Peter Winther is the director of the upcoming sci-fi action thriller Painkillers. “Painkillers tells the story of a squad of marines sent on a classified mission deep in the war-torn mountains of Afghanistan, but when they find the mysterious item they were sent for… it’s not what they were expecting. The next thing they know, Major Cafferty (Penikett) and the surviving squad members wake-up in a military medical facility with no memory of what happened or even who they are. Using an experimental drug, doctors try to “reboot” the soldiers’ memories, but one by one they fall prey to bizarre hallucinations and homicidal fits of rage. Only through snatches of resurfacing memories does Cafferty begin to question the true motives of the hospital staff and discover the shocking, deadly reality behind the otherworldly artifact they found.”
NOTLP.com had the opportunity to ask Mr. Winther a few questions about Painkillers and his life in the movie industry Enjoy!
NOTLP: What attracted you to Painkillers?
PW: I love Science Fiction as an entertaining genre to reflect issues that affect our society today. The themes of our origins on the grand level and a tale of redemption on the personal level attracted me to Painkillers.
NOTLP: What three adjectives would the cast and crew of Painkillers use to describe you?
PW: Brilliant, Handsome, Humble.
NOTLP: One of your early jobs was as an Associate Producer on Roland Emmerich’s 1994 sci-fi action adventure Stargate. I saw some of that project’s DNA in Painkillers. Were you conscious of the similarities when you were making the film?
PW: Every film you make affects the ones you will make. Roland has been a great friend and mentor to me so certain aspects of his style have rubbed off on me. Things like composition and how he is excellent at leading the cast and crew into battle are aspects I admire the most about him. As far as story similarities, I don’t see any. I suppose there is certainly a similar sense of wonder about what is discovered though for sure.
So was I conscious of the similarities? Not at all. Sub-Consciously? Maybe.
NOTLP: Do you have a personal interest in military and government conspiracy theories?
PW: I do like a good conspiracy from time to time. I think we all do. It’s always fun to explore the great “what ifs”. Like they say, it’s not a conspiracy if it’s TRUE!
NOTLP: What would you love to find laying around on a movie set?
PW: If there was a physical aspect of TIME. I would love to find that as we never have enough time to shoot.
NOTLP: What onset disaster has ever happened to you?
PW: The first one that comes to mind was on Stargate, going back to that. There is a scene where all the bedouins come over the sand dunes at the end to fight the aliens. We were shooting in Yuma, Arizona where they have these amazing sand dunes. They shot all the Jabba the Hut scenes there for Return of the Jedi. We had spent a lot of time and energy keeping this one area of sand dunes clear of any vehicles or people so that they would be pristine of footprints or tire tracks. This was an alien planet after all. So the big scene arrives. The dunes are clean. We have one take at this as 1000 extras. actors and stunt people are about to defend the dune. 6 cameras are placed. Action is called. Our actor who is leading them into battle races toward the main camera straight ahead of him as directed.
However for some reason, ALL the extras didn’t follow him. They went a sharp right. They were told to run to the camera, but the only camera they could see from their starting place is to the right!
Now we were faced with a torn up sand dune. So while Roland went off to shoot some other things, we all grabbed brooms to sweep the footprints away as back then the tech wasn’t there to digitally remove the footprints. But we came back end of day and got it done.
NOTLP: What are the most important qualities in a screenplay?
PW: For me its creating the emotional arcs of the characters. With that, hand in hand, comes the structure. But if you don’t create enticing characters, you can’t attract top talent to play the roles and consequently get the film financed.
NOTLP: Remakes of horror and sci-fi films are big business and often draw a whole new generation to classic stories. If you were asked to direct a remake of a horror or sci-fi film, which would you choose and why?
PW: We were actually talking about this the other day. The one that came to mind then was the Dennis Quaid film DREAMSCAPE. I think we could knock that one out of the park now.
NOTLP: What is your most memorable experience working in TV or film?
PW: Independence Day was a huge experience for me obviously. But I think the most memorable to me was my first movie. Straight out of college, in fact I didn’t even attend graduation to work on it, I worked on a film called THE GOOD MOTHER that starred Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson. I started as a PA, but then the director asked for me to be his assistant on the film. The director happened to be Leonard Nimoy. Not only did I learn alot from him about directing, about how you need the courage to make choices and lead from the front and so on. However, he also taught me about being a good person. He knew everyone’s name from PA to lead actor. He treated everyone with respect and listened to all ideas. He was simply a great man and I’ll never forget my time with him.
NOTLP: What’s the funniest advice your filmmaking mentor ever gave you?
PW: Dean Devlin is a great mentor of mine and he’s also quite hilarious. I remember one day coming into his office on one of the films we did together. I would tend to come to him when I felt something was going wrong and had to vent. This day in particular I was wearing shorts due to the heat and what I had to say was quite helpful toward the project. So after that Dean said I should always wear shorts when I have something important to say as then he would know it actually was important. That turned into a running gag over the years. I kept a pair of shorts handy at all times and would put them on when ever I had to make a point. No matter where we were. =)