Military Cops & Robbers in 'Den of Thieves'
2023/08/20

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Law enforcement never caught them but, when they profiled the gang, they figured they were all part of one military unit because of their expertise and their skillset.

It helped the film for these guys to be Marines. To pull off those kinds of heists, they would need a pretty extraordinary skillset. 

You seem to be a real scholar of heist movies.  Is that something you were into growing up?

A scholar of movies, in general.  But I love heist movies, I always did.  We tried to get everything very, very accurate and had a lot of technical advisors. We cast a lot of the real guys, a lot of real cops and real gangsters.

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 We had some ex-military in the movie as well. We wanted to get everything as tactically and logistically accurate as possible.

You've been a screenwriter for most of your career and this is your first time as the director. Is that something you had always been aiming to do?

I went to UCLA film school to become a director and I actually never meant to be a writer. As I was graduating, I started directing music videos, which at the time was a way into the business.  

To graduate from UCLA, you have to write a script.

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I wrote a script with my old writing partner and we sold it to Oliver Stone, of all people, before we even graduated. That completely changed the trajectory of my career. I became a screenwriter. It really wasn't by design.  It just kind of happened that way.  

All these years go by and then I finally decided to take the final transition back to filmmaking. But this project was at Relativity Media, which went bankrupt.  We were in sort of a purgatory for all those years while Relativity was struggling to stay afloat.  Once they went belly up, we were finally able to get out and make it. 

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I've seen some good films that you've written and then I see this one. There's a real visual perspective and sense of filmmaking mechanics that suggest you might've been the guy who should have been directing your screenplays all along.

I've been a photographer my whole life. One of the big selling points when we were trying to get this film going is that I photographed the entire film in still photographs.  All the locations are real in the movie and all the characters are based on people that I actually know. I basically went out into the world and basically shot the entire movie in still photographs and put together a look-book that was hundreds of pages long.

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I you had a script, you could flip through the look-book and see every single scene.  You could see the location, the lens we'd use, the look, the grain, the color. You could get just an extremely strong sense of what the movie would be. When it came time to making it, the DP and I just, more or less, animated what was already committed to still photograph.  

That is accurate.  It'll be down the road, just a touch, after I do something else.  But Big Nick is gonna hunt [SPOILER] in Europe and [SPOILER] is going to be embroiled in the world of the Pink Panther Mafia, the diamond thieves.

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It's going to take place in London, in Belgium, Marseille and Montenegro. I will leave it at that, but it's gonna be a very European feeling really, it's gonna be cool.  It's going to seem like "Sexy Beast" or "Ronin" or "Gomorrah" or "Suburra."

Yeah, Gerry and I have become very, very close and we've worked together quite a bit.  And the experience on Den was, quite frankly, incredible.  We were just in total sync and it's his favorite thing he's ever done and he's the most proud of this performance.  

In "DOT2," we're going to expand upon that.  We're going to continue our journey with Big Nick and we'll see another side of him, a different side of him.  

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