Jonathan Sothcott on the explosive thriller, Renegades

Welcome back to Action Reloaded, Jonathan! Your second release from Shogun, Renegades, has just been released. Was this movie planned before or after or during Shogun’s debut, Nemesis? 

Very much before – I set up Shogun to make international action movies but then the pandemic hit and I thought it was better to make a film than not, so a limited location home invasion thriller with a gangland backdrop seemed like a good bet. 

Diggin’ up the past

Before we talk Renegades I have two unrelated questions. First, can we expect a Nemesis 2? Is there a script or an idea for where to go next? 

Adam Kelly had a great idea, which is that we pick right up where the first one left off, the Morgans are cornered by the masked weirdos when ‘ping’ the other elevator opens and Bruce Payne walks out and shoots them, then looks at John and the girls and says “now you’re really in trouble!” which I thought was an absolutely fantastic idea. We then come out into London and see these masked gangs are breaking in seeking retribution everywhere and these old school crims basically have to get out of the tower block and then the City. But the truth is after Renegades that would be a step back for what we’re trying to do, so I think it will always remain a tantalising ‘what if’.

Second, Danny Dyer has left Easties!! Can we expect Vickers to return or could Dyer potentially be a Renegades? 

Vendetta is coming up to being a decade old, I don’t think many people remember it really now and there certainly isn’t a demand for a sequel. I’d rather focus on the future not the past. One of my good mates is a director called Dave Beton (aka Ronnie Thompson) and he directed all of Dyer’s final episodes. He’s an amazing director and the BBC love him and I’m sure they’ll be very filmic and scratch the itch people have felt since Dyer stopped making those films.

Renegades

Onto Renegades. This movie reunited you with ‘We Still’ Leading man Ian Ogilvy. Was Ian always a headliner for Shogun from day one? 

Yes, literally that. When Chris Ellison got ill it was apparent to me that it wasn’t right to make another ‘We Still…’ film as he and Ian were the heart of them – but the one thing people loved about those films was Ian as this sort of Gentleman Vigilante and because I wanted to get away from the British gangster stuff I used that as the jumping off point.

There’s no denying Renegades is a blast, it’s a gritty, action-thriller ensemble. How did you convince director Daniel Zirilli to leave the sand, sea and sun for London? 

I think what attracted Daniel to the project – besides my silver tongued promises that quarantine restrictions wouldn’t be that bad and that it doesn’t rain as much in London as they say – was the opportunity to work with such a great cast of veteran actors. So many of these films are restricted by casting non-actors for the wrong reasons, and I get that, the business is tough, but people like Lee, Ian, Billy etc are phenomenal, legendary talents. We just got a really great review in The LA Times, a publication I didn’t expect to endorse our movie and it basically said that what elevates it is all these great grizzled tough guy actors – and that’s exactly why I cast them all!

Would you say he will stick around and direct a few more movies for Shogun?

Absolutely. I had a great time working with Daniel, he’s a real pro. The thing about these films is you really can never tell what order your slate is going to go in – the vagaries of talent availability and finance are a Kafkaesque puzzle that never gets easier to solve.  We have a great project called Crackdown which is essentially Red Heat meets Brannigan and I hope that will come together in the first half of ’23 with Daniel in the director’s chair.

You have a story credit, what inspired you to write this?

At the end of the day, Shogun is a producer-lead business, the buck stops with me and I have to sell the product. So in order to get the product I think is most saleable I sometimes draw the blueprints myself and then have a writer come and fill them in to build the house , which was the case here. Tom Jolliffe did a terrific job on the script and I really enjoyed collaborating with him. 

A role made for 007

I can picture you writing this with Roger Moore in a role! 

The role that Julian Glover played in We Still Steal The Old Way was written for Roger. He’d seen and enjoyed the first one so I chanced my arm. He said “the problem is if I do one of your films, everyone will think I need the money”… and as much as I regret not making a picture with him I couldn’t argue with the sentiment and at least – as always with him – it’s a fun anecdote. In the dim and distant past I did work with him of course, doing the DVD commentaries with him for The Man Who Haunted Himself and The Wild Geese. For the latter I also made the documentary The Last of the Gentleman Producers, about the legendary Euan Lloyd. There’s a lot of Euan in Renegades – indeed, most of the characters are named after his leading men (Collins, Moore, Peck, Harris, Woodward etc) and we dedicated the film to his memory. I adored Euan, he really was a wonderful man. The last time I saw him we had lunch at Les Ambassadeurs where he used to go with Cubby Broccoli. I miss him and I hope we did him proud.

Is that Colt Seavers?

A huge selling point was Lee Majors, how did you and Lee cross paths? 

Some years ago I got a call from Lee’s London agent saying he was in Town and would I like to meet him. I’d just started dating my now-wife and she’s literally said the day before that The Fall Guy was one of her favourite shows. So we went along and had drinks with Lee and his wife Faith and we all became friends. Lee is a wonderful, wonderful man and it’s a real honour that he wants to be in these films. I treasure our friendship and can’t wait to do the next one with him. 

Ninja Nick

Nick Moran really surprised me with his John Wick skills, I thought Statham was the tough guy of the Lock Stock group!

He surprised you! Nick is one of my best friends, he was at my wedding, and so I knew he was very into his competitive karate, but when he pulled that out of the bag we were all a bit speechless. Nick is a hyper intelligent man and a perfectionist and I’m not sure a career in DTV action movies is his calling but his work speaks for itself – he can really do it. Louis Mandylor is a great screen fighter too (I mean, he’s just great – what a fucking legend he is) and we had a co-ordinator called Nick Khan who was very good with them both and did a great job on that fight.

If you do a sequel to Renegades, you have to give us more Moran hand-to-hand scenes! 

Yes absolutely.  I always knew the physical duties would fall to him but given how much he rose to the occasion it’d be silly not to exploit his ‘special skills’ further. If I could have my way I’d love to do something like ‘Who Dares Wins’ with Nick, when he put the balaclava on in Renegades he really does feel like an action natural.

Renegades 2?

Speaking of sequels, do you know if we will get one? 

We’ll have to see how the first one does, initial reaction is positive but I’ll have a clearer idea in the first quarter of next year. I’d certainly like to, it was the most enjoyable film to make and I love the cast. So fingers crossed.

What would the story entail, can you tease a little?

I think it would be a rescue mission for the Renegades this time, so something different but still within the appropriate parameters.

You got Michael Brandon to make a cameo at the end, will you let him get in on the action in follow-up? 

I don’t know about in action but I certainly enjoyed working with him and he’s a terrific actor. 

Maybe have him and get Martin Shaw on to cause some damage in London! 

I think the key is making these things international – for me one of the highlights of Renegades was finally getting to work with Michael Paré, even in a cameo. I know he does a lot of B Movies but he’s a world class star – I mean look at the movies he’s headlined – Streets of Fire, The Philadelphia Experiment, Bad Moon… stone cold classic after stone cold classic. I really want to do more with him and I hope that if we go again, he’ll be front and centre with the Renegades.

The Future

What’s next for you and Shogun? 

Well, because we haven’t made another film since Renegades it might seem that that Shogun has gone quiet, but the truth is 2021 has been my busiest year ever behind the scenes – we now have an office in the States, a fund to bankroll these movies and really solid relationships with the top sales companies and international distribution partners. These things take time and have to be done right if Shogun has a shot at being a major player in a crowded, competitive space. And I think it does. It is very much my vision, nobody else’s and I’ve turned down a lot of projects in the last 18 months if they don’t fit my pretty specific criteria. I have to trust my instincts when it comes to this genre because I really do love action movies and I want to make the best ones possible with the very best people. We’re not just going to do action, we have a terrific western – Reckoning Day – that we’re packaging at the moment, as well as a super dark thriller called Chase, based on the novel by Shaun Hutson. But the Shogun DNA will be apparent in all of them, I really want it to feel like a brand audiences can ID with, like Cannon, Carolco and Vestron were. Obviously we’re a much smaller operation than they were and we are kicking off at the very tail end of physical media but the infrastructure of the streaming platforms is about to change in my view and we’re now at the dawn of a new era, which is an exciting time to bring a quality product to market.

Last of all….name 5 actors you would love to get on board for a Shogun production! 

Stallone is the number one of course, he’s the main man. Nicolas Cage. John Travolta. Arnie. And I’d love to make one last, great Steven Seagal movie – I got to know him through Daniel Zirilli and he definitely has one left in the chamber. He has only ever been super-pleasant to me and Out For Justice in particular but his initial run of movies are firm favourites of mine and I’d love to do something urban/mafia based with him… but who knows.

Thank you for joining me, Jonathan! Best of luck with the release of Renegades!

Thank you – I really hope the classic action fans will give it a chance and get something out of it – it was mae with a lot of love and for a low budget indie I think it punches well above its weight.