| Jason Patric was drawn to the depth of the story as well as to Carnahans passion for the project. Joe knew what he wanted from the movie and he had a real, naturalistic style with the camera that he was always ratcheting up, says Patric. In that way, he not only furthered the story, but he also accentuated the struggles that all the characters were going through. |
Patric went on to admit that in order to find the character of Nick Tellis, he looked to parts of himself with which he wasnt particularly comfortable. Everybody has a certain amount of self-loathing, says the actor, and Tellis found himself in a position where he really had to stare right at his own weaknesses and come to terms with them. Often people have to go on a brutal journey to find out who they are and to get at the truth of things, whether its the truth about a murder or the truth about themselves.
One of the ways that individuals learn about themselves and grow is through other people, and from Patrics point of view, his character hooks up with Ray Liottas character, Henry Oak, as part of his journey to understand life and death.
Tellis and Oak dont have much in common, observes Patric, other than theyre both trying to find an inner peace. In doing so, Tellis goes at things intellectually, while Oak goes at life by his gut.
Ray Liotta, who stars as the volatile Henry Oak and also serves as one of the films producers, says that there are many sides to this very intense, very angry homicide detective and that portraying such a multifaceted individual was a challenge he relished.
Oak is a very moral guy, and although some of his actions dont show it, hes really acting from his heart, observes Liotta. Hes haunted by a love he has lost -- his wife who passed away -- and oddly enough, he feels that after her death he became a better cop because he no longer had attachments that made him hesitate in dangerous situations.
Liotta agrees with Patric that his character is very different from that of Tellis, but he does believe that the two men do share one thing in common -- obsession.
Oak does things his own way. Hes very old school and he wants to go at everything very directly and sometimes forcefully, says Liotta. Tellis is more of a thinker. Like Oak, he takes his job very seriously, but Tellis is more into piecing together the puzzle and trying to figure out exactly how things happened.
Both officers are obsessed with solving the murder of a man who appears only briefly in the film but is the central focus of it. He is the slain officer and Oaks former partner, Michael Calvess, portrayed by Alan Van Sprang. According to Liotta, it is Calvess and Tellis who are really most alike.
Theres a parallel between these guys, observes Liotta. Both get too deeply into their jobs, too deeply into the drug scene, and both start to become what they are chasing. Unfortunately for Calvess, he doesnt come back; he ends up dead, and my character becomes too deeply involved with the family he left behind. So, while Oak may seem to be flying off the handle, theres a method to his madness. Theres a deep love thats fueling his intensity.
Liotta adds that he was very excited in particular to take on Oaks character because hed never played anyone quite like him before and the part allowed him to become a completely different persona mentally, emotionally and especially physically.
Usually for various roles Im working out like crazy, but to play the character of Oak, I needed to look like a guy who was so obsessed hed let himself go physically, explains Liotta. The way Joe wrote the part, Oak was a big, bruising fellow -- heavy not only emotionally but physically. I trusted Joes instincts completely, and ended up not even looking like myself.
Carnahan couldnt have been happier with Liottas performance, adding that he was really gratified by how Liotta took it upon himself to literally embody the character.
Rays a good looking guy and the camera just loves him, says Carnahan. And here I asked him to completely transform his look, aging himself 10 to 15 years and putting on 30 pounds. With Rays performance and Jasons, I really believe I have two of the finest actors of their respective generations in my film. I feel very fortunate to have guys of their magnitude working with me.
Carnahan also points out that without Liotta there would be no Narc, at least not the film he wanted to direct. Ray stood behind the project the whole way, says Carnahan. He gave of himself not just as an actor, but as a producer and as a friend. It was wonderful how he completely believed in me and the film.
In addition to the two main stars, Narc has an excellent supporting cast that includes Busta Rhymes and Richard Chevolleau, who play Beery and Steeds, the two main suspects to Calvess murder. Together, along with a host of fine actors who portray informants, dealers, junkies and all types of people involved in the gritty drug scene, these intricate performances add layers to the film and take audiences into a world most have never been to before.
Carnahan says that Rhymes and Chevolleau had particularly challenging roles in that for most of the time theyre on screen, theyre chained to chairs and seated back to back.
I told them that essentially I was going to take away everything they had, explains Carnahan. I wanted them to feel like they had nothing left but their force of will and their guile, and then I was going to have them go fifteen rounds with Ray Liotta. And God bless them, these actors rose to the challenge.
Known primarily as a rap artist, Busta Rhymes says that he brought the same aggressiveness he uses in performing his music to the role of Beery.
My character is a hustler, a real street guy, says Rhymes. I think that even though hes kind of a bad guy, a drug dealer, hes not all black or white. In fact, the whole script is really incredible. No one is as they seem on the surface, and I felt that every time I expected something to happen or someone to act in a particular way, I was always surprised.
Nothing about this film is clearly identifiable as good or evil, right or wrong, says Jason Patric. Its about people on various journeys who face scary things along the way.
The whole movie is very heartfelt, add Ray Liotta. Its definitely much more complex than your average thriller.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Joe Carnahans Narc has the distinction of being the first feature film launched by Tiara Blu Films, a production company founded by Ray Liotta, Michelle Grace and Diane Nabatoff. According to Liotta, the minute it came across his desk, he recognized it as a great project to launch the company.
The script is so smartly written, the story is so solid, and Joe Carnahan has such a passion for the film that Michelle, Diane and I thought it was a great way to start off Tiara Blu, says Liotta. Joes got a great future in filmmaking and we were proud to come aboard to help him start living his dream.
Producer Diane Nabatoff feels the same way. Joes script is incredibly well-written. It hits you right in the gut, says Nabatoff. Its edgy, raw and honest. While it looks like a regular story leading toward a singular goal, all the characters have different agendas that are in conflict with one another, making the film a lot more complex than it first appears. Thats the genius of Joe.
Known for backing new filmmakers, such as E. Elias Merhige (Shadow of the Vampire and the upcoming Suspect Zero) and Alejandro Amenábar (The Others and Abre Los Ojos, upon which Vanilla Sky was based), the veteran producers of the Mission Impossible blockbusters, Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner of Cruise/Wagner Productions, came aboard to support Joe Carnahan and see that Narc receives the attention and recognition it deserves.
I enjoy movies, not just making them, but watching them as well. I also enjoy helping other filmmakers, especially those as dedicated to the art of filmmaking as Joe Carnahan, says Cruise. When I saw Narc for the first time, I was struck by the raw intensity the almost voyeuristic approach Joe took in telling this story.
Narc is one of those rare films that comes along and grabs you, adds Wagner. When you finish watching it, you know youve just experienced something very special.
Commenting on the exceptional acting in the film, Cruise goes on to say that Ray Liotta and Jason Patric are a powerhouse team and they play off of each other so beautifully that I forgot I was watching a film. Joes use of their combined talents to drive the story is nothing short of brilliant. Its a thrill for me to be lending my support to this project.
Wagner agrees wholeheartedly: Tom and I are proud to support a film of this caliber, which showcases the extraordinary performances of Jason Patric and Ray Liotta. Joe Carnahan has certainly made one of the most innovative and fresh films I have seen, and as a new director, he has one of the most unique voices in cinema today. The off-screen story of how Narc was made, adds Wager, demonstrates how a filmmakers passion can drive through the most difficult circumstances in order to make a project not only survive but thrive. The passion guts and talent of everyone involved with this film is truly inspiring.
To writer/director Joe Carnahan, the arduous journey of having Narc come to fruition was like a phoenix rising, and as far as he is concerned, Ray Liotta really pulled it from the ashes, throwing himself into the project and going to bat to get it financed.
We had a great script and a great new director with a real vision, says Liotta. But the behind-the-scenes stuff of getting an independent movie made is extremely challenging, even when its as good as this one.
Producer Nabatoff couldnt agree more, adding that Narc was probably one of the hardest films to get off the ground, but also one of the most gratifying projects with which shes ever been involved.
Two weeks into filming, we were told we had no money. Because of a delay in paperwork, our bank loan did not come through on time, remembers Nabatoff. As we tried to piece together enough to make payroll each week, we were constantly on the verge of shutting down. Ray, Jason, Joe and I all deferred our salaries, and thankfully, the crew hung in there with us until the end.
Shooting for 27 days in the dead of winter at different locations off the beaten path in Toronto, Carnahan and his crew spent 10 of those days working primarily on the last scene in the movie in which the mystery finally unfolds through a series of shocking flashbacks. Set in an actual chop shop that, according to Nabatoff, hit 16 degrees below zero, the intense scene was complete with actual grime dripping from the ceiling that the production crew did not have to manufacture. It was just one of the many powerful sequences that NYPD Detective Todd Merritt, who acted as an advisor on the film, says is very realistic.
Merritt, who has been with the police force since 1986 and on the narcotics squad for the past nine years has been undercover himself on many occasions, chasing down suspected drug dealers and junkies through back alleys and the streets of New York. Today, he sets up drug deals and sends in the team of undercover narcotics officers that he supervises to make the buys.
My job as advisor on the film was to get the actors head into the game, says Merritt. I explained the psychology of what it means to be a narc and discussed tactics and body language. In the end, I think the film as a whole turned out absolutely great and I found it to be very believable from beginning to end.
Merritt added that he also felt that the family life depicted in Narc was right on target. You see, most undercovers are paranoid because, while they may be working from the right side of the fence, theyre doing it from the wrong side of the fence, and they think that at any minute theyre going to be found out. That has an effect on their home life. In fact, Ive seen a lot of wives act just the way Nick Tellis wife acts in the film -- scared.
The issue of narcs actually getting addicted themselves at times is also quite realistic according to Merritt. An undercover will try to talk his way out of having to ingest anything, but sometimes it cant be helped. When it does happen, an officer immediately reports the incident and can be removed from active duty for up to a month. In the case of an officer getting addicted, its different from state to state. For example, in New York, an addicted officer is immediately suspended and thats it, says Merritt. But in Detroit, where this film is set, they have rehab centers where they send narcs who get themselves in too deep.
Joe Carnahan, who grew up around Detroit, wanted to set Narc in that area because his recollections of the Michigan city were very dark, industrial and cold, a feeling he believes lends itself perfectly to this kind of story.
Im a big fan of classic 70s cop films, says Carnahan, and I wanted that gritty feel to the film. Fortunately, I had an amazing crew to help me get the look I wanted. Alex Nepomniaschy is an immensely talented cinematographer.
Nepomniaschy, who lensed the critically acclaimed Safe, which won the 1995 Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography, shot approximately 75% of the film with a hand-held camera, adding to the films edgy, raw look. He also used lighting effects that gave the movie an overall grayness.
I wanted the film to have that roughness movies had 25 or 30 years ago, says Carnahan. Alexs magic really created the world I wanted to capture.
Co-production designer Greg Beale, responsible for turning the locations in Toronto into Carnahans vision of Detroit, says that his biggest challenge was creating the set for the climactic scene in the chop shop.
We found an actual warehouse that was used exactly for that purpose -- to dismantle cars and sell off their parts -- then we augmented the place with some high-end stuff, says Beale. For example, we brought in recognizable cars like BMWs, and we even dragged in the front end of a Lamborghini. On the outside of the building, I had scenic artists paint a bunch of graffiti, but not just any graffiti -- we did research about the style of artwork local Detroit gangs use and we created facsimiles of their symbols so that people who know Detroit would recognize them.
Music Supervisor Brian Ross worked closely with Carnahan to give Narc an undercurrent of music that added a hint of tension and brought to mind inner conflict.
I went pretty out there, admits Ross, adding that they had two ways to go, with big names or with artists on the fringe who were not as well known in the mainstream. We chose the latter because we didnt want to detract from the subtle nuances of the characters and dialogue in the film. While we did use three well-known artists -- Tricky, Geto Boys and Busta Rhymes (who plays Beery in the film) -- we also feature lesser known groups like Corporate Avenger and SX-10, to add that extra edgy rock feel.
According to Ross, Carnahan even wanted the End Credits to give off a particular feeling, and so he used a song called Provoked to go over them. Written by the Baby Namboos and featuring Tricky, the song is called industrial/trance music and it creates a hypnotic effect.
The final song has a feeling that helps to create emotional closure for the film, explains Ross. Its not a happy song but not bleak either, its reflective. Its the kind of song that helps you to think about what you just saw.
Paramount Pictures and Lions Gate Films present Narc, a Cruise/Wagner Production in association with Splendid Pictures, Emmett Furla Films, A Julius R. Nasso Production and Tiara Blu Films. A Joe Carnahan Film, Narc is written and directed by Joe Carnahan and stars Jason Patric, Ray Liotta, Busta Rhymes and Chi McBride. The film is produced by Diane Nabatoff, Ray Liotta, Michelle Grace and Julius R. Nasso and executive produced by Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner and David C. Glasser. Additional executive producers are Randall Emmett, George Furla, Peter Block, Michael Z. Gordon, Jeff G. Waxman and Adam Stone. Co-executive producers are Carol Gillson, Brian R. Keathley, Andy Emilio, Jed Baron and Michael S. Grayson. Tony Grazia serves as line producer.
Paramount Pictures is part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc., one of the worlds largest entertainment and media companies and a leader in the production, promotion and distribution of entertainment, news, sports and music.
This film is rated R by the MPAA for strong brutal violence, drug content and pervasive language.
Release: 7 Feb
Run Time: 1hour 46mins