‘Bring Him to Me’ Interview with Director Luke Sparke

Bring Him to Me, director Luke Sparke’s new movie starring Barry PepperJamie Costa, Rachel Griffiths, and the legendary Sam Neill, is out now, and we had a chance to catch up with him and get all the details about the thriller. Bring Him to Me is a gritty crime showcase that feels like a noir graphic novel. The danger is around every curve of the road, and it also makes you think about how far you’d go to protect what is dear to you.

Trapped behind the wheel, a getaway Driver’s (Barry Pepper) loyalty falters as his conscience takes hold as he ferries a doomed Passenger (Jamie Costa) to his death and a bullet at the end of the road. Every mile (or in this case, kilometer) is a war against his better nature. Rain streaks down windshields, and tension crackles in the air – Bring Him to Me has a ton of action, including car chases, a heist with a hitch, and the occasional burst of gunfire.

We sat down over Zoom with Luke Sparke to discuss bringing Bring Him to Me to life. He shared how Barry Pepper came on to the project, what it was like working with Sam Neill, and so much more. 

The Interview with Bring Him to Me director Luke Sparke

[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]

Ayla Ruby: Well, hi, it’s wonderful to meet you. I just was watching the movie, so I’m excited to talk.

Luke Sparke: All right, there you go.

Ayla Ruby: Okay, so I guess I’ll just jump right into it. Can you talk a little bit about how you came into the project, what your journey to it was? I know you’ve worked with Tom Evans before, right?

Luke Sparke: Yeah, I was working with Tom the year before we did this movie on another movie that didn’t get up. It has now, it’s a big roundabout story. So I was working with Tom, developing a creature feature. For one reason or another, it just couldn’t get up at that time. This was 2022. And then I said, “We have to circle back on this.” And I’m like, “What else do you have? Do you have anything else?” Then he said he was writing this crime thriller, and I said, “Send it to me.” So he hadn’t finished it yet, but I enjoyed the read and it was this movie. Within two weeks of getting that script finished, we were green lit and we were away, which was super quick. So right place, right time.

Ayla Ruby: Wow, that’s amazing. And also, that’s not a lot of time to prep.

Luke Sparke: And the budget we had was only able to shoot it in 16 days.

Ayla Ruby: Oh, wow.

Luke Sparke: It was completely crazy to shoot a film like this in 16 days, but we did it. But it was just the hardest thing I’ve probably ever had to do as a director. I was also a production designer on it, and editor and executive producer.

Ayla Ruby: You had a lot of different roles on this.

Luke Sparke: So we set about to do it, and then I wanted to work with Barry [Pepper]. We were having a dialogue, and I sent him this script. Luckily his Paramount Plus show, Lawman: Bass Reeves, was on hold. I was able to quickly get him the script and get him over here.

Ayla Ruby: Oh, that’s amazing. So all the schedules lined up and that.

Luke Sparke: All lined up. And then I got Sam [Neill], and then I got Rachel [Griffiths]. So yeah, it all lined up.

Jamie Costa in Bring Him to Me Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
Jamie Costa in Bring Him to Me. Image courtesy of Roadside Attractions.

On how Barry Pepper came on to Bring Him to Me

Ayla Ruby: So you mentioned Barry, had you worked with him before? How did that relationship kind of come about?

Luke Sparke: So he wanted to work with me. We’ve been chatting since my last film, and we just wanted to find a project together. I’m a big film nerd, so I love listening to actors antidotes and telling their stories. So I’m engrossed and all that kind of stuff. So we were always having a dialogue, and when this one came up, I sent him the script and I said, “I think this could be perfect for you.” And he had the beard and the long hair from his role…

Ayla Ruby: It’s such a look.

Luke Sparke: Yeah, and it was cool. It was 24 hours of reading the script he came on, so that worked out. So I got to work with him, which was great.

On securing the Bring Him to Me filming locations in such a short period of time

Ayla Ruby: That’s amazing. Okay, so you dropped this thing that you had two weeks till and you got green lit and my mind just kind of blown about that. So how did it all together, did you already have locations in mind where you wanted to shoot because that’s a of a lot of work?

Luke Sparke: It’s a road trip movie, so it means the locations have to change all the time. We shot it in Australia, out here in Australia. So there are places, there are different locations that a lot of US films come out here and shoot, like Aquaman, Ron Howard just finished the film here, so there’re always using Queensland as a bit of a back lot. So there are locations I had in mind, and then there were some ones that I had to go find ourselves.

On sourcing the 1970 Chauvel Super Sport for Bring Him to Me

Ayla Ruby: Was it similar with the car? Did you already have the car? Did you kind of have to source that?

Luke Sparke: No, we had to source it. We drive on the other side of the road, so we had to find collector clubs that sort of had left-hand drive cars. Then we had a big bracket system of which car we thought was the best and this one won out. It was like a custom build from a local car enthusiast and that. So it worked really well. Barry loved it, so it worked out well.

Ayla Ruby: So there was only one that if it was a custom build, you kind of had one.

Luke Sparke: That was the other problem. Usually in films you like to have doubles and triples in case something goes wrong because this was so indie. Yeah, we had one car, so we had to keep it safe every day and we transported it to set on the back of a truck, so we didn’t let anyone else drive it. So we would keep him looking after it all the time. And Barry had done a film where he plays a NASCAR driver, so he had already been taught how to drive NASCAR. So another saving grace of the film was he could actually drive it himself without having any stunt drivers, which was great for me. I was able to stick a camera in the front seat and see him drive for real. I think that was a big saving grace on our schedule, 16 days.

Ayla Ruby: Now that you say that it did look that you were actually driving the car instead of you’re in a set and you’ve got stuff moving on. I thought that looked really cool, so I’m happy to hear that it was really, really you driving the car.

Luke Sparke: Yeah, I like to do as much practical as I can. So some indie films, they do day for nights and they post it later, make it look all dark and that. But we shot it for real for nights, in 16 nights. So the crew by the end and the cast was very stretched thin going 16 days, 16 nights, very, very hard driving cars, changing locations every day. Yeah, it was a difficult shoot.

Barry Pepper and Jamie Costa in Bring Him to Me Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
Barry Pepper and Jamie Costa in with the 1970 Chauvel Super Sport in Bring Him to Me. Image courtesy of Roadside Attractions

On shifting to a darker tone with this story

Ayla Ruby: I have lots of questions about that too. So this is sort of darker than stuff you’ve done before. You’ve done stuff with a lot more humor in it. There’s still the action, but they tend to be funnier and this is really gritty in the best way. How do you shift mentally from doing that to crime and…

Luke Sparke: Look, I took it on because I wanted to do something different. And then once I picked it up, a lot of people said, “Go watch certain films like Locke with Tom Hardy, very similar.” But I didn’t watch anything, I wanted to make my own stamp on it. I didn’t want to feel like I was on set one day and go, “Oh, let’s just do what they did. There’s an easy out.” So it was really put it back on me to come up with different creative stuff and I wanted to have a graphic novel feel to it with color and all that, rain and all that kind of stuff. The darkness, look, when I read the script, there’s one point of the movie where I pushed my chair away from my desk and I was like, “I don’t know, this is pretty dark stuff.” So it took me 24 hours to really come to terms with how I would do that scene.

Ayla Ruby: Can you share what scene that is? Or is it too much of a spoiler?

Luke Sparke: I don’t want to spoil it. I don’t want to spoil it.

Ayla Ruby: I understand. That’s totally fine.

Luke Sparke: There’s a scene with a big confrontation at the end of the film, life or death stuff. It was pretty dark for me, especially I’m a father as well, so it was kind of horrible. But I had to shift into that gear and really have that onset mindset as I was doing it. But the real process where this film came together was in the edit.

On editing Bring Him to Me

Ayla Ruby: People always say editing is another pass at writing. Can you talk about how that was maybe different for you? What was that like?

Luke Sparke: Yeah, editing is my second favorite process after directing the actors. So it is, it’s true, it’s the final draft of the script and you can literally throw everything out and start again. The script was a bit different to how it was in the edit. Without spoiling, there’s some certain twists of character motivations that was much earlier on and we shot it that way. Then I moved them all to the end. Also, it was at the beginning of the script, it was like Sam Neill is at the beginning and then all the driving stuff and then the ending. I cut up Sam’s things to have more flashbacks throughout the film to keep the pace going. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of talking in a car. So there’s little things like that that I think really, really helped. And because on set the 16 days, it was more just about getting the scenes, making the actors work, and I was going to worry about the rest later. So the editing is where it really took shape.

On working with Sam Neill

Ayla Ruby: Oh, that’s amazing. So you filmed in Australia, you’ve had 16 days. Can you talk about what it was like to work with… You talked about Barry, what was it like to work with Sam Neill, these really amazing, iconic people?

Luke Sparke: Yeah, look, he’s so kind and such a gentleman. He would always be… I’ll look over and he’d be giving advice to some of our actors and just helping them out. He came up to me one day and he said, “I think you should get a shot of certain shots.” And I said, “Oh, we’ve got time. I’ll grab those shots for you if you think that works.”

Luke Sparke: And then a year later we were in post-production doing additional dialogue recording with Sam and he wanted to watch the film sitting next to me, which was daunting. The shots came up in the cut and he tapped me and he said, “I told you you’d use those shots.” I said, “Thank you, Sam. I did use those shots.” So he remembered a year later, which was great. But he was just an amazing guy to work with and I’m a huge Jurassic Park fan, so it was-

Ayla Ruby: I have my Jurassic Park shirt on today.

Luke Sparke: So sitting next to Dr. Alan Grant and hearing some stories was great.

Sam Neill in Bring Him to Me Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
Sam Neill in Bring Him to Me. Image courtesy of Roadside Attractions

On working with the actors to bring out and evolve the characters

Ayla Ruby: So one of the things that’s really cool in this movie, in addition to the grittiness, is there’s a lot of character work and I love good characters. The relationship with the Driver and the Passenger was really interesting to me. Can you talk about that because there are some super strong paternal vibes, even though that’s another layer of the story?

Luke Sparke: Yeah, definitely. The paternal layer is definitely there throughout the whole film, and I really liked that as an extra layer that’s not too thick, but it’s there if you want to see it. Tom, a lot of it was in the script, but then I sit with my actors for a day each and go through the characters of what I’m thinking, and they tell me what they’re thinking and we find a good middle ground. I’m also a director that I don’t stick to the script. I’m happy to throw it out the window and come up with… Use a building block to let the actors play. So we have lots of different takes where ultimate versions where Barry would say something different and Jamie would say, and really just let them live in the car and just literally have that back and forth.

Luke Sparke: Then the edit was finding the right moments to stitch together to make it seem like it was the one performance in that. So it was really fun to do that and have Barry and Jamie just going back and forth with each other in the car. That all worked out really well. Once they get out of the car, the action scenes obviously have to be quite choreographed in that. But definitely when they’re in the car, props to them because they really just… I was focused on everything else and they really just ran their characters, which was great.

On bringing the action to life in Bring Him to Me

Ayla Ruby: What was it like choreographing, working with the stunt people, with the action people to kind of bring the action scenes to life? Because there’s guns, there’s different stuff that it is not exactly easy to pull off.

Luke Sparke: No, it’s not easy to pull off and not many people can on a very low budget with 16 days. I got some great stunt teams that worked on The Matrix over here and Star Wars and that. So it’s building that team around me, I’ve built the last 10 years as a team that I trust and they trust me. It was just working with them and really pushing the boundaries of what I could do. I am really big on pushing the boundaries. Most days they’re like, “We’re not going to get this call sheet. We can’t do this thing.” And I’m like, “Yes, we can. We’re going to do it like this.” So it’s really just finding those ideas.

Luke Sparke: So yeah, look, the car chase, I love that stuff. I’m an action guy. So filming those scenes where we could just step back. I love the character stuff. We could step back for a night and just do car chases in camera cars and all that kind of stuff. I was sitting in the backseat going 100 K’s an hour being like, “This is awesome.” So all that stuff was cool, but just again, really, really tight to do. I would’ve loved another week to do more stuff, but I think it all turned out well in the edit, so I’m lucky that we got just enough coverage.

Rachel Griffiths in Bring Him to Me Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
Rachel Griffiths in Bring Him to Me. Image courtesy of Roadside Attractions.

On what ended up in the movie that wasn’t in the script

Ayla Ruby: Yeah, it turned out great. You talked about it a little bit. You talked about doing multiple takes and using the script as a building block. Was there anything that was really interesting or surprising that wasn’t in the script that ended up in the final cut of the movie?

Luke Sparke: I think just some of little Barry’s lines where I was over in LA last week for the premier of this, and I’ve just got back actually yesterday from LA.

Ayla Ruby: Welcome back.

Luke Sparke: So I think what really… We had 300 people watching the film and everyone, every moment Barry did little one lines here and there. That whole scene, how he is like, “Tell me your name, say John or Ryan or John Ryan.” He’s like, “Yeah, John Ryan.” That’s all Barry. You know what I mean? That wasn’t in the script. So I really take my hat off to, again, having that. I like to develop that with the cast where they can feel free to explore. So that was some really good surprising stuff that came out in the edit that I think really worked and it landed with the audience, which is great because otherwise it’s pretty dark and depressing.

On a final takeaway from Bring Him to Me

Ayla Ruby: So is there anything that you want to leave people with? I know we’re getting close on time. Any kind of takeaways or final thoughts about the film or just?

Luke Sparke: I hope people watch it and sort of think what they would do in that situation. It’s kind of like, how far would you go? Everyone in this film is kind of between a rock and a hard place and they’re all kind of taking there to extreme of what they would do. So I think it’s one of those ones where I hope people watch and go, “What would I do in that situation?” Go for the ride.

On the creature feature Scurry with Jamie Costa

Ayla Ruby: That’s awesome. Is there anything you’re working on next that you can share?

Luke Sparke: Yeah, I’m in post-production of a movie called Scurry, and it’s a creature feature. It’s the one written by the same writer, one I was trying to get-

Ayla Ruby: Oh, the 2022 one?

Luke Sparke: Yeah, the one I was trying to get up before this one. So the writer strike last year happened. A couple of my projects got canned and I quickly put that into production. Again, for 15 days and I did it all as a one shot take. So it’s very, very interesting. It’s a creature feature with a one shot take. So it was a whole other level of how to achieve that.

Ayla Ruby: That sounds very interesting. That’s cool.

Luke Sparke: That’ll come out later this year.

Ayla Ruby: Oh, well I’ll be looking for it.

Luke Sparke: It stars Jamie [Costa] who plays the Passenger in this movie.

Ayla Ruby: Oh. Oh, wow.

Luke Sparke: He’s the lead of that one.

Ayla Ruby: That’s even better. Cool. Well thank you so much. I really liked talking.

Luke Sparke: Good. I appreciate it. Hopefully we can talk Scurry.

Bring Him to Me is now streaming.

Have you watched the movie yet? What did you think of Bring Him to Me? Let us know your thoughts on X @MoviesWeTexted.


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