My Action Debut: Josh Peck on Red Dawn

The former 'Drake and Josh' star finally comes to the big screen as a hero, three years after the start of production.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

In the time it took Red Dawn to come out, Chris Hemsworth became a superhero and Josh Hutcherson became a teen heartthrob. Poor Josh Peck has waited three years, through reshoots and political changes, for people to see him be an action hero. He stars in the remake as a high school football star who fights back against a Korean army who invades his small town. We got to speak with Peck at Fantastic Fest where the film premiered on closing night.

CraveOnline: With the path this Red Dawn took to finally come out, is it kind of a harrowing experience as an actor to watch behind the scenes what’s going on with your film?

Josh Peck: I think it’s hard just because you’re so out of control and inevitably you have such high hopes no matter what and when you see all the different elements come together, like this director and the cast and all the filmmakers, you can’t help but be excited. Then there’s sort of this cool off period and you wait for the movie to come out, and that’s generally a long time. This just happened to be a painfully long time at moments. It was definitely tough but it was always just a matter of believing in the work and knowing that inevitably it would be seen.

This is your big action hero debut, so to have to wait for people to see that, did that affect how you wanted people to see your career going?

I mean, I feel bad for America that they had to wait this long to see me in my action debut. [Laughs] I mean, absolutely. I think as working actors, it’s like sales. You’re only as good as your last sale, so you put your all into something and you just hope that from that you can get your next job. So that was definitely tough at moments and especially something like this, we started shooting in September of 2009 but I started training in June and then we went all the way to the last week of December, so it was like six months of my life and talking about it afterwards, it was a big moment and I’ve definitely been anticipatory and excited for people to see it.

Did changing the villains change any of the content of the movie?

I think they had to go in and visually change everything.

You got to do some sliding across the floor with guns. How did it feel to do one of those iconic action shots?

It was great. I’ve practiced that in private for years, with all forms of firepower, be it water gun or paintball. It was a trip. The funny story behind that scene especially was it’s basically I get up and I shoot a guy and then I’m running and I go to the side and what not. It was this really cool shot where the camera was on a dolly which basically makes the camera super mobile and you can move the camera wherever. There’s a guy pushing it who’s called the dolly grip and we had worked on a movie together before. Anyway, we’d done a bunch of takes and we felt like we had it but it wasn’t totally perfect, but it kind of hurt jumping every time. I think Dan, our director, finally kind of saw that I was wavering and was like, “All right, that’s enough. I’m sure we’ll be able to cut it together.” And my buddy who was the dolly grip looked at me and said, “Josh, this is a cool ass shot and if you were ever going to be in pain the next day for a shot, it should be this one, so make sure you get it.” And I was like, “Let’s go again!” And we did it until we were sure we had it and it’s great to see it in the movie.

What other scenes were really hard to do?

Sprinting was hard. That got pretty exhausting.

How close were you able to get to actual explosions?

It was a normal everyday [experience that] we were being given earplugs. That was the normal everyday thing. There were definitely times when it explodes and you not only feel the heat wave but a concussion, like the concussion blast off the explosive, you felt that you’re getting as close as they’ll allow.

If you started in 2009, did you imagine that all your costars would have the subsequent success we’ve watched them have?

It’s been cool that we were all in a very similar place when we were shooting it and now watching everyone’s success. Notably Chris and Josh’s movies, it’s kind of great to be able to be a fan of your friends and watch their films and see them kill it and have Chris text me a picture of his baby. I’m like, “I know that guy. I know this baby.”

How protective did you feel about the original Red Dawn?

I mean, I think it’s dangerous territory no matter what remaking a film, especially one that’s such a cult favorite. It’s not like where you dig up some random movie that might’ve gone unseen when it came out and then you just decide to pull the best elements and totally take it as your own. The original Red Dawn is like a seminal film for a lot of people so I think it was nerve-wracking absolutely. Knowing the opportunity which we had to raise the stakes because of what we could do cinematically that they couldn’t do in the ’80s was sort of the big draw for me. Everyone involved, there was never anyone that scoffed at the original. Everyone held it in high esteem. We only wanted to make something new that didn’t necessarily improve on the original but just was our own take that paid homage to it.

Dan Bradley comes from a stunts and 2nd unit world. Did you notice any difference in the way he directed?

Well, he’d say sh*t like, “Suck it up!” I didn’t get babied. We weren’t allowed to have chairs. Like any chairs, like not necessarily those corny actor/director’s chairs but an actual seat because the world in which he came from, it was always sort of bare bones. It was like tough it out. So for us, he wanted us to band together through lack of seats.

What’s next for you?

I have a 3D Screen Gems dance movie called Battle of the Year coming out so now that the action Josh is complete, it’s time for dance Josh. This one is not going away.

Which one was more physical?

Both, but differently. Red Dawn I had to butch myself up whereas Battle of the Year was more of my natural resting Josh. I don't know what that means but I’ve got some moves, bro. I think you’ll be impressed. Maybe not but I was proud of myself.

What would you say is your dance style?

Interpretive, meaning it takes some interpretation. I have no idea, just trying to give myself some rhythm, some soul.

Follow Fred Topel on Twitter at @FredTopel.