Interviews: Director Steven LaMorte Talks About His Action Thriller Never Leave Alive

This November, WWE and ECW World Champion John Hennigan will play the most dangerous game anyone will ever play. 

Wrestling superstar Hennigan (Boone : The Bounty Hunter) finds himself trapped on a deserted island where he's forced to take down a sociopathic ex-KGB agent and his brutally violent partner in Wild Eye Releasing's Never Leave Alive, available now on VOD. 

Rick Rainsford is trapped on a deserted island with his reluctant companion, Anna. While attempting to save another gravely injured survivor they find themselves hunted by Zaroff, a sociopathic ex-KGB Agent long with his partner Ivan. In spite of their differences Rick and Anna must work together to disarm Zaroff's deadly traps, survive his assistant's brutal attacks, and escape the island alive.

Hennigan co-stars alongside Banshee and Game of Thrones star Joseph Gatt in the Steven LaMorte film. Never Leave Alive is out now from Wild Eye Releasing. We got the 411 from director Steven LaMorte on the film. 

TMS: First off, can you provide us with a little bit of background information. Did you always want to be involved in filmmaking? What type of training or schooling did you have? 

SL: I wanted to direct movies since I was nine years old making stop motion films with Legos. From there I transitioned into working with bigger and bigger models until I ultimately moved into working with other humans and never looked back! I worked at My high school television studio – back in my hometown of Staten Island New York, called WFBN TV, where I learned about filming sketches and movie parodies and turning them around quickly. That was my first real training with cameras and lighting and sound – and my audience was always captive because the entire school was forced to watch our shows every morning. It was also a lot of fun to have such a tight deadlines – a movie would come out on Friday and we would have a parody of that movie by the next week. Then something would happen on TV or in the news and we would start the process all over again! I also studied at NYU film school, where I actually met the director of photography on this film and came up with the idea for the movie as part of a senior producing class project. I never thought that years later I would actually get to make it! 

TMS:  Did you have a lot of support when you decided to get into filmmaking?

SL I did! My family has always been supportive of my work in filmmaking – sometimes that was acting in my test footage and other times it was my grandmother making pasta for our sets. Now that I’m working on much larger shows whenever I travel back to New York I still work with some of the same crew and they always ask me if my grandmother is going to be catering our shoot – as much as I’m sure they would want her to, I can’t really ask my Italian grandmother to make homemade pasta for a 50 person film crew! Grips eat a lot. 

TMS: What’s up with Never Leave Alive? Where can people see it? And what do you want them to know about the movie? 

SL: Never Leave Alive is available everywhere on demand services so you can watch it on tablets, computers, and TVs on streaming services like Amazon, Vudu, iTunes, and most cable/satellite providers like DirecTV, Dish, Spectrum, etc. We made this film several years ago and it was my first feature as director, along with our WWE superstar's first film as a lead actor so while we both have grown and gone on to do even bigger production since this, I will always treasure and appreciate the lessons I learned on my first movie. It's a lot of fun to have a film you worked on re-emerge and see how your style as developed. 

TMS: Where did the idea for the film come about? And what attracted you to the project? 

SL: The idea for the film came about as part of a producing in film class when I was studying at NYU. I was attracted to the story because I always found the idea of a hunter being thrown out of his element and becoming hunted fascinating. I’ve also always wanted to make a throwback to the cheesy 80s and 90s action movies I grew up watching. This movie is an homage to the simple, straightforward action films I’ve always loved! 

TMS: Former WWE superstar John Hennigan plays the lead in the film. How did his casting come about and what was it like working with him?

SL: John Hennigan is a superstar! We originally brought him in to audition for one of the villains, but he convinced us to let him read for the lead role and we are very glad he did. He brings a lot of his natural charisma and celebrity swagger to the role and it adds a really fun extra element to the movie.

TMS: What about the other main actors, how were they selected?

SL: The producers and I have actually worked with every other cast member in this film on other projects. Michele Taylor (Anna) and I have always wanted to do a future together, and when I read the role I knew this would be a perfect opportunity to show her tough side – her character is no damsel in distress! Eric was actually the hero of another film I worked on so I was very interested in seeing his take on the villain and I think he did a great job. Joseph Gatt worked with some of the other producers in the past and when I looked at his work before meeting him I thought he was going to be very intimidating – and when you see him he certainly is! But working with Joeseph was a dream – he was one of the nicest, most professional actors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I’m not just saying that because I’m pretty sure he could lift a car if he wanted to. J Michael Evans - the actor who played Samuel - was actually in the same singing group as me in NYU! He was in some of my student films, and I was thrilled to work with him on my first feature.

TMS: How was the shoot? It was outdoors, did lead to a demanding production for the cast and crew?

SL: Shooting outdoors was difficult! We were living on location in Big Bear California for a month while we filmed this movie. Some days we would be working in such remote areas that the crew had to hike up the mountain and carry all of the gear to where we would be filming. Everyone helped – even the actors – to make sure we were able to get all the equipment along with food and water up to the set. It was really amazing to see our crew pull together to make this movie happen!

TMS: In terms of directing choices, anyone that you try to emulate? Or ones that have influenced you?

SL: I’ve always been had a soft spot for Indie darlings like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez – Rodriguez' early work has a very down and dirty style that I appreciate. I was also watching Schwarzenegger and Stallone action movies like predator and Rambo to get me inspired to make my woods movie feel like classic action films.

TMS: If you had a choice to remake a genre movie, what movie would you like to remake?

SL: That’s a great question! I’m not a huge fan of remakes – because if the movie was good enough to be loved, why would we need to remake it?! That said I have always wanted to do a modern adaptation of the Warriors. I’m from New York City and I think gang violence is different now than it was when that movie was made… I'd love to do a new version of Escape from New York or Escape from LA. Snake is such a great character - those films were so much fun and I think we’ve just about caught up with the time line of that movie!

TMS: Can you tell us anything about the other projects that you are working on or planning on working on? Or, anything else that you would like to plug?

SL: I’m currently finishing up a live action comic book detective story set in the 1950s Los Angeles. I’m also in a development on another project with our star John Hennigan called Ghostpuncher – it’s a really funny irreverent story with some excellent action set pieces and really funny characters that I’m excited to explore.