In 2008, Josh Peck, star of the Nickelodeon series "Drake & Josh," earned positive reviews for his performance in the coming-of-age drama "The Wackness." After the success of "The Wackness," Peck signed on as the lead in a remake of the 1984 Cold War relic, "Red Dawn." As Peck recalled, the films gave him a chance to make a name for himself in Hollywood with a "one-two punch." The problem is that "Red Dawn" never came out; it's just now being released on Nov. 21, 2012.
Caught up in the MGM bankruptcy fiasco that also delayed "Cabin in the Woods" -- a film that coincidentally also starred Chris Hemsworth -- "Red Dawn" has been sitting on the shelf since 2009. So, it's hard not to think that, just maybe, Peck lost at least some career momentum in the last three years -- something that Peck admits was a fear for him as well. In "Red Dawn," Peck plays Matt Eckert, a member of a resistance group called the Wolverines. (It's a role that Charlie Sheen played in the original film). Gone are the Russian invaders (well, kind of), instead replaced by North Koreans, who overthrow a large section of the United States. (Originally, the invaders in the remake were Chinese, but the change to North Korea was made during the delay in an effort to make the film more palatable for China's expanding film market.)
Here, a refreshingly honest Peck -- he admits that the invaders could be zombies at this point for all he cares, just as long as the movie is in theaters -- talks about the frustrations of watching a movie sit in limbo and discusses how such a problem can affect a career.
So, your movie is finally coming out.
I know! You're here. We're here.
Did you ever lose hope that it would ever come out?
Inherently, making a movie is tough because there's so much anticipation when it happens -- even if everything goes well. Sometimes you have a year that you have to wait for something to come out -- and that's with post-production and everything. For this to take three years, there's been so much anticipation. Not only for the cast and whatnot, but the filmmaker, Dan Bradley -- he worked on it for two years with post and pre-production. So, I so want people to see it for him. But, yeah, dude, there were some days -- the dog days of April 2011 -- where I was like, "Oh my God, I really hope this thing come out."
There were a lot of release-date announcements that never happened.
Right! So, at this point, I don't think they can pull it back now. I mean, we're here.
Come on, would you be 100-percent surprised?
Surprised? Oh, yeah, a little humanity in me would die. Slightly.
The beginning of this film opens up with the financial crises -- then the studio behind this film goes bankrupt. That's poignant in a way, right?
Sure ... Good one, universe.
Were you bothered at all that the attacking country in this movie was changed from China to North Korea?
What was hard about doing this film -- especially because it's not in 3D and there's not a lot of green screen -- in many ways, it's a throwback to the action movies that I grew up with. And it's always walking that line of, "How do we root this with some real stakes in reality while having total, fantastic circumstances that probably would never happen?" You know, I think that there was definitely a thought process behind initially having China as the enemy. And I think there was a whole new thought process when they decided to change it to North Korea. But, after waiting for the movie to come out for so long, I think I was a fan of whoever they decided. [Laughs] Because it meant that it was going to come out.
"Martians? OK, that's fine."
Yeah, I mean ... zombies, whatever.
Admit it, speaking of dying a little, if you had to re-dub your lines for "the zombies," you would have.
That would have been rough.
Did you have to do much re-dubbing of your dialogue to change it from China to North Korea?
I did do a little bit of ADR as far as that goes. But then the bad guy in the film, General Cho, he [laughs] had to do a whole new language. That was intense.
Does he know Korean?
I don't know! I'm sure they gave him some help.
You mention the stakes in the film. When I saw the original in theaters, I was 10 and it scared the shit out of me. And the threat of the Soviet Union was real. How do you recapture that?
I think you're right, when the original came out, kids were doing drills where they had to hide under their desks. So, it was sort of a thing that was on everyone's mind, inherently. With the new film, it's sort of the idea that it's universal of, "What if the fight was brought to your front door?" Be it something as fantastic as an invasion to a natural disaster. What if an unforeseen circumstance forced you to react? And if it threatened your home and family, what would you do?
You've seen the original, right?
In your opinion, what are the major differences?
[Laughs] Besides that I'm half the man that Charlie Sheen is?
I'm not saying that. I would say that it's less grim. In the original, a lot of characters died.
Yeah. I mean, I think the difference is the original movie, there's more breathing that goes on. It takes its time more. Whereas this film, you have about eight minutes of setup and then it doesn't stop for 90 minutes ... I think this one speaks to a little bit more of the ADD generation. It keeps you interested the whole time. Not that the other one doesn't, but it's just a different approach.
In the original, the Wolverines execute one of their own? Would that have been too grim for this version?
Maybe. It's definitely possible. I mean, I feel like we go right up to it.
I was thinking it might happen.
I think either way, Daryl is done for. He's cooked. We may not see him in the sequel.
I really enjoyed "The Wackness."
So, I felt like you had this momentum from that movie -- and then "Red Dawn" was your next project. Was that disappointing, career wise?
Yeah, I mean, you like to believe ... Listen, acting is very much like sales: you're only as good as your last one. And then "out of sight, out of mind" is definitely a fear. You know, that you'll go away for too long. Totally.
Was that frustrating?
It was tough. I mean, you always hear it like, "the one-two punch," in film and whatnot.
Is that real?
I don't know. I don't know what's real. Listen, you always hear "a meteoric rise" for people. Like, "Oh my God, where did he come from?" But for so many of the actors I love and respect, they have that movie. But, if you go back, they've been doing quality work for 10 years before that. So, there are those sort-of-rare people that do come out of nowhere, but the actors that I love and respect sort of have the other track records. So, if that's mine and I'm able to accumulate great work for over a good amount of time and maybe there's one thing that kind of clicks, then that's great. But in doing "Red Dawn," there's a part of me that's ... "The Wackness" is actor's food. It feeds you on every level. But the tough thing with independent cinema is that not a lot of people see it. So there was a seductive quality to the idea of doing something that's on a really wide-release level.
And you got to work with Ben Kingsley.
My favorite actor.
I'll admit, in this job I have interviewed people like Ben Affleck and Nicolas Cage, but when I interviewed Ben Kingsley, I kept thinking, How am I in a room with Ben Kingsley?
I mean, Nic Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas"? Brilliant. But, in some ways -- correct me if I'm wrong -- they, him and Affleck, feel almost like peers in a way. And Kingsley feels like Yoda. So, to me, everyone is a distant second on my list of people I wanted to work with. And, God, it will be a dream to work with so many other people, but, to get to start at the top was, like, the best.
Speaking of peers ... since this movie was filmed, Chris Hemsworth has become a big star.
I'm glad I got to meet Chris and Josh [Hutcherson], going into "The Hunger Games," in the environment that I did. I'm glad that we got to begin our relationship that way. But, Chris and I have stayed close over three years and, like, he's exactly the same dude ... only really famous.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.