About The Production
For Wahlberg, Phoenix and Theron, delving into their respective roles in THE YARDS presented rich, new challenges. "At first I didn't necessarily think I was ready for the role, but James [Gray] had a very clear idea of what he wanted, and thought I could do it," says Wahlberg. "I wasn't going to second guess him." Like Willie and other characters in the film, Leo is replete with a complex history and an uncertain future. As Wahlberg describes, "He's this tragic guy who's doing everything he can to do right for all the wrong that he has done, and he's just trying to find his way.
For Phoenix, the part of Willie Guttierrez also represents new territory. The character, riddled with conflicting qualities of good and bad, is motivated by his pursuit of the American dream. It was this complexity, as well as the dichotomy within most of the characters in the script, that intrigued Phoenix, "I liked the ambiguity of the characters, that there is not one good guy and one bad guy, which you see in a lot of films. All them have a little bit of both. It makes it very interesting because you don't know where the characters are going to go. Throughout the course of the film, you're never quite sure." Willie is Leo's best friend and the love interest to Theron's Erica, Leo's cousin. Willie dreams of marrying Erica and working his way to the top of the company that her stepfather Frank Olchin owns. As Phoenix describes, Willie is on a fast track in both romance and business, "He cares for Erica, yet she also represents this kind of ideal that he has in his mind. He sees her as his future wife and having kids and the house and that kind of dream." As for Willie's career track and his relationship to Frank, Phoenix explains, "Frank is someone that Willie really admires. He's like a father figure. He hopes to be like Frank one day:
with the family and the nice house, the nice car, etc. Willie aspires to rise in Frank's business and one day take over for him." To Willie, Frank has everything, but as the
story progresses, Frank's weaknesses come to surface and the imperfections of the family and business are revealed.
Theron remembers her first impressions of the script, "I don't think I've ever read anything quite as intense as THE YARDS. When I read the script for the first time, I knew it was something I wanted to do for many reasons, one being that I think James Gray is just a fabulous writer and director. Theron further explains, "The characters are written in so much depth that it's just like these onion layers that you keep peeling away. It is very challenging from the perspective of an actor." Theron's Erica is a pivotal character whose present day romance with Willie cannot erase the emotional bond she shares with Leo. "A lot of rules get broken. It's a very complex love story, " explains Theron on the relationship between Erica, Leo and Willie. She also feels that although Erica appears tough and rebellious, she is a positive force in the family — someone who maintains the spirit to persevere when faced with obstacles. "There's a lovely innocence about her despite all she has been through and this will and power to not give up. This is a movie about life and corruption and betrayal - everything we deal with in our everyday existence. And these are real people and the characters are dealing with real issues." On working with Phoenix and Wahlberg alongside the talent of Dunaway, Caan and Burstvn, Theron states, "It was an absolute pleasure to work with these actors and to be surrounded by such amazing talent.
A true student of film and admirer of great cinema, James Gray was mindful in casting veteran actors James Caan, Faye Dunaway and Ellen Burstyn whose respective performances in such films as "The Godfather," "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" made a lasti
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