Thursday, 07 March 2013 11:54 Written by  iamrogue
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When a film's tagline is "Blood demands blood," revenge is clearly on the cinematic menu.

Dead Man Down, in theaters this Friday March 8th, follow Victor, the seemingly loyal right hand man of Alphonse, a ruthless criminal overlord.  What Alphonse doesn't know, however, is that his trusted enforcer is, in fact, planning an elaborate plan for retribution against his employer, a plan that would punish Alphonse for ruining his life.  Victor's neighbor, the mysterious and scarred Beatrice, discovers his plan and reveals that she has her own thirst for revenge.  Two hurt, wounded people fixated on vengeance, Victor and Beatrice form an unusually strong connection as they navigate the myriad twists and hazards on the road to retribution.

The film marks the English-language debut of acclaimed Danish director Niels Arden Oplev (the Swedish The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and boasts a screenplay by J.H. Wyman (The Mexican, Fox's Fringe).

Colin Farrell (In Bruges, Total Recall remake) stars as Victor, with Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) as Beatrice and Terrence Howard (Iron Man, Hustle & Flow) as the nefarious Alphonse.  The film also features Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger, The Devil's Double), Isabelle Huppert (Amour, 8 Women), and Robert Vataj (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) in crucial supporting roles.

At the Los Angeles press day promoting Dead Man Down, IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick had the opportunity, along with several other members of the press, to speak with the film's stars, Colin FarrellNoomi Rapace, and Terrence Howard, in roundtable interviews, as well as Robert Vataj privately on the phone. Farrell, RapaceHoward, and Vataj all enthusiastically discussed working with Oplev, their damaged characters, sharing balconies, accidentally smacking each other, working with rats, and the unique relationships that power Dead Man Down.

The film marks a reunion between Niels Arden Oplev and Noomi Rapace, who became an international star thanks to her performance as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the 2009 Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson's phenomenally popular novel. Though she's moved on to big-budget event movies, Rapace was eager to work with the director who directed her in her most famous role.

"I've been kind of hoping, wanting, asking him when we should work together again after The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and he was like we'll find something, but it needs to be something really good," she explained. "And I think he was reading lots of scripts and I was reading lots of scripts and most of them were quite not that good, and then when they sent me this one, I just saw in the email that he was attached to it. I was like 'Okay.' And then I read the script and I loved the script and I called him and I was like, 'Are you really attached? Are you really doing this?' Because you never know you know? And he said, 'Yeah, yeah what do you think?' And then I said that I really liked it because I love when I read a script and I can't see where it's going. I can't predict what the next scene is gonna be like. And I think this story takes so many different turns and twists and it's almost like a crazy ride that you just have to jump on."

Vataj, who has previously worked with the late Tony Scott, had this to say about collaborating with Oplev. "I would say that Niels is an artist," he explained. "Niels is not that typical artist who just sits down and paints on the canvas. He is more of a street artist. I grew up in the Bronx and I had a lot of friends who were graffiti artists. They would see a canvas and even if there had been an obstacle in the way, they would get to where they needed to so they could paint their mural. That is how Niels is. If he saw something and he wanted it, he would break down a door and go for it. If I lost my way at any point, he would direct me and show me the way. I love when a director walks down a path with you and if that director doesn’t walk with you, then you loose that trust. I never lost my trust in Niels. I believed in him and he believed in me. He was excellent. Stylistically I would say this film could be Niels Mona Lisa. You are just about to see what he is capable of doing." 

For Farrell, the lure of Dead Man Down was in his character's single-minded determination and, more importantly, Victor and Beatrice's relationship. He explained, "I’d never played a character that had gone through what this guy had gone through, and decided on a path of revenge as dogmatically as this guy had decided on his path. But the thing that demarked this for me as kind of a more unique film than maybe the genre that it’s part of usually produces – certainly in script form it felt like it – was the relationship between him and her.  There was kind of a sweetness and a tenderness to that. It’s not this wonderful blossoming romance."

"They’re two very fractured and very broken and very lonely characters who are both hell-bent for particular reasons on revenge," continued Farrell. "And who both in each other find a sense of salvation and a path out of the darkness, as twee as that sounds. That was the cool thing about it. It was really well-paced and it was very tender, so you have these two people who are capable of such anger and such rage and such a desire for retribution, and yet such a tenderness and concern for the well-being of each other. I’m not comparing the films, but it felt a little like True Romance or Bonnie and Clyde."

Playing the object of the protagonist's rage, Howard relished not only playing an antagonist, but reveling in material where the moral high ground is elusive and the characters grapple with internal complexities. "[Niels] told me, ‘I’m going to change your life.  I’m going to make you the bad guy that nobody has ever seen before,"’ Howard recalled.  "And he gave me all the tools necessary to accomplish it; I think he is a genius for that.  What he did in creating these characters where all of them were compromised from the start, all of their natures were completely compromised – there’s no good guy, there’s no bad guy in the movie – everyone makes a crucial mistake in trying to make you pay for what you’ve done yesterday with the resources of today.  I think that was a beautiful, beautiful thing he did."

Howard referred to a previous film in which he appeared to further explain, saying, "It’s like Crash – everyone was a bad guy somewhere along the way, even Ryan Phillippe who was the good guy, he ends up doing something terrible in the end of it.  I think that’s what cinema is about.  It’s supposed to teach you about humanity and the choices we’re making, whether it’s good or bad, and that the audience can watch and hopefully gain some type of understanding of how to place the stumbling blocks of yesterday in a way on the path that they become stepping stones for those that will follow us, because we are all still one person, even though we see each other as separate individuals."

In the film, Vataj plays an Albanian hostage that is tortured by Farrell's character, and, as anyone who has seen the trailer knows, at one point is covered in rats. The actor discussed acting opposite Farrell in those scenes and what he did to prepare mentally for working with the rats. "Colin is very complimentary. He gives you what you need to perform at your best. I’m sure he saw what I needed from him and I’m hoping that I gave him what he needed to give the performance that he wanted. Colin is a gentleman. He is a very generous man. The way I keep describing Colin is that he is a gentlemen and in this day and age that is rare. Acting wise, he is getting better every movie he does and the performance he gave in this is off the charts amazing. But first and foremost, he is a good man and he is an excellent actor."

"I grew up in the Bronx so torture is nothing new to me.," he explained. "I did do a lot of research into rats and learned that rats are extremely loyal. They don’t leave anything behind, which is strange because when a guy snitches on another guy then we call him a rat. That is actually wrong! Rats are extremely loyal. As far as getting use to the idea of having dozens of rats all over me, I didn’t want to get comfortable with that. I didn’t want to be comfortable because in real life, you wouldn’t be comfortable with rats all over you. So why would you want to prepare for something that in the film your character is not prepared for. But I did do my research because when you do a scene like that you want to know what you are getting yourself into. But again, I had so much trust in Niels and the rat trainers on set that I knew I was in good hands." 

It's not difficult to see certain superficial similarities between Lisbeth Salander and Beatrice, but Rapace has a more complicated view of both characters. "What they do have in common is that rage or anger or idea of revenge and avenging someone who did something wrong to them. But they are quite different in the way that Elizabeth is so much more boyish," She said. "She doesn't want to be that girl. She doesn't want to play that game. And Beatrice is kind of the opposite. She's very much a woman and a girl and she likes that and she works in a beauty industry and then that's also why this accident hits her so hard because she lives in beauty and it destroys her face and she can't do what she did before and even though now when we see the movie I don't think she looks that bad. She's still beautiful, but she can't see that. She woke up in the hospital, she almost died, she woke up and she saw herself and she wishes she would've died instead. And then she has gone through all the plastic surgery, many steps, and she looks much better today, but she can't see it. She's kind of trapped in that black hole."

Being a leading man with a leading lady and director who have worked together so famously could be a challenge. "I was so jealous. I couldn’t get to him," Farrell joked with a laugh. "No, Noomi’s magnificent. I just loved working with her. I really did. Every day. I just felt like a I had a really good dance partner, and I hope I was the same for her. We moved in time with each, it felt that way on the set; and we had very similar ideas about what the film could be and our characters’ journeys. I had a really good time. We had hotel rooms that were beside each other, on the same floor, and we shared a balcony."

"I think Colin and I came really close very fast and I think we are quite similar in the way we worked," Rapace said. "I couldn't sleep and he couldn't sleep and I went out on the balcony and I had a cigarette. I started to smoke for the character because I'm not a smoker. Because I'm doing a movie now in New York and she's a smoker. And then I do a movie when I'm not smoking after that and then I will stop. And then he was out on the balcony having a cigarette too and I was like so you can't sleep? And he's like, no. And then we started talking about lines, and then to cut the change, make small adjustments and stuff. So I think both of us work in that way when we decide to do something, we do it like 100%. And I love working with him. He's so supportive; he's such a team player. Like one day the camera was on me, he was off camera for like ten hours, eight hours without even mentioning it and then they turn on him and did two takes and it was like, 'It's a wrap!' Many actors wouldn't do that I think. He's a very good person too."

"It was really cute. It was really sweet, man," Farrell recalled of his relationship with Rapace. "Because she’d text me or I’d text her, 'Do you want to meet on the balcony and talk about tomorrow’s work?' It was very sweet. It was very cool. So she’d open her door, I’d open mine, and we’d step out and say, 'How’s it going? So what do you think?' We’d have a sneaky cigarette and talk about the day’s work. So it was kind of a diluted reflection of what was going on in the film, without the hostility and the sinister aspect. She’s just really bright, she’s got a lot of life experience, she’s really open, she’s got a lot of integrity, and it means a lot to her – the character she plays. She takes complete possession and responsibility for what she does. She’s just wonderful. She really is. I just loved working with her.  Niels was cool. It was easy. They had a shorthand, and I came in and busted it up a bit.  It was easy."

Cute though offscreen chemistry may have been, Dead Man Down is a tale of violence.  As such, the cast had to deal with depicting abhorrent violence, a part of the process that involved some catharsis. "Noomi wanted me to smack her in the movie," said Howard. "And Niels wanted me to have these guns in my hand and I didn’t want to smack her.  I was [saying], ‘I can’t do it!  I can’t do it!’  But Noomi wanted that to occur.  At one given point, I swing this gun to shut her up and she was too close and I hit her with that gun in the face.  I was so hurt and frightened about it, but she got right back up, wiped off the blood and we did the scene.  Niels wanted that raw nature.  There is no safe place as an actor. As as actor, you are to put your emotional and psychological, your manhood – nothing exists.  You are a tub of water for the director to either make ice cold or make piping hot; the last thing you want to be as an actor, as a tool, is lukewarm.  You have to make a choice – being soothingly hot or refreshingly cold, but never take the middle ground.  Niels doesn’t allow any impersonation of self as an actor; he keeps changing the dynamic, and that in itself creates a beautiful story."

Dead Man Down hits theaters on March 8th.

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