‘Skyscraper’ Director Rawson Marshall Thurber on His Career, Nearly Directing a Marvel Movie, and More

     July 10, 2018


Director Rawson Marshall Thurber has had quite the run with original narratives. It all started with his feature debut Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and now his fifth film, Skyscraper, is one of very few completely original wide release studio films we’ve seen in theaters in months. The movie stars Dwayne Johnson as a former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader who now works as a skyscraper security analyst, and he’s about to score a very big gig. He takes his family to Hong Kong to inspect the tallest building in the world, The Pearl. The Pearl is also supposed to be the safest building in the world, but it suddenly catches fire and Johnson’s character is framed for crime.

With Skyscraper making its way into theaters on Friday, July 13th, Thurber swung by the Collider studio to join the team for an episode of Movie Talk and also to sit down with me for a lengthier podcast interview. You can catch the full conversation as well as a couple of interview highlights below.

Clearly Thurber has a great working relationship with Johnson. Skyscraper marks their second feature collaboration after Central Intelligence with Red Notice coming up next, but they actually also made a commercial together. Johnson is well know for his kind, cheery demeanor and seemingly unstoppable work ethic, but the guy’s got to get frustrated sometimes, right? He can’t always be a shining example of workplace positivity, right? Wrong. Thurber has only seen Johnson get frustrated once and here’s how he handled it:

“I’ve made two movies with him, about to make a third, and this was actually on a commercial that we were shooting … It was a miscommunication on when we were gonna wrap, when we were gonna finish shooting, and Dwayne was frustrated because he had to get on a plane to get back to his daughters, to his girls, and it wasn’t gonna happen because, you know, a lot of logistical stuff and he was upset about it. There’s a couple ways a movie star can handle that, right? They pay a lot of people to handle that stuff for them typically and I’ve seen it where the movie star will just go into the trailer and his or her body man or hatchet man will like, light the whole place on fire and they don’t dirty their hands with it, right? That’s not Dwayne.


So Dwayne, we’re standing there, we’re getting ready to shoot this thing and there’s a problem, and Dwayne calls everybody. He’s like, ‘Everybody, come on over here.’ I walk over and the commercial company, everybody, we all kind of sat around and he goes, ‘Look, I’m really disappointed in all of us that this is where we are right now. Here’s what my understanding was, this is why I need to go, I have daughters who need me,’ etc., etc., and he’s like, ‘So how do we solve this?’ Right? I had a lot of respect for the guy, but that moment tells you a lot about somebody. You know, you’ve got people staring at their shoe tops not wanting to deal with this sort of thing and he just stepped up and spoke his truth and didn’t make anybody wrong and said, ‘How do we fix it moving forward?’ And that was pretty cool.”


Image via Legendary Entertainment, Universal Pictures

Putting the spotlight back on Thurber and his thriving career, remember when he was rumored to be in the running to direct the first Ant-Man movie over at Marvel? It’s kind of funny that so many years later, he’s got a new film opening just a week after that movie’s sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp. With the MCU gobbling up a good deal of attention this year, one might think not scoring the Ant-Man gig might have left a little scar, but in Thurber’s own words, he’s glad he’s got Skyscraper hitting theaters and not Ant-Man 2!

“So, when the first Ant-Man was coming around that was something I was talking about for sure. I don’t think the actual story has actually been told about that and I’m not gonna tell it here. But, yeah, so for me, like I said earlier, I’ve wanted to make an action picture since I was eight and I spent a little time kind of going after sort of the Marvel and DC stuff, right? Kind of trying to get hired for that and going in and always sort of like, always a bridesmaid, never a bride. I’d kind of make the final rose ceremony, but not actually get the rose. [Laughs] And I just got to a point where I was like, ‘You know? Screw it. I’m just gonna write my own thing,’ and I did with Skyscraper and I’m so happy. Like, I’m so happy that I have Skyscraper coming out and not Ant-Man 2. I can’t tell you. And that’s no swing at Peyton [Reed] who’s an incredible director from Bring It On forward. You know, and obviously the Marvel universe, I’m a big, big nerdy fan of it. I mean, that Avengers: Infinity War was like, I went to the premiere of that fortunately, I have never seen anything like that. I was stunned. I thought that the degree of difficulty on that picture is insane, and the Russos nailed it, and Kevin Feige nailed it. Anyways, but to me I’m just so happy that I have Skyscraper coming out and not Ant-Man 2.”


Image via Legendary Entertainment, Universal Pictures

Thurber further elaborated by pointing out how few original wide releases we’ve seen so far this summer:

“And what’s weird is like, I was looking at the schedule and if you go – okay, so you’ve got Ocean’s 8, right? Which is basically Ocean’s 4, right? And then you’ve got Incredibles 2, right? And then you’ve got Jurassic 7, 8, 12? Whatever. Jurassic 5! Right? Ok! And then after that, the week after that is Sicario 2, right? And then after that is Ant-Man 2 and then on our weekend – July 13th, please buy a ticket – is Skyscraper, the only original thing coming out, right? And not based on a book or a video game or a long-form poem. It came out of my own brainpan, for better or worse. Right, so it’s us – original – Hotel Transylvania 3, so it’s a sequel. After us it’s Mamma Mia! 2, Equalizer 2 and after that is Mission: Impossible 7. I mean, think about that. It’s only sequels, Perri! It’s only sequels. We’re the only film that isn’t a sequel. Isn’t that crazy? It’s staggering to me!”

So that’s just a little bit from my chat with Rawson Marshall Thurber. Be sure to check out the full conversation on the Collider Movie Talk feed right here. Also, we’ve got loads more podcasts for you to listen to on the Collider Factory feed as well including the Collider.com Podcast, the Reilly Roundtable, and the Collider Games Podcast over at PodcastOne.

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