Once you develop a reputation in Hollywood, you become The Guy. Which is to say, when producers want a certain type of film, a director is suddenly The Guy on top of everyone's list, shorthand for representation of a particular value or ideal. When it comes to writer-director David Ayer, he's The Guy in regards to anything involving hardcore masculinity and real-deal groups of men.
We sat down with David Ayer in advance of the upcoming war drama Fury to discuss the post-production process of the film. Set in World War II, it details the crew of a Sherman tank in the waning days of World War II, faced with insurmountable odds in the midst of Nazi Germany. As it turns out, Ayer is a vet, having worked with submarines in the Navy, one of many in his family to have served.
"Both of my grandparents were in World War II and retired as officers," he said. "One fought in the Pacific and one fought in Europe. The whole family was in the war. I grew up exposed to it and hearing the stories, but the stories I heard weren’t kind of the whole 'Rah, rah, rah! We saved the world!' They were about the personal price and the emotional price."
As such, Ayer is also fighting against certain perceptions of war films. He's sidestepped this issue by avoiding the framing of World War II in an historical context, as Fury takes place primarily on a single day. "It was a brutal slog, especially at the end of the war. The movie takes place four weeks before the war ends. You’re fighting a fanatical enemy... For a lot of World War II veterans, it’s actually the most disturbing and difficult part of the war for them. Going into Germany and seeing these things happen. No one has really told that story."
Ayer's working with a decorated cast, including Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf. But they had to be on the same page, and that involved a hectic boot camp experience. Fortunately, it was Pitt who led the way, by example.
"Day one, everyone threw their cellphone in a helmet. Brad was first, to set the example. It was full on. It was 24 hours a day. There was no, 'Hey, let’s give the actors a break' stuff. It was fully full-on. It was incredibly intense psychologically and, at the end of the day, it wasn’t about, "Let’s all learn to be soldiers." It was about making these guys bond as a family by putting them through one of the more intense experiences of their lives together. They will always share that. They will always have that in common."
Though David Ayer is making a serious movie with Fury, he at least got to have some fun, and continues to do so: Fury apparently wrapped principal photography, though reshoots were planned for this month. Some felt these were a sign of a problem movie, but it's exactly the opposite. Apparently Sony are big fans, which explains the awards-friendly release date.
"It’s additional photography," Ayer clears up. "I’m just banging away some more action stuff. Let’s put it this way: Sony loved the movie and they’re like, 'What do you want?' I said, 'More action!' They were like, 'Here you go!' So I’m going to go blow some stuff up!"
Fury opens November 14th.