Following an ancient orginization of assasinations known as "The Fraternity," the film followed Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a neurotic office worker, who transforms into a one-man killing machine over the course of the movie. With supporting turns from Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp, Common, Thomas Kretschmann, and a pre- Guardians Chris Pratt, Wanted is an interesting, star-studded experiment in style: assassination victims come from a mystical loom while Fraternity members can actually curve the trajectory of the bullets that come out of their guns.
And while the subject of gun ownership is more relevant (and controversial) than ever before, Bekmambetov believes that firearms wouldn't play such a large role in the sequel, which he confirmed is still happening, during a phone call with SYFY WIRE.
"The Fraternity now, if it exist[ed] today, I’m sure would be in [the] digital space," said the 57-year-old Russian-Kazakh filmmaker. "They can get messages, the names from some hackers ... they will use blockchain to set up the assassinations. We live in a different world now. In [the] 10 years from 2008, I am sure our world is not about guns or explosive materials anymore. It’s about the information, it’s about the big data, blockchain, dark web, cryptocurrency. It’s where we live now. Guns still exist, but are more like fables. [They’re] not dangerous anymore."
The director's emphasis on the power of the Internet stems from his ongoing project known as "Screenlife," a new form of filmmaking that he describes as an entirely different language. Stemming from a Skype meeting with a work colleague, Bekmambetov realized that there was an untapped area in which to tell new and exciting stories that would reflect how people disseminate information in the 21st Century.
"When we finished [the meeting], she forgot to un-share [her screen] and for a few minutes, I witnessed everything [she was doing] onscreen [while she was still] talking to me. Suddenly, I understood that I am kind of inside her [head] and I suddenly understood that I saw such an unusual point of view," he said. "Because we live today onscreen … I’m making moral choices, I’m doing business, everything. [The] most important events of my life [are] happening onscreen today."
Examples of Screenlife can be seen in films like Unfriended, Searching, and Unfriended: Dark Web (now playing in theaters), all of which were produced by Bekmambetov, and all of which tell stories through webcams, instant messengers, and social media; he describes these things as "a parallel reality.”
"There’s no way you can tell a story about today’s world and today’s heroes, without showing their screens, because a camera cannot capture that," he added.
As a result, he's teaching the techniques of Screenlife all over the world to a new generation of filmmakers, instructing them on how to turn their mobile devices (that they use all day, every day) into a novel mode of cinematography.
Taking risks, exploring new forms of storytelling, and finding promising young talent are what drive Bekmambetov, whose career started off with low budget, almost B-movie projects, like the supernatural Night Watch and the Roger Corman-produced Arena.
"I want to spend time with people, who are interesting for me and young filmmakers have this fresh point of view," he said. "They’re not scared yet. I like not to teach them, I like to learn from them. I just helps me to be a [better] filmmaker, to create something new, experiment. Because it’s our life and we should live really exciting lives and entertain ourselves, make something entertaining and surprising for ourselves. Then I hope it will be interesting for the audience. If you remember Wanted or Night Watch, you will understand what I mean."
Bekmambetov was also a producer of the video game-inspired Hardcore Henry in 2016, which was told from the literal first-person perspective of the main character.
"[Hardcore Henry] is another example of my interests. I like to discover young talent and to create genres, new forms of cinema. It started with Night Watch. Before Night Watch, I made a movie [called] Peshavar Waltz. It is where it came from, this idea of making not expensive, but very fresh [films]."
Bekmambetov pursues such gonzo concepts like Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter because he's interested in forging his own unique path.
"[I want] to shake the ground," he stated plainly. "To make something that nobody will make. Wanted was kind of an extension [of] Night Watch for me. It was like the same thing, but on a different level, a different scale because it’s dark, controversial, it’s edgy, very dramatic. Night Watch and Wanted have the same edginess because you never know [who's] good or [who's] bad. It’s unclear. It’s like a film noir ... It’s not really black and white."
Fourteen Screenlife projects (10 movies and four web series) are currently in active development and range from drama, to fantasy, to science fiction. Bekmambetov doesn't see this as a phase or a niche market, either.
"I believe that Screenlife is not [bound by] genre, it’s more like a language and different filmmakers can use this language to tell their stories and I’m sure it’s not gimmicky because it’s not like found footage," he said. "Because found footage is another way [of] making movies about our reality, but Screenlife movies [are] movies about [a] different reality because we’re living it now."
And as for that Wanted sequel, he's hoping it'll become a part of his new project:
"I hope it will be [a] Screenlife movie! ... For me, how I see this movie, the next Wanted, is [a] Screenlife version, Screenlife reality, Screenlife world."