Interview: George Gallo, 'Middle Men' and art of storytelling

Monday, 09 August 2010 11:07 Written by  JimmyO
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george gallo

George Gallo has had a very impressive career. It is one that has lasted several decades and offered up a couple of major hits including, Midnight Run and Bad Boys for which he served as screenwriter.

In 1991, he wrote and directed the very charming 29th Street starring Anthony LaPaglia. While it wasn’t a blockbuster, it proved that Gallo could tell a really good story when it came to directing. This began a long career as writer and director or other films throughout the years including Trapped in Paradise and Local Color.


And now he brings us Middle Men, the story of a family man tempted by the world of power, money and porn. This crime drama is sexy, fun and entertaining as hell. It features an impressive cast and it is inspired by true events. Interesting? You betcha!

When iamROGUE sat down with George, we talked about the film and how Paramount took it in without making a single change. Clearly proud of his work, George is a refreshingly honest man who takes his work seriously. He is intense, and immensely likeable, and so is Middle Men… look for it at a theatre near you.  You can also look back at our exclusive video interviews with Gabriel Macht, Giovanni Ribisi and Luke Wilson here!

Has anything changed in the film since I originally saw it several months ago?

No, it’s the same film you saw.

That’s great that Paramount just came on…

We were very lucky, they saw the movie and the test results, and it was, let’s just lock it, that’s it. The only thing that is different is that there is a Paramount logo on it. The only thing that is different.

Normally a studio might come in a tear it apart.

That’s the movie.

Wow.

We did not change a frame.

With this kind of release, what are your expectations when it comes to this film?

It seems what they do, it’s a limited release. They are releasing it on 350 screens and then they are going to roll it out after that. You know, in the end, the sky is the limit. Once the movie opens, we just keep rolling out and maybe get to 3,000 screens. But they are very much behind the movie. And it seems to be… they are not doing official tracking because it’s not enough cities so they can’t do official tracking. But the internet buzz which has been overwhelmingly positive, they’ve seen it and they think it’s got a shot. My fingers are crossed. I mean, I put everything I own into this movie so given the circumstances and the speed in which we made the movie, I can’t do anything better. It’s all I have. So it’s all I can ask for that it gets a fair chance in the marketplace.

You put your heart and soul into this thing man…

I sure did.

Are you a little nervous about just letting it go and into the hands of the public?

Yeah, you’re always nervous, because… look, if you really give a shit about what you do… sometimes you get negative criticism and it’s warranted and justified, you learn from it. Sometimes people just want to be assholes and that hurts.

This movie, for some reason, people are being kind because not only do they like the movie, but this movie wasn’t born out of a studio saying, let’s make this because we think it can do X or let’s make this because we think it’s hot or interesting. This really was a bunch of people who wanted to tell an engaging story. With that, I think the first foot forward was honest.

I’ve done movies, I’ve done scripts for money, you know, where you are like, ‘I’ll do this.’ And you do it well.

What I liked about this particular film, you don’t pander to its audience? It is an adult film with an adult script, which felt a little old-school in terms of storytelling. What were your biggest influences when it came to this particular film?

Influence in terms of filmmaking?

Yeah.

That’s a great question, but there are sort of two answers. Well, for me it was a f*cking breath of fresh air because the worst thing you can do is pander. Then you are already dishonest, your first few steps, but their nature, bullshit and you never really recover.

Influence as far as filmmakers?

Yeah.

I mean, look man, I’m fifty-four-years-old so I grew up watching the films from the Seventies. Like Sydney Lumet is amazing and a big influence. I mean, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Serpico.

I loved Bullitt from that era…

Yeah, that Peter Yates directed. There was a comedy called The Hot Rock that Peter Yates directed. And then there was a phenomenally underrated movie that Peter Yates directed called The Friends of Eddie Coyle with Robert Mitchum. And like you say Scorsese’s early work.

Those are the guys that I kind of wanted to be growing up. Then I sort of got pigeonholed as a comedy writer because the first movies I wrote were funny. I got hired to do more and more comedies, and I always wanted to do something more like this. Even though I think this is funny, I don’t think this is a comedy.

It’s got humor.

Yeah, it’s got humor, but there are also some real moments in here, you know, some very dramatic moments.

And for this film, as far as inspirations go, there was certainly GoodFellas, True Romance, some of Soderbergh’s stuff I think is really great, like Out of Sight, a lot of that movie is really wonderful.

I agree.

Anything that took a chance… Lukas Ettlin, the cameraman, and I just watched movie after movie after movie together and I was trying to find some synthesis between those movies of the Seventies, and then visually I wanted to do something more edgy and more stunning, and a little more contemporary. We were just trying to reach. We watched everything.

It seems like when you look back at films you have a rich story and nowadays, it sometimes feels as though “storytelling” is a bit of a lost art.

It is a lost art in terms of the fact that, I don’t think filmmakers understand how important it is for an audience to engage with the characters on the screen as fast as possible. Older films really would either take the time or they came from a background of theatre. They really understood the importance of getting to know a character.

Now there is also a problem… people make a big mistake, the mistake they make is they think somebody has to be likable. This is a terrible mistake. This is a terrible mistake that people who make movies – I’m not talking about filmmakers, I’m talking about studios – think the characters have to be likable. The character has to be engaging, and you have to understand why they are behaving the way they are behaving. They have to be relatable. Some of the greatest characters of all-time were fairly unlikable guys.

You are spending time with a person who is fragile and broken, you just have to relate, that’s all you have to do. This idea that my main character has to be likable is ridiculous. Because to me, a lot of times it does the opposite, it makes the person un-relatable and it becomes boring. And I disengage. So you kind of create the very same situation that I try to avoid.

Now you have Columbus Circle coming up? What can you tell us about it?

It’s finished! It’s a really cool… it’s very different from Middle Men. Kevin Pollak and I are big Hitchcock fans. So we were saying, nobody makes any Hitchcock movies that take their time. Then you look down the hall and you hold for ten seconds. Nobody tells stories like that anymore.

So Kevin and I thought, wouldn’t it be great to examine agoraphobia and the fear of not leaving your apartment and you haven’t let it in twenty-years. And Selma Blair plays a woman who has not left her apartment in seventeen-years. She just doesn’t go out and she lives looking at other people, ala Rear Window. And a couple living across the hall, Amy Smart and Jason Lee - he’s an abusive guy and just beats the crap out of Amy – and she lets her into her world and they become friends and you realize something else is going on. It really takes its time.

It was a total experiment. I’m really pleased with the movie.

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