Sicario: Day Of The Soldado director Stefano Sollima was brought in to replace Denis Villeneuve, who made 2015’s Sicario a critical darling. Written again by Taylor Sheridan, this Sicario sequel has another big difference from the first film: it’s missing the star of the first film, Emily Blunt (there is chatter she might return for a third installment). And gone with her is the moral center of the whole first film. This is something that Sollima not only had to address, but he uses it to change the whole foundation of this second film. Without the lens of Blunt’s Kate Macer, both Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro Gillick and Josh Brolin’s Matt Graver are characters we as an audience now see in a different light, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse.
Ahead, the Italian director takes us through why he thinks this budding Sicario franchise is similar to that of Alien and Aliens (at least in the contrast of a Ridley Scott movie versus a James Cameron movie) and explains why Benicio del Toro fires his gun in this movie in such a peculiar way.
Were you a big fan of the first movie? Is that why you wanted to do this?
I read a lot of scripts, but I was trying to find a project where I was sure not to lose my touch, my specificity. And then by reading the amazing script of Taylor, I suddenly clicked. I said, whoa, this is me, me in another language. And I felt it was the perfect project to start this, let’s say, transition.
You mention not losing your touch, because the first Sicario and the way Denis filmed it is also very specific. Were you concerned you’d have to try and match that at all?
I mean, I loved the movie and I love Denis personally. I find him to be a super-talented director. But I also know that each director is completely different from the other. It’s like we are fingerprints, no? They find a director that was able to portray the same world using his own specificity, not trying to copy anything, but doing something that is at the same time completely original, completely different, but also respectful of the mood, of the atmosphere. So, of course, done in completely different ways, my way.
But I think this was an intelligent and smart idea from the producer, to make a sort of a different kind of a trilogy. You know the first one that comes to my mind? It’s completely different of course, was Alien. Alien, Aliens…
Yes, Aliens is very different from Alien…
Yeah, they are completely different, done by completely different, amazing directors, each one of them with a precise style. But still, altogether, they are really good.
But with the Alien comparison, it would be like if you were doing Aliens but you didn’t have Ripley because Emily Blunt is not in this movie.
Yes, I partially agree. I love her as an actor and I think that she was really brilliant in the movie, but I’m talking about her character. Her character, in the first one, was a sort of moral point of view, no? So everything was this new world and the two characters of Matt and Alejandro were introduced by her, but with the moral judgment in. I think the most interesting part of Soldado was that now, you face the two characters without any filter, without any moral judgment, and you start knowing them better and they are not exactly what you expect.
Benicio del Toro’s character, you do see him in a completely different way in this movie.
So it’s like you change the acts of the story. When I first read the script, this was an interesting part. It was an interesting challenge, because in a way, it’s become a new movie with two characters that you’re supposed to know a little bit, but you do not.
I really enjoyed Emily Blunt’s character in the first one. It is jarring at first without her point of view.
Because also her point of view implies also a moral judgment. I try never to put a moral judgment in what I’m doing, because this is something that the audience wants to discover, no? The real soul of a movie or the real moral is we have one in the movie, it’s better if the audience discovers it on their own without being guided like a child. You know what I mean? So that way, it’s more as it is in the reality. You don’t have white, black, good, and bad. Everything is shades of gray. Every human being has his complexity, has his contradiction. And this is why it’s beautiful to tell stories like this one, which are more real.
I interviewed Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place, and she said that she goes to the same gym as Benicio Del Toro, and he told her there’s this great idea for the third one and that she is a big part of that one again. Have you heard about this?
I don’t know anything about that, because I haven’t talked to Taylor. And then I think if I were the producer, I would hire another brilliant director, with their own take on this beautiful world of Soldado.
You don’t want to do another one?
I think this was part of the premise, no? Let’s make several cool, nice, even different movies in the same world. And this is a kind of movie experience, cinema experience that is pretty rare, no? Because normally now we tend more to reassure the audience to have them just have fun. And this is a kind of trilogy or potential franchise that it’s more interesting because it goes deep on the human being and in the contradiction we have and we live in our real world, by shaking a little bit the audience. No?
Well, and not to give anything away, but the ending does kind of set some more stuff up. Is that intentional?
The idea was to give to Soldado the best end for Soldado, without opening anything else. It is just the best end for the movie.
You mentioned it being a franchise. It’s not doing franchises the way they are normally done, which is refreshing.
It’s different because it doesn’t come from a huge box office success. You know what I mean? So it comes from simply a great movie that was really received well by the critics and by the public. So, I think it’s more smart than a normal sequel where you have a big commercial success and then you feel that you need to make another huge success. In this case, they started with the idea of making another chapter in the saga right before the movie was out, before even knowing what is going to happen. So I think it was a brave and a smart idea from the producer.
The trailer got a lot of attention because of the weird way Benicio fires his gun. How did that come about?
No, no, this is Ben’s idea. He gets on set by saying, “Oh, I’m going to shoot like this. How do you feel about that?” I say, “I think it’s going to be great, for sure. We are going to have this on the trailer!” He was laughing, but it was true.
So then it goes on the trailer and everyone’s talking about it and you’re like, yep, there it is. We knew that’d be a trailer shot.
So it’s that simple?
Yeah. Because he told me, “I never saw someone shooting that way in a movie. Let’s do it.” I said, “Yeah, perfect. I think it’s a super smart and great idea.”
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.