David Ayer built his career on writing and/or directing gritty R-rated cop dramas like Training Day, Harsh Times and End of Watch. And then he made Suicide Squad. It was certainly a very unexpected genre shakeup for the filmmaker, and I’m actually not convinced it was quite a good one as Ayer’s natural affinity for grim material oftentimes clashed with DC Comics movie’s desire to be a brightly-coloured, poppy crowdpleaser.
Well, second times the even more incongruous charm it seems, as Ayer has reteamed with Suicide Squad’s Will Smith for a gritty cop drama… featuring orcs and fairies and magic wands. No, you didn’t read that sentence wrong. Bright is set in an alternate present-day where humans, orcs, elves and fairies have been coexisting since the beginning of time, and will see Smith play a human cop named Ward who gets partnered up with Jacoby, the very first Orc cop, played by Joel Edgerton. The pair have to put aside their differences and work together when a young elf, played by Noomi Rapace, comes into possession of a long lost, incredibly powerful magical wand, and requires their protection.
EW sat down with Smith and Edgerton to talk about the movie being developed as an original feature film by Netflix, and which Smith describes as “bizarre”.
“I’ve been saying it’s Training Day — a gritty LA cop drama, the darkness and handheld grittiness — meets Lord of the Rings. There’s orcs and fairies and elves, mean-ass elves.”
Meaner than the elves though is the prejudices Jacoby faces from his fellow cops… and possibly for good reason.
“I am the first orc, under a diversity program, to be allowed into the police force. I’m under investigation already for an incident that involved an orc who should have been apprehended but managed to escape. The feeling is that I looked after my own kind first and neglected to do my job as a result.”
Smith continues, explaining how Ward takes some of that heat as well, purely by association.
“He’s like the Jackie Robinson of orcs. He has to make it go right, or other orcs won’t have a shot. So he’s taking on the social responsibility of being a good cop, with the weight of his people on his shoulders.”
“I’m getting ridiculed by other members of the police force. In their interpretation, I’m giving him a fair shot, and I should really just be trying to get him off of the force.”
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would hear a character being seriously described as “the Jackie Robinson of orcs”, but that’s the type of weird movie that Ayer and screenwriter Max Landis have come up with here. Weird but still socially relevant, according to Smith.
“There’s a great scene where we’re sitting in the car, and the other police officers are beating up an orc. My character asks [Edgerton’s] the question, ‘Are you a cop first or an orc first? You need to decide.’ Juxtaposed against the imagery of him watching this orc being beaten by the police, I thought it was really cool.”
And much like the (very unfortunate) everyday nature of that occurrence, so too this story is kicked off by a routine police activity.
“The use of magic in this world is illegal, like a high-tech weapon should be. [The officers receive a call to what appears to be a simple disturbance in a house near downtown Los Angeles. It leads them to] a discovery of a magical relic, an artifact of the Dark Lord’s war against humanity.”
Dark Lord? Is Ayer pulling a Shyamanlan and this a secret Harry Potter sequel? Unfortunately not. But what it is though, according to Edgerton, is an “emotional journey”.
“It’s the forming of a trust relationship between us. I think we are hopefully on our way to becoming friends.”
Bright will premiere on Netflix in December.