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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 my eye."

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 buddy, Milton.

"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."

THE PLAN

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 low-speed chase."

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."

THE PROFESSIONAL

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 actress."

"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 Braff.

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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