Ellen Hollman is a powerhouse of talent and she continues to wow action fans with her latest film Army of One.
Army of One is an adrenaline-charged, white-knuckle action thriller that follows Special Forces Brenner Baker (Hollman) and her husband as they stumble upon an illegal drug compound. The drug dealers capture them, kill her husband, and leave her for dead. Now, 1st Lieutenant Brenner Baker of the Army’s 75th Ranger Division is on a one-woman killing mission carving up everyone in her path until there is only one person standing, her. The film also stars Matt Passmore (Jigsaw), Geraldine Singer (Get Out), Stephen Dunlevy (Mad Max: Fury Road).
Ellen isn’t just the star of this film, she is also a co-writer and producer.
“When you’re in an industry long enough, you see all the things that could go wrong. Because of that, if you’re proactive you learn how to correct those things. They say you learn far more from your mistakes than the things you accomplish. It’s been nearly two decades that I’ve been in this industry… because of that, I’ve been doing revisions for years now. I just haven’t been proactive about getting credit for it. When I first came along on Army of One, I’ve known Stephen Durham from a project that we collaborated on prior, as well as Niko Foster, who’s the EP, we did a Western together, a couple of years prior. So, Stephen knew that if I was going to be involved in this, it would be from a producing standpoint, it would be from an action design standpoint, as well as post. So there weren’t any surprises in regards to that. And I just feel that now more than ever, there’s so much female-forward content and opportunities for women to have a seat at the table when otherwise we wouldn’t have, even if you asked for it. So I feel like I’m able to take advantage of this new and well-deserved era.”
When Ellen came onto the project, she said there was quite an overhaul with the dialogue.
“I truly believe that men can give a great attempt at writing how women banter with each other or others, but I feel like to have a woman write female dialogue is essential, especially if the main protagonist is a woman. And that’s something that I really wanted to bring to the table. I’m like, ‘a woman would never say that Stephen. You think that’s what we would say, and maybe this is what you hear when women talk to you, but no we don’t talk like that.’ And also I wanted to infuse humor into it because a lot of times when you see the action genre, it takes itself too seriously. And there’s no levity. So, halfway through the movie, you haven’t even like giggled or chuckled, and you just become anesthetized to the action and the drama. So I think by infusing humor and wit into it, it just makes it a more interesting experience.”
Ellen’s husband, Stephen Dunlevy, is a part of 87Eleven Action Design Team, which is responsible for the action of the John Wick franchise and the Deadpool movies, and she was able to use these resources to help add to Army of One.
“I knew that me being able to have access to those resources, who made that action possible, could really elevate this material in ways that it never, ever had a chance of being elevated. So that’s why Stephen Durham didn’t have any ego about it. Basically, if you tell me I can do something, I’m gonna take it and run with it and you’re not gonna be able to catch up to it. So he let me be that bullet train, and I will forever be grateful that he allowed me to really put my talents into this project…. It could have gone in a different direction. He (Stephen Durham) could have been like ‘nope you’re just playing Brenner.’”
Speaking of Brenner, Ellen stars as Brenner Baker, a retired female ranger.
“It’s inspired by the strong incredible women who are in the Special Forces and as well as in the military. It is such a harrowing undertaking to be part of such a program that is so male-centric… And what I really wanted to do is bring a level of authenticity to the screen in regards to that. Brenner is one of those women who did go outside the box and became a ranger and eventually retired. And due to devastating circumstances, ie. the loss of her husband, it awakened those skills, and you know instead of walking away and accepting it she decided to go on a murderous revenge rampage.”
Army of One is incredibly stunt-heavy but Ellen was ready for it. She says the action is nonstop once the movie begins.
“They say whatever you break out in, it’s something to embrace and in my case, I did a show called Spartacus years ago, and I was fortunate enough to do all my own action, playing Saxa the German gladiatress and by day four, I was like, ‘you know what, I really like this. So, I’m gonna learn how to do all this shit. And this is what I’m gonna do for a living.’ And because of that, when you get called for a job, they’re not like ‘hey, so we’re gonna give you four months prep to learn Judo and Jiu-Jitsu and Aikido.’ A lot of the time that doesn’t happen. A lot of times, you get the call, and then you’re on a plane a few days later, and all of a sudden you have to do these crazy things.”
“I’ve been able to train with my husband’s stunt team for years now, so I’ve learned many of their tricks. I am alongside them waking up at 4:45 in the morning and by 6:45, you’re on the mats, throwing your husband over your head. So that when it comes time to do the actual design of the choreography, I’m like ‘cool, Gary (Gary Kasper who plays Butch) how do you feel about me throwing you over repeatedly in a barn at three in the morning?’ He’s so down for that kind of thing but that’s exactly what we did. And it was very important to me that all the performers also be capable of doing their own action and I’m like, ‘listen, if you’re having your lead that’s in like every frickin’ scene doing all her own actions, you guys can do a 10 feet sequence.’ And they were more than elated to have that opportunity and everyone really knocked it out of the park.”
Ellen says that there is a fight scene toward the end of the movie that they were able to hit perfectly on the first take.
“In the final act, Brenner shoots herself up with adrenaline. She’s been up for a while, at this point, and the line of dialogue is ‘I’m going to clean house,’ and she doesn’t clean the house, she destroys the house. We were racking our brains with this because we only had like an hour with the stunt guys but thank God we hired an actual SWAT guy and we hired an actual Judo instructor so he understood our language. So, we could speak in a language that didn’t require a lot of deciphering. And we did all the previews so that when it came time to shoot it, we communicated with our DP like, ‘look this is how it should be shot because this is the only way to cover it properly.’ There are so many breakaways and so many marks that everyone has to hit properly for this to be accomplished, and we did it on the first take. It was such a magical thing that when my husband yelled ‘cut,’ I went to the monitor and everyone was just jumping up and down and like ‘oh my god, oh my god, let me see!’ And I was like ‘hold on before I get excited. I don’t want to be too ecstatic over this because if one hit doesn’t sell we have to redo this all over again. And it was like an hour reset, every time. Yeah, because you have breakaways blood continuity. There’s a certain, there’s something I smashed over this guy’s head and there’s just all kinds of debris that has to be cleared from a safety standpoint. Sure enough, when I watched that first take I was like, ‘Holy smokes, guys, we did it. Should we do another one for fun? How did we do that?’”
Ellen is really proud of this project and says that even though it’s stunt heavy, it’s so much more than that.
“It’s an action film with heart and empathy, driven by a woman. There are underlying storylines that are very potent, whether it’s the human trafficking trade, the drug trade, the weapons trade, there are things that are in their own right, a pandemic. Not just from a domestic level, but from an international standpoint that we definitely explore in this movie so it’s not just all like ‘shoot them up action.’ There’s a heartbeat throughout it. And I feel that a lot of times when we see male lead protagonists, there’s this toughness the whole time but I feel that women have the ability to bring a sense of empathy to it, which like I said, gives it more of an interesting contrasting heartbeat.”
In addition to Army of One, Ellen can also be seen in the upcoming Matrix 4. That film is still very much still a secret.
“I, unfortunately, cannot divulge any details in regards to plot or character. However, if you do your research online you can see how authentic and practical, a lot of Lana Wachowski’s filmmaking is, including having two lead actors jump off of a 50 story building in San Francisco, as well as flying SWAT helicopters at street level in between buildings and blowing up said street. These are things that actually happened that she did when we were in San Francisco, and that is just scraping the iceberg of what this movie has to offer. It’s going to be an insane ride that is not meant to be watched on your phone or your iPad, I can tell you that much.”
Army of One will be available on iTunes, Vudu, Xbox, Google Play, Amazon, DirecTV, Dish Network, Fandango Now, in-demand, and DVD tomorrow!
“Give me a shout-out on social media. I’m friendly I promise, despite the murderous revenge rampages. Give me a shout-out on Instagram or Twitter @EllenHollman as well as @EllenHollmanOfficial on Facebook and yeah, if you have any questions like how do I get into filmmaking? Where do I go from here? I’m more than happy to collaborate.”