Hunters - How We Made It: Al Pacino and series creators on story behind the Nazi-hunting 70s thriller

One of the biggest TV events of 2020, Hunters sees Hollywood legend Al Pacino leading an ecclectic band of Nazi hunters in a bold and bloody series.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 19 February 2020 - 6.42pm
Drama Prime Video

Hunters

Amazon Prime Video

One of the biggest TV events of 2020, Hunters sees Hollywood legend Al Pacino leading an ecclectic band of Nazi hunters in a bold and bloody series.

It's got Al Pacino hunting down Nazis in 1970s New York with a gang of oddballs, super cool street fighters and a Star Wars geek.

Amazon Prime Video's Hunters is the easiest TV show to sell in a sentence, but the glib outline of the series barely scratches the surface of this violent and darkly-comic series, which is released on Friday (February 21st).

Mixing together unlikely influences ranging from Tarantino and comic books to Saturday Night Fever and ‘70s B Movies, Hunters is wildly ambitious, deeply textured and frequently not for the faint-hearted.

BT TV heard from Al Pacino, the cast and creators of Hunters about the making of the series...

Real life inspiration

The Nazi-hunting gang revealed in Hunters Amazon Prime Video

"My grandmother was a Holocoust survivor. And when we were really young, me and my brothers were young, she would tell us stories about her experiences in the camps," explains co-showrunner David Weil, recalling the origins of Hunters.

Weil viewed his grandmother’s stories as "the stuff of comic books and superheroes" because that was the lens with which he viewed the world as a child. 

"As I grew older I struggled with that notion of birthright and legacy and responsibility," he explains. 

"With so many survivors no longer with us, it comes to the next generation to tell the story. As you can see with Jonah’s journey in the show, his access point is so much to do with comic books and superheroes.

"For me, the show is a love letter to my grandmother, it’s an exploration of my birthright, it’s this desire to wear that vigilante cape to get justice, to shed light on crimes and truths."

Weil only half-jokingly says that as a Jewish kid growing up in Long Island, the only superheroes he had were "Judah Maccabee and Jeff Goldblum".

"I really wanted a Jewish superhero and superheroes represented by so many others in this eccentric, eclectic way. That was the genesis for this."

How to get Pacino in your TV show

Al Pacino and Logan Lerman in Hunters Amazon Prime Video

 

Pacino has dipped his toes in the world of TV in the past with the HBO miniseries Angels in America and biopic You Don’t Know Jack, but Hunters is the Hollywood legend’s first full leap into an episodic drama.

In a year when he’s proved that he’s still at the top of his game in The Irishman, Pacino says that it was the unpredictability and unusuality of Hunters that pulled him in.

"You like to have a character that is unpredictable that can go either way. Who is tricky and has their own world. And that was what I was supplied with by Nikki and Dave," said Pacino.

"They gave me the past of Meyer Offerman and that past is very interesting and strange. Anyone who sees the entire series would know about it. I can’t give it away, but there’s a lot to it. 

"When I first got the script, I thought, this is something I can do and get into. I was really taken by their approach. It’s not what you usually have.

"You normally have one director for the film. This had different directors, but we always had Nikki or Dave there. They were always there to make things viable and alive. It was a very pleasant and creative way to work."

Shooting for film

Tiffany Boone as Roxy Jones in Hunters Amazon Prime Video

"It's different. Where it’s different, you get to do something over a long period of time," explains Pacino, observing the different processes for shooting films and a TV series.  

"These days we don’t get the same rehearsal time as we used to 40 years ago. At the same time, with these people and my colleagues here, we got to know each other. As time goes on, you form a troupe.

"I came out of theatre where you have that similar set-up. In films, you have to really find a way to connect with the people you work with because the rehearsals have gone. It’s become a luxury. In the old days with [Francis Ford] Coppola we would rehearse for weeks before a film, go further, take more chances and really get to know your role. 

"In Hunters, we were all together and we would spend hours talking about scenes. We were together for five months and it was wonderful."

He added: "I love the freedom of [this show]. I love that it’s so eccentric and so eclectic. It’s so strange at times. There are moments where you think, ‘what am I doing here? Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything like that’. 

"It reminds me of the old days. Everything reminds me of the old days! It reminds me of the Living Theatre in New York city. When we were seeing things for the first time, trying new things. I'm a bit partial to it."

Expect the unexpected

Greg Austin as Travis Leich in Hunters Amazon Prime Video

Hunters is not for the faint-hearted. Stuffed with shocks, dragging you in different, unexpected directions, the series has a similar rogue attitude to Prime Videos’ breakout hit series from 2019 The Boys.

“Everything across the board was shooting to be as cinematic as possible and Amazon was wonderful in supporting us in that and not restricting us,” said co-showrunner Nikki Toscano.

“The precedent set early on was to embrace the unexpected. What we wanted to do and aimed to do was to do the unexpected at every turn. 

“We had a wonderful production designer Curt Beech who developed a colour palette for the show. Yellow for instance represents innocence and you’ll see it a lot in what Jonah wears. 

“There was a lot of care taken with the vibrant colours and the visual language of the show. It was really important for us that we had directors who embraced their individuality versus more traditional coverage.”

Treating the Holocaust with respect

The cast and creators of Hunters at the UK premiere Amazon Prime Video

Hunters doesn't hold any punches. From an opening sequence at sunny BBQ that ends in a bloodbath to more disturbing torture sequences and flashbacks to the Holocaust, the series is unflinching in exploring the darkest parts of human pyshcology.

Pacino sports a Holocaust prisoner tattoo in the series and believes that the body art gave him a "helping hand" in taking on such a sensitive subject,

"It was a reminder. It contributed to all the aspects of the character you are playing," he said.

"Ultimately it's got to come from you, who you are and how you absorb a character, how you express it. But those are some of the things that give you freedom to stay within yourself and go out there."

David Weill also revealed: "We did take great pains with the tattoo themselves. All the numbers are above 202,499, which is the last known recorded number. 

"We wanted all the victims of the holocaust treated with great respect and we wouldn’t want to represent a tattoo of a person who actually suffered in the Holocaust."

Hunters is streaming on Amazon Prime Video from Friday, February 21st.

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