Interview With Filmmaker Brandon Slagle For ‘Breakout’

Filmmaker Brandon Slagle’s latest film, Breakout, is an action crime thriller with a little bit of heart. It’s also one of the last films to star the late Tom Sizemore and is the first one to be released since Tom’s death in early 2023.

Described as “Die Hard in prison,” Breakout is about:

Having taken control of a maximum-security prison, a criminal mastermind faces off against a retired Black Ops agent who had been visiting his incarcerated son.

To celebrate the release of Breakout on digital and DVD, I chatted with Brandon via Zoom about how the film came about, the casting process, what’s up next, and more!

PopHorror: Breakout was a lot of fun! It was nice to see Tom Sizemore’s last movie. That was really cool.

Brandon Slagle: It was weird because I had this sinking feeling when he passed that this was going to be his first movie to come out posthumously, which is weird. I don’t quite know how to feel about it, but I’m happy with him in the movie so hopefully other people agree.

PopHorror: I think he was doing what he does best – playing that type of character. It was good to see that and I think people will be very proud of it.

Brandon Slagle: We had fun with him, and I felt like we had the Tom Sizemore of yore, like from the late 90s, early 2000s. We saw that spark that gave him the career that he had, that so few people ever achieve. It’s really an uncanny, hard to describe thing. You see all the little things he does with his eyes and his expressions that were just special. It’s a shame that he had the demons he had and he’s no longer with us.

Tom Sizemore in Breakout.

PopHorror: Breakout is from a story by Devanny Pinn with a script by you and Robert Thompson. How did the project come about?

Brandon Slagle: Our friend James Bressack (Murder, Anyone? – 2022) was putting together a bunch of deals post-Covid because he was antsy from a lot of things being canceled, as were we. A distributor that we’d work with before, Uncork’d, was looking to produce larger movies. We had another movie, Crossbreed (read our review HERE), with them. We sent over a handful of loglines – Breakout being the one that Devanny wrote – it was approved within a week, and we were off to the races. From approval to shooting was probably three months.

PopHorror: Wow!

Brandon Slagle: From greenlight to shooting, yeah. It was a really fast process.

PopHorror: This film has such a great cast – Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding – 2002), Brian Krause (Sleepwalkers – 1992), and Tom (Saving Private Ryan – 1998). What was your casting process like?

Brandon Slagle: Louis I’ve known for probably longer than most people who I’m not related to, since somewhere in the mid-2000s, which doesn’t sound that far away but it really is. We started doing a number of things together after just being friends and lightly working on things together for years. So Louis was always going to be in it in that role, and luckily, he was. Brian was a friend of Devanny’s for a long time that she was familiar with from just going to events and stuff like that. He originally wasn’t in that role. It was someone who was a villain in a Blade movie, who I know a little bit. It ended up not working with him for whatever reason and we went through a number of names, and ultimately Uncork’d said, “Brian! That’s great!” Which I think they just like Charmed.

Louis Mandylor in Breakout.

PopHorror: Who doesn’t?!

Brandon Slagle: Right? So we reached out to Brian and one of the first things he told Devanny was, “I’m not pretty right now.” We were like, “No, that’s great! Keep it! We like your hair, we like everything!” He has a great manic presence that I don’t think a lot of people have seen him do too much. Most people know him from Charmed, or Sleepwalkers. Maybe not from Return to the Blue Lagoon, I don’t know how many people actually remember there’s a sequel to that movie.

PopHorror: I do!

Brandon Slagle: We were really happy with him because he kind of channeled this weird like Heath Ledger/Willem Dafoe presence that I don’t think a lot of people knew that he had. I think you kind of like him too, in the movie, even though he has these really weird Fight Club-type ideas. He makes you kind of relate to him in a weird way, I think, even if that’s not something you foundationally believe.

PopHorror: I like seeing him in roles like this because you’re right. I think people do associate him the most with Charmed. I have seen Return to the Blue Lagoon and had completely forgotten about it. But I did see it when it came out. That’s so funny that you brought that up. Seeing him in a role like this is good because he’s usually seen as the nice guy.

Brian Krause in Breakout.

Brandon Slagle: Aside from saying that he’s not pretty right now, one of the other first things was, “I’m not a heartthrob now,” or “I’m not TV dad right now.” He thought he was digging a hole but in reality, he was really selling himself hard for the role and he just didn’t know it.

PopHorror: Was there anything you were adamant about keeping in the film, no matter what?

Brandon Slagle: Since this is a pre-sold movie, you kind of walk the line of adhering to what the distributor and financier want for sales, and also putting stuff that’s in it for you. Everything that I’ve done recently has been pre-sold and I like to think that I’ve been able to make the brass happy, but also put stuff in there that’s for me. So basically, the movie was sold from this Die-Hard-in-a-prison concept that Devanny thought up with the father and son, but then the emotional content of it and the relationship that Louis’ and Kristos’ (Andrews – Murder, Anyone? – 2022) characters have as estranged father and son, that was really what was for me. And I didn’t really have to fight to keep any of that in. There was just a little bit of trim this here and there, but the heart of the story – which I hope is relatable to people, whether or not they have an estranged kid or estranged from their parents or whatever – that was for me.

PopHorror: I think in a movie like this where you have a father and son duo or something like that, that you have to have some heart in it somewhere.

On the set of Breakout.

Brandon Slagle: Yeah, absolutely.

PopHorror: It’s going to be hard to avoid and it adds a little something extra to it. I’m glad that’s where you went with it. So you started as a musician and an actor.

Brandon Slagle: Yes.

PopHorror: What made you want to become a filmmaker?

Brandon Slagle: I kind of always knew that I would be. I didn’t know that I would completely quit acting to be a filmmaker. I guess I sort of hit reset a couple of times and maybe I’d be further along if I didn’t do that. I originally went to school for screenwriting and acting, and then played music for seven or eight years, and then was an actor for 10+ years, and then gave that up entirely and started fresh. I knew I was always going to do it, but I just didn’t know that it would be all that I did. I guess I write too, but I didn’t know that I would separate myself from it so much and only do behind the camera. I really can’t explain what led to that decision either. I just sort of fell out of love with being an actor. I wanted to tell stories as a director and writer as opposed to a performer in front of the camera.

PopHorror: Do you miss acting?  You have quite a few IMDb credits, so I know you had been doing it for a while.

Brandon in the movie Methodic.

Brandon Slagle: I don’t. There are a couple things that I did after I technically quit. One of them is Daylight’s End that Louis is in, which is a small role that was with a bunch of friends of mine. Devanny was like, “You have to do it!” And then I worked on a couple of Hallmark movies that I was doing post-production on because Jon Voight was in them and he said, “No, you have to be in this Brandon!” “Okay, I can’t tell you no.”

PopHorror: I love Hallmark movies, okay? Especially the Christmas ones.

Brandon Slagle: These weren’t the Christmas ones though, so maybe that means I have to show up again if it’s a Christmas movie.

PopHorror: Yes. And Jon Voight is delightful so if you can get him to do a Christmas one too… I think you made the right decision by making the career shift, because you said you weren’t sure if it was the right thing to do. But if you’re not missing it, and you’re happy doing what you’re doing now, I think it makes sense.

Brandon Slagle: Looking back, I think there were times where I was way more concerned with what was going on with the crew and the camera and everything, as opposed to what I was doing on camera and you can kind of tell sometimes. It was a gradual thing, but looking back it was kind of inevitable. 

PopHorror: What is up next for you?

Brandon Slagle: I was lucky enough when restrictions started being lifted to do a number of movies. I did five in a row, and Breakout was the second one but is coming out third. I also have The Flood, which I shot in Thailand with Louis because I can’t get rid of him, and written by Chad Law, starring Nicky Whelan (read our interview HERE), Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers – 1997), and Louis once again. And a movie called Arena Wars, which is sort of very much like The Running Man but if Paul Verhoeven directed The Running Man. So it’s a little out there. But those two are coming up, and then I should be back in Asia shooting in a couple months with a villain from the new John Wick, that I can’t say who yet even though it’s easy to find.

PopHorror: You are constantly working and I’m super excited to see what you have coming up. Just one last question for you today. What is your favorite scary movie?

Brandon Slagle: Oh my god. I used to be able to say this just off the top of my head. I’d probably say Alien typically, but then also there’s a few curveballs. I’ve probably watched the Corey Haim Watchers a hundred times.

Thank you so much to Brandon for taking the time to speak with us. Breakout is now available on digital and DVD.

About Tiffany Blem

Horror lover, book worm, foodie, dog mommy.

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