dwayne Johnson]’s 6’5”, but they love to come at a situation and an obstacle so differently.”

When we last spoke with Garcia, he expressed the delight in pairing Johnson with Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise. Their relationship was unique within Seven Bucks Productions’ history, and it ignited this desire to draw new flavor profiles from Johnson’s future partnerships. Shackling Reynolds to Johnson was like dropping a bomb in any scene. You didn’t quite know what you were going to get, but you knew it was going to be volatile and utterly watchable.

“Ryan is so quick,” continues Garcia. “He’s witty and hilarious with what he comes up with, and obviously, when you put that kind of energy opposite DJ, who’s playing this formidable FBI agent who’s trying to do his job and got set up in a bad way that he’s trying to dig himself out of, it just makes for something that’s delicious for the audience. It doesn’t matter what these guys are doing; they could be competitively knitting sweaters; you’re going to want to sit there and watch. It’s a real testament to the talent that those guys are and what they’re able to bring to the film.”

We still need Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Heat

With Red Notice, however, there’s no pre-existing franchise. Seven Bucks Productions is putting their entire faith in that combustible charm shared between its leads. Is there room for such a project in 2021? Is Red Notice firing on an outdated model? Hiram Garcia chuckles at the notion, but he doesn’t dismiss it.

“We live in a fascinating world,” he says. “We benefit from incredible technology, and we get to see content that guys like you and me [i.e., geeks] have grown up loving and wanting. We get to see it now on screen. We can see these comic book movies and all this other crazy IP. And sometimes the IP is bigger than the star, right? But it’s about balancing that out with the joys of watching movies with these big stars. Where they’re the reason. And they are the biggest stars in the world because they’re incredible actors.”

The geeks have won, superhero cinema thrives where it was once mocked. But let’s not pretend that such geekdom doesn’t include iconic performers. Indiana Jones is Harrison Ford. Captain America is Chris Evans. The IP is only as good as its creative soldiers. Modern cinema can and does still thrive on celebrity luminosity.

“Back in the day,” says Garcia, “Everyone was like, ‘Oh, Tom Cruise is in this movie? I got to go see it.’ We still love playing with that. We like to figure out how we can showcase these giant movie stars, to show them doing what they do best. And our director Rawson [Marshall Thurber] did a great job with that here. He was super inspired by that scene in Heat, where Robert De Niro and Al Pacino sit down for the first time. He was like, ‘Man, I want to come up with a movie that has the two biggest stars in the world on screen, sharing a moment, something you rarely see.’ That energy is in Red Notice, but it’s got three giant megastars in it!”

“Black Adam is Black Adam”

Channeling that charismatic power pulsates through everything Hiram Garcia and his team are doing at Seven Bucks Productions. And if they’re going to tackle a major IP like Black Adam (or, let’s be real, turn an IP like Black Adam into something major), they’re going to do it in such a way that benefits both character and actor. Dwayne Johnson has spent years preparing for this role, and he’s built his physique into something that’s somehow even more massive and catastrophic than anything we’ve seen from him before. As we see in the new teaser, Johnson’s anti-superhero character promises to shift the DC universe’s power structure permanently.

“The important thing for us with that footage,” says Garcia, “was that we wanted everyone coming away from it to know we aren’t fooling around with Black Adam. Just look at that first sequence. The first dude who approaches him is dead. That was done to set the tone, to address anyone who might have been worried that, ‘Oh, they’re pulling their punches with Black Adam.’ No, we wanted to make it clear that our tone is definitely very different than Shazam. That film’s tone is perfect for what that character is, but our tone is obviously very different.”

Garcia’s enthusiasm accelerates when discussing the 2022 film. For more than a decade, he and Johnson have contemplated Black Adam, and they’re determined to present the character unlike any other within the genre. There will be cheers when Black Adam lands, but we should also be a touch nervous, maybe even a little scared. Johnson’s new titan will deliver plenty of pain in his climb toward Superman supremacy.

“Black Adam is Black Adam,” he says. “We’re not sugar-coating it. That gentleman [in the teaser] might be the first man who dies, but he is not the last man that dies in the movie. As you see in that clip, there’s a lot of guys in that room. So, there’s a lot of people for Black Adam to deal with. That’s a really good way to meet him. I’m really excited for everyone to see the way he handles them and everyone else in the movie.

Red Notice is barely out in the world, and Hiram Garcia is already bouncing in anticipation for the next one and the one after that. The producer is beaming with pride for what Seven Bucks has accomplished, and he wants everyone to take as much pleasure from Red Notice as he and his squad did when they put it together. The film is his chance to share that ’80s buddy movie vibe he once adored and prove that star power can battle in any ring currently dominated by IP.

Red Notice begins streaming on Netflix on November 12th.

Brad Gullickson: Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)