David Leitch, director of the assassin thrill ride Bullet Train, knows that "making action inside a tube" exciting for two hours would be a challenge. By tube, he means his film's set: a series of distinct train cars for his cast of trained killers to play in. As a former stuntman for the likes of Brad Pitt (in Fight Club) and Keanu Reeves (in The Matrix), and now the filmmaker behind such action game-changers as John Wick and Atomic Blonde, Leitch was up for the challenge.
"We found our characters inside of those fight scenes," says director, sitting down for EW's Around the Table with some of his actors, including Pitt, Brian Tyree Henry, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Bad Bunny "That's why they're entertaining."
Bullet Train, now in theaters, stars Pitt as Ladybug, an unlucky assassin who's hired to snag a briefcase that's currently in transit aboard a high-speed train in Japan. What seems like a seemingly simple task spirals out of control as Ladybug realizes there are several other assassins on the train, each with a separate agenda.
Pitt says he and Leitch have talked for years about Jackie Chan. "He's just the greatest and our Buster Keaton," the Oscar-winning actor says. "To be able to do something that was designed in that direction and in his slipstream was really fun. So the parameters became the opportunity."
Sony Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brad Pitt play assassins fighting on a train in 'Bullet Train.'
Having directed Hollywood A-listers through thrilling action sequences — like Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 2 and Dwayne Johnson in Hobbs & Shaw — Leitch sees stunt work as another means of telling stories. Pitt's Ladybug, for one, doesn't like to use guns, so his weapons are virtually anything and everything around him.
"You're playing with props: the briefcase or the Wolf's knife or chopsticks," the director says.
Pitt throws out another: "A sea urchin."
"It just forces creativity on everyone's behalf," Leitch says. "We had to be creative with the art department, too. We created the Momomon car so we could kill someone with a plushie."
Watch the full conversation with Leitch and the cast in EW's Around the Table video above.
Bullet Train is now playing in theaters.