INT: George Gallo
One of the main motivations to visit the set of MIDDLE MEN, for me, was the chance to chat with writer/director George Gallo. I am a huge fan of MIDNIGHT RUN. The script he wrote provided some of the best material Robert De Niro has had to work with in the past twenty-five years. When I arrived at the Las Vegas Country Club they were setting up for a busy day, that would include two locations and several set ups and the production had allotted for just this one day to get it all. So I was beyond thrilled when George and producer Christopher Mallick made the time to chat for not only a few minutes, but well over a half-hour; before they shot a single frame.
George Gallo and Christopher Mallick
First off, thank you very much for having me out.George Gallo - My absolute pleasure.
So my first question is whether this a true story, because theres not a whole lot on the web yet about it?Chris Mallick - Its based loosely on my life, so there are some of my experiences in there but George and Andy, the writers, they made it far more interesting than my life. The base of it is there, but I certainly didnt kill any Russians or get involved with the Russian mob. But I was in partnership with a couple guys when this online billing thing was born. So thats the base story, but Georges prior work probably will let you know that he did most of the work on this. GG - Thats very sweet of you. I love when you have various different factions all trying to grab the same ball so to speak. Which is kinda what goes on in this movie. You know Russian mobsters, the FBI, all these different characters. Theyre all worming their way into Jacks life for various reasons. Jack is the lead character Luke is playing. He partners up with Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht who are amazing in this movie. They are basically these two lunatics, who just in some kind of coked up frenzy, come up with this idea of online billing and invent the code together. The online banking world hadnt come up with a code and these guys figured out a way to do it, like in some stupor at 3 oclock in the morning. CM - Yeah, one being a rocket scientist and the other being a vet, but they were both also engineers and I guess socially retarded but academically just amazing. So while they couldnt necessarily put two and two together, they wrote something literally in 15 minutes. When they started there was such an absurd demand they had know idea how to control their business. There was just more money coming in, not only did they not know what to do with it, they didnt even open the mail. When they needed money they would grab one of the envelopes they thought was a check and they would cash it. So they needed a business plan at some point because they got jammed up. GG And Luke plays the businessman who comes in and sees this as the gold rush. You know, hes the right guy at the right time. And at that point hes pretty much broke, but he sees this as something thats going to change his life. Now like most classic characters with a fatal character flaw he actually believes he can get out of this in one year. And it proves thats just an impossibility, you know between the mob and the FBI and everybody jockeying. Some of this is true. The FBI gets involved because they find out that certain groups of Middle Eastern terrorists are fans of a certain website. Its true and they start tracking terrorists through their masturbation habits. Theyre literally scrambling F-16s off of aircraft carriers and bombing caves because some guy is whacking it in a cave somewhere. And the story takes a great turn at the end where the FBI, I mean technically they should arrest Jack because he gets involved in something unbeknownst to him the two lunatics get involved in. I dont want to give away the end of the movie, but they get involved in a certain website that they should not be involved in. They dont even know about it theres so many partners and bizarre characters by the end of the movie. Then there are all kinds of double-crosses. Remember in Midnight Run where everybody is just fucking everybody over? Thats the same formula here. Everybody is fucking over everybody because everybody is so fucking greedy.
It was described to me as a morality tale as opposed to an expose on the adult film industry.GG It is definitely a morality tale. To me its a Greek tragedy too. You know the dead horse in the Minotaur; he actually gets trapped in his own creation. But it is a morality tale because hes very conflicted throughout the whole movie about what hes done. He decided to just dip his toe and get out, but in the end he cant. What hes left, the world has definitely got a problem with and hes just trying to swim out of this morass through the whole movie.
Your cast is amazing. Can you tell me how that all came together?GG Some of it was just dumb luck. CM Well some of its dumb luck. Some of it is planned. I think a lot of actors are drawn to this script in particular because its Georges work and theres not an actor on this set that wouldnt point to Midnight Run, 29th Street, or the films that George has written and the ones he has directed. So the chance for them to work for him as a director on a script that he wrote, along with Andy Weiss of course, is an amazing opportunity for an actor. To me its difficult to get actors except when you got an incredible script. And when you get the first one and the second one, then the third. I mean the acting community sees this is going on and the fact that its billed as an independent. I mean it is an independent because were not financing it through the studio, were doing it unconventionally, but it doesnt look like an independent. GG No it does not. CM Then you have George Gallo and it takes on the air more of a studio picture, but they get to work in the environment of an independent. Its not four guys in suits show up and go, wait a minute we need to blow up the golf cart. Were shooting the script. At the beginning it was a bit tough. I mean oh yeah youre an independent. You want to hire Luke Wilson, yeah right. At a certain point it was show me the money because you have to become believable. But the thing is none of them would have accepted an offer, or entertained an offer, if it werent for the quality of the script. GG I mean look theres a lot of great scripts floating around. Well maybe not a lot of great ones, but I mean this one I dont know. I wish I knew what the formula was, Id fucking bottle it. This one, whatever that x-factor is it had it. This is about real human behavior. This is people at their absolute best and their absolute worst. So you get to play the full gamut of emotions. You know good family man, sucked into a dark universe of just criminals, and characters, and self-destructive behavior. I guess once the first actors started coming aboard the others actors jumped onboard. We got a lot of great cameos from Bob Forster whos a dear friend, John Ashton from MIDNIGHT RUN, Kelsey Grammer and Chris McDonald, Kevin Pollak. I called all my buddies up and said come on lets go make this movie.
So tell me a little about the characters, I mean obviously Luke is loosely based on Chriss life. And Giovanni and Gabriel are the guys you partnered up with?CM Theyre a composite of several different guys. I mean, there are only two guys that wrote the code but those are pretty much the points. The rest of it, their character personalities and traits are composites of different guys that I knew. Giovanni Ribisi does not play a certain guy at all. He plays twenty guys. GG Yeah Chris would just tell me these stories and I would go that would be great for this guy. Then he would tell me about some other whack job and I would say lets make that this guy.
Then James Caan is playing?GG James Caans is a fabricated character. He plays a, shyster lawyer doesnt cover it, I mean this guy really is the devil. He just plays everybody against everybody. CM And hes unashamed of it. GG Oh no, no apologies. You call him on it and he goes true. I mean just no filters, no anything. Hes just like this grand puppeteer and in the end hes just manipulating, pulling all the strings on everybody. It does bite him in the ass. He sort of outsmarts himself in the end. The entire movie is actually told in flashback. On the worst night of Luke Wilsons life hes going to drop five million dollars off to get a kid back. Luke is so bent out of shape for what hes done hes gonna give up his empire to get back the maids son, because they broke into the house to grab his kid. Then the movie unfolds as hes driving to the drop wondering how the fuck did I let my life get to this place? It flashes back several years. How he met his wife and how happy he really was. The fun about the movie is that it is essentially a dark tale, but to me its like laughing at a traffic accident. Whats great about it too is its not what happens, but what he remembers happened. Haggerty tells him a story about some shit that James Caans seen, but its all through Lukes POV even though Haggertys telling him. So the fun is we shot it with different styles in a way because its different personalities remembering events and in the end it all filters back through Luke. Lukas Ettlin, our cinematographer, is doing a fucking brilliant job. We literally talked about color palette, lens choices, everything about how this particular person sees the world around him.
So what are we shooting today?GG Today is the introduction to James Caan, the infamous Jerry Haggerty. Who is basically telling Luke Wilson a whole bunch of half-truths about how to get involved in this business. He doesnt even tell him what the business is at first. At this point in the movie we are basically 35 minutes into the story and we have seen the entire set up of how the two lunatics invented all this. They basically downloaded a bunch of pictures from magazines and opened up a website. They made like twenty-five thousand bucks in no time. These were two guys who couldnt make rent. They then decided to go to a strip club that was by chance run by the Russian mafia, got involved with them. Said well just take video of your girls and then got up to a million or two dollars in months. Because they are wired a certain way, instead of paying the Russians they decide to go to Las Vegas, do a whole bunch of coke and get call girls. The Russians find out that theyre holed up in this hotel room, beat them into within an inch of their lives. We then introduce Jerry Haggerty who knows about this situation and convinces Luke that he should look at this business because it could be something good and thats what this scene is about.
Then the scene tonight at the Hard Rock?CM That is the AVN Awards, kinda the red carpet event of the awards. Its basically the main characters walking the red carpet and is five years later than what we are shooting today. After these guys have become very rich, very powerful. GG Yeah theyre at their apex at this point and pretty much right after this scene is when the dominoes start falling. You know, Jack is an incredibly devoted married man. And then he meets this one web girl who just does girl girl stuff and she starts to get to him. The marriage starts to degrade. The pressures from all the outside entities start to build on him and his partners turn on him.
So what is the scene that everybody is going to be talking about in this movie?GG Theres one Steadicam shot that doesnt stop where Luke is looking for a child pornographer. Hes gonna beat the living shit out of him. And hes at the guys house. At an orgy, like a porn rave is going on. He literally walks from room to room while people are up to all kinds of debauchery. Hes stepping over people as hes hunting for this guy. It follows him up the stairs, through the room, down the stairs out to the backyard. They have their altercation. He shoots him in the foot. He goes back through and theres another moment. I dont want to give it away, but theres another moment where a whole other scene takes place. We nailed it in seven takes. We got lucky because it was so complex to stage. And we got it and were like holy shit that worked. But there are so many memorable scenes. The one we are going to shoot tomorrow is when Wayne and Buck come to Vegas for the first time and they hole up in the hotel suite at the Hard Rock. Eleven days prior to this scene they have just gotten the crap beaten out of them by the Russian mafia so they got prosthetics and they are just in terrible shape. And of course their first inclination is to buy more drugs. Theyre partying with a hooker and a dwarf. CM And we dont explain who these people are. They just happen to be in the room and Luke Wilson comes in to try and make a deal with this guy. GG Giovanni is so out of his mind at this point hes talking about forming a coalition. Hes just not even making a lick of sense. The dwarf is there being held at gun point because Giovanni has got a glock and he wont let anybody go. Finally when hes not looking, the dwarf runs for the door and Giovanni tackles him the dwarf beats the living crap out of Giovanni. So yeah, I think that will be a memorable moment.
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