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IDENTITY THIEF

Throat Punches and Car Rolls: Stunts and Improv
When Sandy and Diana meet for the first time on a deserted Florida highway -- actually shot about 100 yards from the 125,000-seat Atlanta Motor Speedway racing track -- McCarthy was able to unveil her character's secret weapon.  "Sandy's following pretty closely behind Diana's car, and Diana immediately goes into full scam mode and slams on the breaks -- causing him to run into the back of her car," explains McCarthy.  "She wants to take him for some money so she says, 'Let's not go through insurance.'  At that moment, he shows her his ID, which says 'Sandy Patterson.'  It's such a great moment because for the first time she is face to face with one of her victims.  I loved that Diana just goes to pure instinct and punches him in the throat and runs.  It's like she's an animal.  We have a fistfight outside of the car, and it was messy and dirty like a bad schoolyard fight."

"It's one of my favorite scenes because Diana finally has to put a face to the name that she's stolen, but instead of acting remorseful, she punches him in the throat and acts like the victim," laughs Gordon.  "In her twisted logic, he's the one who's wrong.  Throughout the movie, whenever Diana feels trapped or painted into a corner, she punches people in the throat.  We tried to capture it like a classic Western showdown where Sandy feels like 'I got you trapped' and then bam!  Diana punches him in the throat, and he hits the ground."

 Throughout the film, Diana uses her prowess to get her, and eventually Sandy, out of tough predicaments.  The Groundlings-trained McCarthy relished the challenges, explaining: "I'm a physical actress.  Struggling with things is so much better, and it's a big part of how I work.  I love that there is so much physical stuff going on with Diana.  I've never taken it to this level where you're shooting a fight scene for five days.  I've also done some stunt driving and taken what seems like 900 falls.  I've probably hit Jason in the throat 732 times.  I've been trying to get a throat punch in a film forever, and in preproduction I asked, 'What if I hit someone in the throat?'  For the first time, everyone went, 'I love it!'"  

For Gordon, there were very few occasions in which he had to talk his lead actors into mixing it up with the stunt team.  "There were so many times that I had to try to talk Melissa and Jason out of doing their own stunts," he sighs.  "There is one scene where Diana gets hit by a car, and it's not a subtle hit.  There was a parkour artist we brought in to do the stunt, and Melissa watched her rehearse and how she rolled off the car and then said, 'I think I can do it and take the hit.'  There was no way I was going to let her, but I think she was serious that she wanted to try it.  Many of the stunts are either Jason or Melissa doing it themselves.  They preferred it that way, and there's something about when an actor does a stunt that makes an audience feel it."

Bateman and McCarthy weren't the only ones on set who got to flex their muscles; many of their co-stars joined in on the action.  "I get to kick in Diana's front door and give a head slam to Big Chuck in his office," Rodriguez states proudly.  "Eric is one of the funniest guys I know, but he made it very easy for me because he played the character so high and mighty and was so obnoxious that he made me want to slam his head on the desk over and over again.  My character is a cold-blooded killer, so I learned how to become proficient with weapons so it looks like I was born to use them."

Stonestreet laughs that his character is not as much of a fighter as he is a lover.  "Big Chuck likes to get physical, but not always in a violent way," he says.  "Don't get me wrong, he has a short temper and can handle his own in any barroom brawl, but when he sees Diana come into the bar, he is smitten."

What follows on the dance floor and continues into the motel is one of the film's many trips into Crazyville.  Gordon recalls the day: "I had no idea how the scene was going to play out because we didn't cast Eric until the last minute, so there was no prep time to rehearse the scene.  Diana goes into The Foxhole to have a drink and she meets Big Chuck, who starts to make her feel good about herself.  Once the booze kicks in, they hit the dance floor and put on a show.  We used the song 'Shake Ya Ass' during playback, and the two of them started dancing and having fun; the scene came to life in a way that was magical."

McCarthy was impressed with Stonestreet's interpretation of the character.  "Eric walked onto set and had a complete idea of how he wanted Big Chuck to look and the cadence in which he spoke," explains McCarthy.  "It is a wild scene with us dancing so crazy and going back to the hotel for some fun.  Diana's instinct is to get what she needs out of him, and she's thrown for a loop because he is so sincere and makes her feel special.  It's fun for me to play a scene when an aggressive character is thrown off-balance.  It's the first time where Diana is not completely on her game."

Gordon gave his actors the freedom to go off book when the opportunity presented itself.  He explains how they captured all of the unscripted moments: "I warned our cinematographer, Javier Aguirresarobe, that there would be certain scenes where it would be necessary to cross-cover the action so that both actors could riff and play around without having to worry about matching the coverage on the opposite side.  When you have this many great comedic actors, you need to give them the freedom to play around because there's gold that you can find."

 For the cast, receiving the green light from Gordon to improv made for a productive working environment.  "Seth is great to work with because he'll let us try different things," says Favreau.  "You want to make sure you get the story points and what's in the script first, because IDENTITY THIEF is well written and it didn't need help.  Sometimes you discover things in the moment, and Seth's encouraging and understands how to shoot, so that it makes it easier to go on runs."

"Seth is crazy smart and completely creative," adds McCarthy.  "He can be analytical about how he's going to shoot, but he is also so good with story and is wildly collaborative.  With both Seth and Jason it doesn't matter whose idea it is, what matters most is 'How do we get to the best line or the best solution to get us to the next story point.'  I'm going to start stalking them both until we do another film together."

For Bateman, there was a method to the off-book madness.  "Melissa and I kept our dialogue loose," he shares.  "When you're shooting on set, you try to keep your ear open as an audience member so that you get a sense of the pace and tempo and can feel if it needs to go a bit faster or slower.  Then sometimes you gauge 'Should we open that up a little during this take and maybe go for one more joke in that direction?'"

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