The Has Fallen movies are Gerard Butler’s live-action franchise. He’s been in three How to Train Your Dragon movies as a voice, but Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen and Angel Has Fallen put Butler front and center on screen saving the day. In all three films, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler) saves the President of the United States, but in Angel Has Fallen, he has to save himself too.
An assassination attempt sends Banning on the run to prove his own innocence in Angel Has Fallen. Ric Roman Waugh directed Angel Has Fallen and he told Showbiz Cheat Sheet that Butler had three things he wanted to include in the third film. Find out what they are below and Angel Has Fallen opens Friday, August 23.
Gerard Butler didn’t want to do another ‘[Location] Has Fallen’
Olympus Has Fallen was casually described as Die Hard in the White House, and it was more successful than the similar White House Down. London Has Fallen took the action international but Butler wanted to focus on Mike Banning in Angel Has Fallen.
“I think the big thing for us was when he called me to see if I wanted to come in and do the third one with him, was to not do a sequel, to make it something new, take it in a new direction,” Waugh said. “The idea was to humanize the characters and bring my wares to the table of what I’m known for.”
Angel Has Fallen may not blow up the Washington Monument or the London Eye, but it’s got plenty of excitement.
“So we wanted to take the fun, big spectacle and action-packed ride of the first two movies, but not make event films how the first film was about taking the White House and the second was about assassinating world leaders in London,” Waugh continued. “This time make the plot engine about the man, Mike Banning.”
Gerard Butler wanted to put Mike Banning on the defensive
Framed for an assassination attempt on President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), Banning has to run and prove his innocence.
“The one plot engine they had that I loved was that what if we took the number one protector of the President and turned him into America’s Most Wanted,” Waugh said. “I thought that was really sexy idea that allowed two things. One, to create a road movie, so now you get to make The Fugitive and you turn the person that we’ve seen for two movies wage carnage because he’s always on offense, suddenly put him on defense.”
Not only is Banning on the run, but he’s still a good guy. He has no compunction about killing terrorists, but police and FBI agents are only doing their jobs.
“He’s not going to kill law enforcement so how do you evade your fellow brethren without hurting them or injuring them or killing them, while you’re being chased like a rabid dog to find out who framed you?” Waugh said. “Then you get to flip that switch and finally put him on offense again. So I felt like the story structure allowed us a lot of room to play with character complexity and also to not have the Secret Service feel like robots or Mike Banning feel like a robot that just only knows carnage and violence.”
Gerard Butler wanted to show the toll falling takes on Mike Banning
After three action films, Butler wanted to show the toll these events have taken on Mike Banning. At the beginning of Angel Has Fallen, Banning is considering taking a calmer job as Director of the Secret Service.
“We get empathy for him to realize that he is struggling with a lot of ideas, one of them is the addiction to the job, the addiction to adrenaline that a lot of our service members are facing after post 9/11, fighting the longest combat campaign in American history,” Waugh said. “We’re seeing that in law enforcement, first responders and think about pro athletes. You’re going to stay in the game as long as you possibly can if you finally get to make it that far. You get addicted to that rush.”
In that way, Banning can be a surrogate for real-life heroes in an entertaining action movie.
“Mike Banning is addicted to his job, in a good way meaning he wants to do everything he can to preserve it, but at what cost?” Waugh said. “What cost does that have on your family, on your own personal stakes? We knew those were a bunch of complexities that Gerry and I agreed on right away to start dancing in and play with something that can be super interesting and still blow up a lot of sh*t along the way.”
Banning is addicted to the job, but it’s also killing him. He is suffering migraines and dizzy spells from all the physical trauma.
“He had seen my documentary That Which I Love Destroys Me about a Delta Force Operator who was blown up in battle after hundreds upon hundreds of missions and the physical toll it took on him,” Waugh said. “Also the idea that when he came home, he realized that home was no longer home, that war was home, that he was addicted to the chaos. His brain was wired to that thing of war and that that would be an interesting way to play Mike Banning.”
Many former military servicemen become Secret Service agents, or other forms of law enforcement when they come home.
“Mike Banning started in the Army Rangers, was in Iraq,” Waugh said. “The minute he came home, he knew that he was a lion because they unleashed him as a lion so he picked up the gun and went into the Secret Service which a lot of our service members do. They find avenues into law enforcement and first responders. So we wanted to show that organic evolution of that but then also show the conflict within. What are the flaws of Mike Banning but what are also the stakes and the perils that he faces?”