ACTORS Ryan Gosling and Ana de Armas had to undergo fight training and more for their roles in Netflix movie The Gray Man, adapted from American novelist Mark Greaney’s book series. The film opens in theaters today and will stream on Netflix on July 22.
Mr. Gosling stars as CIA operative Court Gentry, who is plucked from a federal penitentiary and recruited by his handler Donald Fitzroy (played by Billy Bob Thornton). Once a highly skilled agent, Mr. Gentry is now is hunted across the globe by Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a former cohort and maniacal CIA contractor. He finds an ally in Agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas).
The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (also known as The Russo Brothers) who have directed Marvel titles such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
During an online press conference with international media on July 14, the film’s directors said that the spy thriller’s story is modern and relevant to current issues.
“This film is connected in a lot of ways to some issues that are going on in the world right now. The character is extremely exceedingly existential, and quite funny. We just find that it fits our sense of humor. It’s the kind of film that, we feel, would work well with today’s audiences,” Anthony Russo said.
For the movie, lead actor Mr. Gosling trained with a former Delta Force member who also helped the actors with fight sequences and self-defense moves.
“There was an amazing stunt team. At first, they went through all these different styles of martial arts and sort of tried to curate it for the character,” Mr. Gosling said.
Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas had to prepare physically with activities such as shooting, doing weights, and carrying weapons.
“I started running like a chicken at the beginning with [a] vest around me. I didn’t know how to move or squat or do anything, and I really enjoyed the process… because I could see myself improving,” Ms. De Armas said.
The actress added that she also had to prepare for the psychological aspect of the role.
“…You’re the one calling the shots. You’re the one who has to make the decision to solve the problem in the moment…,” Ms. De Armas said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about doing the right thing.”
Meanwhile, actor Chris Evans, who has previously worked with the Russo brothers in superhero movies, takes on the role of the villain.
“Playing a villain is always a little more fun. You have a little bit more freedom. You get a lot more jokes… Working with the Russos is what gives that sense of trust and freedom,” Mr. Evans said. “When you trust the filmmakers, you’re more willing to take risks.”
THE ACTION SEQUENCESThe co-directing brothers highlighted the action sequence in Prague, Czech Republic as the most challenging during production.
“In the Prague sequence, we needed a large section of the city in order to pull that off. That sequence starts in a major city square, and it continues through a chase throughout the city,” Anthony Russo said.
“There’s a tram that the Gray Man gets on, Ana [de Armas]’s character is sort of chasing the car…,” Mr. Russo said. “In order to shoot that sequence, we were using trams in Prague. We built a bus that was designed to look exactly like a tram but ran on wheels, because sometimes we needed to run the tram faster than the tram could actually go…” he said. “And then, we also had a tram… that was stationary.”
“There is a lot of running. I would go back to pre-movie me and tell him to work on his cardio. I didn’t expect all the [Prague] running,” Mr. Gosling said of the sequence’s shoot.
After this movie, the directors are hopeful that more The Gray Man stories will follow.
“Part of our motivation to assemble a cast like this who can embody so many interesting characters was the hope of creating a universe that you wanted to follow all of them,” Mr. Anthony Russo said. “So, yes, hopefully, there’ll be more stories to tell.” — Michelle Anne P. Soliman