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D.J. Cotrona Talks Flint & 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation'

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G.I. Joe: Retaliation is out for DVD and Blu-ray (and 3-D Blu-ray if you've got one of those) and there's a marked difference between this one and 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The first movie didn't take the source material seriously and attempts to emphasize the "comic book" elements left fans with a movie that bordered on silly.

Kids who grew up on G.I. Joe in the '80s were really invested in the mythology created by the comics and the TV series, treating the universe with a reverence that almost rivals the devotion of Star Wars fans.

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Paramount made a surprising choice when they hired the guy who made the Justin Bieber concert movie to direct Retaliation. But Jon M. Chu was actually one of those '80s kids who grew up on G.I. Joe and he manages to inject more respect for the story while at the same time making a movie that's a lot more fun than the first one. Dwayne Johnson, D.J. Cotrona and Adrianne Palicki take over as the lead Joes for this movie.

There's even a nod to guys who grew up in the '60s and '70s with Bruce Willis appearing as the "original Joe" and bringing the old school perspective for anyone who grew up before the rise of Cobra.

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Flint shares workout tips with Duke and Roadblock.

We had a chance to talk with D.J. Cotrona, the actor who plays Flint, about his experience making the movie and how much the real-life military inspired Retaliation.

How did you get involved in playing Flint and what attracted you to the part?

I got involved in the project – pretty much, it started how most of them do when you're an actor. Your agents will give you a ring and let you know that they're casting for a certain movie.

And this is one of those projects where they kept the script quiet, so it started with a series of meetings. I met with Jon, our director, and Lorenzo di Bonaventura, our Executive Producer, and we just originally sat down and talked about what their goals were for the property and, you know, why we all loved G.I. Joe.

I had been obsessed with G.I. Joe since I was a little kid. And Jon M. Chu, our director, is – he's a very young guy and we both grew up the same way, just obsessed with the franchise, constantly playing with the toys. And, you know, it actually helped us get to a place in our lives where we wanted to tell stories, playing with these figurines. It's the first time you deal with different characters and, you know, storylines, and tragedy and all these things that seem small at the time because you're a kid, but at the end of the day what we're doing now in making the film is essentially the same thing, just on a bigger scale.

Was there a lot of talk about the older versions of the character? You know, the guys who grew up in the 60's and 70's had a much different G.I. Joe experience than you guys did.

Yeah, we did. And, I mean, obviously the film, the meat of the influence comes from the old Larry Hama stuff and the comics and the cartoons from the 80's and even going into the early 90's. But we also wanted to tip our hat to a lot of the guys from earlier generations who had a very different experience with G.I. Joe. And I think bringing on a character like Joe Colton, that Bruce Willis played so well, was our way of trying to incorporate the whole gamut of G.I. Joe from inception all the way to where it is now.

Something that's fascinating about G.I. Joe is that it's this real mythical universe of military, but there's a lot of guys who serve in the military who say they were first drawn into military culture through G.I. Joe. What kind of real-life military interaction did you have making the movie? Did you have technical advisors with some military experience?

A. Yeah, we absolutely did. I mean obviously the film is a fantasy action film with a military theme. We all know that, but we did work with a lot of actual military in the preparation for this film. A guy by the name of Harry Humphries, who is one of the older generations of SEALs, he used to be a SEAL Team Leader. And Harry and a lot of his guys, some of whom actually were coming straight over from service in Iraq and Afghanistan, helped us during the training.

And we did all sorts of different training. We did weapons training. We did breaching and clearing. All the basics, you know, breaking down rifles, building them back up, how to move with a unit. Just lots of basics. Even though it's a fantasy film, we really wanted to lend some level of authenticity to it because we were going to be walking around and assuming these roles.

We had a great time and actually a lot of the guys that we trained with are actually in the film in a lot of the scenes. In the desert, there's a lot of actual real military servicemen in those scenes and a few of them actually dressed up like the bad guys in some scenes, so it was a lot of fun for all of us.

And just on a personal note, I got to say, it's very humbling and it's a great honor to get to learn from these guys, because it's very rare that you get to learn these types of skills or kind of, you know, this type of training, even just for a film. It's very rare for anyone to get to do that without actually having to go off and risk their lives in real service.

Where did you make this film?

We shot the majority of the movie in Louisiana, in and around New Orleans, and we had some stages there. And then we also had a camera crew go up to the mountains in Canada to shoot some of the ninja rappelling, the ninja fight scene. Some of that was actually shot on a real mountainside, so those were the two locations.

Have there been any talks about a sequel that yet?

There has, yes. There's, you know, the studio was happy with the way the movie went and Jon just signed on to do the next one, to direct and oversee the writing. So I know that it's still very early stages. They're trying to figure the story and all the details, but it looks like, yeah, there's going to be another one.

Well, they can't make one without Flint now that they’ve introduced the character, so we'll look forward to seeing you.

Yeah, that would be nice. Yeah. Yeah, I know. Originally, you know, Flint is one of the leaders, but they, with Hollywood and the way the casting goes and stuff, you know, sometimes it plays a different way. But yeah, we're excited to hopefully do another one.

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Flint, Roadblock and Lady Jaye perform online magic with some ancient desktop hardware.

The movie was supposed to open last summer and then the studio delayed release at the last minute so that the movie could be reworked for 3-D. A lot of online commenters decided the delay was a really bad sign. What was it like for the actors to get cranked up to promote the movie and then have to wait for nine months?

You work so hard on something and you're proud of it. At the end of the day, you just want people to get to enjoy it and see it. And Jon – the entire cast and Jon and Lorenzo (di Bonaventura, the producer), we were all disappointed at the time with the decision the studio made.

But again, I think this is – you're saying that it's a bad sign. I think we live in a different time now. We live in an Internet age where instantly people hear about things and have a knee-jerk reaction and an opinion. And, you know, this whole story got blown out of proportion how we had to rewrite it and we had to do all of these reshoots. And none of that was true at all actually. A lot of movies last year had the same thing. You know, studios make decisions on scheduling based on how to, you know, best position the film, and that’s all this really was. And the film itself wasn’t changed. We didn’t have any crazy reshoots. All of these Internet rumors weren't even true, so it was just a business decision by the studio and ultimately it was the right one.But at the time it was a bit disappointing.

Looking what's happening this summer with a lot of movies that are actually really good that aren't doing so well, that decision looks like a really smart one in retrospect.

This is what the studio does and they're good at their job. You know, World War Z was a film I thought was so much fun and so great and they had to deal with the same thing. They changed their schedule around a little bit and suddenly everybody thought this movie was going to be terrible. And then it came out and it was great and it did really well. So, you know, it's just the Internet, man. A lot of people – too many Indians, not enough chiefs on the Internet.

Lorenzo put it really well. He said this is an example of the studio believing in the product so much that they want to continue to invest money in it and continue to put it in an even better position because they believe in it. If there's one thing that's true in my experience, it's that movie companies aren't afraid to cut the rope when they feel like they have something that’s not going to work. For us, the studio was doing the opposite. They supported the movie to the utmost and it was a success because of it.

Do you have any messages you'd like to pass along to our military readers?

Yes. First thing, I'd just like to thank them all, all of the service members that are readers, for their service and, you know, their hard work and sacrifice getting us the opportunity to play around and get to make stories like this for a living. You know, without them we wouldn’t even have the ability to do it. And besides that, I just hope that they really enjoy the film and, you know, hopefully we can bring them another one and they'll enjoy that one just as much.

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