MPAA: R for violence, pervasive language and some sexual content
Run time: 90 minutes
U.S. Release Date: November 13, 2015 (In Theaters and On Demand)
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SYNOPSIS When their attempt to rob a casino owned by the feared gangster Pope (Robert De Niro) goes awry and a shootout ensues, Vaughn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Cox (Dave Bautista) are forced to flee on foot and hijack city Bus 657 and take the passengers hostage. Now, in a high speed chase, Vaughn will not only have to outwit the police, led by Officer Bajos (Gina Carano) who are in hot pursuit, but he will have to contend with Pope’s maniacal right hand man, Dog (Morris Chestnut), in order to make it through the day alive. But we quickly learn that things are not what they seem, and Vaughn has more than one card up his sleeve. HEIST will be released by Lionsgate Premiere in theaters and On Demand November 13th, 2015.
Lionsgate Premiere, Grindstone Entertainment Group and Emmett Furla Oasis Films present in association with The Fyzz Facility, in association with RPI, LLC, an Emmett Furla Oasis Films production, in association with Silver Plane Films, Trivision Pictures, Inc. and Mass Hysteria Entertainment Company, Inc., a film by Scott Mann.
PLANNING A CRACKERJACKHEIST When screenwriter Stephen Cyrus Sepher, who also co-stars in the film as Dante, conceived of HEIST, he was envisioning a thriller “where the heist and the crime occur in different places.” Inspired by the clever, stylish Rat Pack movies starring Frank Sinatra and Sepher’s hero Dean Martin as icy cool rogues, which gave rise to the popular Ocean’s Eleven casino heist films with George Clooney and Brad Pitt, Sepher set out to write an homage, but one that incorporated other types of thrillers as well. HEIST kicks things off with an inside job, but then it segues into an out-of-control chase that tips its hat to Speed, all along navigating the kinds of sharp turns and deceptions that made The Usual Suspects and The Sting must-see-twice movies.
For Producer Randall Emmett (Everest, Lone Survivor), the co-founder of Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO) with longtime producing partner George Furla, the story of a casino heist-turned-bus hijacking had all the elements of a crowd-pleasing action thriller. With its ticking clock, pulsating action, and rich characters in high dramatic stakes, HEIST had enough to make for a true roller-coaster ride of a movie.
“I personally enjoy films like HEIST,” says actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, (upcoming Desierto, The Adventures of Beatle) who portrays card dealer and father Luke Vaughn. “I like films where you just settle in with a box of popcorn for some thrills, a few surprises, a couple of good laughs, and enjoy the ride. That’s what HEIST is – it’s fun.”
When director Scott Mann (The Tournament) first read HEIST, he responded immediately to the suspense and action, but quickly noticed another crucial element that grounded the material -- a diverse cast of relatable characters who develop and change over the course of the film.
“It’s hard enough to develop characters in a typical action film when you only have lots of action pieces and only few characters and a lot of faceless bad guys,” Mann said. “But showing character development is even more difficult to do with a lot of characters, combined with all the time devoted to the action. In HEIST, the characters really are the spine -- the backbone -- of what drives the story’s action.”
The focus on character is what attracted Oscar®-winning actor and filmmaker Robert De Niro, who signed on to star as casino owner and criminal boss Frank “The Pope” Pope, a man driven by principles to do cruel things, but torn by where such a lifestyle has left him. Scott Mann came on board to direct HEIST shortly after De Niro was cast and the two immediately began discussing ways to further define and deepen the characters. “Working with Bob is great because he understands the importance of character to story,” said Mann. “He got really involved from the start – working through the characters and storyline for several weeks with lots of discussion, sorting out the heart and bones of the film.”
Mann next brought in screenwriter Max S. Adams (the upcoming Extraction, PreciousCargo) to further flesh out the motivations of the script’s many characters, and to take advantage of the heist-turned-hijacking scenario to add a few more story curves that deepen the duplicity and entanglement.
“I loved a lot of the original elements of the story – it had that Ocean’s 11 feel with a little bit of The Usual Suspects,” said Adams. “So, we took those elements and focused on further developing the characters and action pieces, fleshing them out, getting the characters from one place to the next in a way that was organic, suspenseful and unpredictable.
THE PLAYERS AT THE TABLE Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Luke Vaughn When we meet Luke Vaughn, he’s performing one of the card tricks that have made him one of The Swan’s most popular dealers. Whether he’s got the skillful dexterity and sleight-of-hand to pull off the ultimate heist – against a dangerous man who’s almost a father figure to him is another thing. The filmmakers of Heist needed an actor who could embody Vaughn’s mix of strength and vulnerability, desperation and cunning, a hard-working guy who might just have an ace up his sleeve. According to director Scott Mann, that actor was Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
“Morgan’s ability to show a range of emotions at once and so well, with such depth and complexity, really makes the character shine,” says the director. “He captures Vaughn’s loneliness and despair as well as his devotion, cleverness and determination.”
Morgan sees in Vaughn a guy driven by the best of impulses, even if what he’s trying to do could threaten everything he has. “I think more than anything, it was Vaughn’s desperation to help his daughter that pushed him into the heist,” said Morgan. “While there exists a little element of revenge in taking the Pope’s ill-gotten gains, it’s really just this need, and when an opportunity arises to get it, Vaughn takes it.”
“Jeffrey is one of these actors with this weight, a gravitas about him,” says screenwriter Max Adams. “You easily believe him as a man acting from strength, and also a man who has this angry vulnerability about him. He’s the kind of actor that can say a lot with just a look, a turn, without uttering a single word.”
Morgan came to HEIST straight from the Mexico set of the action-drama Desierto, following a whirlwind work schedule of back-to-back films (The Adventures of Beatle, Solace, The Salvation, Texas Rising).A busy and popular leading man, Morgan also co-stars in two acclaimed CBS series, “Extant” and “The Good Wife”. Director Mann had nothing but high praise for Morgan’s performance and tireless work ethic.
“Jeff is in almost every scene of the film, and that is a lot to carry, especially in an action film shot completely out of sequence in bits and pieces,” said the director. “We shot at night six-days a week with two units going over a couple of weeks, and Jeffrey was so thorough, hard-working and such a professional. He’s a fantastic actor.”
His co-stars agreed. Not only does bus driver Bernie take note of Vaughn’s unusual sympathy for a hijacker, but actor D.B. Sweeney understood why Morgan was playing him. “There’s something else going on with Vaughn,” said Sweeney, “how he stops Cox from shooting the police officer and passengers, how he tries to keep everyone calm and safe. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a very good, subtle actor, so I enjoyed playing those scenes with him.”
Robert De Niro as Frank Pope Vaughn’s antagonist is Frank “The Pope” Pope. Pope is more than just a businessman – he’s a demanding boss, a regretful father, a cruel and merciless kingpin, which means he’s a guy you certainly don’t want to be on the wrong side of. When $3 million is stolen from his illegal empire on the eve of his retirement, he sets in motion a hard-hitting plan for payback, pitting one surrogate son – his enforcer, Dog – against another, Vaughn, the man who robbed him. Who else to bring so complicated and powerful a figure to life than the actor who rewrote the playbook on silver screen tough guys: Robert De Niro.
During his five-decade career and with more than 100 films to his credit, actor and filmmaker Robert De Niro has become one of the most celebrated, recognizable and respected actors in film. In 2009, De Niro received the coveted Kennedy Centers Honor for his distinguished acting and in 2011 he received the Cecil B. De Mille Award at the Golden Globes®. His more than 65 award nominations and 50 wins include seven Oscar® nominations and two Academy Awards® for films such as The Godfather-Part II, Raging Bull, Silver Linings Playbook, Goodfellas, Casino, The Untouchables, Awakenings and Taxi Driver.Getting a chance to work with the legendary “actor’s actor” De Niro is a professional milestone for most performers and filmmakers, who are thrilled to have the chance to work with “Bob.”
Bosworth was especially excited to work with De Niro on the emotional and pivotal scene between father and daughter. “It was the last scene he did for the movie and I thought it was an interesting one for him,” said Bosworth. “It was an incredible honor to work with him because I grew up with his movies, studied every single frame of his films, which include some of the greatest performances of all time. To be able to sit across the table from him, be strong, be valuable and ride the roller coaster of a really great scene with him is an incredible experience for me.”
Actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar (upcoming Precious Cargo, NBC’s “People Are Talking”) had his own pinch-me moment when he found himself acting with De Niro in the first scene on his first day shooting HEIST. “I’ve been in the industry for more than 30 years,” said Gosselaar, who plays police Det. Thomas Marconi. “And working with Robert De Niro is absolutely a career highlight for me. It was awesome.”
“He’s a legend, an icon, so it’s really been a learning experience for me,” said Morris Chestnut, who plays Pope’s right-hand-man and successor, called Dog. “Because of my character, I was lucky to have a lot of scenes with him. He’s a great actor and I had a great time.”
Director Scott Mann admits he was “slightly nervous” stepping on to the set that first day with the award-winning screen legend. “You always have to tiptoe into the director-actor relationship in those first days anyway,” he said, “but Bob is a total professional, obviously, and working with him was amazing.”
Screenwriter Max S. Adams says listening and watching De Niro speak words he wrote is something he wouldn’t have imagined a few years ago when he serving in the army. Notes Adams, “When I was sitting in the back of a Humvee, riding through Iraq, I could not have dreamed that someday I would be sitting on a movie set listening to words I wrote in a screenplay come out of Robert De Niro’s mouth.”
Co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan says he “didn’t even read the script” after hearing he would be working alongside De Niro. “I got a call from my agent who said there was a chance to star opposite Robert De Niro and I agreed to do it right then, without ever having read it, to get an opportunity to work with him,” said Morgan. “To be in his periphery was pretty cool, so to have scenes with him and act opposite him is kind of extraordinary.”
Kate Bosworth as Sydney Pope A significant clue to understanding Frank Pope’s conflicted sense of duty is embodied in the character of Sydney, his estranged daughter, played by Kate Bosworth (Still Alice, upcoming 90 Minutes in Heaven). When Pope tracks her down at the homeless shelter where she works, the pair lay everything on the table about their rift.
“I really love this character,” says Bosworth about Sydney Pope, “because so much is happening that’s fast and furious, quick and crazy, with people making decisions by the seat of their pants in situations they never thought that they’d be in. So when you get to the scene with Sydney, everything stops for a moment. It’s a moment to breathe.”
Bosworth says her emotional scene with Robert De Niro is about “reflection, recognition, morality and conscience, which sheds light on the situation and tells us more about who Pope is and why he does what he does. It’s a heavy, but hopeful moment because it does create a shift in the Pope, which I don’t think any other person on the planet could inflict. From that conversation and meeting with her, he does change. I think no matter how much she looks at him in anger and disappointment, he’s still her father, and that emotional parent-child relationship is something almost everyone can relate to.”
Despite what he’s done, the Pope deserves a chance to make peace with his child, says Sepher. “It’s one of his last rites as a human being,” he said. “Yes, the Pope’s a criminal. Yes, he’s killed people, but he’s trying to come to terms with his daughter and his life. He wants to step away from all of it. When Vaughn and his team come in and take the dirty money, it pulls Pope back into a game he wants to get out of. He doesn’t want to deal with it – so he dispatches Dog to go retrieve the cash, which presents its own problems. The entire situation makes him question his own integrity and the decisions he’s made.”
While no one can control Pope, Bosworth believes Sydney is the only person who can “get to him,” and as an actress, she enjoyed playing out that dynamic with De Niro. “Searching for that kind of love really is what changes the course of the movie,” she said. “It’s love. It’s the thing Pope understands in that moment with her.”
Dave Bautista as Jason Cox Although casino cashier Jason Cox is the man who comes to Vaughn with the idea to rob The Pope, the muscle-shirted, heavily tattooed Cox turns into the heist’s wild card, a volatile, imposing figure who quickly takes charge when the job takes a dramatic left turn. Dave Bautista proved the ideal fit for the part, a former professional wrestler who’s become an in-demand talent in just a few short years, having co-starred in the blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, and landing a villainous role in the next James Bond film Spectre.
“It doesn’t take long to see Dave is an athlete who comes from the world of professional wrestling-- he’s a huge, scary-looking guy -- but turns out he’s actually very nice and has some serious acting chops, a natural talent for acting,” says Jeffrey Dean Morgan. “Dave’s very good in this film and it’s been cool watching him develop. He hasn’t spent a lot of time in front of a film camera, so he’s kind of figuring it out as he goes, but he’s really, really good. He’s going to have a long career.”
“I had a ball working with Dave Bautista,” said D.B. Sweeney. “Such an interesting, unique powerful person and he cuts an impressive figure and yet he’s very gentle in many ways. I think he’s going to have a really good run as an actor because he’s not just flexing his guns, he’s very interested in the character, working very hard to have the same types of accomplishments in the work of acting as he had in the world of wrestling.”
“Dave Bautista is just this big teddy bear of a man,” said Carano, a trailblazer and former champion of Women’s Mixed Martial Arts, who transitioned from athletics to acting like Bautista. “You can’t necessarily tell from looking at him because he’s so big and tough looking, but he’s very sweet and has got one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen in a man.”
Stephen Sepher as Dante Cox’s accomplice, Dante, played by co-writer and producer Stephen Sepher, is brought into the heist without consulting Vaughn, who hates the idea of surprises but knows he has no choice. Dante shows the kind of guy he is when he shows up the night of the robbery with a trunkful of guns.
“Dante and Cox go way back,” said Sepher. “They’re best friends and work together on jobs all the time. There’s no doubt Dante is a total wise guy, a cowboy who goes off on his own when he shouldn’t. Dante’s an instigator who acts before he thinks, and he pays the ultimate price.” Sepher loved working with Dave Bautista and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, helping make his story come to life. “I remember lying on the floor in the bus, looking up at Dave and Jeffrey, and there were police escorts on the sides as we’re rolling down the highway and I thought, ‘This is really happening.’ It’s so cool.”
Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Detective Thomas Marconi As soon as the heist goes mobile with the thieves hopping a city bus, the cops get involved when a female police officer first gives chase. Stepping up to the plate to oversee SWAT operations and save the hostages is forceful and resourceful Detective Thomas Marconi, a character who isn’t all he seems.
“Marconi’s the lead detective in charge of this hijacking and hostage situation,” says Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who was cast in the role. “When he comes in, he basically saves Officer Kris Bajos [Gina Carano’s character] from being fired, and while that seems like a noble act, it’s because the hijackers have asked for Kris and he needs her. At first, Marconi comes off as a good guy, but once he gets Officer Bajos out of the way, you start to see Detective Marconi may or may not be a good guy. It’s one of those things you figure out as the film goes along.”
Co-star Carano said she enjoyed working with Gosselaar. “He’s got so much energy when he comes to set and he plays around with the lines and he draws out different things in you. He makes it interesting and fun, keeps you in the moment. He’s been a pleasure to work with.”
Morris Chestnut as Derrick “Dog” Prince Though Pope is the looming antagonist in the movie’s robbery scenario, he’s not the guy who gets his hands dirty when action needs to be taken. That job falls to Pope’s violent enforcer and heir apparent, Derrick “Dog” Prince, who takes to heart the rules of the business taught to him by Pope: It’s not a business if you give the money away. Don’t let sentiment cloud your judgment. And most importantly, never let anyone steal from you. Dog is played by Morris Chestnut, whose 25-year career extends from his breakout role in the acclaimed 1991 film Boyz N The Hood through The Best Man, Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie,” and the current hit TV drama “Rosewood.”
When Chestnut was approached about the role of Dog, he welcomed the opportunity to play a different type of character. “A reason I took the role – besides working with Robert De Niro – is this character is not anything like the characters I normally play,” says Chestnut. “In the past, my characters kiss people and in this movie, my character kills people. So it’s opposite ends of the spectrum.”
“Dog’s a much darker version of De Niro’s character Pope, and does a lot of his dirty work,” said director Scott Mann. “When the Pope steps back, and Dog steps up and really pursues Vaughn with a vengeance. It’s all the things he’s learned from Pope.”
Gina Carano as Officer Kris Bajos It might have been smooth sailing for Vaughn, Cox and Dante once they hopped that city bus after the heist. But what might have been a simple escape turns into something much bigger when night patrol officer Kris Bajos, hearing gunshots and pulling up alongside the bus, realizes something’s not right. Narrowly missing a shotgun blast from one of the passengers pretty much clinches it. As played by Gina Carano, officer Bajos is an honorable cop who wants to do the right thing when it comes to saving the captive passengers from gun-toting outlaws.
“She’s the first cop on the scene when the hijacking happens with the bus,” says Carano about Officer Kris Bajos. “She’s a normal beat cop in an extraordinary situation, who steps up to the plate and does what’s needed. She’s got a real innocence about her although she’s definitely tough. She has to be. She’s put in a situation where she has to make some pretty tough decisions because people’s lives are on the line.”
Later, though, when allowed to dig deeper into the motivations of one of the hijackers, Vaughn, who at one point saves her life, she shows a different side. Says Carano, “She knows he’s not all bad. When they first talk, she says ‘I’m a cop and you’re a robber. That’s the game. It’s black and white, pal.’ But as the story unfolds, and his actions back up his words, and she starts to put all the pieces together, she asks herself is everything black and white, or is there a gray area?”
D.B. Sweeney as Bernie Encapsulating the range of humanity on board the hijacked bus is its Everyman driver Bernie, a guy who just wants to do his job and get home in one piece. “You can’t have a bus movie without a bus driver,” says actor D.B. Sweeney, who plays Bernie. “He’s a city bus driver in the tradition of the great Ralph Kramden, a grumpy guy who’s already having a bad day – and with this situation, it just got even worse.”
Sweeney says by the time Vaughn, Cox and Dante hop on board, Bernie’s already behind schedule and ready to clock out. “He’s annoyed because it’s going slowly, and he wants to finish his shift and get home,” said Sweeney “At his last stop, this pregnant lady is looking for her pass or money and is taking forever, holding them up. And then right after she gets on the bus, and they start moving, Bernie has to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the guys that climb on and hijack the bus.”
As viewers live the takeover vicariously through Bernie, he’s allowed to be himself, which Sweeney thinks is key for the audience in adjusting to what would be for anybody a shocking, terrifying situation. “After a while, as the hours wore on and he got more and more used to it, and a little more casual, I think Bernie just gets more annoyed,” said Sweeney, who learned to drive a bus as research for the role. “It’s a heavy movie with a lot of intense scenes, and it’s good for the audience to have a character like Bernie they can relate to. He just wants to get home and he becomes a sort of touchstone for the audience. When you see Bernie, you can take a break, breathe and know nobody’s going to get shot, that nothing bad is going to happen right now.”
PUTTINGHEIST INTO MOTION
Principal photography on HEIST began in Mobile, Alabama in October 2014. With a packed 22-day shooting schedule, a full-time second unit, nearly a dozen principal cast members (including a legendary movie actor), day and night shoots, multiple action sequences, and a confined main set on wheels, HEIST was a daunting logistical and creative undertaking.
“With something like this, when you’re putting it together fast and pushing, pushing and pushing, you’ve got to have a director like Scott Mann,” says Jeffrey Dean Morgan. “He’s very visual. He knows what he wants. Scott’s got an easy, infectious way about him. Actors respect him and the crew does, too.”
Kate Bosworth said Mann was the ideal choice to take the helm of this wild ride. “With an overwhelming storyline, lots of stunts and action and many different actors and extras, it is quite a tall order for any director with any experience,” said Bosworth about HEIST. “Many times you see directors melt down because there’s so much pressure, but Scott never loses his cool. He is always lovely and knows what he wants. He gives notes and is very sensitive, which I appreciate very much. I really, really enjoyed working with him and hope we could do more projects together.”
Gina Carano agrees. “Working with Scott Mann has been an incredible experience. He’s got great energy and is very level-headed,” she said. “I’ve never seen him angry or lose his cool. He’s a real pleasure to show up to work and be around.”
After jumping on board HEIST, Mann turned to director of photography Brandon Cox (the upcoming Extraction, Precious Cargo) to help achieve his vision. Mann also brought in longtime friend and filmmaking partner Adrian Vitoria to direct the film’s second unit, while Brandon Cox brought in his close friend and colleague Seamus Tierney as the second unit’s director of photography.
While discussing the film’s lighting, pacing and style, Mann and Cox both discovered they were “big fans” of director Tony Scott, and agreed Scott’s use and movement of multiple cameras and visual tone fit the look they wanted for HEIST.
“Both Scott and I are fans of Tony Scott’s work,” said Cox. “We like his use of multiple cameras, cool camera moves, anamorphic lenses, and lighting to get these beautiful, but hard contrasts in his images – a hard backlight, soft key light. That’s the look we were going for.”
According to Cox, employing a bright backlight was a practical as well as creative decision, based around what worked for the bus sequences.
“With a neutral background and blown out windows, we can place the bus anywhere, which we needed to be able to do with all the scenes we had to film on the bus, which were shot in pieces over several days with two units going,” said Cox. “It was just out of necessity, really. But it was also in keeping with the styles of Scott and director Adrian Lyne, who directed Fatal Attraction and 9 ½ Weeks, who I also like. Lyne had a lighting style that lent itself to beautiful soft light and shafts of light like in Flashdance. I wanted to bring a little bit of his unique visual style into this film as well.”
For Mann and Cox, aside from the breakneck shooting schedule, the major challenge in making HEIST involved the logistics of shooting on a bus. First they had to decide if they would actually shoot on a moving bus and secondly, the most efficient way to do that.
“We considered a number of options,” said Cox. “We didn’t want to do it all poor man’s style [in which the bus remains stationary and the cameras and vehicle move], and we costed out rear projection and LED rear projection, green screen and none of those were cost-effective at all. So, we knew we had to shoot on a moving bus.”
Since working on a moving bus proved the best option, Mann and Cox took advantage of advances in camera technology, motion stabilization and quality images which have transformed action photography. But they needed to see for themselves how the logistics of equipment and personnel would all work in the confines of a bus in motion on highways and city streets.
“We did some camera tests because we didn’t know what it was going to be like in terms of look, camera angles, how we would move around,” said Cox. “We shot on the bus for a few days before principal photography began, which gave us some ideas about the space restraints we were dealing with, where we would put the cameras and what we would see.”
Finding space for the approximately eight to 10 crew members, as well as the lighting and camera equipment squeezed in among the half-dozen principal cast members and nearly dozen extras, made it necessary for an essential crew only on the bus when it hit the road to film a scene. With two camera operators, two assistant cameramen, the first assistant director, the boom operator, and the director (and often the sound engineer or make-up artist), “it was going to be a moving circus,” said Cox. “But we had to make all that work.”
After a bumpy first couple of hours on the first day of shooting, which had the crew “on top of each other,” they opted for a different way. “We couldn’t do scenes in the traditional way -- shoot in this direction, stop, jump over, move everybody over to the other side, re-set the lights, put the crew behind us and then shoot in the other direction, jump, go over to this angle, and over this way,” said Cox. “So we had to figure out something else.”
Mann and Cox decided it would be more efficient to block out and shoot all the shots for all the scenes in one direction, then flip over all the lights, flags, cameras and personnel to shoot the shots needed to complete coverage for the same scenes from the other direction. “The moment we got that resolved, it was awesome,” said Cox. “We flew through the work.”
Mann and Cox used the RED Epic® camera with Hawk® anamorphic lenses “to give the film a bigger, grander scale. We love the flares it gives. It’s got the innate flares which is cool, a little nostalgic,” said Cox. “There are not many lenses in the 2.40 aspect ratio. When you’re dealing with a 2.40 aspect ratio you have to be very selective on how you shoot.”
When Mann needed a close-up or certain angle inside the bus, but didn’t want to see everything in focus all the way down the bus aisle, the anamorphic lenses offered the barrel distortion and shallow depth of field he wanted while the hard backlight further diffused the images.
Mann also used the bright harsh light and physical confinement of the bus itself to create and enhance a claustrophobic feeling. “It was a deliberate decision,” said the director. “We wanted to make you feel like you’re inside. It’s not like we’re on a set and can remove a wall, or step outside. We wanted the audience to feel that heat, stuffiness and containment in the bus.”
While a majority of the interior bus scenes were shot on a moving bus, there were parts of scenes done while the bus was parked. Says Cox, “We did most of the night stuff practical, with some poor man’s [technique]. Same with shooting the day scenes -- we did most of them on the bus. But there were a few times when we pulled focus and did some poor man’s process for close-up work or long dialogue scenes.”
MOBILE, ALABAMA: HOME OFHEIST The opening of HEIST intercuts the arrival of the bus at one of its stops with Dog and casino security chasing Vaughn and two accomplices escaping from the robbery. As a young pregnant woman sits in the quiet pre-dawn hours at the bus shelter, waiting, the film cuts to panicked gasps, as three dark figures, bags in one hand, guns in the other, sprint down the street, the sounds of gunfire echoing behind them. We see the young woman board the bus, walk down the aisle and take her seat near a man in a full-size mascot costume when the bus lurches forward, and abruptly stops. A dark figure stands in front of the bus and fires two gunshots into the air, “Open the doors!” he orders the terrified bus driver. Then, the movie rewinds to ONE WEEK EARLIER…
“I love the way [director] Scott Mann is shooting this movie,” says Chestnut. “The way Scott is putting this together is phenomenal. I always wanted to be in a crime thriller like this – especially one starring Robert De Niro. It’s fun to run around a city at night with reckless abandon as we’ve been doing here.”
A large part of the running around on HEIST involved filming in vehicles and on highways and city streets in Mobile, Alabama. The production scheduled three days of shooting on highways and several days and nights on city streets and along the riverfront. They needed clearance to fly helicopters and drones, and required local road closures in order to stage and execute stunts and driving maneuvers, as well as action sequences in which the bus crashes, flips on its side and slides. Filmmakers said Alabama’s tax incentive program made filming in the state cost-effective, while Mobile’s local government and film commission made the logistics of shooting in and around the historic port city easy.
Emmett Furla Oasis Films began making movies in Mobile, Alabama in early 2014. Over the course of filming several movies along the Gulf Coast, producers Emmett and partner Furla had developed great working relationships with many local agencies, vendors, and businesses, including working with casting directors like Goleman Casting in Mobile, to find local actors and extras for their films.
Emmett Furla Oasis Films had also developed an experienced production crew base in the region -- from New Orleans, Louisiana to Mississippi, and Alabama. By bringing back the same crew members whenever possible, the producers had created a tightly-knit team of professionals familiar with the personalities and working styles of their fellow crew members. In a business not known for its loyalty, Emmett’s and Furla’s ability to reunite many of its local production team members --and even actors-- time and again despite fast-paced shooting schedules and months in between productions, is rare in film production and speaks to how much the crew members enjoy working together on these films.
“The production crew feels like a family unit,” says Mark-Paul Gosselaar. “It’s a local crew which has worked together on other films here and you can feel and see the difference. It is fun and people are genuine and kind, and they get the work done.”
“It’s like a family,” says Gina Carano, who also co-stars in the upcoming Emmett Furla Oasis Films espionage thriller Extraction, which was filmed in Mobile as well. “I really, really enjoy working with everyone on the cast and crew. It’s just a great group of really cool people.”
Shot on tight shooting schedules, the productions realize real cost benefits from reuniting the same department heads and crew members who know what is required and have developed systems and a sort of shorthand for getting things done.
“You usually spend the first several weeks on a film in production getting to know the other crew members,” says director Scott Mann. “With this crew, you have a group who already knows each other and how to work with each other, which makes this easier and quicker.”
Another way in which the production maximized its time and resources was centering the production in Mobile’s historic downtown and riverfront area. In addition to offering the locations the film required, it was close to cast and crew lodging, which cut down on travel time to and from set. Given the contained area in which they would shoot, the production was able to establish production offices a couple of blocks away from the hotels as well as a permanent production base camp within the parking garage at the Alabama Cruise Terminal on South Water Street, just down the street. With lodging, the production office and a permanent main unit base camp so close to one another and the various locations, the production was able to devote more time each day devoted to filming by eliminating the time required to pack up equipment and personnel and move all the trucks, trailers, generators, cars, cast and crew, and set up a new base camp near a new location
From its base at the Alabama Cruise Terminal, the production filmed a number of scenes in and around downtown Mobile. On the first day of production, Hayley’s Bar on Dauphin Street doubled for the diner where Vaughn, Cox and the accomplices meet to plan the robbery. The production filmed several scenes at the historic landmark hotel The Battle House Hotel on N. Royal Street. Originally built in 1852 on the site of a former military headquarters during the War of 1812, the hotel dominated the cultural and political scene in Mobile for more than a hundred years. HEIST filmed in the luxury hotel’s famed Crystal Ballroom, transforming it with 1940s-style décor and more than 140 elegantly dressed extras as guests, into the film’s fictional riverboat casino, The Swan, where the retirement party for Robert De Niro’s character Frank Pope is taking place. The production also used the hotel’s suites for scenes set in Pope’s bedroom and office.
The exterior of The Swan casino was the Riverboat Casino in Battleship Park. When Vaughn, Cox and Dante jump off the riverboat into the water during their escape from the gunfight, the actors were actually jumping off the Riverfront pier and into the water below – more than once during the chilly late October night shoot.
The action and production moved downtown after the three men climb out of the water and scramble to a road where they spot the bus departing the bus stop, and run for it. The bus stop and hijack sequences were filmed on St. Louis Street between North Joachim and North Warren Streets. The casino car park where Mickey and the getaway car initially wait is a parking lot on St. Louis Street. The ensuing police car-bus chase that begins with Officer Bajos reporting “shots fired and possible hostage situation” was filmed in an area downtown bordered by St. Anthony Street and St. Michael Street to the north and south, and North Joachim and North Warren St. to the East and West.
With cooperation from the city and local government agencies, HEIST was able to film its chase and stunt sequences on city streets and highways, including I-65 and parts Interstate 10 West (I-10), as depicted in the film. The action sequence in which Officer Bajos races her police car ahead of the bus, and forces it into a 360 spin into the spike strips to clear a path for the bus to get on the ramp to the interstate, was filmed adjacent to I-10. The bus spent a day hitched to a tow rig for 30-minute loops from the Cruise Terminal up and down I-65 north and south to Exit 1C and back again, dozens and dozens of times over the long workday.
The hostage-for-fuel exchange sequence was filmed in the middle of the Admiral Semmes Causeway over the Tensaw River on (I-65) in Mobile Bay, a major thoroughfare which the production was allowed to close for four hours during the week for shooting. The Bankhead Tunnel’s eastbound entrance to the Causeway was closed and drivers were re-routed via Water Street to the eastbound Bayway.
Mann and his team had to work quickly on the bridge with an aerial helicopter unit capturing the action from above, lots of extras and vehicles, several dialogue-filled scenes outside the bus on the bridge, and a fight. In the film, the hijacker character Cox demands Officer Kris Bajos drive a fuel truck out to the middle of a long causeway bridge to refuel the bus in exchange for the release of the young boy and pregnant woman. Vaughn invites Kris on board to look around and see the passengers are unharmed. When she spots Dante and insists on taking him for medical care, Cox kicks her off the bus and fisticuffs between Kris and Cox ensues.
For filming the action sequence in which Detective Marconi makes the leap from the back of a flat-bed truck with a bag of medical supplies and comes through the open doors at the back and steps on the bus, the production used two lanes of a closed highway and safety rigging to pull off the stunt.
In the SWAT assault and crash sequences of HEIST, the filmmakers used breakaway glass and squibs to simulate the bus windows being shot out and a tire blowing out, which tipped the bus over into a sideways skid until it crashes into water drums. The multiple-camera sequence, staged at the corner of Delchamps and Beauregard, featured stunt coordinator Keith Adams, five members of his stunt team and more than a dozen SWAT and police extras. A third camera inside the bus focuses on Vaughn and Cox’s POV as they spot snipers getting into position and capture the chaos of the assault inside the out-of-control vehicle.
Other scenes and Mobile locations in HEIST include: At the end of the film, when Pope tosses his car keys to Vaughn and tells him to go, he drives the Bentley out of a parking lot on Delchamps. The scenes inside the hospital, where Riley awaits her surgery and Kris spots Pauline’s missing baby bump, were filmed inside at the Barton Academy on Cedar Street, a historic Greek-Revival building that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Battleship Park was the location for the scenes at the air field office at the Galveston, Texas airstrip where Dog finds and kidnaps Vaughn and the location for the Mobile Command Center in the SWAT assault. Vaughn’s former residence is a house on Conti Street and the house where Dog finds getaway driver Mickey is on Concepcion Street.
Wherever the cast and crew of HEIST traveled in Mobile, they discovered “Southern hospitality is real,” says Morris Chestnut. “Everyone I’ve met is kind and genuine, and the food is great.”
“The people here are super friendly,” notes Mark-Paul Gosselaar. “Whether you go into a shop, restaurant or a bar, it’s a real cool relaxed vibe that makes for a cool, relaxed vibe on set. Everyone seems happy.”
“It’s been a lot of fun making this movie,” says Gina Carano. “I love the director, Scott Mann, and his crew. I’m relaxed and enjoying myself although we’re working hard. This entire cast is a group of real cool individuals who came together to make a movie that’s fun and suspenseful, and we’ve had a really good time doing it.”
Principal photography on HEIST concluded with a night shoot on October 31, 2014 – Halloween, and coincidentally, the 88th anniversary of the death of “The Kind of Cards,” “The Great Escape Artist,” and the world’s greatest sleight-of-hand illusionist, Harry Houdini.