Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer considers himself a regular moviegoer and he gravitates to things we all feel the same about. “When people take advantage of old people,” he says, “that makes me really angry… around the world people are being defrauded with no recourse for justice.” He decided to solve the injustice in his fantasy world by writing the screenplay for The Beekeeper. “I want a white knight for people who need it, who really need it.”
For Wimmer, it was a personal mission. “Many years ago he had a very old, widowed aunt in Germany. Some people gained her trust, moved in with her to be her housekeeper and eventually got access to her bank accounts. They took everything she owned, and she died penniless. The experience has always stayed with him. So, the story of The Beekeeper was born.
“This movie is my fantasy world,” says Wimmer, “what could I do to these people who hurt somebody who is helpless? I want a white knight for people who need it, who really need it.” The inspiration for the moral code of The Beekeeper Adam Clay is clear. As is the impetus behind the lead villain, entitled brat Derek Danforth. “They have no conscience. I’d rather die than steal from an old person,” says Wimmer, “How can you shop on Rodeo Drive with money you stole from an old person?”
For the Beekeeper, Kurt had only one actor in mind: Jason Statham. Jason and Kurt are old friends having just recently worked together on Expendables 4. Says Statham,
“We’ve had many sorts of connections over the years. Scripts that we nearly did, scripts that we didn’t do. And it was an opportune moment where we connected, and he passed me something. He’d just written it in the pandemic and literally, it was a page turner for me.”
Director David Ayer concurs, “The story was really smartly laid out and I’m pretty good at guessing turns and twists as a writer, but what Kurt did in his writing is, he got ahead of me, and if he can get ahead of me, I know I know we can get ahead of the audience. He also has a great sense of fun, the script had this great sense of fun. The cast is very dynamic, very interesting characters. Nobody is flat and everybody has a unique perspective. And there was great opportunity for a lot of incredible action.”
Bees are timeless. Mankind’s relationship with bees started before the birth of civilization and bee iconography goes back thousands of years and exists in every part of the world. There are rock paintings in Spain over 8000 years old of a woman harvesting honey and vials of edible honey were discovered in the pyramids of Egypt. Equally timeless is the cruel exploitation of the weak and vulnerable by the ruthless and indifferent and just as timeless is the need for a white knight, a warrior for justice, a hero to protect society, the way a beekeeper protects his hive.
The rise of beekeeping over 10,000 years ago parallels the rise of civilization. It’s simple. No bees, no agriculture. No agriculture, no civilization. Bees are essential to life and beekeepers are essential to bees. In the way that a queen, drone or worker bee co-exist and thrive in a well-maintained hive, so do people thrive in a lawful and just society. But when a system is thrown out of order by corruption and greed, you need The Beekeeper.
In The Beekeeper, one man’s brutal campaign for vengeance takes on national stakes after he is revealed to be a former operative of a powerful and clandestine organization known as “Beekeepers.” After retiring from The Beekeepers, a covert elite organization, Adam Clay (Jason Statham) lives a solitary life caring for his bees. However, when his elderly neighbor is swindled out of her life savings with tragic consequences, Adam Clay is thrust back into action. Determined to seek justice for his neighbor, Clay uncovers a web of deadly scams orchestrated by a powerful organization preying on society’s most vulnerable. As he battles FBI agents, 21st century con artists and even his own replacement within The Beekeepers, Clay’s mission evolves into something larger: exposing a pervasive system of corruption that threatens society as a whole.
It’s the Beekeeper’s Job To Protect The Hive
All anyone needs to know about Adam Clay is that his job is to protect the hive. It’s a simple statement but throughout the course of the film we see what it really means. Jason Statham says, “What we know is, Clay has an incredible skill set. He’s almost like a super soldier that is there to protect society. When society can’t protect itself, he’s the person, a Beekeeper, that comes in to recreate the equilibrium. That’s what Adam Clay really stands for – he is one of these guys that doesn’t really exist. He’s almost like this ghost that comes in and course corrects.”
Adam Clay is a retired professional beekeeper, strong and deliberate, a solitary man, a man of few words. He wears an old beekeeping suit. Covered in stains and repairs, it is full of history. Clay connects with something that he has a love for, which is tending the hive, removing the honey, extracting it from the combs. He has this very sweet relationship with the honeybees. Jason Statham, “It’s the parallel to his actual title of being a Beekeeper, which we find out later on what the real version of a Beekeeper is, some sort of governmental kind of special society.”
Statham continues, “When we pick him up, he’s living in the garden of a very sweet lady that, they have a very sweet connection. It’s almost like she’s the mother he never had. We don’t know too much about him apart from the fact that no one ever took care of him. This lady is a significant thing for him in his life and when she becomes a victim of scammers he decides to get in front of that and take it all the way to the top. And as the movie escalates, we get to understand that everything is much bigger than we anticipated it to be.”
One unique feature of Adam Clay is that he isn’t a gun guy, per se. David Ayer elaborates, “He’s not running around with a weapon all the time.” In the story, Clay takes down almost all his adversaries without firing a single shot. Says Ayer, “It’s just one tool of many that he uses. He may get a gun and take it apart and turn it into a stabbing weapon or a club. It was almost the idea that a beekeeper has hands like a magician. You know that he can do anything.” How deadly is a Beekeeper? According to Lazarus, Clay’s most worthy opponent, “As long as a Beekeeper is breathing, he’s armed.”
Clay has a deep moral sense. He gives the sleazy workers in the call centers a chance to escape with their lives. After all, they are just worker bees. At every turn, he asks everyone, FBI or fraudster – “Who do you work for? Do you know what they do?” He sees the world clearly. And when the natural order is disturbed, he corrects it.
Telling the Story
To tell the story of The Beekeeper, the screenwriter Kurt Wimmer built the original world of The Beekeepers that, as producer Chris Long puts it, “translates perfectly into our society.”
Wimmer explains, “I find bees endlessly fascinating. The first alcohol was made from honey. Charlemagne had bees on his standard. Napoleon chose the bee to represent his status as emperor. Everybody loves bees. They are furry and make honey. They are the dolphins of the insect world.”
And audiences are already familiar with the hierarchy in a bee colony: drones, workers and at the top, the queen. Director David Ayer learned a lot about bees while making the film which enhanced the mythology of The Beekeeper.
Ayer says, “I read something that the bees aren’t necessarily conscious of a beekeeper. When a beekeeper shows up they don’t see the beekeeper there so the beekeeper is almost like this force of nature, this invisible force of organization that is shaping the reality of the bees and the bees aren’t aware of that and it’s such a great idea to play with the idea of governments and who fixes things and who has a vision for society and how to help people.”
The film opens on an idyllic farm in Massachusetts where beekeeper Adam Clay dispatches a nest of hornets that threaten his bee colony. This provides the perfect metaphor for the crime in the film where the hornets are Derek Danforths’s telemarketing scammers, and the hardworking bees are the vulnerable senior citizens and their life savings. David Ayer says, “We see him in that world in that farm and the great chemistry he had with Phylicia (Eloise) and then to have something awful happen to her. It is a great way to motivate his character beyond just the normal dead ahead revenge movie. He really has a personal stake in this film and a personal stake in getting the network.”
The film has a natural progression that syncs the plot to the action set pieces
Kurt Wimmer structured it like a ladder.
Each rung takes the audience deeper into the criminal network, higher up into the echelons of power, reveals a little more of the world of The Beekeepers and ratchets up the intensity of the action to match the stakes in the story.
When Clay starts out looking for whoever hurt Eloise, he creates noise in the system so they will come after him, which is a pretty smart tactic. David Ayer expands,
“Clay goes and breaks their things and the bad guys come to his place to break his stuff. They show up at the farm and he’s ready for them, but I actually think he’s ready for anybody at any time and one of the exciting things about plotting and developing the action is how clever the Beekeeper is when someone confronts him on his own turf and how he uses what’s available in the environment to take out these guys in clever ways. It’s a bit of cat and mouse and Jason’s the cat and these guys are the mice. And they never stand a chance.”
David Ayer has earned a reputation for telling gritty stories that connect with audiences worldwide
Most recently, Ayer wrote, directed, and produced 2020’s The Tax Collector, he previously directed Netflix’s hit feature film Bright, which was one of the highest-viewed Netflix films ever on the service and the #1 movie on Netflix in every country over its release in 2017 (in more than 190 countries). In 2016 Ayer directed the global blockbuster Suicide Squad, which he also wrote. Ayer also directed, wrote, and produced Fury, Sabotage, End Of Watch, directed Street Kings, and wrote the screenplays for U-571, The Fast And The Furious, Dark Blue, S.W.A.T., and Training Day. On the TV side, Ayer wrote the Training Day series (based on the screenplay) and served as Executive Producer on Deputy.
Kurt Wimmer is a writer, producer and director
Wimmer is best known for films such as The Thomas Crown Affair, Equilibrium which he wrote and directed, Salt, Street Kings and most recently Expendables 4. For his next film, Solara, Wimmer will direct from his original script.