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Playing the head of the FBI operation in the action movie ‘The Last Stand’, is Oscar winner Forest Whitaker. Whitaker plays John Bannister as a man obsessed with catching his quarry – and quick to deny Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character Sheriff Owens even a slim chance at stopping the Cortez gang, which he soon comes to regret.
Director Kim Jee-woon was very pleased to be able to cast an actor of Whitaker’s caliber. “He brings a lot of class to the role,” says the director. “He has the energy of a mountain. When I looked at his copy of the script once, it had more notes written in it than mine. It just goes to show that great actors are not born but made through endeavor and effort.”
Whitaker was equally compelled to work with Jee-woon. He says, “I think there are two elemental things that make his films so special. First is his style. There’s poetry to his films and a deep search to reveal the insides of character. Second, there’s a visual beauty — even if it’s an action film. There are poetic moments of violence in his films and that’s a special thing to pull off.”
He was also drawn to Bannister and the things he shares with Sheriff Owens, even if he doesn’t realize it: “I think both men are looking towards some form of redemption. Arnold’s character lost his partner and has exiled himself to a small town, hoping he’ll never have to be confronted with his past. But that is exactly what happens — he’s faced with looking at his own capabilities, what he needs to do. And my character has lost the man that he has sought for so long, and he desperately wants to get him back, so he can seek justice. I think of him as almost an archetype of an archangel, doing his duty to bring about justice.”
Whitaker was taken with the Good vs. Bad theme which winds through the whole movie. “You have a hero going up against large odds – the establishment, society, criminals – and that gets you excited because you have an underdog in peril,” he says “And then you have strong villain who is almost bigger than a human being, sort of a demigod, because seemingly nothing can stop him from completing his task, until he meets the hero.”
For producer di Bonaventura, Whitaker makes Bannister the ultimate intermediary between the small-town Davids and a powerful modern Goliath. “Forest has that incredible power that can project at an almost zealot level but, at the same time, he has a vulnerability, and you see how he’s eaten up with guilt that this guy’s gotten away. That generates a lot of empathy for a character who has a blind spot when it comes to Sheriff Owens.”
The right and left hands of Bannister are his two lead support agents: Ellen Richards, played by Genesis Rodriguez (‘Case De Mi Padre’, ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’) and Phil Hayes, portrayed by Daniel Henney (‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’). They soon become only ‘one hand,’ when Richards is taken by Cortez as an apparent hostage.
Henney, a Korean-American, was already a fan of Jee-woon before taking the fun supporting role. He sums up: “Along with the chases and the explosions, he always brings in very interesting darkness and drama. And the way he films action — he’s one of the best.”