Roel Reiné Talks 'Admiral' and Dutch Naval Hero Michiel de Ruyter

Photo Credit: XLrator Media
March 11th, 2016

Director Roel Reiné has made his way from The Netherlands cinema to American cinema with films like Death Race 2 and Death Race: Inferno but the brilliant director has gone back to his roots in The Netherlands for his latest accomplishment, Admiral. This is an historic film focusing on one of The Netherlands most famous sons, Michiel de Ruyter, who was a Dutch admiral and is most famous for his role in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century. Roel was kind enough to sit down with and tell us all about his new film which is already out on VOD and iTunes and hits theaters March 11, 2016.



Nick Leyland from TMN: I got to watch your new film, Admiral. It's very intense man, very intense. I'm not familiar with this history. Is this story a pretty big part of your country's historical heritage? 

Roel Reiné: Yeah, absolutely, the main character, Michiel De Ruyter, he's one of our biggest heroes in history. So when you grow up you read these stories, and when you go to any museum in Holland, you see these paintings from these sea vessels from this time. It always fascinated me, but no film maker in Holland ever tried to do a movie like that, on that scope and scale, but we did it, and I'm very happy with it.

TMN: It must have taken you a long time, huh? 

Roel Reiné: No, it didn't take me that long time. I must say I got so much skill working on low budget action movies in Hollywood the last 10 years that I kind of knew how to do it in an effective way, but we developed for two years, research and writing the screen for two years, and then we cast and did a pre-production and story boards and stuff for a year. But then in the end, I shot the movie in 42 days, which is very short. And I shot all the sea battles in two and a half weeks which is kind of insane. That was all the money we had to rent these beautiful ships. So in the end, we didn't have a lot of time, the post-production was only like three or four months but we pulled it off.

TMN: How did you feel about putting such an important historical figure in your culture onto the screen? What apprehensions did you have about that? 

Roel Reiné: I knew the responsibility that I had. I really wanted to because some of the Dutch historical movies that we've made in the past, they are very old fashioned, boring and slow. So I wanted to make something that would appeal to a big audience. So it needed to have scope, and epic, and it should feel like a big Hollywood movie. But at the same time, I wanted to tell a story that in 20 years from now kids still go and watch this movie if they wanna see how the 17th century was going. So, I felt a responsibility, I think all the choices we made was to an extent to make sure that it would all work. And also, I definitely, because I know these paintings, I wanted to make the movie look like a 17th century painting come to life. We inspired ourselves by these paintings and I even re-shot some of these paintings from the same angle the painters were painting the paintings, so I definitely wanted to make it as accurate as possible.

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TMN: Okay so would you say the film then is pretty historically accurate? 

Roel Reiné: Yes, I think 70% historically accurate. Even in details like the way that the two brothers, the Whit brothers, were killed by the mob on the street. Every detail in that killing was completely historically correct. The way they broke out, the way they were cut, that their legs were cut up, and that the hands were, that the fingers were cut off, the same order of things and the same way that was historically correct we did. The only thing that was not historically correct with that scene is that Michiel de Ruyter was on the sea and his ship when he heard about the news, but dramatically for movie audiences, you want to have our main character to be there and seeing it. So that is then the creativity you take as a movie maker. But you try to be as historically correct still at the same time.

TMN: This film is jam packed with action, it really is. How many sets did you have to blow up to get the filming right for this? 

Roel Reiné: [chuckle] We blew up a lot of stuff, but the thing is, these ships are, they were real replicas of 17th century ships. And they were in service, people used them, and one of the ships was even a museum ship. So I could not destroy them of course. It was a pity that I could not use any blood on the ships. They were very scared that the blood would go into the wood. So if you see the movie, it's noticeable there is no blood in this movie at all. The explosions we did all practical on the ships. We added stuff to the ship that we could destroy so the mass that we blew up, for example, was the mass that we built that we put it on the ship and if you know something about navy sailing, you see that the place we put this mass is not really the place where you should put that mass in these ships.

Roel Reiné: But we put it on a frame that was still available on the ship, because it was a real ship. So those things we kind of destroyed, and then of course the visual effects did a lot for us. When you see the explosion of the ship that almost breaks in two, the only thing what we did is we put a lot of woofers and debris explosions on the ship, and we had stunt guys flying off and then CG breaks the mass, and that's a lot of work, but they did an incredible job doing it.

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TMN: So you probably couldn't have done the film as well, just all practical? The visual, the CGI really, really improved the overall film accuracy at least, right? 

Roel Reiné: Yes, but I wanted to do it specifically that way. We never used any green screen, so there's no green screen or blue screen ever used in this movie and the reason for that is I don't like the look of that. It really looks fake, so what we did, for example, when you have a shot a little bit from the air of two ships fighting at each other we had two real ships doing broadside cannon fires at each other, and I was hanging with a helicopter above it, and I was hanging out of a helicopter with a camera in my hands and still did handheld so it felt very real and then the computers composite the other 20, 30 ships around the two ships and those are all composited ships, but basically they are the same ships because I photographed those ships from every angle imaginable so they reproduced the same ships so they all feel real and only in the big Google Earth shots, the shots that are really far away, it's a full CG shot. But everything else, it's real ships that are composited, so you can see 20 or 30 or 100 ships.

TMN: The film gives you this, at least, a little glimpse of what it must have been like for these sailors right before they go into battle. That must be just terrifying.

Roel Reiné: Yeah and the thing is that I did a lot of research about it. Normally, these battles took part in weeks. It's just not something of hours, it was weeks because from the moment when you maneuver a hundred ships to go past the other hundred ships, everybody shoots the cannons and then they pass away because they go to the other side and it takes them hours and hours again to line up again because you are using the wind, and a lot of times on Sunday, they were not fighting because then they wanted to have a resting day and then nobody got really killed by the bullets. But many people were killed by splinters getting into their bodies and then staying there for a few days. Then you die because of the result of that. So it's, I think, a massive, massive thing when you're out on the ships and of course you only have two hours to tell a story and you wanna do so many things, so it's very difficult to then choose what you're gonna show and what you're not gonna show.

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TMN: This is your first action film. You've done a bunch of action films. Is this your first one at sea? 

Roel Reiné: Yes, this was my first sea movie. I did a lot of action movies. I did Death Race movies and I did a western Dead in Tombstone. So I did horses, and I did cars, and explosions, and chases, but I never did something on the water, no. It's hard, it's tough, but it's very cool. I just did an episode of Black Sails, so I now continue playing with ships but it's complicated.

TMN: Was there any thought in your mind to possibly do the whole film in English to have a wider audience, or did that never cross your mind? 

Roel Reiné: No, funny enough my first few Dutch movies were English language, for that reason. My first movie is called The Delivery. It was picked up by Landscape, and I really made that movie in English because I wanted to find a bigger audience, and for me English is really a movie language. For Admiral, I really wanted to make a Dutch language movie about the Dutch historical thing, and I could definitely mention that... It was never in my intent to bring it outside of Holland. It would be nice, but it was never the intention, and even if you look at the box office results in Holland, it is in the top 10 of the best, biggest box office in 2015 and it's right in between Fast and Furious and Jurassic World, so therefore a Dutch language movie and the Dutch version is two and a half hours, it's pretty unique, I'm very proud of that.

TMN: And you made two cuts? Right? Is that right? 

Roel Reiné: Yes. Yeah, the cut you saw is a the two hour cut I assume. That's the cut for more international audience and the Dutch episode version was two and a half hours. The basic difference is that in that cut, there are a lot of extra scenes, that involve things that you, as a Dutch citizen, know from your history books. For example the wife of Michiel de Ruyter, she was basically running his company. So there were some scenes where you see her running his business and putting food on the ships and that kinda stuff. And those are very interesting if you are Dutch and you know these things. But if you wanna do an international movie, it's not that interesting for an international audience. So that's the reason I kept the version for two hours.

TMN: I'm kinda wondering why didn't just Mel Gibson this thing like Braveheart and play the role yourself? [chuckle]

Roel Reiné: I'm the worst actor out there and I'm an ugly motherf^%^$#, I'm not as pretty as Mel Gibson. No, I don't have an ambition of doing that, I DP my movie, I'm the cinematographer, I'm the camera man, I operate camera. So directing, operating camera, producing cinematography, I think is more than enough.

TMN: Well you did a great job on the film and what else can we look forward to seeing from you now in the cinema? 

Roel Reiné: Yes, I'm trying to set up this movie called The Suit and it's a classic, Die Hard, Speed, kind of movie set in Los Angeles that has crazy car chases in it. So we try to set it up, we are trying to find a financier, a distributor, and producers. So we are now going down to cast and see if we can make this movie this year. And then I'm involved on another big Dutch movie. It's a Dutch Braveheart by the way, I'm talking about Mel Gibson, and that we're probably gonna shoot next year, but is also big, epic scope that's set in 800s and it's basically at the moment when the vikings were fighting with the Franks, with Christians at the time in Europe, and that's a big movie. So different stuff.