News

Impulse Creator Doug Liman Turns to Streaming to Address Some Creative Regrets

Edge of Tomorrow and The Bourne Identity director debuts a new sci-fi drama series based on the same book series as his film Jumper.

by | June 7, 2018 | Comments


Filmmaker Doug Liman, who wowed audiences with high-octane action films The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Edge of Tomorrow, is equally admired for the storytelling behind his spectacle and in his more moderately paced fare like Swingers, Go, and American Made.

His latest offering, YouTube Premium series Impulse, marries both in a drama that explores personal discovery, trauma, and family bonds. And teleportation.

Maddie Hasson (Twisted) stars as delinquent teen Henrietta Cole in the sci-fi series. When Henry is assaulted by her classmate Clay Boone (Tanner Stine), her deepest instincts kick in, and she flees by inadvertently bending space and time in a violent blink, landing in her bedroom.


IMPULSE Doug Liman on set (Erin-Keating/YouTube Premium)
(Photo by Erin Keating)

Discovering your superpowers is never an easy journey — ask Peter Parker or Clark Kent. But Henry’s path is even darker and more visceral than some of those fumbling-adolescent tales.

Based on the novel by Stephen Gould, Impulse comes after Liman’s 2008 feature film Jumper, based on the first book in the series and starring Hayden Christensen and Jamie Bell. The film disappointed, which Liman admits, but 10-episode Impulse is different in some fundamental ways.

The series, which debuted on Wednesday, also stars Sarah Desjardins as Henry’s stepsister-to-be Jenna Hope, Enuka Okuma as Deputy Anne Hulce, Craig Arnold as Clay’s brother Lucas Boone, Missi Pyle as Henry’s mom Cleo Cole, and Daniel Maslany as Henry’s biggest fan Townes Linderman.

Rotten Tomatoes spoke to Liman about the new series, his remarkable leading lady, and how he finds inspiration in real-world action sequences YouTube users post.


Maddie Hasson stars in Impulse (Erin Keating/YouTube Premium)
(Photo by Erin Keating)

Debbie Day for Rotten Tomatoes: I’m so glad to talk to you about Impulse. It was not quite what I was expecting.

Doug Liman: Good. That’s the best. I’d much prefer to hear that than the other.

RT: I was most surprised by Maddie’s performance. She’s incredible. Could you tell me about casting her?

Liman: We were holding auditions for the protagonist, the heroine, Henry. Maddie came in and just lit up the room. We all turned to each other and said, “She’s a huge star.” I said, “Too bad she’s not right for the part.” My producing partner said, “But she’s so amazing.” I said, “Yeah, she’s amazing, but she’s the opposite of what we’re looking for.” I said, “If I cast her, I really would insist on rewriting the whole show to make the protagonist somebody who doesn’t want to be there, who is rebellious, who is — I’d want to change how the superpower is portrayed in the show.” Because the original idea is somebody who desperately wants to belong and be part of the town, and her superpower keeps sending her away. I said, “If we cast her, I’d want to turn it on its head and rewrite the whole script and make it about somebody who doesn’t want to be there and gets the power that keeps sending her back home. She wants to be anywhere but home.” As I’m saying it out loud, we’re looking at each other. We’re going, “You know, actually, that would be a better show.” We cast her and then reconceived the whole show around her and what she brought.


IMPULSE-Maddie-Hasson,-Daniel-Maslany-credit-Erin-Keating
(Photo by Erin Keating)

RT: It’s not too often that you hear about an actor having such an impact on an entire story.

Liman: I’ve always believed in some level of workshopping the part to fit the actor. It’s a two-way street. Sometimes my favorite performances, you realize those couldn’t have been just written in vacuum. They had to have been conceived in conjunction with the actor performing it. Certainly, that’s been my experience. Jason Bourne is a very different character because of the workshopping that Matt [Damon] and I did than was originally on the page.

Never have I done such a wholesale reconceiving of the DNA of a show around one actor. Literally. It changed how I portrayed the superpower, because then suddenly it was going to be a curse. Instead of sending her out into the world, it was going to keep sending her home. It was just way more interesting. That’s what a great collaboration between a filmmaker and a star can do.

You arrive at something really unexpected. That’s why when you said, “It wasn’t what I expected” — I don’t care if you hated it or loved it. I actually do care, because I really care about my audience, but I care most that it was not expected. What I’m aiming for as a filmmaker is unexpected and entertaining, because a lot of times, it’s unexpected. You’re like, “Yeah, it was unexpected, but the expected is better.” Clichés are clichés for a reason because they work. Any time you deviate from the cliché, yeah, you give the audience unexpected, but sometimes you have to work extra hard to deliver unexpected and great.


RT: Can you tell me about the dotted line between Jumper and Impulse, how the show came about, and what its ties are to the film?

Liman: It’s no secret that, of all my films, Jumper‘s the one that I harbor some creative regrets, feel like I could have done better. That’s something that’s hung over me. It dawned on me that rather than live with that regret, why not actually just go and try to do better? I went to secure the rights to a sequel novel. All these years later, with everything I’ve learned, I set out to create a superhero world that is unexpected, smart, grounded, exciting. Even despite all that, I still didn’t figure it out until I cast Maddie Hasson. Despite having all these big illusions about, “Yeah, I can do better,” the reality was until I cast Maddie, what I was going to make probably wasn’t going to be substantially better. It was that collaboration that was the missing ingredient for me. If you look back at my movies, it’s just that I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with exactly the right person.

Swingers: Only Vince Vaughn can make the character of Trent appealing. In anyone else’s hands, he just would have been an asshole. Only Matt Damon could really make you root for Jason Bourne despite his really dark past. That to me is the connection.

The other thing is that because it has been done independently, there were certain restrictions on me because it’s not done by the same people who did Jumper. It made people a little nervous that I’m the same filmmaker and that maybe I would inadvertently copy something I did in Jumper and infringe upon Fox’s copyright on the movie. It actually put me in exactly the situation I wanted to be in, which was people around me saying, “Push yourself and do something different and unexpected.”

Just look at how we portray teleportation between the movie and the series, because that was one of the things where I was told, “You can’t make it look like it looks in the movie.” My response to that was to come up with something that is so much more interesting, which is that it’s destructive to the people around you. As a result of that, the first time she teleports, she gravely wounds Clay Boone, the star of the high school basketball team. Suddenly, you have that story line running through the series that she can hurt people with this power. It makes sense that any time you’re learning to do anything, you’re kind of sloppy. Why wouldn’t the first time you teleport, why wouldn’t it be sloppy?


IMPULSE-Missi-Pyle and Maddie-Hasson (Erin Keating)
(Photo by Erin Keating)

RT: When I got to the very last episode of the season, I honestly had the response, “Is that it?” because I wanted to see more immediately.

Liman: So do I, especially in the hands of writer Lauren LeFranc, because I directed the pilot. As I said, when we cast Maddie, we had a looming start date to start shooting. I wanted to reconceive the show and brought in Gary Spinelli, who wrote American Made, who’d never worked in television before, to be in the trenches with me, because we’re reconceiving basically as we’re prepping to shoot. Lauren LeFranc came in to write the series. What was amazing about her is that scripts would come in, and I’d get to the end of the script and be like, “Oh my god. I can’t wait for the next script. I can’t wait to see what happens.” In that case, I had to wait a few weeks because they had to write it.


RT: How did YouTube come to be the show’s home?

Liman: I casually mentioned it to [YouTube Global Head of Original Programming] Susanne Daniels that I’d recently gotten the rights to the book and wanted to develop it as a TV series. Susanne said, “We’re starting a new channel here. We’ll buy it.” I wasn’t even pitching it. It was just like, “Uh,” because normally when I sell a TV show, it’s a whole process with a writer, and pitch out a whole season. This was one of these crazy situations where she said, “You, this world, we’re in.” I called my producing partner, and I was like, “I think I just sold a TV show without — I didn’t mean to.”

Then I thought, “OK, do we want to sell it to YouTube?” I hadn’t gone anywhere else yet. When I talk about myself in interviews, I often talk about myself as being the independent filmmaker in the studio system. There’s no question I’m in the studio system. I live in New York, but I make Hollywood movies. I make commercial TV shows, but I bring an independent ethos to it, kind of a rebellious independent film ethos. Sometimes, I even bring independent film techniques to filming, and run and steal shots. My characters are more anti-heroic than your traditional Hollywood fare. My worlds tend to be a little more grounded — even when they’re high-concept, whether the world’s more grounded or the characters are more grounded, certainly they’re flawed.

A lot of these traits that you see in independent films, and my whole attitude, my rebellious attitude as a filmmaker that makes me a little hard for studios to control, is that I’m happy making independent films. I don’t operate from a place of fear that if I piss off the studios, I won’t work again, because I’d be happy to go back to making independent films. I don’t need them. That makes me very hard to control. I come from this independent-film attitude.

When I thought about Impulse, I thought, “At YouTube? It makes perfect sense that I go make something at YouTube, because YouTube is nothing but independent filmmakers.” In fact, all of the qualities that YouTube stands for are qualities that I myself as a filmmaker have stood for. I’ve even started referencing YouTube when it comes to my movies; for instance, with action sequences, my new benchmark isn’t what are competing movies doing, but what’s on YouTube because people are doing stunts for real and filming them. I’m like, that’s who we’re competing against. We’re not competing against some CG, computer-generated, clearly fake piece of action in a Marvel film. My style of filmmaking, I’m competing against someone who did some outrageous daredevil stunt on YouTube and filmed it and put it up on YouTube. I want to do something with my films and my action sequences that is equally engaging.

Impulse is now available on YouTube Premium.

Tag Cloud

Epix comic APB golden globes Amazon Prime Video Valentine's Day Pop Comics on TV dramedy Britbox Syfy TruTV X-Men TCA GoT Writers Guild of America Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Animation Esquire movies hist Hulu Video Games The Arrangement south america Awards Winter TV Emmys TCM ghosts kids Summer Television Academy quibi CBS book Extras cars Family 21st Century Fox Awards Tour composers space romance war what to watch Universal TIFF tv talk Kids & Family Arrowverse aliens VH1 Comedy spy thriller stand-up comedy Pet Sematary cinemax AMC Certified Fresh cults Photos MCU adventure Nominations Apple Amazon Prime disaster Horror TLC Action comiccon serial killer Trailer social media Apple TV+ LGBT The Witch Emmy Nominations USA Network Cannes cancelled TV shows spider-man harry potter witnail A&E PaleyFest adaptation Lucasfilm Creative Arts Emmys Fantasy Watching Series Women's History Month Best and Worst historical drama cancelled award winner FX game show ABC Family TV Character Guide casting Lifetime TV renewals Comic Book Toys sports Dark Horse Comics natural history Pixar Mystery Paramount Sony Pictures MTV video DC streaming service animated batman transformers streaming Marvel anthology zero dark thirty Cartoon Network Mary poppins Music First Reviews Spring TV Cosplay DC Comics foreign dceu Tarantino CW Seed Reality Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Showtime Acorn TV Ovation TV Land jamie lee curtis dc anime strong female leads Fox News cancelled television psycho elevated horror Heroines free movies zombies Tomatazos DirecTV GIFs Song of Ice and Fire psychological thriller New York Comic Con Walt Disney Pictures Shudder Trivia game of thrones RT21 Grammys Thanksgiving Christmas Sci-Fi IFC Films OWN Oscars TBS Trophy Talk crime Film Festival 2018 unscripted richard e. Grant Sundance Now Peacock Sundance spinoff Set visit Mary Poppins Returns SundanceTV ratings IFC spanish language Opinion YA YouTube joker Marathons Anna Paquin See It Skip It Winners Spike E3 boxoffice Red Carpet latino E! robots supernatural NYCC Comedy Central political drama Warner Bros. Calendar talk show Rocketman hispanic Interview Countdown doctor who American Society of Cinematographers toy story Disney blaxploitation SXSW Country mutant Holidays CMT BET children's TV teaser 2016 period drama based on movie Rocky miniseries Masterpiece crime drama MSNBC 2017 Mindy Kaling crime thriller 2019 Shondaland The Walking Dead President Superheroe Starz Premiere Dates Crackle ESPN Super Bowl Sneak Peek Adult Swim Year in Review Polls and Games FOX sequel RT History HBO Max finale politics Stephen King Binge Guide Ghostbusters Freeform Biopics discovery Bravo 24 frames Nat Geo GLAAD justice league Fall TV Rom-Com YouTube Red Amazon Superheroes BBC America DC Universe 45 20th Century Fox Black Mirror police drama FXX El Rey Disney Channel Film PBS science fiction Netflix Star Wars travel Pride Month Elton John vampires renewed TV shows Teen Vudu medical drama USA nature thriller binge NBC First Look 2015 cats Disney streaming service singing competition Reality Competition halloween cancelled TV series BBC technology Logo zombie Tumblr Martial Arts The CW YouTube Premium San Diego Comic-Con crossover History Election cops Disney Plus Brie Larson Musicals festivals Nickelodeon theme song SDCC Ellie Kemper diversity television Columbia Pictures ITV CNN revenge ABC Lionsgate cooking biography Musical VICE Food Network TNT Spectrum Originals Captain marvel CBS All Access Podcast slashers WGN sitcom docudrama LGBTQ Pirates National Geographic true crime canceled Infographic series Star Trek mockumentary dragons Rock facebook DGA green book TCA 2017 Paramount Network 71st Emmy Awards spain Schedule 007 Chernobyl Western Box Office Mary Tyler Moore HBO Mudbound Quiz canceled TV shows WarnerMedia Drama