Written by Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder, Heart of Stone is a big action film in a classic sense. Starring Gal Gadot as Rachel Stone -- a secret agent working for an A.I.-assisted global peacekeeping organization -- the film throws Stone into a globetrotting mission to save the world. In many ways, Heart of Stone embraces a kind of archetypical action that defined previous generations of action-espionage films, taking cues from the legacy of James Bond and exploring the genre from a very modern perspective.
One of the film's most compelling elements is the near-death misses and big beats that help carry the plot, boasting some particularly impressive (and largely practical) fears. During an interview with CBR, Heart of Stone's Stunt Coordinator Jo McLaren broke down the appeal of working with a blockbuster star like Gal Gadot, the importance of having a strong script for the film, and the joys of establishing character through action.
CBR: Something like Heart of Stone is really having a blast with that inherent legacy of action-spy flicks. Getting to play in that sort of James Bond toybox must be a lot of fun to play with from a stunt perspective.
Jo McLaren: Well, it was just so exciting reading the script for the first time. It was fantastic. The female lead, the big action, amazing locations, cool sequences -- as a stunt department, for us, it was so exciting. And there was no scrimping on budget. It was real movie-making on a big scale.
Going to these fabulous locations, doing minimal blue screen, and doing so much for real. It was such a great experience. I mean, I know that you know you can say that for every project, but this tops the bill for us. In terms of the experience that we had, the action that we got to do, the people we got to work with, and I think the final product -- I think it is something everyone involved is really proud of.
I actually got the chance to see it on the big screen, which I feel was perfect for this film.
Exactly. Edge-of-your-seat action. I think audiences are just going to love it. It's fast-paced, but it's got a great story. It's got a great script. That's always the most important part. So you've got a great story, but you've got great actors, an amazing director, and then there's no let up on the action... I think it hit the nail on the head in terms of movie-making.
For Heart of Stone, you got to work alongside Gal Gadot, who has her own wondrous wealth of blockbuster experience. What makes Gal stand out from some of the other performers you've worked with in the past?
Gal was fantastic. Like you said, she's got so much experience. Her time is very precious, obviously -- she's so busy, and she was in so many scenes. At first, we didn't know if were we gonna have enough rehearsal time with her. But as soon as I got to know her and work with her on set, she would pick things up so quickly. That was the beauty of working with somebody that has so much action experience like Gal.
She has this amazing muscle memory. You show her something once, and then she's just got it. Her execution of the action and her performance were just fantastic. When we came to the wire-work, she's done so much with the Wonder Woman movies and her other films, she's done so much of it. It was just getting back on a horse, getting back in the saddle, it was just second nature to her. We were very lucky.
Without getting too spoiler-y, something I do find compelling about the film is the way it balances a lot of big spectacle with very character-driven action. Characters have unique styles and approaches to action, which shift given the tension or loyalties of any given scene. What's it like finding that balance within a film like Heart of Stone?
It was never doing action for the sake of action. [Director Tom Harper] wanted to keep things very real, very true to the story. Everything was very character driven. That was always our starting point. When we sort of sat with the brilliant Robert Alonzo, our amazing second unit director, we'd sit and talk about the fight at length.
We worked out he would do these amazing graphs, the journey of each character, and their fighting styles. What was their background, if they have military training, if it was MI-5 training, that led us into creating their specific fight styles, which all came from the history of that character and their journey. If you break it down each character, they all had their kind of own unique signature moves that they throughout. It very important to us to have character-driven action.
What would you say was the biggest surprise you encountered on set for Heart of Stone?
I have been on big movies where you literally get script rewrites weekly, even daily. I know it happens, but it can be frustrating. Because you're trying to stay within the fluidity of the story, if it keeps changing, sometimes it shows on screen. With Heart of Stone, we had a solid script. There were very few changes, maybe the odd line here or there. That was just so refreshing. It was so refreshing that we had this solid script, and that was our journey. That was the journey we were all on. We didn't have any, 'Oh, we're gonna rewrite the whole of act three, we're shooting it tomorrow.'
Heart of Stone is now streaming on Netflix.