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KILLING THEM SOFTLY

Statements from the Cast

Richard Jenkins

"The games are shut down and we have to find out who did it," explains Richard Jenkins, who plays Driver, a lawyer and the go-between with Jackie Cogan, the hit man hired to investigate a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game. "People won't open the games up if the guys who did it are still on the loose. We have to show them we're serious about this, so we hire Cogan, who really has made a science out of it," continues Jenkins, on Pitt's role. "He's a pretty smart guy in his way, a lot of street smarts, but because we've never worked with him we're pretty cautious."

"There's a lot of dialogue in the car; it was nice because we didn't have to move around, we just sit there and talk." Jenkins and Pitt spent over a week in a car shooting their scenes together. "We have meetings in the car. It was a great week, a really great week," admits Jenkins. "I love working with him, he's a terrific actor."

When he first read the script, Jenkins found that "the people talk like complicated human beings and not like movie characters." Jenkins first spoke with Dominik about the part by phone and was drawn to the director's passion for moviemaking. "Andrew is a creative man, has a lot to say and has found his medium. He's in heaven, and we're right along with him. Andrew is one of these directors who is not looking for something specific. He watches what you do; he's like the audience. He said, 'I'll watch forever if I'm interested,'" recalls Jenkins.

Jenkins recently worked with producers Dede Gardner and Pitt on EAT PRAY LOVE, and "I remember Brad talking about Andrew and how much he loved working with him, so I thought, what am I crazy, I should do this," says the actor.

"Jackie believes this is not a country, it is a business," suggests Jenkins, who recalls David Mamet's reflections on the current moral climate explored in "American Buffalo." "He used to say there's friendship and there's business, and that's kind of what this movie is. It's a business, every man for himself."

Ray Liotta

"Andrew's the kind of guy that no matter how much you have done he needs to hear it and see it," explains Ray Liotta, who auditioned for several parts in the film, but really wanted the role of Markie Trattman. "I'm the nicest guy in this whole mix; I'm the guy who's in charge of the card games, the character who always has a girl on my arm, so everybody basically likes Markie. It's the reason I wanted to do it…to play a nice bad-guy."

Markie is an obvious suspect when the mob starts pointing the finger after their card game is rolled. "I'm a low level guy, I'm watching the card games and seeing all the money. They don't care if I did it or not, they just need a body so the games can pick up again," explains Liotta.

"They bring down James Gandolfini (Mickey) to take care of me, but he is too busy with his face in a bottle in the movie," laughs Liotta. Ironically, Markie is beat up by two guys he calls on to collect gambling debts, his own "enforcers" are turned on him and "that kinda shocks me and obviously is disturbing. Plus I know what they're gonna do and what they're capable of. So yeah, they beat me up good."

The role was very physical and he knew that Dominik "definitely goes for realism," that he had a very specific vision in his mind. Liotta wanted to do everything when it came to the fights, and crashing through windows, so his work with the stunt team, lead by Darrin Prescott and Wade Allen was key. "Like I said, before I would always give the punch, but it's a whole other thing to take the punch," admits Liotta. "Stunts taught me how to do that. I was determined to do every bit of it, and in a grueling way it was fun. It was so nice receiving it rather than giving."

Dominik is as specific with the physical as with the cerebral. "There is a lot of dialogue that has a certain rhythm to it," says Liotta, who has known the director since just after the release of CHOPPER. "He is a great director, and it's nice to see someone excited about make-believe situations. I have been fortunate enough to work with a few directors who are just passionate about making their vision come to life."

Vincent Curatola

"Johnny Amato never quite made it to the top," explains Vincent Curatola of his character, scheming and barely staying out of jail. "He's a wanna be. He wants to be up there with the big guys; big guys don't work, big guys pull moves off. They may hijack six trucks tomorrow night and can live off that for six years."

"Johnny always feels that the next moment is going to be better than this one." He's got a plan and that's where Frankie, played by Scoot McNairy, comes in. Johnny, who met the young man in prison and sees himself as a mentor, brings Frankie on as the foreman of a job. "I like it when a guy has a character 24 hours a day," recalls Curatola of his time with McNairy in New Orleans, the film's shooting location. "He would text me, 'boss its Frankie, I'm hungry lets get something to eat…but I don't have any money boss,' the usual. Of course he's kidding," smiles Curatola. "Scoot is tremendously focused; whatever you throw at him he catches. He mixes it up and he throws it back at you, not the same as he did before. That's too crafty!"

It's Frankie's partner that has Johnny distracted. "He brings along Russell (Mendelsohn), a total human disaster. These two prime packages walk in and I look at them and say, he looks like he just got out of jail. You can imagine what I'm talking about. It's not like I went to Yale and I recruited people for this job." The question is, are they going to be able to pull this off. "That's where the little bit of a thrill comes in," assures Curatola.

"Jackie Cogan is a character that's really so intent on everything being perfect, he reminds me of a general back in the days of the Roman Empire," observes Curatola. "It has to be right, and if a guy isn't operating according to him, he's got to go. But Jackie does it in such a smart way that there's a respect almost for the fact that he can kill ten people and then go have dinner."

Curatola was drawn to the subtle examination of the human condition, and black humor that he found in Dominik's script. "The dialogue was so thick it was like studying for priesthood," he jokes. "I come from nine years of working on "The Soprano's;" we knew our characters so well that when we had guest directors come in, it was like they didn't even touch us. But Andrew knew the essence of Amato instantly. Working with Andrew was like your first day at school, and the teacher comes over to you and says, do a multiplication table 4800 times."

Scoot McNairy

Meet Frankie, fresh out of prison, in the midst of the financial crisis and the 2008 presidential election. The world is dilapidated and changed, foreclosure signs everywhere. "Frankie wants a house, wants a car, he wants the girl," explains McNairy. "He will do anything he can to get those things, and Johnny Amato is the guy with the idea. They concoct this plan, a brilliant idea and the film kinda launches from there."

McNairy was in Utah when he got the call to come in for a casting session with Dominik. "He gave me a three-page monologue to memorize," recalls the actor. "I read it all the way through, Andrew said thanks and we said good-bye. My first thought was, 'I just flew all the way from Utah and only get to read it once? Later in the day he asked me to come back, and that night he called to say I'd gotten the part." Over the next month, the two spoke on the phone, and Dominik shared an original script that was almost 400 pages. "When you read the book it's all lined out for you, it pretty much tells you the entire back-story... and when I had questions about Frankie, Andrew and I would talk some more."

"Working with Vinny (Curatola) was a trip," recalls McNairy. "He's great, a really talented guy and a lot of fun. He's like a mob guy, he walks around with a cigar in his mouth and you constantly feel like when you're around him you might get whacked."

Frankie's trigger man, Russell, can't go a day without getting high and Amato has serious doubts about bringing him in on the action. He feels that you just don't want to be in business with a guy like this, regardless if it's a crime or not. "But Frankie needs this job and it doesn't matter; he's thinking, 'let's just go, let's move forward," says McNairy, as the two miraculously put their plan into action.

"Soon Frankie's got money, he's got cars, and he's got a girl. Everything's going great until a chance meeting in a bar," hints McNairy. "I told Andrew that I didn't want to meet Brad (Cogan) until that day, so there was no introduction, no rehearsal, no anything. I'm sitting at the bar and he comes in and we just went right into it. Cogan's definitely working an angle to see what he can get out of me, and Frankie's just in this whirl of thought and unpredictability of what's gonna happen in the next two seconds, the next 48 hours. You're watching us meet for the first time in the movie and in real life." "Andrew is very intuitive with our thought process while working," says McNairy. "He just likes it to be this roller coaster of random thoughts coming at you constantly, and it produces these performances that are really organic. Andrew pushes you and does a lot of takes, but each one is an opportunity within itself."

Ben Mendelsohn

Frankie did time with a guy named Russell, an Australian whose current occupation is the theft of dogs for profit. "His dream is basically to get enough money, to buy enough drugs, to be able to deal and use as much of them as he can," explains Ben Mendelsohn, of the enterprising Russell. "He's not particularly clean physically, mentally, emotionally, or in any way law-abiding clean. He's a stinky, filthy kind of a guy." Or as Andrew described him to Ben, "he's a pleasure-seeking pig."

"Neither of them are about to turn around and embrace the traditional American dream of what you can be and work really hard at it," explains Mendelsohn of Frankie and Russell's take on life. "That's not really their thing, but they do take turns looking after each other. Russell got Frankie out of a couple of jams in prison involving how close he wanted to be with some prisoners. They are there for each other as much as they can be, and as far as we know that's as good as it gets for them."

"The dialogue is fantastic and I thought Andrew did a great job of adapting the book to a screenplay," says Mendelsohn who has a 20 year friendship with the director. "A lot of times you'll get characters talking to each other, both have different things going on and will almost not register or understand what's going on with the people immediately around them. But they do have a very strong view about the way the world is supposed to work."

"The movie is about a heist put together by people who aren't particularly good at it," explains Mendelsohn. It's a comedy about the various interactions and points of view of this criminal world, and the manners and protocol that are supposed to go along with it. What we're trying to do here is conduct business in the face of everything going on around us. Cogan comes in and makes some order of it, but it's not pretty"

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