A Spirited Debate With The Director Of ‘Angel Has Fallen’ About His Movie’s Politics


As I tell Angel Has Fallen director Ric Roman Waugh, I was kind of shocked by how much I enjoyed his movie. (I’m sure a director just loves hearing that.) Antoine Fuqua’s Gerard Butler vehicle, Olympus Has Fallen, was the surprise underdog winner against White House Down in the 2013 battle of “White House under siege” movies. The sequel, London Has Fallen, suffered story-wise, but still made over $200 million worldwide.

And now here comes chapter three, with a late August release date, it would be easy to just assume this is movie going through the motions, but, instead, it somewhat reinvents itself as a character study of Butler’s Mike Banning, as he’s on the run, framed for an assassination attempt, in a movie that touches on topics like Russian election meddling to the proliferation of wars fought by private contractors. At one point, a bad guy literally says a phrase that is very similar to the current president’s catchphrase. Angel Has Fallen, surprisingly, has a lot to say.

But its director, Ric Roman Waugh, prefers to be, let’s say, a little more coy about his personal feelings. He says he doesn’t want Angel Has Fallen to be political, but that’s kind of hard to believe. Ahead, Waugh tries his best to convince me that Angel Has Fallen isn’t a political movie, even though I’m not really buying it.

I want to word this the best possible way because this is a movie I didn’t really think I’d like, but I was surprised did. Does that make sense?

No, it does. Gerard Butler and I have been wanting to work together for a number of years. And when he came to me about doing the third installment, what he expressed, he didn’t want to make just another installment. These kinds of Die Hard movies have become a little bit ’80s, right? We talked about what about making this one about Mike Banning, a character study? Think about Skyfall in the Bond Franchise, very much about who is James Bond? And also, what Jerry came up with, I flipped over: Let’s use a plot engine where he’s framed for an assassination attempt that gives us a chance to show Mike Banning on defense.

Well, you mentioned Skyfall and James Bond. I think a lot of people have thought about who James Bond is? I don’t think a lot of people have thought about who Mike Banning is, but I’m glad you did it anyway.

I’m not trying to compare either franchise. It was just more of a story arc of what is a new way to bring to this franchise and an interesting direction? And, to me, it was about character. I think that we’re tired of the ’80s kind of mindless action movies that where the protagonist is impervious to pain, impervious to flaws.

This delves into many contemporary issues I wasn’t expecting, like Russian election meddling…

It’s a very fine line that I try to walk. I don’t ever try to give you my opinion on hot button issues. I just tried to present them.

I think you did give your opinion a bit though, I think I know your opinion…

I don’t think you do. I think you’re showing what I wanted to show is the left and the right. And I’m neither. It’s about what we’re trying to deal with — the dangers around the world right down today. There are a lot of pros to private contracting. There are cons to it. Trying to show both sides of it, and the War Powers Act, and a lot of the different issues that we’re facing today. There are definitely some very contemporary issues in the movie that you have seen from characters in our own politics. But, hopefully, the movie doesn’t come off as political in a way of just showing you the relevancy, showing you these hot-topic issues that are going on so that we’re not dumbing down the plot and giving you things that feel far-fetched, or completely fiction or fictional.