Some filmmakers hate rehearsal. They hope the spontaneity on the day of the shoot will be their saving grace. There’s a place for spontaneity if you’re John Cassavetes making “Husbands,” but on a big action movie, you can’t leave things to chance; action sequences are incredibly complicated and could cause serious harm. Rehearsal and preparation are vital elements to these films, and sadly, not all of them are allotted the time and budget to properly utilize them.
But Gina Prince-Bythewood understood the importance of getting everyone on the same page for “The Woman King.” Speaking with A.frame, she detailed how working on “The Old Guard” made her realize rehearsal was her friend:
“I learned in terms of what you need to do to prepare for stunts, how much you need to prepare the actors, how to work with your stunt and fight coordinator … It also gave me the knowledge of knowing what it takes to do really good action — how many takes it can be, that it has to be perfect on set or it will not be in your edit room. Even if you’re on take 22 and it’s not quite right, you can’t stop. You’re exhausted. The actors are exhausted. But you learn that, if it’s not on set, it’s not in the edit room, and you don’t have the scene.”
This prep resulted in every action sequence being rousing, brutal, and utterly thrilling. Every actor is in total command of their body, and you believe these are real warriors. Without proper rehearsal, “The Woman King” could look frenzied and hollow, and it couldn’t be further from those descriptors. Gina Prince-Bythewood learned how to be a great action filmmaker, and I want to see her canvases get even bigger.