Interview: Never Back Down Writer Chris Hauty

Chris Hauty is a genre hopping screenwriter who can write both a sappy kids flick featuring talking animals and films about violent youth in affluent suburbs. Though he might be courting controversy with Never Back Down, Hauty likes to raise a little hell with his screenplays; anything to get the movie made. Drawing inspiration from events at his son’s high school and a bit of YouTubery, Hauty has combined allusions to Web 2.0 technology with the standard dick flick (teenage dick flick!) formula for Never Back Down, adding a modern dimension to the same old song and dance routine. When he talked at the press conference I attended for Never Back Down, he made it clear that he’s popcorn and he don’t care.

How did the idea for the Never Back Down come about?

My son was a sophomore at Santa Monica High School a few years back and they had some fights there where a lot of the kids gathered around and took out their cell phones too shoot clips of these fights. My son came home and told me about it and we took a look on MySpace. I started to think it was a pretty interesting phenomenon and did a little more research and found out that across the country, in some high schools, there were actually organized fight clubs aping the movie Fight Club itself. I thought this was an opportunity for a movie to imitate life imitating a movie.

Fight Club without the anti-consumerist message.

Well, they are kids.

Did you find this phenomenon shocking in any way?

Shocked would be too strong a word. I was fascinated by it. I wanted to do something with Mixed Martial Arts and this was a way to do it where kids weren’t consuming the product, they’re creating the product.

Is there a difference between Ultimate Fighting and MMA?

No. MMA is employed in Ultimate Fighting. Ultimate Fighting is sort of a loose term as well. UFC has co-opted that term but I think it just means “all in”. No rules; anything goes.

Besides Fight Club, the other movie that comes to mind when watching Never Back Down is The Karate Kid. Did you ever have that meeting when you said, “This is Fight Club meets the Karate Kid”?

I didn’t sell the movie as a pitch. I wrote the script and then sold it, so thankfully I didn’t have to go in and say “It’s Karate Kid meets the UFC”. I actually hadn’t seen The Karate Kid, I read the synopsis and got the idea of it. When writing the film and all the changes the script went through up to production, it was more, “How can we make this not like Karate Kid? How do we avoid that?”

You saw nothing metaphysical about this story?

No. I don’t think so. I don’t think who are involved in MMA necessarily bring any metaphysical component to the dance. I think it’s more about physical excellence and discipline.

You write like you’re very knowledgeable about the subject of MMA and underground fight clubs. Are you?

I was a fan before and had to become more knowledgeable about it while writing it and even more knowledgeable when we got into production. It was a learning curve for sure. If you go on YouTube and search for “backyard brawls”, you’ll come up with a lot of stuff and the kids are fighting like you and I would fight, which is not very pretty. So some of those kids who might be fighting in this kind of quasi-underground regional, local fight clubs may be practicing some forms of MMA. Most of the clubs I’ve seen have been flailing fists and kicks, not real accomplished. The people who are professionals and even amateur Mixed Martial Artists are really good athletes. So I brought those two worlds together.

Did you talk to people who were accomplished Mixed Martial Artists?

The film had consultants and trainers on the set. They brought 99% of the knowledge to the mix. I couldn’t hope to know as much as those guys.

This has the possibility of being a film that makes moral watch dogs upset with the glorification of violent? Have you written anything controversial?

I think I’ll keep on writing slightly controversial things because this one got made! It’s hard to get the jobs and to sell stuff but it’s even harder to get something made. I wasn’t trying to be controversial.

Fight Club had it’s rational behind it but your movie is pure entertainment.

Yes, I would say so.

So if anyone wanted to go on about violent entertainment they might pick this?

I think there’s clearly a message inherent in the movie that suggests that glorifying violence and making a spectacle of violence is not the way to go. It’s what our hero ultimately chooses to do when he turns his back on that world. He is going to follow the philosophy of his mentor and turn his back on these spectacle fighting. When he chooses to do so it’s because he’s doing it to protect those he cares for. So that was an important component for us.

But the movie is called Never Back Down? You say there’s a moral to it but the phrase “never back down” could be construed as meaning, “always fight”?

Well never back down from someone who is going to hurt or do violence to those that you care about it. It’s not called Kick Somebody’s Ass.

Still, its like saying, “Hit Back, Fight Back”

Well, Never Back Down: If you have a child and someone comes and says I’m going to take your child away are you going to back down? Or are you going to stand up to that person?