Boys and Their Toys
No matter how dapper he's dressed -- good guy and bad guy alike -- no character was fully attired without his side arm or, in the case of a 1940s gangster, his Tommy gun. Property master Douglas Fox was in charge of outfitting the actors with the array of weapons needed for their roles. Tadross, who has worked with him steadily for over 20 years, says, "Doug is a collector and he can find anything you need, so I knew that he'd be the perfect guy for a period movie that required a lot of firearms."
"O'Mara carries a .45 throughout the movie. We had a number of automatic weapons and shotguns, but we did try to do something a little different from what you see in a lot of gangster movies," Fox details. "The filmmakers were interested in using some of the pieces that came out of World War II that were filtering into organized crime at the time. So, we got a selection of those, including a British STEN rifle, and a Russian PPSh, which fires nine millimeters versus the .45-caliber Tommy gun. We also had the MP40 machine gun, sometimes called the Schmeisser, which you see in a lot of war movies. And, as a big gun used for protecting Cohen's fortress, we found a Lewis gun, which is a .303-caliber British gun invented in 1911."
The actors also trained with Fox in order to familiarize themselves with the weapons wielded by their characters, and to use them safely. And Robert Patrick, whose character is easily the fastest draw on the force, put in a good deal of practice with world-class quick draw expert Joey Dillon so that his gunplay -- including twirling -- would appear second nature. Fox also helped train Anthony Mackie to handle a switchblade, Coleman Harris's initial weapon of choice.
Though the majority of the weapons are from the period or before, Fleischer wanted the fighting in the film to feel fresh. "This is an action movie, and we wanted it to be really fun and done in a contemporary style for today's audiences," he states.
The film's stunt coordinator, Doug Coleman, who also assisted in the weapons instruction, drilled the actors in the various fight techniques. He offers, "Josh Brolin's character would have had Camp X paramilitary and commando training, comparable to our Navy SEALs and Rangers of today, as well as police tactical training. Mickey Cohen, on the other hand, was a boxer, and the style then consisted of big power punches, without the speed you see today. So putting those two techniques together and figuring out the juxtaposition was really cool for me. Throw in the car chases and the shootouts and we got to create some very exciting scenes."
To gain insight into the era, Coleman spent time with one of Cohen's former drivers, as well as LAPD technical advisors. "They really brought a lot to the table as far as what really went on with these cops back then."
Fleischer notes, "We were lucky to work with Doug, he did an amazing job of rehearsing first with his guys, and then teaching the actors their moves and getting them to the point where they could basically do most of the stunts themselves. These are tough, physical actors who wanted to be part of the action, to fire the guns and jump over the cars and do the stunts. And because of that, we see their faces and feel the reality of the situation, without having to cheat the camera around someone who's standing in for our leads."
"This is not our idealistic, romanticized perception of the '40s," Brolin affirms. "This is how I think guys like this saw themselves in the '40s. The movie is more realistic, more brutal, and has a lot of action that made it incredibly fun to work on and, as a moviegoer, I think really entertaining to watch."
To obtain the cars -- about 150 all together, including several duplicates to allow for damages -- the filmmakers turned to picture car coordinator Tim Woods. Among the vehicles he brought in was a 1938 Packard with a 472 Cadillac motor. "It was modernized underneath, and then the body was put back on," Woods says.
For Cohen's ride, Woods found a rare pair of '49 Packard Super 8 limos to stand in for the bulletproof Caddy the real Cohen rode around in. Additional cars in the film include those driven by Mickey's thugs -- the "goons' cars," as Woods calls them -- Cadillacs from '48, '49 and '50, as seen in archival photos. "It's late 1949 in the story, so the 1950 model would have just come out. It had horizontal chrome on the back door -- that's what differentiates the '50 from the earlier models. Mickey took good care of his guys," says Woods. One of them was recycled for three different shots, going through being burned, then burned again, then rolled before finally being blown up.
O'Mara drives a 1946 Ford Custom, and Coleman Harris a '46 Plymouth four-door sedan. "My head mechanic, Ken Dewit, masterminded the building of three cars for each of those characters," Woods expounds. "The first was the first unit car, a six-cylinder three on the tree manual shift that sat on the set and looked good. The second was a stock suspension, 300 horse, 350 motor, a turbo 400 and a 438 Posi Rear End which had that wobbly look cars did in the '40s. And the third car was an '87 Caprice chassis underneath with all the trick running gear and the period body morphed onto it. We were able to pitch sideways and burn rubber and do donuts and pull off all sorts of amazing stunts with that."
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