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Best Idea Wins: Interview with ‘Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday’ Filmmakers the Kirby Brothers

The Kirby Brothers spoke with Script about their collaborative relationship with action star Scott Adkins, the importance of previs as directors and editors, and how action and fight scenes should push character development. Plus, they share advice for screenwriters tackling action scenes.

The Accident Man is back and this time he must best the top assassins in the world, to protect the ungrateful son of a mafia boss, save the life of his only friend and rekindle his relationship with his maniacal father figure.

Accident Man: Hitman's Holiday is the action comedy film you didn't know you needed in your life. It has a clear and concise story with intentional action-packed sequences that'll either make you cringe or laugh or both simultaneously. 

The Kirby Brothers, George and Harry, respectively, spoke with Script about their collaborative relationship with action star Scott Adkins, the importance of previs as directors and editors, and how action and fight scenes should push character development. Plus, they share advice for screenwriters tackling action scenes.

This interview has been edited for content and clarity.

[L-R] Scott Adkins, Harry Kirby, George Kirby, and Ray Stevenson BTS Accident Man: Hitman's Holiday. 

[L-R] Scott Adkins, Harry Kirby, George Kirby, and Ray Stevenson BTS Accident Man: Hitman's Holiday. 

Sadie Dean: How did you two get attached to this project initially?

Harry Kirby: We've been making YouTube short films for about 10 years. We're both big geeks. We made some anime kind of live-action stuff, that was our first stuff, we did some Batman, X-Men, all that kind of stuff, and then some of our original short films. And we've made a proof of concept for a film, a feature film that we'd written that we wanted to make. And George knew Scott through working with him as a stuntman on Dr. Strange. And so we pitched this film and showed this to Scott, and he really liked it. Short version he then was like, ‘I don't really want to play the character you want me to play.’ We were like, 'No problem.' He's like, ‘But I hope I get to work with you again in the future.’ And we were like, 'OK, no worries.' And then two weeks later, we get a call and he's like actually, 'How do you feel coming on to direct Accident Man: Hitman's Holiday?' We were like, 'Yeah, of course. Amazing.' Scott very much gave us all kinds of opportunities on this. We took it to the producers, and they were all happy - big thanks to all those guys for trusting us to come and do it.

Sadie: I can tell that you guys were having a lot of fun with this stylistically from subtle action to the absolutely absurd. Both of you are also wearing an additional hat as editors, how much prep were you doing in terms of creating the shot list against the stunt choreography with Scott Adkins and your DP Richard Bell?

George Kirby: When we came on, obviously, we got started on the script with Scott and with Stu [Small], the writer and they were very collaborative with us. We were able to bring our own ideas into it and adjust a few things, move the scenes around, and stuff that we felt helped make the pacing a little bit better. And from there on out, we love to do a lot of previs, which is shooting the action, working out all the shots or the choreography, make sure we know exactly what we're going to do, so when we turn up on set, we know what we're shooting and how we're shooting it - which I think paid dividends, especially with the short schedule we had, which is 22 days.

Sadie: Oh, wow.

George: Yeah. We tried to shot list as much as we can. Sometimes you don't want to shot list just because you want to let the actors breathe and block it out within the scene, so we definitely like that.

Harry: Especially with Ray.

George: Yeah, so you want to let them do their thing. But with the action, we like to have everything planned, especially with stunts - stunts can be quite time-consuming on set. So, to know exactly what we're going to be doing, how are we going to do it, and where the cameras going to be. Obviously, that helps speed things up.

It was a very, very collaborative process, especially with Scott. He's quite involved with the action as well. We also had a lot of other guys, Hung Dante Dong, and Sam Mak, all pitching in with the choreography and stuff. It's very collaborative. It was never just one voice. It was always the best idea wins. It was a very, very fun process for us and which I feel like comes across.

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Harry: Yeah, we get some cool stuff in there. We don't like to shoot any coverage, especially for action. I think sometimes performers are asked to just perform over and over again, and the cameras are just getting different angles. And then you see what you get in the edit, whereas we very much prefer to know exactly what each angle is going to be. So, it kind of tells a story of the action.

George: Which also then translates, let's say for the edit that we did, it's almost kind of shot for edit, you know, so then just find the best cut points and make it as tight as possible.

Harry: George also did about 50% of the visual effects on this film as well. So, in our brains, we're like, ‘OK, so we previs the actions, then when we're on set, we know how the action is gonna go.’ And we could also plan for the visual effects. We have to be that prepared so that when we get to it, because the only people we're going to make it harder for are ourselves. [laughs] We like to be as prepared as possible, and with that schedule, we have to be.

Sadie: Twenty-two days, that's tight for any film, especially for a big action picture like this - you guys are moving mountains. How much time did you have allotted in pre-production to do all that previs, because that is a lot for just two people?

Harry: So technically, we had one month, but we started a lot earlier than that.

George: Getting the script probably a couple of months before.

Harry: Yeah, about three months before. Did as much as we could. We went through the script, then we had this kind of cool program that was kind of like Pinterest, so we were sharing with all of

our head departments imagery and ideas and that kind of stuff so that everyone had a good idea early before we started the actual prep.

George: We had four weeks of prep out in Malta, where we had daily and weekly meetings. And that's where the bulk of the work was done. But leading up to that, we just tried to do as much as we could, just the two of us with Scott as well, just bounce ideas off him and get as much done.

Harry: Also, we had a stunt coordinator, he had his own space out in Malta. So, we did about 50% of the fights, we previsualized them in the UK, and then guys that couldn't do stuff in the UK, once they got into Malta, they were working there, and in the stunt space. So, everyone was kind of quite fresh to their fights when they came to film, which really helps.

Sadie: I know we’ve all seen a number of action films, where they just have action scenes to just have them and these scenes don’t necessarily serve the story. Where I feel like in this movie, it's all very intentional. When you're approaching material like this, what are you two zoning in on? Is it character development or plot or maybe how and when does the action come into play? And was it already written into the script beforehand? I keep thinking of Poco The Killer Clown and his fight scene, his face repeatedly getting kicked in.

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Harry: [laughs] I'd say both. So, for example, just from a script point of view, Stu would have often just be like, ‘OK, for example, Poco The Clown arrives, and roughly this action happens,’ but then we're fleshing that out and developing that.

George: Elaborating on it, we sort of take those as key beats. Maybe he'll write that from a point of view, with Poco specifically, his character can't feel pain. So, he's writing for those moments of like, how can we inflict pain? He doesn't feel it. And then we'll go, ‘OK, what is the most horrible thing we can do to him right now?’ And then we'll just flesh it out in previs. Everyone puts in ideas and stuff and goes, ‘That's cool, let's run with that,’ and then develop that forever. It just kind of builds on itself.

Harry: One example to that, don’t want to give too many spoilers, is that I think in the original script Poco and Fallon just have kind of fight. Whereas we really want to bring the accident element back into it. So, we introduced the idea of him being run through the middle of the accidents that have been set up earlier on in the film. And that's just like a small idea, but then that kind of informs how the whole fight then becomes, we obviously made it very Looney Tunes over the top ridiculous, [laughs] but that was really, really fun to do.

[L-R] Beau Fowler as Poco The Killer Clown and Scott Adkins as Mike Fallon in Accident Man: Hitman's Holiday. Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

[L-R] Beau Fowler as Poco The Killer Clown and Scott Adkins as Mike Fallon in Accident Man: Hitman's Holiday. Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

And from a character point of view, we've got old characters we're bringing over to this film, so we have to keep their character similar. But a big thing we wanted to do was, and it's like a fine line, these characters are petty - if you thought about the character's reality, they're all terrible people that we shouldn't be liking or following or wanting to succeed in any way. So, a big thing for us is that we wanted to kind of pare Fallon's, Scott's character with people that make him as warm to him as Fred is that kind of likable, lovable kind of character. And then Dante who is played by George Fouracres is the kind of annoying, frustrating character. So, we want those characters to endear us to Scott's character, make us kind of empathize with him and give Fallon a bit more of an arc in this film, where he kind of learns lessons and learns to appreciate his friends.

[L-R] Perry Benson as Finicky Fred and Scott Adkins as Mike Fallon in Accident Man: Hitman's Holiday. Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

[L-R] Perry Benson as Finicky Fred and Scott Adkins as Mike Fallon in Accident Man: Hitman's Holiday. Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Sadie: In terms of approaching stylistically, what films influenced you for this one?

George: I mean, obviously big martial arts film fans and people like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen. All the kinds of greats really, and especially, I suppose Jackie Chan bringing that kind of action comedy. We're also like, how he said, we're big geeks. We love things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and anime. We have a lot of influences. Edgar Wright is one of our favorite filmmakers, that kind of visual storytelling, fast-paced, keep it moving - we definitely love that kind of style. I feel like we got that into this film a little bit and tried to keep that visual element to it at all times.

Harry: Pacing is very important to us, especially in a film like this. It's 90 minutes, so we don't want you to be bored at any point in that. There's always something around the corner, there's always the next thing about to happen and the story is going to change. That was really important to us, just to make sure to keep things moving the whole time.

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Sadie: Any advice for screenwriters who are working on action scripts, what is something that they should lean into in terms of visuals or writing out action sequences - so that directors and stunt choreographers could come in to do their creative work?

Harry: I would say two things - one, we might not be the best people to give this advice. [laughs] Because when we write action, we write every minute detail because we know that we're going to get to shoot it. And we want people to read it and understand this is what it's going to be. With Stu's script, he doesn't write as much and lets us come in. So, if you're writing for someone else, then you just want to give an idea of where it's going. Because whatever happens, that director is going to come in and put their spin on it and give their ideas on it. There's no point in writing every minute detail because it's going to change. Actually, yeah, we should heed our own advice, [laughs] because the same thing will happen - it's never going to be what you write, but if you can give a solid idea and have the tone, and the gist of the fight, or the action piece, that's enough.

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George: Yeah, as I mentioned earlier with Stu's writing, the important character moments within that fight, where they need to start the fight here - what happens at points B, C, D? Then from the fight, you can kind of fill in the gaps, with choreography and moments that lift it up.

Harry: In a script, writing a kick and the punch doesn't matter, but if it's an important punch that makes the character say something or do something, then yeah, that's more important.

Accident Man: Hitman's Holiday is available on VOD and in Theaters on October 14, 2022.