GOING IN STYLE
About The Movie
THE SET UP
There's only so much a guy can take, before he has to do something about it.
Sometimes in a way no one ever sees coming. Take Willie, Joe, and Al, played by
three of the world's most accomplished and revered actors: Morgan Freeman,
Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin. These big-hearted, upstanding Brooklynites with a
friendship forged on the assembly line at Semtech Steel never saw themselves as
the kind of men who would dare to rob a bank.
Of course, they never thought their bank would rob them.
Now they're mad as hell. Screwed over by the pension and mortgage systems and
convinced they have nothing left to lose, these late-blooming, would-be criminal
masterminds throw in together for a one-time plunge into a risky, unfamiliar-and
oddly invigorating-world of split-second timing, disguises and getaway cars.
Syncing their alibis, they prep to pull the perfect heist and take back what's
theirs if it's the last thing they do. No more, no less.
They're pushing their luck. They're pushing the limit. They're also pushing
80...but that doesn't matter, because standing up for yourself never gets old.
A fun and fast-paced comedy with both heart and bite, "Going in Style" showcases
the remarkable star power of film legends Freeman, Caine, and Arkin, together on
screen for the first time, along with a stellar supporting cast led by the
one-and-only Ann-Margret and Christopher Lloyd.
"Ted Melfi's script has so many funny twists and turns and surprising reveals.
He's a fantastic storyteller," says director Zach Braff. "Plus, you're watching
some of the true Hollywood greats, which was a real pleasure for me, and I know
audiences will appreciate how beautifully they balance the comedy and action
with some of the more touching, soulful moments that are also an important part
of the story. I love these guys. Who doesn't? They really make you believe that
these characters have been best friends for 40 years, weathered the highs and
lows and have each other's backs."
"I get scripts all the time, but this one was special," Caine affirms. "I loved
the fact that it was a comedy, which I rarely get, and also the quality of the
relationships. It's a very charming film, and very funny, but it has depth. And
it was a chance to work with Morgan and Alan and, really, from an actor's point
of view, how much better can it get than that?"
Citing their undeniable chemistry, Freeman adds, "I think because we were
clearly enjoying what we were doing, that comes through on the screen."
Played largely for laughs, "Going in Style" also strikes a note of genuine
outrage over the machinations of big business, which might ring true for a wide
audience-many of whom, like Joe, Willie and Al, have felt the pinch of
disappearing benefits and bait-and-switch loans, and fallen into the breach
between what they were promised and what they got.
"You can imagine," says Arkin, "if someone worked their whole life and counted
on the company they worked for to honor that commitment, and it doesn't, that
even someone who'd never had a criminal thought in their lives would become
enraged. I can completely understand why these three guys go ballistic and do
what they do."
In that respect, notes producer Donald De Line, "The story is as relevant today
as it was when the original movie debuted, if not more so." He cites that 1979
film, directed by Martin Brest as a jumping-off point for the new film, saying,
"This is not a remake, but a modern take on a premise that stands the test of
time. The system often doesn't work, whether it's pensions or insurance or the
banks. My father was with a company for years and retired with a pension that
was suddenly reduced by half when that company was taken over. These things
happen all the time."
For all its bounce and banter, when it comes to real issues the story doesn't
pull its punches. "We have some very funny stuff happening," says Braff, "but
the reality of their situation and its stakes are played straight and honestly,
and I don't think you can help being moved by the prospect of these three men
suddenly struggling for a way to survive."
The audacious plan they concoct may be the ultimate wish fulfillment for
audiences, offering none of the risks, and a lot of vicarious rewards. Says De
Line, "It's immensely satisfying because you're rooting for them to succeed, and
you can see the energy and vitality it gives them. It's the most exciting thing
they've done in years....maybe ever."
"I think audiences respond to people getting even," offers screenwriter Theodore
Melfi. "We had to approach it in a comedic way because what they're doing is a
crime, but what's been done to them is also a crime. I have a big thing about
justice and about people getting their due. For me, these guys are clearly in
the right. They've worked 40 years and their pension is stripped from them. And
what happens to Joe with his mortgage is a perfect example of the salesmanship
of a bank officer to profit the bank, without regard to its customers."
One of the ways Melfi modernized the story, he says, was "to make it more
action-oriented and make the heist the crux of it, whereas the original focused
more on its aftermath." Additionally, he introduced an element of romance with
the upbeat, hot-blooded Annie, played by Ann-Margret, opposite the cautious,
cynical Al, because, "I wanted to explore the idea of love and sex in later
life. That's very much a part of life that you rarely see acknowledged."
Moreover, Melfi provided a fuller back-story for the leads, fleshing out their
histories, family connections and daily lives in readily relatable ways. For
example, "Joe is basically a father figure to his granddaughter, Brooklyn, whose
father is absent. She and her mother live with him, which is a current trend,
with multi-generational families living in the same house. And Willie and Al
share a place, which is one way that older people are getting by."
"This movie really has everything," says Ann-Margret, whose role in the story
brings a note of sweetness and more than a little fire. "You laugh. You identify
with each character. You get involved, and then the warmth and the poignancy
hits you, and you're left with a good feeling at the end. I even got a tear in
Rounding out the main cast, Joey King stars as Joe's beloved, whip-smart
granddaughter, Brooklyn. Peter Serafinowicz stars as Brooklyn's father, Murphy,
whose unsavory pot clinic connections might finally prove useful to Joe and his
pals, and John Ortiz as Jesus, a shady character who agrees to show the novice
bank robbers the ropes. Matt Dillon stars as persistent FBI Agent Hamer, and
Christopher Lloyd is the guys' well-intentioned but somewhat scattered lodge
"I think this story captures the zeitgeist," Braff suggests. "It definitely
touches on the way corporations can screw the little guy. But first and foremost
it's a comedy about three men taking back their power: guys who've never
committed a crime in their lives, who've never done anything this crazy and
dangerous, but who find their backs against the wall and decide that if they're
going to do something about it, they're going to go very, very big."
Every great plan starts with the spark of inspiration. Or in this case, the
spark of a semi-automatic, discharging at close range.
Joe, who is destined to become the de facto ringleader of this unlikely caper,
is stuck at Williamsburg Savings one morning, listening to a condescending
customer rep ("Ray Donovan's" Josh Pais) explain why his mortgage payment
suddenly tripled. That's when masked gunmen burst in to rob the place. A captive
audience, Joe observes the gang's flawless choreography and the ease with which
they take what they want and quickly vanish. It doesn't seem all that difficult
to him: a few minutes' work for a multi-million-dollar payoff.
Later, recounting the experience to his buddies, Joe half-jokingly floats the
notion that the three of them could do just as good a job. They scoff. But days
later, after the staggering news that their pensions have been suspended-their
futures, in effect, pulled out from under them-the idea starts to look a little
less insane and a lot more doable.
Adding to Joe's resolve is the fact that his family relies on him to help keep a
roof over their heads. Says Caine, "He has a granddaughter whom he adores, and
her mom is a single mother who works very hard but it's not enough. Joe is just
trying to make the payments and keep it all going. But now the bank is going to
foreclose on the house and they have to be out in 20 days."
Willie is also a proud father and grandfather, though his connection is long
distance. He cherishes his Skype calls and wishes he could make the trip West
more often to visit. Only Al, a longtime widower, is without close family, and
for that, Willie and Joe fill the gap.
Says Arkin, "Al's an ex jazz musician who never had much of a career, so he
worked in a factory to support his habit of being a musician. That's where he
met these two other guys who became his lifelong friends."
"They pretty much just hang out together," says Freeman outlining the trio's
typical agenda. "They do the same things, go to the same places to eat, have the
same conversations, and go to the same lodge. They play bocce ball together and
watch television. Then one day Joe says, 'I'm thinking about robbing a bank.' Of
course, his buddies think he's lost his mind. But they're not exactly friends of
the bank at this point. So they kind of warm to the idea. And after all that's
been done to them, they finally decide, 'Why not?'"
"Morgan brings immediate warmth and likeability to the role," says De Line. "He
always has a twinkle in his eye and a great sense of humor that's just beneath
the surface no matter the circumstances. On the other hand, Albert is the
pessimist and curmudgeon of the group. Alan Arkin, one of the most brilliant
comic actors working today, gives him a funny, cynical, neurotic edge that
really balances out the other two. Yet for all that, Al brings his own measure
of warmth. And Michael Caine, as the instigator, lends just the right amount of
humanity, along with a sly sense of humor and the attitude to make you believe
this is actually going to happen."
"It's so interesting to watch these distinct characters come to life," says
Braff. "Sometimes it's the small, subtle things that reveal so much, and these
three are very aware that you can create tiny moments of great impact by doing
just what's needed and no more. There's an understanding with these guys, and a
trust that they know the camera is going to pick up those small details to evoke
something powerful. I've learned so much, watching and working with them."
As it happens, the bank job will coincide with their lodge's annual fundraising
carnival for the community's children, for which the guys are already committed
to work. It might look suspicious if they all bail together, so they'll have to
figure out a way to work around their respective shifts. Not that the event's
organizer, Milton, would be likely to notice
Christopher Lloyd stars as Milton, their Knights of Hudson lodge brother and the
person perhaps least qualified to organize anything. "Milton has a great spirit,
he's gung-ho about things and a good friend, but he has just reached the point
where he can't remember a damn thing," says Braff.
Milton's heart is in the right place even if his mind is often elsewhere. But
for all his missed cues and non sequiturs there's a core dignity that remains.
As Lloyd sees it, "He's a sweet old guy. Milton is easily disoriented and makes
mistakes, and he's getting a little deficient in the hearing department, too.
But he's still empowered with controlling and organizing things, which is
something he takes a great deal of pride in. Milton's just doing his thing,
trying to make sure people are adhering to the rules and regulations, sticking
to the schedule. It's his function. I loved the role and really relished the
challenge of pulling it off."
Says De Line, "To have someone as funny and unique as Christopher Lloyd join the
project was incredibly exciting. He made us laugh constantly. Zach let him
improvise and Christopher kept coming up with something completely genius."
As Willie, Joe and Albert get down to business, it occurs to them that once
they've recovered the amount they're owed, any unforeseen overflow could go to
benefit the kids. Not only that, but if they work it right, the carnival itself
could provide the perfect cover, and Milton, bless his befuddled heart, could be
the best possible person to "confirm" their whereabouts.
THE PRACTICE RUN
But before they fully commit themselves, they have to be sure they're up to the
job. They need a rehearsal to gauge their strengths and weaknesses, which leads
to a grocery shoplifting fiasco that ranked among everyone's favorite scenes. As
De Line relates, "Willie, Joe and Al hit the local market, thinking they'll
start small and try to steal a few things. And they're terrible at it. They have
no idea what they're doing; they drop things, they make bad choices...there's a
lot of physical comedy."
"The hardest part was trying to hide the pork roast in my pants, and then
there's the business of running around the parking lot with a dozen eggs in my
shirt," says Freeman.
As Willie and Joe roam the aisles of the Value Town, randomly stuffing items
into their clothing, they manage to not miss a single security camera.
Meanwhile, designated getaway driver Albert gets bored and overheated in the car
and leaves his post, forcing his two pals, now laden with contraband, to
improvise an escape.
Picking up the narrative, Caine says, "Joe hijacks a woman's motorized cart with
a shopping basket on the front and forces Willie to sit in the basket as they
try to outrun security, out to the street and into traffic. It's a classic
Watching them in action-for lack of a better word-is store manager Keith, played
with comic understatement by Kenan Thompson. At first incredulous at what he is
seeing, Keith is ultimately more entertained than offended by the performance,
but he still has a job to do. It becomes a hilarious confrontation that will
surely rate among the film's most memorable moments. But what Keith never
suspects is that isn't even close to being their end game.
"Morgan pretty much hung out in the basket all day," Braff recalls of the shoot.
"Nobody disappeared into their trailers between takes. Michael did a fair amount
of stunt driving, steering the cart through traffic and around a bus that cuts
in front of him. I had allowed for about three-quarters of it being stunt work
but these guys did most of it. They were really game."
If it looks like they were having fun, they were.
Freeman and Caine have worked together several times, most recently on "The Dark
Knight" trilogy. "They already had a banter, and Alan was the new guy, but he
fell right into it," offers Braff. "They'd all riff and laugh together and
sometimes I'd just keep the camera rolling because if I didn't yell 'Cut,'
they'd just stay in character and keep going with the scene, and we'd get
wonderful, funny stuff. It was great watching these actors, at the top of their
game, playing around."
It's a spirit they happily extended to include their director. Says Freeman,
"Part of our dynamic might have been how we could tease Zach. He's quick, and he
knows what he wants, which is very good, but at the same time he's not adamant
about things. So sometimes we'd say, 'No, I'm not doing that,' just to pull his
leg and see how he'd react. But Zach would always call our bluff."
What this crew needs is professional help. Luckily, Joe knows a guy. He's sure
that Brooklyn's deadbeat dad, Murphy, is just the kind of lowlife pothead who
might have a few bona fide criminals in his contact list and could hook them up
without asking too many questions.
Murphy, played by British actor/comedian Peter Serafinowicz with a flawless
Yankee accent, is currently managing a medical marijuana dispensary-presumably
his first-ever legit job. He's doing okay, though apparently not well enough to
cough up some of his delinquent child support payments. The last person he wants
to see walk into his shop, other than maybe a cop, is Joe, because that always
means a lecture.
In fact, Joe's motive for contacting Murphy is twofold. Yes, he and his friends
need someone to help them plan a robbery but he also hopes to persuade the
fundamentally decent but perpetually adolescent Murphy into taking
responsibility for his daughter. What if the job goes sideways and they end up
in jail? Who will be there for Brooklyn?
In the role of 14-year-old Brooklyn, the director cast Joey King, then 16. "The
part was written younger, and for a boy, but I thought it would be interesting
to see the relationship of a grandfather trying to keep up with an energetic,
teenage girl, so Ted rewrote it for Joey," Braff says. "I first met Joey on Sam
Raimi's 'Oz the Great and Powerful,' and I thought, 'This little girl is
something special.' Then I cast her in 'Wish I Was Here.' She's a phenomenal
"Joe and Brooklyn have a great, loving connection," says King. "They're more
like best friends than grandfather and granddaughter, and are always having
discussions. It's such a sweet rapport. He's proud of how smart she is and he's
always looking toward her future, and she really brings out his fun and youthful
side. Plus, they're protective of each other."
As Joe entertains the idea of knocking off the bank-win or lose-what's foremost
on his mind is how it will affect Brooklyn. And that brings him to Murphy.
"Murphy would describe himself as an entrepreneur but he's really just a loser,"
Serafinowicz concedes. "He's useless-a man-child who hasn't grown up and hasn't
accepted the fact that he has a child of his own. He's always late with the
support payments and feels guilty about that, but not guilty enough to do
anything about it. So it's like the girl doesn't have a father at all. He's not
a bad guy, really; he just needs to man up."
"Peter is known for bigger and broader comedy and he had to dial it down to be a
kind of straight man for Michael Caine, but somehow he's no less funny," states
On sharing the screen with one of his acting heroes, Serafinowicz declares,
"Michael Caine is in a whole different league. Not only is he legendary, he's a
delightful person. Still, I was terrified to meet him. Fortunately for the film,
my character is supposed to be nervous around Joe, because he's always making
Murphy feel inferior, so I drew a lot on that."
Whether or not Murphy has it in him to be the man Joe expects him to be, he at
least provides the help the guys are looking for: a mysterious character named
Jesus, with a long rap sheet and, inexplicably, an even longer list of abandoned
animals he cares for. For a cut, Jesus agrees to coach the amateurs in
everything from timing to casing their mark, to getting away clean. Lesson one
might be the hardest: how to text.
John Ortiz, who stars as the enigmatic Jesus, suggests, "He's not a typical
criminal type. He's a loner who has likely survived every adversity of inner
city life, and although his rough exterior inspires fear, he acts with empathy."
Whatever his cut is, it can't be enough for this job.
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