On the surface, Lionsgate's Adverse is a modern crime-noir drama about a rideshare driver Ethan (Thomas Ian Nicholas), who gets a lot more than he bargains for trying to be on the straight and narrow when he reluctantly gets involved with a crime syndicate. For Brian A Metcalf, it was a story that hit a little too close to home and one he felt he needed to tell. Featuring an all-star cast that also includes Mickey Rourke, Penelope Ann Miller, Lou Diamond Phillips, Sean Astin, and Kelly Arjen, I spoke with the writer, director, and actor about how the film came together.
"I had a girlfriend when I was younger, who ended up getting herself into drugs and hanging out with the wrong type of people," Metcalf said. "Eventually, she herself became a drug addict and all types of those things along those lines. Unfortunately, it was a sad event that inspired the making of this movie." Arjen plays Mia, from whom the character is based. For his main character of Ethan, the director looked into the world of ride-sharing and why it was a perfect fit. "When making the character Ethan a rideshare driver, I thought that it would be an interesting type of job he would have," he said. "I spoke with rideshare drivers, and I base some of the things part off of that."
For the character of Kaden, the ruthless alpha of the criminal underworld, Metcalf chose the venerable character actor Rourke. "He was inspired by old gangster films and things along those lines," he said. "It's a combination of everything." When it came to bringing the two together, the director revealed Nicholas wanted to create someone more unique that would be more distinctive than previous roles to shed the image he carved himself in the American Pie franchise. "We wanted to do with this character was make it into someone he's never played before," he continued. "That was an important thing to do, so he changed the way he spoke, walked, and looked. Everything about him was different than his real-life persona. He set the tone with the seriousness and darkness of his character."
Metcalf credited Rourke's dedication to his role, recalling the time a crew member mistook Kaden's mannerisms for actual debilitating medical problems. "Mickey Rourke is just fantastic being who he is," he said. "One thing that's amazing is that he talks a certain way, and he walks with a limp. He coughs and everything like that because his character is like a cancer person. I actually had a person come on set who felt so bad for him, thinking he had all those problems. She thought it was real and that it was an ailment, and when we yelled, 'Cut!' He was talking normally and sat up straight and walked. It really goes to show how good of an actor he is because he's able to do that. He surprised this woman who didn't even know. [Mickey] would intentionally move his mouth a certain way and pulled his face a certain way, giving the look of someone who's constantly in pain."
One sequence Metcalf remains proud of is the one-cut sequence of the climactic battle that involves Ethan and, largely, a tire iron. "The most difficult sequence was probably the one where Ethan goes into the warehouse in a one-take shot scene," he said. "The reason for that was he goes around fighting a bunch of people at once. We had to rehearse for several hours and set it upright. Then we'd go shoot it. Then towards the end, someone would miss their mark, or something gets in the way. That sequence took an entire day." Adverse is currently in theatres and comes out on digital, on-demand, and DVD on March 9.