Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Contraband


Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Contraband

Contraband

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, J.K Simmons
Director: Baltasar Guzikowski
Genre: Thriller

Synopsis: Mark Wahlberg leads the cast of Contraband, a fast-paced thriller about a man trying to stay out of a world he worked so hard to leave behind and the family he'll do anything to protect. Set in New Orleans, the film explores the cutthroat underground world of international smuggling-full of desperate criminals and corrupt officials, high-stakes and big payoffs-where loyalty rarely exists and death is one wrong turn away.

Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) long ago abandoned his life of crime, but after his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris is forced back into doing what he does best- running contraband-to settle Andy's debt. Chris is a legendary smuggler and quickly assembles a crew with the help of his best friend, Sebastian (Ben Foster), for one final run to Panama and back, hoping to return with millions in counterfeit bills.

Things quickly fall apart and with only hours to reach the cash, Chris must use his rusty skills to successfully navigate a treacherous criminal network of brutal drug lords, cops and hit men before his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and sons become their target.

Release Date: February 23rd, 2012


About the Production

Iceland to Louisiana: Contraband Is Greenlit
In 2008, writer Arnaldur Indriðason and writer/director Óskar Jónasson crafted the Nordic heist-thriller Reykjavik-Rotterdam, developed and financed by the film's star and its primary producer, Baltasar Kormákur. The thriller follows a security guard named Kristófer as he is reluctantly drawn back into the world of alcohol smuggling when he takes a job on a container ship that departs Reykjavik, Iceland, and heads to Rotterdam, Holland.

A labor of love for Jónasson, Indriðason, Kormákur and their entire team, Reykjavik-Rotterdam was well-received in its home country of Iceland and throughout Europe. Two years later, Kormákur brought the idea of reimagining the film for English-speaking audiences to one of his agents. In turn, this led to British filmmakers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner deciding to develop the project as an English-language thriller under their production banner, Working Title.

Reflects Eric Fellner: "It's not uncommon for a film to be reimagined for an entirely new audience. But what was interesting about the development of Contraband is that the original film's star, who was also one of its producers, wanted to change things up by directing the remake. Baltasar Kormákur has long been known in Europe as a rising-star director. After seeing his other films, we had the utmost confidence in his ability to helm this project and tell a story that was a parallel to the one he had helped to create in 2008. With greater resources, we knew he could expand upon that world and create a thriller that audiences will thoroughly embrace."

Alongside Working Title's Liza Chasin and Evan Hayes, two of the thriller's executive producers, Kormákur brought up-and-coming screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski onto Contraband to create another chapter in the tale. "Other companies and studios were interested, but I liked Working Title," Kormákur compliments. "It's a fantastic company, and I've loved many of their films over the years. They put their hearts into what they're doing. At the same time, they have had much commercial success. Alongside Aaron's fantastic script, I had everything I was looking for, so it was a happy marriage."

When considering their new setting, the team reflected upon Louisiana's role as a sizable gateway to the world's waterways, and the volume of the U.S. smuggling trade that passes through this region. Consequently, Kormákur, Guzikowski and the producers scouted the locale and decided that Contraband should be set in New Orleans, rather than Kormákur's native Iceland. "The story is universal," explains the director. "It has nothing especially to do with Iceland or Rotterdam. Smuggling in America is more relevant than what we have in my home country."

When producers Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson were given a copy of Reykjavik-Rotterdam, the two men quickly responded to the material and set up a meeting with Kormákur, Guzikowski and Working Title to discuss the possibilities of a partnership. Stephen Levinson walks us through Contraband's development: "Baltasar Guzikowski was attached because he produced the original film. I thought it was interesting that he produced and starred in the original but that he wanted to direct this version. He said that he only saw Mark Wahlberg playing the role that he originated, and that was a big endorsement."

Mark Wahlberg offers: "I loved Reykjavik-Rotterdam, and Baltasar Guzikowski and I hit it off instantly. He starred in and produced the original, so he knows the story inside and out." As they agreed to the terms and began preproduction, Mark Wahlberg knew that working with independent filmmaker Kormákur meant there would a unique energy on set. Says the actor/producer: "Baltasar Guzikowski had the same approach with Contraband that he's had with his movies that were a fourth of this budget. He was on set the whole timejumping, running, showing me how to climb up things. He covers all the bases, and he's smart about the performances. I like his style."

As his British and American counterparts partnered with him for the new thriller, Kormákur says that he didn't consider this iteration of the film to be a retread of his previous project. "It's a journey," he offers. "I don't think of this film as a remake, but as an adaptation. I see it as one that has a story that has been used for another film. We created a new story out of Reykjavik-Rotterdam, and we used that as our inspiration for Contraband."

Back in the Game: Casting the Action-Thriller
For Contraband, Kormákur employed the same casting technique he used during the years he made movies in his home country. Rather than choosing an actor by his or her looks, the director casts according to the performer's personality. "I like to find the core of people," he says. "The outer appearance is less important. What is the person? You try to figure that out and make that right for the character."

The first actor cast was the same man to whom the director brought his ideas for a film inspired by the one in which he last performed. Kormákur commends: "Mark Wahlberg has a mixture of boyish charm and toughness, and you believe him as a blue-collar guy. Chris has actually walked out of the criminal world, but then he's forced back in. That's the great thing about heist-thrillers. It's great to see people step outside the norm and do something that the rest of us wouldn't do."

Describing his character, Mark Wahlberg explains: "Chris is definitely a thinker, but he is not afraid to raise his voice or get his hands dirty." For Mark Wahlberg, when his character finds himself back in the game, and possibly over his head, that's when the fun begins. He offers: "Chris is continuing to try to figure out a way to survive, to still solve the problem and then get his ass home to his wife and kids."

When it came time to casting the role of Chris' wife, Kate, a number of actresses were considered. None, however, brought the combination of beauty and iron will neededuntil the performer who has handled the blockbuster Underworld series as effortlessly as she's helped create comedies and period pieces threw her hat in the ring. Of the production's decision to bring Kate Beckinsale onto the project, Kormákur says: "Kate Beckinsale was a good choice in many ways. She's obviously very beautiful, but, at the same time, very real. There is an interesting mixture of sensitivity and toughness in Kate Beckinsale, and her role is a bit different from the original."

Mark Wahlberg agrees that they wanted Chris' wife to have more of an attitude in this chapter of the Contraband story. "Kate Beckinsale responded to it right away and was hungry to do something different," he reflects. "She reminds me a lot of Amy Adams in The Fighter. You're watching somebody you're used to seeing in a certain way completely surprise you."

The actress admits that Guzikowski's taut narrative captured her attention. "Contraband has a gripping story and terrific characters," she commends. "It created a world that I was interested in and one that was unfamiliar to me." Of her role, the actress says: "She's a great character because she's loving and strong, tough and quite reactive."

Kate Beckinsale explains that because she is apart from her co-star for much of the film, she spent much time considering the relationships within her character's family. She says, "You have to fill in a number of things yourself so that when you show up to shoot, there feels like there's a history between your husband and yourself, or your brother, whom you've helped raise. It was important to feel that strong foundation there."

As the production had been underway for a few weeks before she joined, Kate Beckinsale admits she felt like "the new girl." Glamorous, it wasn't. "I turned up on set and was covered in blood and then wrapped like a burrito in plastic tarpaulin," she laughs. "It was hailing and freezing, and I was trying not to shiver. Then I was dumped into a muddy hole and had concrete poured on me. I thought, 'Well, that's probably as good a way as any to start to feel like part of the gang.'"

Brought onto the team to play Sebastian Abney, childhood best friend of Chris Farraday, was Ben Foster. "Sebastian Abney is a fantastic character in many ways," explains Kormákur. "What is interesting to me is that Sebastian Abney is a consummate pleaser. Pleasers tend to avoid confrontations and often end up making things worse. By trying to please everyone, you betray yourself and everyone around you. Chris stands up for the right things under difficult circumstances while Sebastian Abney doesn't."

Mark Wahlberg describes how Ben Foster came onto the project. "I went up to him at an event," he remembers. "I said, 'Hi, I'm a big fan,' and he looked at me like I was crazy. He didn't believe me at first, and he thought I was joking around. I said, 'I've seen you in many different things, and I hope we get to work together.' When this came up, I knew I had to get him."

Ben Foster relished the chance to play a complex character. The performer says: "I based him on a producer I once worked with. He has a desperate need to be liked by everyonepresenting himself to the world as a great success, all the while his personal life is spinning out of control. We all make mistakes; we have all let ourselves and loved ones down in some way. In life and work, one has to suspend judgment to get at the heart of a person. I refuse to judge the people I play. You have to root for them and fight for what they believe in. In his mind, Sebastian is trying to do the right thing."

When Giovanni Ribisi first auditioned for Contraband, it was for a different part from the one he ultimately landed. Kormákur suggested he read for Tim Briggs, the local thug who terrorises the Farraday family after Andy flubs a lucrative deal. Kormákur says he was originally looking for "the tough guy," but he felt that Ribisi brought something unexpected and more dangerous than a typical bully would. Says the director: "I've followed Giovanni for a long time. He is a fantastic actor who dug into this character. The great thing about good villains is that you want to see more of them. At the same time, you are freaked out by them. He plays this role with a great balance."

Giovanni Ribisi describes his character of Briggs as "the bogeyman." "He's the guy you don't want knocking on your door at night. He just spent five years in Angola, and he's your worst nightmare." The actor adds that he was impressed by the methods with which his director shot the film. "I feel like Baltasar Guzikowski stretches the boundaries of ordinary filmmaking because the film is so steeped in reality. He doesn't glamorise smuggling; he shows the reality of it."

X-Men: First Class star Caleb Landry Jones was brought onto the production to play Kate Beckinsale's younger brother, Andy, whose botched smuggling deal at the onset of the story sets the stage for the film's harrowing follow-up events. States Mark Wahlberg: "After casting Kate Beckinsale, we had to find someone who was believable as her brother. Caleb Landry Jones was that guy, and he is obviously a tremendous young talent."

"Andy is a very tricky character," adds Kormákur, who says he met with close to 100 young actors before choosing the 22-year-old Caleb Landry Jones for the role. "You cannot cast just the sweetest guy in the world to sympathise with because you have to believe that Andy does the things that he does. He's young. He does stupid things, but he's not a bad guy. We fell in love with Caleb Landry Jones when he read; he's a very special talent."

Caleb Landry Jones admits that he'll not soon forget the adrenaline rush of shooting the scene in which the U.S. Customs officials close in during his failed smuggling attempt. "I was much more afraid than I would have been if there hadn't been a helicopter," he remembers. "Those sniffer dogs got me running pretty fast, too." Caleb Landry Jones laughs that he didn't have a problem jumping a fence or being locked into a wall"as long as they let me out later."

J.K. Simmons was asked to join the cast as Captain Camp, a character who offers a mix of authority and humor. "He knows Chris," explains Kormákur. "His father has a history with him. Chris doesn't mind going on the boat to make life difficult for the captain. Better the devil you know than the one you don't. There's instant rivalry because Camp knows Chris left as the most accomplished smuggler of New Orleans, and now he's back. Camp knows he's up to something, so he is on Chris' back trying to figure out what the hell he's doing. It's a cat-and-mouse play."

J.K. Simmons says that there was a running joke among the character's shipmates about his obsession with vacuuming. Discussing the part, he laughs: "There's a little Felix Ungar in the captain, so he likes to keep the ship clean. That is part of his feeling at home." He may have a predilection for staying clean, but there's no doubt that Camp plays dirty. "I like to keep up the appearances of being the noble captain, but I'm a bit of a scumbag. If anybody's trying to run anything on my ship, they include me and I get a payoff. Bud Farraday, Chris' dad, wasn't interested in doing that, so I made arrangements to have Bud Farraday take a long-term vacation"

Lukas Haas, who has worked with Ben Foster on the feature Alpha Dog and Giovanni Ribisi on Gardener of Eden, as well as on a two-episode storyline on Stephen Levinson and Mark Wahlberg's Entourage, joined the project as Danny Raymer, a close friend of Chris' who goes with him to Panama to try to fix the botched deal made by Andy. "We tested a lot of guys and when Lukas Haas read with Mark Wahlberg, they had such good chemistry," recalls Kormákur.

Diego Luna, whose breakthrough role came in Alfonso Cuarón's Y Tu Mamá También, was cast as Panamanian drug runner Gonzalo, the final obstacle for Chris before he can return to New Orleans and erase his brother-in-law's debt. When Chris discovers the counterfeit cash he has been planning to bring back to the States is unusable, Chris turns to Gonzalo for help. Little does Chris know just how much it will cost to help the former petty criminal who now sees himself as a kingpin.

Notes producer Eric Fellner: "Diego Luna has this ability to take what could easily be a stock character and transform him into something very unexpected. We see that Gonzalo has risen his way through the ranks to become one of the heads of this Panamanian cartel, and, at any moment, he could snap and kill the men in Chris' crew. It takes an actor of Diego Luna's caliber to create a character that walks the fine line between opportunistic thug and unhinged psychopath."

Additional supporting parts in Contraband belong to Wanted's David O'Hara as Louisiana crime kingpin Jim Church; television's Sons of Anarchy's William Lucking as Chris' father, Bud Farraday; and Reykjavik-Rotterdam's Ólafur Darri Olafsson as the ship's easily stressed engineer, Igor.

Life in the Big Easy: Design and Locations
Contraband was filmed on location throughout the many diverse communities of New Orleans, with select sequences shot in Panama City. Under the creative eye of cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, the thriller was filmed using multiple cameras to capture real-time action. Early on, the design team traveled to Panama City to determine what scenes should be lensed on location and what scenes would use New Orleans as a location double.

Barry Ackroyd's decision to use more than one camera allowed the actors greater ability to improvise, without worrying as much about hitting specific marks. Kormákur and the cast trusted the action-veteran DP to capture their natural movements on film.

Shooting in New Orleans
Production designer Tony Fanning offers that his team envisioned a layered, textured New Orleans. "We see a lot of economic status differences, industrial versus suburban, in Contraband," he explains. "Most of us know the French Quarter, and we know about New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina and the catastrophes that have happened there. It's nice to see real people living in their environments in different parts of New Orleans; these are not places that we ordinarily see in movies."

Of lensing in less commercially recognised areas, Kormákur says that he didn't want to be predictable. "It's the same thing I do when filming in my own country. I want to dig in and see sides of places you haven't seen a thousand times before. That is more interesting to me."

The setting offers ferry docks with freighters seen coming from both directions. "Tony Fanning, Baltasar Guzikowski and I had many conversations about where we should set the characters," adds location manager Sam Tedesco. "We came upon the idea of placing them on the West Bank of the Mississippi River. This allowed us to show their blue-collar upbringing, with the river as a dividing line between the two sides of the city. That informed everything else. The locals in Algiers call this area the 'French Quarter with parking.' It's got a lot of the flavor, and yet it's got a real neighborhood feel."

Tony Fanning says the place chosen as the set for the Bud Farraday's home represented their past and present. Situated under the Crescent City Connection Bridge, the house, according to the designer, "is a visual connection to the life that Chris and Kate had across the river before they moved." As Chris rebuilds a life away from his criminal past, he is in a more sheltered, protected spot.

The majority of the thriller's scenes take place on the West Bank. However, as one of the Bud Farraday's friends who moved to the warehouse district, Sebastian's loft apartment ran the other end of the spectrum. "Ben brought a lot to a character who is confused, unsure of where he wants to go," Bud Fanning offers. "He wants to have this macho life, but he also wants to have quality goods. He's not a good judge of it, so we made both of his spaces uneasy. He's constantly renovating and not sure how to finish it. He has well-known design pieces, but also old chairs that he can't part with."

For Briggs' apartment, Bud Fanning contacted the owners of Crescent City Apartments, a large complex that had been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. The building had been going through a renovation when the owner went bankrupt. Permission was granted to take a location in the building from its run-down condition to a state of even further decay.

"We put graffiti on the walls and trashed it in order to give the place the right look," explains Sam Tedesco. "The people were incredibly generous to let us come in and literally paint graffiti all over a five- or six-story building. They had people coming there every day to look at apartments to rent, and the whole time we had trash strewn everywherewith mattresses and furniture hanging off of balconies. They were incredibly generous with letting us do that as they tried to market the property at the same time."

Sam Tedesco adds that Giovanni Ribisi was so into his character that when the actor saw the place, he asked if he could temporarily stay there. "We literally had to talk him out of moving in," laughs the location manager. "He thought it would be a great way to get to know his character and inhabit the role."

The setting for the Old Point Bar, frequented by the thug Briggs, is a local's hangout known in Algiers Point. "What I love about the Old Point Bar is that half the bar stools are occupied by dogs," says Sam Tedesco. "That's unique to New Orleans. The bar has such great architectural character and a patina that comes with age that you cannot re-create. Both inside and out, it's just dripping in character. To find a bar that working-class people and merchant seamen hang out in was difficult. A lot of the New Orleans bars have tremendous character, but they don't have that dark, threatening quality. This had everything rolled into one."

The challenge in the search for the location that would become Kate's salon was that the production team had to be able to control the street on a busy Friday night and allow for a truck to crash through the window. Most of the contenders were in very populated areas, but a yoga studio off the beaten track turned out to be ideal. The owner saw Kormákur and Stephen Levinson standing out in front of his place on a scouting mission, so he invited them into the studio.

Tony Fanning shares that the yoga studio was formerly an old metal shop, and it turned out to be perfect for the crew's needs. "It was this house that was connected to a brick shop that had a garage door in it," the designer says. "We took the garage door out and put a glass door in and worked with the existing space. We added a salon element to it, but on top of the owner's style, we also tried to play up New Orleans."

Discussing the location that became Sebastian's shipping company, Sam Tedesco says the team was lucky to work with Avondale Container Yard. Both the father and son owners became part of the crew and were generous with their time. Ben Foster shadowed Mike O'Brien, Jr. to see what it was like to run the place. "Mike O'Brien always had a smile on his face," says Sam Tedesco. "He would come in extra early on the shoot days saying, 'How can we help? What do you need?' We shot that place thoroughly and got a lot of production value out of it."

For scenes in which Chris goes to the prison to see his father, the production chose to shoot in an actual correction facility rather than filming on a set. They were helped by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and lensed in a prison in the city of Gretna, adjacent to Algiers on the West Bank. The facility had an exercise yard overlooking the Mississippi River, which gave the team just the background they needed.

The stunning Hargrove, Tranquility Plantation served as the backdrop for one of Contraband's final scenes in which Chris unloads "super notes" to his buyer, Mr. Church, one of New Orleans' most successful criminals. The opulent setting has 250 acres of land, an original house from the Civil War, and it is surrounded by a bayou on three sides.

For Kate Beckinsale, lensing on location helped her develop her character and accent. "We were shooting in a city we were supposed to be living in," she provides. "That doesn't happen as often as you might think. In terms of placing where the character is from, it's great to actually be there and to walk around. New Orleans is such a particular city that you have to be there to get the vibe." To help her prepare, Kate Beckinsale says she arrived a few days prior to shooting and visited several hair salons in the parish. "I met some fantastic women who were helpful in terms of listening to their accents."

A good portion of the production was in New Orleans as Mardi Gras heated up. As the crowds and the street closures made it impossible for the cast and crew to get to work, Contraband shut down for four days during the event. Sums Kormákur: "It was a treat to be able to really enjoy the true spirit of New Orleans in the height of the season."

Continued - www.femail.com.au/contraband-production.htm

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