A Dyker Heights native, who graduated from Xaverian High School in 1975, has been producing popular films for years, including “Atomic Blonde” starring Charlize Theron and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” starring Michael Cera.
Now, Executive Producer Steven Scavelli talked to this paper about his latest film, “Extraction” and how it came to fruition.
“Extraction” made its premiere on Netflix on Friday, April 24. The non-stop action film stars Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including in the highest grossing worldwide film of all time, “Avengers: Endgame” made its premiere on Netflix. It is directed by Sam Hargrave.
The movie is about a hardened mercenary’s mission becoming a soul-searching race to survive when he’s sent into Bangladesh to rescue a drug lord’s kidnapped son.
“When we first started this project, maybe six years ago before we released ‘Atomic Blonde’ in 2017, we struggled with doing the deal because we (were deciding if we) wanted to do a Netflix original or a release with a studio and 4,000 screens across the country then international screens,” Scavelli said.
Ultimately, Netflix, which has produced critically acclaimed films such as “The Irishman” and “ Roma”, seemed like the best fit for the project.
“We love Netflix and said ‘let’s do this’ and they were very excited to work with us,” Scavelli said, despite having two other studios that wanted to do the deal. “We’ve dealt with Netflix for many years as a distributor and we know the masses internationally love it so we knew it would get mass appeal. We were very happy to do a deal with them.”
He added that, “Content is king today. Netflix wants some tentpole titles to be able to have their subscribers happy and bring them top quality content so that’s how this deal and talks opened up.”
The film is based on the Oni Press graphic novel Ciudad. The movie was going to be named after the original source material, however the producers decided to change the name.
“Doing some surveys, the title wasn’t that well accepted so we did some Nielsen surveys,” Scavelli said, adding the script was slightly changed. “In the (original) screenplay, the mercenary needed to extract this child from Paraguay and get her across the border to Brazil safely to her father. And it turned into a young boy who needed to be extracted from a safe house in Dhaka, Bangladesh and then safely go over the border to India across the bridge. It’s pretty much the same script and storyline, only it was changed from South American drug lords to Southeast Asian drug lords.”
The standout aspect of this film according to critics and Scavelli is the fast paced and non-stop action, thanks to Hargrave, who has done stunts on the “Avengers” franchise and the other filmmakers.
“The director is a stuntman himself so he’s right there in the middle of the action hanging from grips,” he said. “There were some moments, the cinematographer was strapped to the front of a car to get the right shot. With some of the stunts, the cameramen and director are going along with the stuntmen falling off rooftops etc., to get the right shots. In my opinion, it’s what makes this movie so special and what people will really love is the action and stunt work. Much of it is done by the actors themselves.”
Scavelli also compared the action to other liked films such as “John Wick” and “Atomic Blonde.” The latter film had a 10 minute action sequence shot in one take.
“There’s one scene that runs about 12 minutes long where it’s just a non-stop boom. It’s like, ‘holy crap!’” he said. “The scenes are really long. On an (action) film, a lot of times, there are 10-15 seconds and cut with different camera angles. When you watch this, it seems seamless sometimes at 5 or 10 minutes at a time. It’s just a single shot and constant action. I think that’s what is going to draw people in.”
Scavelli also said how lucky the project was to land Hemsworth as the lead.
“Chris does a lot of the action stuff himself and camerawork is realistic because he’s right in the middle of it,” he said. “You’re always excited when you get top talent and Chris is one of the top talents in the business and is big internationally. Nice Aussie guy. Women love him. Men love him. Immensely talented, hard working. When all those Australia fires happened, he became very involved helping raise money for the country.”
Along with the high quality action, the film also has an emotional story.
“Tyler (the lead character) is a bit of a complicated character,” he said. “He has a chip on his shoulder because of things that have happened in his life. He’s out saving a young boy and he had tragedy in his life with his son. And there are conversations between him and this boy that relates back to him losing his son. It’s not all crazy, senseless violence. There’s emotion in it where you get a sense of how he turned out the way he did and turned him to do some of the stuff that he does.”
Scavelli’s path to Hollywood is an interesting one. He attended Long Island University Brooklyn, then St. John’s University where he worked on a PhD in Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.
“I was doing clinical research at Mount Sinai and teaching,” he said. “Then I just realized i wasn’t happy with what i was doing. I wanted to be more social and do more,” he said. “I then started doing distribution. I love movies and negotiating and using my mental capacity and I started a distribution business at the time which was purchasing blank tapes, VCRs, audio cassettes, video games and selling them wholesale to wholesale and then to electronic stores. We became well known in New York City.”
After years of success distributing movies to VHS and DVDs, he and his partner decided to form a production company.
“The big move for us is we forged a deal with a comic book company called Oni Press to have the media rights to all their property to try to make them into movies or tv shows,” Scavelli said. “That’s where ‘Scott Pilgrim,’ ‘Atomic Blonde’ and this latest movie came from. Basically we’ve taken these projects from the start, we went out to go to talent studios, meetings trying to get financing director and talent which is a long process. Then we attach other people.”
He added that with, “Big films you need other people as producers. All three films were really our babies. Sometimes dealing with the real big boys, they’re going to get top billing and that’s fine with us. We’ve been involved with all three of these films and we’re excited about bringing the content to the public.”
Despite his success, Scavelli still loves his Brooklyn roots. He has a studio in Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal and frequents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst.
“I go to some events and donate a lot,” he said. “I do a lot of work with NYPD PBA, golf outings, events, fundraisers. We did a couple of boxing matches at Xaverian for great money and went to some guys that were ill. We do blood drives. I loved my Brooklyn upbringing.”
To watch the trailer for “Extraction,” which is also produced by Joe and Anthony Russo who directed films such as “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and “Avengers: Endgame”, visit https://bit.ly/2xMPVSa.