Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Ann Dowd, Michael Aronov, James Frecheville, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Tobias Segal, Michael Esper
Director: Michaël R. Roskam
Genre: Crime Drama
Running Time: 107 minutes
Synopsis: The Drop is a new crime drama from Michaël R. Roskam, the Academy Award® nominated director of Bullhead. Based on a short story from Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), The Drop follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) through a covert scheme of funneling cash to local gangsters – 'money drops" – in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), Bob finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood's past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost.
Release Date: November 13th, 2014
The discovery of an abandoned and abused puppy leads a lonely bartender out of his constricted world in The Drop, a riveting journey through a rarely seen side of working-class Brooklyn. The first film written by best-selling author Dennis Lehane, The Drop sets an unusual love story against the volatile backdrop of organized crime's unbreakable grip on the small pubs and taverns used as money-laundering 'drops."
Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) slings drinks in his Cousin Marv's (James Gandolfini in his final performance) bar and looks the other way whenever Brooklyn crime bosses use the place as a temporary bank for their ill-gotten gains. He keeps to himself, attending Mass daily at the old neighborhood parish church, but never taking Communion.
Bob's simple life becomes much more complicated when he discovers a battered pit bull puppy in a trash can. Turning to his neighbor Nadia (Noomi Rapace) for help, he nurses the puppy back to health, as their mutual concern for the dog sparks an unexpected attraction between them. But when Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), the dog's original owner and Nadia's abusive ex-boyfriend, tries to reclaim both of them, and a robbery at the bar puts Bob in the crosshairs of the Chechen crime boss who owns it, Bob is forced to face the shocking truth about the people he thinks he knows best"including himself.
The name Dennis Lehane has become synonymous with high-quality crime stories set in low-class places, including the award-winning Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River. Lehane, already a best-selling novelist and acclaimed television writer, adds screenwriter to his credits with The Drop, a tense mob mystery based on his short story Animal Rescue.
Chernin Entertainment, the production company founded by former President and Chief Operating Officer of News Corporation Peter Chernin, bought the screen rights to Animal Rescue shortly after it was published in an anthology called Boston Noir, which Lehane also edited.
'The original story is about a guy who discovers an abused pit bull in a trash can," says Mike Larocca, producer for Chernin Entertainment. 'By saving that dog, he sets in motion a series of complications that change his life. In the end, it's not as much about a man rescuing a dog, as it is about a dog rescuing a man."
Dennis Lehane initially set out to write a novel, but he never got past the first chapter, which became a short story. He was somewhat surprised when Chernin Entertainment approached him about making the tale into a movie. In fact, he was already been considering adapting it into his first screenplay. 'It was the only book I've ever started that kicked out on me," he says. 'I put it in a drawer and never went back to it, but I kept thinking about Bob, the puppy he rescues and the woman he meets. I think it stuck with me all this time because I was fascinated by the idea of loneliness. We almost never speak about how devastating it can be. I'm of the belief that it kills more people than cancer. So I started from the idea of one guy, Bob, who is exceptionally lonely."
'The short story was very insular," Dennis Lehane adds. 'There was Bob, Nadia and Eric Deeds. Cousin Marv was a minor character who evolved into a major part. I had just the bare bones of the plot. I think of the short story as the bud and the movie as the flower in full bloom."
Dennis Lehane worked on the first draft of the script by himself, writing throughout the summer of 2010. 'What was unique about the experience was that I was never shoved into a conversation about how to make the film more palatable to a larger audience. It was always about the integrity of the original vision, which was to make a film about damaged people trying to repair their lives."
Then, he and Mike Larocca worked closely to refine the script. Several new story elements were woven in to give it additional scope. 'Dennis Lehane' first draft was very, very good," says Mike Larocca. 'This is about a guy who has the potential to be a very dangerous human being, although we don't see that initially. The question is whether he can be rescued from his self-imposed hell. We expanded some of the gangster components. It raises the stakes and gives a bigger picture of the world Bob lives in."
One of the priorities was to develop some of the characters more, especially Cousin Marv. 'As soon as Jimmy Gandolfini was cast, I actually wrote more lines because I knew there's a certain pitch to my dialogue with certain characters. It's extremely hard for most actors and Jimmy was the sweet spot. I couldn't have dreamed of a better Cousin Marv. The last thing I did on the script was to flesh him out more and give him extra lines because I knew he could handle it. That was a joy," says Dennis Lehane.
'It was an incredibly beautifully written script," says producer Jenno Topping of Chernin Entertainment. 'I was struck by how challenging and complicated it was, as well as how emotional. That is such an incredible feat. I was also very excited by the character of Bob. It was such a great part, I knew we'd have to cast a great actor."
The story is, as Dennis Lehane points out, still quite simple. 'A guy finds a dog. The dog allows him to reclaim a part of his life. But at the exact same moment, outside forces press in on him. The Chechen mobsters who own the bar where he works for his Cousin Marv are suspicious about a robbery. The guy who originally owned the dog wants it back and he's not taking no for an answer."
The film opens on the day Bob re-engages with the world he's closed himself off from. It all starts with Rocco, the puppy. 'Bob made a decision ten years ago to shut himself away from humanity, from feeling," says Dennis Lehane. 'Suddenly something begins to open up in him. He meets this woman. He starts to re-join the human race. The largest dramatic question of the film is, can Bob really be rescued?"
'Like most of the people in the film, he is chasing something that's already in the rearview mirror," the writer continues. 'They're trying to get back to a self that doesn't exist anymore. That idea fascinated me as I was writing the script. I think the audience will feel an emotional connection with the characters that leads them to some sort of emotional truth about their own lives, about the moments when they seem to be stuck in gear. The people who successfully navigate those waters are the ones who will ultimately reach a happy ending."
To direct The Drop, the producers selected Michaël R. Roskam, a Belgian with one feature film to his credit: Bullhead, a dark thriller about a brooding and dangerous loner that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2011.
'It was such a strong debut for a director," says Dennis Larocca. 'The way he handled the cast made it really clear that this is a guy who knows how to work with actors. Our script has rich and deeply complex characters, so we needed someone we knew could work with actors to draw out truly extraordinary performances."
The success of Michaël R. Roskam's first feature was rapidly opening doors for the director in Hollywood, and he gave careful consideration to the choices he was offered. 'This is the first time I have directed a film from a script I didn't write," Michaël R. Roskam says. 'One of the things that drove my decision was that I wished I had written it. I knew it was the story for me. It was extremely well-written and plot-driven, but with the kind of complex character development that appeals to me."
A fan of Bullhead, Dennis Lehane was excited to see Michaël R. Roskam tackle his first American film. 'Michaël R. Roskam and I talked a lot about the themes, especially the Catholic themes and the spiritual themes in the film," he says. 'We agreed that it's an urban fairytale, gritty certainly, but with something more underneath."
With a Writer's Guild of America Award for his work on HBO's 'The Wire" on the mantle and several episodes of the series 'Boardwalk Empire" under his belt, Lehane has firm ideas about what makes a script work, but always wants to give the director room to make it his own. 'When I write a script, I know that I'm writing for a director," he says. 'I'm writing for the actors. But I'm really not writing for a reader. A screenplay's not meant to be read. It's like an architectural blueprint."
'I leave a lot of white space," he adds. 'I want to leave breathing room for the director to go beyond what's explicit. Michaël R. Roskam took the ball and ran with it. And this cast is off the charts, just exquisite. It was my script. But it's their film."
Michaël R. Roskam is deeply appreciative of Lehane's approach to working with a director. 'He didn't present the script and say -this is what it is and just don't mess around with it.' He said, -it's all yours.' He even allowed me to plot out some scenes, which he then adapted to his style. It's a very good thing for a director to have a writer like Dennis Lehane on his side."
One of the film's most important conventions, the 'drop bar," is, in fact, a Dennis Lehane invention. The idea for an ever-changing central location for an entire night's criminal proceeds came from rumors and whispers he had heard over the years.
'Dennis Lehane had done a lot of research on organized crime," says Mike Larocca. 'He knew that at some point in history, the Mafia decided it was safer to consolidate their funds. With all the money in one place, they could keep better track of it. If they were knocked off, they were more likely to figure out who did it. Dennis Lehane took that as inspiration to make up the concept of a drop bar."
The Drop bar keeps dirty money out of the hands of law enforcement. 'It could be bets placed with bookies or massage parlor receipts, anything that brings in money that cannot go on the books," explains Michaël R. Roskam. 'The cash could be evidence and needs to be kept out of the hands of the police. If you always hide it in the same place, it's just a matter of time before the police find that. They keep it moving, so if the police figure out where they stash the cash, they will always be late."
Dennis Lehane admits that he has no idea whether the stories that inspired The Drop bar idea are true, but 'I ran with it," he says. 'I'm a big believer in Einstein's line that imagination is sometimes more important than knowledge. I didn't get too hung up on what may or may not exist in the real world, because this story is more -once upon a time in Brooklyn…' That's the feeling of it"an ogre comes out of his cave and he begins to step out of the animal part of himself."
Michaël R. Roskam loves that tone. 'It's a pretty dark, gritty story, but it has sunshine in it. The larger themes are very close and inspiring to me. This movie is about a desperate search for innocence in a very complex and rich world."
The film may deal with dark themes, but it is ultimately an optimistic view of the world, in Topping's opinion. 'At the beginning, there's a sense of a huge burden from the past and a moment where it seems the past may repeat itself," she says. 'In the end, though, love triumphs."
The movie implies that redemption is possible and that everyone is inherently good, according to Dennis Larocca. 'But it also shows that everyone is a little bit more complicated than they seem. That's something I've always loved about it. The strength of Dennis' screenplay is that he doesn't shy away from that. It's a timeless story about people whose dreams maybe didn't pan out the way they thought they would, and that is pretty universal and timeless."
Behind The Bar
Director Michaël R. Roskam assembled an international cast for his American film debut, including British actor Tom Hardy, who electrified audiences as the masked criminal mastermind Bane in The Dark Knight Rises; Swedish-Spanish actress Noomi Rapace, who captured international acclaim as the brilliant, damaged Lisbeth Salander in the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series; the late 'The Sopranos" star and New Jersey native James Gandolfini in his last film role; as well as and Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who played the lead role in Michaël R. Roskam's Bullhead.
Michaël R. Roskam says he was not specifically looking for European actors to headline this film. 'But when I found them, it made sense. New York is a city full of nomads. It's a gateway to the rest of the world. There are so many nationalities represented here. Probably 40 percent of the people I met during location scouting spoke with an accent that wasn't purely Brooklyn."
The result is a remarkably talented and diverse ensemble that signed on enthusiastically to work with Michaël R. Roskam. 'Because of Michaël R. Roskam, everybody got on board very quickly," says Dennis Larocca. 'The actors really wanted to work with him and he got great performances."
The most difficult part to cast was Bob, who is the emotional center of the film, yet demonstrates little overt emotion himself. 'Michaël R. Roskam and I talked a lot about what Bob represents," says Dennis Lehane. 'So much of what is going on with him is under the surface. On his best day, Bob is not a terribly articulate human being, which is compounded by the fact that he has pushed everything down deep inside. He is going through the motions of what he believes human interaction is."
At the beginning of the film, Bob is still stumbling through a decade long, self-imposed period of hibernation, according to Dennis Larocca. 'As the complications build, it's unclear whether or not he's up to the task of handling everything thrown at him. Ultimately, he's a very heroic character because he sticks to his code of behavior, which no one else does."
Tom Hardy reveals a new side of himself in the role of Bob Saginowski, the isolated Brooklyn bartender who is the flashpoint for the action. 'Tom Hardy is just an amazing actor and he's on a hot streak right now," says Dennis Larocca. 'The fact that he chose this out of all the films he was being offered speaks to the strength of the screenplay. His performance is quite surprising. It's an enormously difficult role that had to be very finely calibrated. As an actor, he never gives you the same thing twice, and this character is something that no one has ever seen Tom do. He's one of the best actors of his generation, which he proves time and time again."
For Topping, the performance is nothing short of mesmerizing. 'You just want to keep watching Tom Hardy," she says. 'Bob is a very withdrawn, shut-down character, but somehow every tiny flicker of life tells you something more about what's going on inside of him."
Tom Hardy came to set with a very specific vision of his character, according to Michaël R. Roskam. 'He saw him as a man who doesn't necessarily like being solitary, but who functions pretty well in isolation," says the director. 'I had to not only get to know Tom to work with him, I had to get to know Bob through him. He's someone who invests a lot in his work, so we found a very respectful and productive way to collaborate."
Tom Hardy sees Bob as a different kind of anti-hero. 'He's unassuming and therefore underestimated," the actor says. 'You never see him coming. The guy's an Everyman with a big heart and a long story that he would never burden you with, because he prefers silence. He leads an ordinary life."
The story's emphasis on complex, contradictory characters won over Hardy. 'Dennis Lehane has the ability to depict really interesting and complete characters with depth and humility and humor," he says. 'When I get a chance to play a multi-dimensional character, that's always a huge draw. And then, look at this cast. Noomi Rapace and I have been looking for projects to do together. Matthias Schoenaerts killed it in Bullhead. And then James Gandolfini was the icing on an already special cake. These are talented, funny, capable and committed people."
Tom Hardy also gives kudos to Michaël R. Roskam for endowing the film with a unique perspective. 'Michaël R. Roskam is a great bloke and a fantastic director," he continues. 'For an actor, he creates an environment that allows you to develop and facilitate the character and story by encouraging specificity and volition. The best idea always wins with Michaël R. Roskam. He wants to make great films with great characters and he delivers."
At the same time Bob finds tiny Rocco cold and covered in blood, he also meets Nadia and begins to bond with her as she teaches him how to care for the pup. 'That goes in directions I don't think the audience will expect," says Mike Larocca. 'Nadia is a lot like Bob in some ways. 'She's protecting a part of herself, but that may also be destroying her. The big question in her life is can she ever trust anybody again?"
Noomi Rapace, who plays Nadia, is in the process of building a major acting career in the U.S. after achieving enormous success in her native Sweden. 'Noomi's at a really exciting point in her career," says Mark Larocca. 'We were incredibly lucky, because she approached us, saying, -I have to play Nadia.' That kind of passion is what you want as a filmmaker."
The script sparked Noomi Rapace's initial eagerness and when she learned that Michaël R. Roskam and Tom Hardy were attached, she pursued it even more ferociously. 'After reading the script, I kept asking my manager what was happening with it," the actress recalls. 'When she told me the producers had reached out to Michaël R. Roskam, I felt it would be the perfect match. I can fall in love with a character, but I need to connect with a director. When I met with Michaël R. Roskam, I talked to him for about 10 hours."
'I told him that I thought Nadia is a very beautiful, wounded soul and we started from that," she continues. 'She's gone through a lot. It's like she's backed into a corner, living a quite protected life and sticking to the same routine. She and Bob are both quite lonely, but deep down they dream of meeting someone who understands."
Nadia is a survivor, a tough but achingly vulnerable woman trying to stand her own. 'Noomi Rapace invests a lot of herself in the character," says Michaël R. Roskam. 'We spent a great deal of time creating a whole life for Nadia that Noomi then lived every day. The character comes with a lot of baggage and Bob may not be the kind of man who can deal with that. You need to see a credible relationship between them and that took a lot of time and investment from the actors to create." The ambiguities built into Lehane's script were part of the beauty of it for Noomi Rapace. 'It is dark, but beautiful, with hope and light and dreams throughout it. These characters are full of the desire to live, and finding the puppy is the first step. She invites Bob into her house because of the dog. They become connected by something very basic."
Noomi Rapace had been watching Tom Hardy's career explode over the last few years and earmarked him as an actor to watch. 'I'd been wanting to work with Tom Hardy for a while," she says. 'He's a one-of-a-kind actor who always brought something to the table that I hadn't thought about. That forced me to dig into things, to think and to be open. Each scene could go in any direction because he has a completely different take on it."
For Tom Hardy, it was a joy to come to work with Noomi Rapace. 'Noomi Rapace is capable of doing anything she puts her mind to," says the actor. 'She's unstoppable"full of courage, truth and heart. She's incredibly supportive. If you want to put a team together, Noomi Rapace is the way to go. She keeps the flag flying when everyone else is tired and out of ideas."
As Cousin Marv, Bob's older-but-no-wiser father figure, James Gandolfini invests the character with a lived-in, streetwise weariness. 'Cousin Marv has a lot of foibles," says Topping. 'Jim Gandolfini added a level of veracity. He was a very complicated, very gifted actor and was able to provide real nuance to that character."
Working with the veteran actor at the height of his artistic powers was a profound experience for everyone involved, including Lehane, whose past collaborators have included such Oscar® winners as Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Ben Affleck and Clint Eastwood.
'Jim understood that Marv is chasing the past harder than anyone else. He used to be somebody. He blinked when some tougher guys came along and he's never gotten over it, so he's making one last-ditch effort to grab the brass ring. But he is very sadly deluded if he thinks that's going to work out well," Dennis Lehane says.
Michaël R. Roskam, a long-time of fan of the actor, says he was sometimes surprised to see James Gandolfini on set when he wasn't shooting or rehearsing. 'It was amazing to work with a guy who had such a track record. He was so experienced, and yet he would question himself so hard. I finally understood that that's how he approached every character. He started blank, like the notebook he carried with him. He analyzed the journey of his character and he wrote it all out. He allowed himself to be very vulnerable and insecure with me. I think he was afraid that I would be intimidated and tell him everything he did was good."
Tom Hardy was equally in awe of the actor. 'James Gandolfini was a talented, kind and sensitive artist," he says. 'He brought a wealth of authenticity and truthfulness to the role. It was great fun to work with him because he was a quick and funny man with a lot of heart. I don't think I would have laughed half as much with another actor on set. Very few people have the ability to be so compelling that even if you are not part of a scene, it's impossible not to watch. They're too good not to enjoy. I felt I failed Jimmy several times simply because I was enjoying watching him work when I should have been working too."
Bob's rival for Nadia's affection is Eric Deeds, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, who starred with Marion Cotillard in last year's Oscar-nominated Rust and Bone. 'Eric Deeds is the original owner of the dog and was involved with Nadia in the recent past," Dennis Lehane explains. 'He has an unhealthy fixation on her. He is also not fully in control of his faculties, which makes him the fly in the ointment for Bob."
The actor's menacing presence makes him a credible foil for Tom Hardy, an actor of intense physicality. 'We wanted Eric Deeds to be someone who could plausibly threaten Tom Hardy," says Larocca. 'And someone who could keep up with him in terms of being an actor, which Matthias certainly can. He is a big, physical guy. The scenes between the two of them are some of the most exciting ones we shot."
Deeds is something of a mystery man, according to Matthias Schoenearts. 'We don't quite know who he is or where he comes from at first. It is revealed that Eric is the owner of Rocco, but obviously, there's something more going on than just the dog. Eric is not totally defined in the screenplay, so the challenge was to create a character that we could project a lot of stuff on."
Noomi Rapace and Matthias Schoenaerts worked together to construct an elaborate backstory for their characters. 'We decided that they had a very dramatic, chaotic and sometimes violent relationship," she says. 'When Eric puts the puppy in Nadia's trash, he's screaming for help. Matthias Schoenaerts gave Eric a desperation that provided so much life and color. He's not a villain. He's not just the horrible ex-boyfriend, because we can see his sadness."
Matthias Schoenaerts' empathy for Eric extended to all of the characters in the film because, he says, they are each hiding something essential about themselves. 'They're all unhappy and ashamed of something. They come up with preposterous plans that they hope will get them out of their messes, but what they need is tenderness, genuine, honest, human tenderness. Putting that into this very intense, crime drama makes it surprising and compelling."
Even the minor characters of The Drop are vividly realised by the actors who play them, a group that includes distinguished players with a wealth of leading roles on their resumes. John Ortiz, who plays Detective Torres, lead investigator of the bar robbery, is a well-known New York stage actor and co-founder of the LAByrinth Theater Company. He has also appeared in numerous television series and films, including Silver Linings Playbook.
'John Ortiz is a great, great actor," says Mike Larocca. 'We added his plot line. We found the detective was a necessary device to help get the backstory out there and understand where they all are in the context of this world. Torres became an amazing, textured, interesting character in John Ortiz's hands, with his own arc."
Ortiz gives full credit to Lehane for creating a powerful human story full of suspense and mystery. 'The Drop is a beautiful ride into the drama of life told by an amazing writer and equally amazing director with an inspired cast," he says. 'It's about the hope that love brings between people. When it's shared, it's really powerful."
Torres is just one of the richly drawn characters in the film, according to John Ortiz. 'I feel like you could've taken any of them and followed them for a whole movie. He, like so many others in the movie, is holding back a lot as he tries to find his way between right and wrong."
A Brooklyn native, John Ortiz is impressed by the way the film captured his home turf. 'When I read this script, I knew exactly where it was set," he says. 'I know the block, I know the bar, I know the house and I know those people. It's the part of Brooklyn that hasn't been affected by gentrification yet."
James Frecheville, who collected Best Lead Actor and Best Young Actor nominations from the Australian Film Institute for his role in the crime drama Animal Kingdom, appears in The Drop as a small time thief named Fitz. 'He's a bit simple, and when things start going wrong with him, things start really going wrong," says the actor. 'He's a really straightforward dude who's trying to make some money, because he has none. He gets involved a robbery that goes well, but the next stage in the plan doesn't work out for him."
Also on hand is Broadway-veteran Michael Aronov, as Chovka, the Chechen crime boss who took over Marv's bar. 'This guy is essentially an ominous noose around the neck of the film," says Michael Aronov. 'As far as power goes, he's at the top of the food chain. He has an air of danger, but at the same time he's very refined and elegant."
'What fascinated me about the film is that all the characters, from the criminals to the police, are flawed but striving to smash through that mold," he says. 'It's about what we have the potential to be if we can overcome the obstacles. Like in life, some of us do and some of us don't."
The Animal Rescue
Despite W. C. Fields' oft-quoted warning about dogs and children, there would be no movie without Rocco. Michaël R. Roskam never considered casting any breed other than a pit bull in the role. 'He felt very strongly that there was a thematic connection between a breed that is so often misunderstood and our extremely enigmatic main character," says Topping.
Animal trainer Kim Krafsky of Animal Actors, Inc. is the go-to resource for camera-ready dogs in the New York area. Her job in the film included locating not one, but three puppies to play the tiny pit bull at the center of Bob's conflict with Eric and the catalyst for his relationship with Nadia. 'They asked what I wanted the dogs to be able to do," says Roskam. 'Simple. Just let them be dogs. It worked out perfectly. I could've turned the dog into a character with a certain personality doing funny things, but I just wanted it to be a dog."
The filmmakers selected a slate-grey variety of pit bull commonly called blue, and Kim Krafsky began 'casting" though a network of responsible breeders. 'We usually work with rescue dogs, but we had to match color and markings," she says. 'We used three different puppies because we were shooting out of sequence. T was 11 weeks old at the start of the film and Pupper was eight weeks. Because their sizes changed quickly, we also had to find another eight-week-old for the last of week of filming."
With such young dogs, Kim Krafsky says, there was not too much training she could do. 'But there were some specific things they had to do," she adds. 'There was a scene where T had to walk up and down steps, which is a big feat at 12 weeks. We just tried to make everything a game."
Kim Krafsky was glad to see a breed she has a lot of affection for represented in a positive light for once. 'Pit bulls aren't what people think," says Kim Krafsky. 'In fact, in the 1800s, they were known as nanny dogs, because they would protect a family. They were also bred for bull baiting, so the dog fighting is something people did to them. But even in the dogfighting world, they are not supposed to be aggressive toward people."
The cast quickly warmed to the three pups, as evidenced by Tom Hardy's bonding session with T, which ended up splashed across the Internet. 'The paparazzi around the set had a field day," says Larocca. 'That was our first day of production. It was a little surprising how widely and quickly that was disseminated. People are very interested in everything Tom Hardy does, I guess. They're adorable photos, any way you shake it." Brooklyn Noir
Until now, Dennis Lehane's best-selling novels and the acclaimed films adapted from them have been set squarely on his home turf: the harsh, working-class streets of Boston. While the short story that inspired The Drop revisited those familiar environs, Lehane agreed to explore new territory by changing the film's setting.
'Boston has become a victim of its own success in terms of white trash crime, if you will," says the writer. 'I'm part of the reason, because of Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone. Ben Affleck did The Town. And before any of that, Ted Demme did a movie called Monument Avenue. And of course, there's Scorsese's The Departed. It has been played out a bit."
The producers' wish list for a location was short and specific. First, they wanted an older, East Coast city. 'The other important element was that it had to be the kind of neighborhood that originally grew up around the Catholic Church and still gives great importance to that," says Larocca. 'That world is vanishing. Once we locked onto that, it had to Boston, New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh or maybe Philly."
After considering all those cities, it became clear that Bob's story was meant to unfold in Brooklyn, New York City's most populous borough and a traditionally blue-collar enclave that has welcomed generations of immigrants to America. Although recent gentrification has made areas like Park Slope and Williamsburg a destination for urban professionals and hipsters, the borough's lesser-known neighborhoods still retain their working-class roots.
The filmmakers shot throughout the borough, in areas including Windsor Terrace, with its brick row-houses traditionally owned by Irish, German, Polish and Italian-American families; Fort Greene, full of tree-lined streets and low-rise housing; Bedford-Stuyvesant, a historic hub for black residents; and the shoreline communities of Sheepshead Bay and Marine Park.
Michaël R. Roskam spent weeks location scouting, which he says was some of the most fruitful research he did for the film. 'This is outer-borough Brooklyn, which isn't something you see a lot in films. I experienced Brooklyn from bar to bar to bar and was able to observe up close how the people there live and talk. I've never seen so many bars in my life"and I like to go to bars. We met with people who told us stories about the mobsters and gangsters in their neighborhood."
The end result is an idealised, almost mythological Brooklyn built from bits and pieces of different neighborhoods. 'It absolutely has a Brooklyn attitude and feels like a community," says Mark Larocca. 'It was shot beautifully by our cinematographer, Nicolas Karakatsanis, and Michaël. The feeling is Martin Scorsese meets Frank Capra, which I think is wholly unique for a movie."
Michaël R. Roskam, who trained as a painter before coming to filmmaking, often uses the work of other visual artists as a jumping off point for his films. 'Like a painter, we are telling a story within a frame," says Michaël R. Roskam. 'What the audience sees is a play of shadows and lights. And that's painting."
Michaël R. Roskam, Karakatsanis and production designer Thérèse DePrez turned to the art of Brooklyn native George Wesley Bellows as inspiration for their film. Bellows, an acclaimed chronicler of urban life and sporting events who painted in Brooklyn in the early 20th century, is known for his expressive, boldly brushed canvases, which are considered quintessentially American, as well as uniquely evocative of Brooklyn life.
'The Metropolitan Museum happened to have a Bellows show going on at the time," says Michaël R. Roskam. 'When I saw his extraordinary color palette, I recognised that it still exists in Brooklyn today. There's a certain light that is still there. Thérèse and Nicolas nailed it in the film."
Nicolas Karakatsanis and Michaël R. Roskam have been working together since 2005, developing their own visual language. 'Michaël R. Roskam and Nicolas Karakatsanis are amazing together," says Mark Larocca. 'Michaël R. Roskam looks at each shot like a painting and composes things meticulously. That was one of the reasons we were confident that this film would have a look, a feel and a texture to it that elevated it past genre."
'I wasn't fully prepared for is how rich the film looks," says Dennis Lehane. 'I love the depth of the palette. You could take a still and hang it on your wall. He has a painter's eye and magic happens."
David Robinson, the costume designer, has lived in Brooklyn for more than 30 years, but this project gave him an opportunity to explore still unfamiliar areas of the vast borough. 'We started by looking at a lot of paintings by Vermeer and Caravaggio, because the lighting in a dark bar is a very old, warm light," he says. 'We used a lot of big colors, blues and yellows, and Michaël really loves ocher. We went to Super Bowl Sunday at Joe's Bar in Marine Park, which was an awesome bit of research. It has a really specific working-class clientele."
David Robinson developed an entirely authentic look for the characters based on his research. 'We also went to a poker party in Gravesend with a bunch of retired firemen, one of whom owns the bar we shot at," he continues. 'They all had on light washed jeans. Everything had a logo. And all their sneakers were perfectly pristine. That was the look and there was little to no variation."
Because none of the actors are from New York, the filmmakers brought in dialect coach Jerome Butler to create a cohesive accent, which was then customized for each character. 'Tom Hardy is a native English speaker, so I asked him to play a straight Brooklyn accent," says Michaël R. Roskam. 'Noomi Rapace is Swedish and I didn't mind if she had a slightly different accent. Her character might have come here at 12 or 18 and could still retain a little touch of something else, but she speaks good English. The differences are very credible and very close to the Brooklyn reality. And then there is Matthias Schoenaerts who likes to play those Brooklyn accents. He just loves doing it and he's actually really good at it, as well."
Butler, who has also worked on international productions including Noah and Zero Dark Thirty, concentrated on capturing the rhythm, the attitude and the energy of New York in the actors' speech. 'The New York dialect is instantly recognizable," he says. 'And the Brooklyn dialect has been a part of American movies from the Three Stooges, all the way through Spike Lee and Darren Aronofsky.
'Brooklyn has a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic sound and we worked with a cast that bring different sounds to the table," he explains. 'Nadia, the character that Noomi plays, speaks to the reality of Brooklyn and of the United States in general. People come from other places. They make a life. Their children grow up listening to the language that their parents spoke, and blend it with the sounds that they hear in the neighborhoods, and we have a hybrid. But they are all -from the neighborhood.'"
The Drop, Mark Larocca concludes, is movie that will offer something for every audience, from a tight and suspenseful crime saga to an intriguing mystery and a romance"plus, of course, an adorable dog. 'The audience will get to spend some time with interesting characters. The beautiful love story has a complexity that you don't find in your average genre piece, which is a testament to Dennis Lehane. It is a thrilling and emotional movie that will surprise the audience in a lot of ways."
Release Date: November 13th, 2014