The Guy Fighting Next to You: Casting the Film
After portraying a series of intense characters
in recent years, Washington was searching for some
humor in his next role. He found that in agent Bobby Trench. "I was looking to depart from heavier roles,
and when I read this script it really made me laugh,"
the performer reports. "Bobby does whatever is
necessary to get the job done. He says there is no
code; you do whatever you got to do, whatever it
takes. I think he is an honest cop, but he doesn't live
by the honor codes."
Working on both sides of the law for so many years
has allowed Bobby to effortlessly maneuver between the
worlds. Washington explains: "'I-know-a-guy Bobby,'
my undercover character, can get anything for you that
you need: a '63 Chevy, a '59 bottle of wine, a condo in
the Himalayas. Whatever it is, he knows a guy; that's
his modus operandi." Still, Bobby's not beyond being
duped himself. "Bobby and Stig are lying to each other
for half the picture. I'm not what I told him I am, and
he's not what he told me he is."
Partnering these two performers was an exciting
prospect for Kormakur, who initially suggested to the
team that Washington's Bobby would be the perfect
foil for Wahlberg's Stig. "I hadn't seen Denzel play
light," says the filmmaker. "But the comedy in 2
Guns is based on reality, like DeNiro in Midnight
Run. Denzel has such
an immense presence,
but actors with good
drama sense have good
timing. That timing
is everything when it
comes to comedy."
For his part,
Emmett was thrilled
that Washington signed
onto the project. He
says: "We really wanted
Denzel to be a part of
this, and we pushed to
present the project to
him. Once he said, 'Yes,'
we knew both Mark and
Denzel would make for an explosive combination!"
Wahlberg was glad that the stars finally aligned
for the two men to work together. Discussing
Washington, he states: "We have great chemistry.
We've known each other for a while, and this was
the perfect piece of material for both of us to show
a different side of ourselves. People would be
very surprised to see how playful Denzel can be. I
remember shooting our first scene, and every take I
would do something completely different. He said,
'Oh, I see what's happening here,' and he jumped
right on board." Wahlberg admits that he had a bit of
an ulterior motive, and that was to get Washington
to laugh. "There's nothing better than seeing Denzel
smile. Usually you get to see that once or twice in a
movie; in this film, we see it a lot."
The only other thing Bobby can't get straight is
his relationship with his control officer, Agent Deb
Rees. Portrayed by Paula Patton -- who reunites with
Washington for the first time since their pairing in
Tony Scott's 2006 sci-fi thriller, Deja Vu -- Deb is
torn between her feelings for Bobby and her desire
to do right by herself. Patton shares graphic novelist Grant's take on one of the story's key themes: "I've
always had a theory that the line between a crook and
a good guy is a very fine one. Still, it's challenging
to work undercover and to pretend to be a crook.
What is so great about 2 Guns is that it's rough,
rugged, shoot-'em-up action with a bit of romance.
But, more importantly, it also has a sense of humor
The attraction between Deb and Bobby is palpable
in the border interrogation room, where Bobby is
grilled by his handler and Marlon Jessup (played by
ROBERT JOHN BURKE of television's Rescue Me
and Army Wives) about Bobby's last encounter with
Papi Greco. Their on-again/off-again relationship is
best summed up by Bobby's bedroom comment to Deb
that he "really meant to love her."
Washington is quick to remind the audience that,
even though Deb is more subdued than some of Patton's
other roles, his co-star is the same ass-kicker from
Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol. He commends:
"Paula's the toughest one in the bunch. She has a pretty
face, but there's a tough element in there. She loves
competition and fighting, and was always ready to jump
right into it. She's, I dare say, one of the guys."
During preproduction, Kormakur worked with
Masters on developing the character beyond being just
a femme fatale. Recalls the screenwriter: "Balt wanted
to create a real humanizing context for Deb, where we
understood what it did to her to watch drug dealers
walk every day for 10 years -- the feeling that you are
fighting an avalanche with a teaspoon -- and the choices
it can lead you to make. She may be duplicitous, but
just like the men, she's doing it from a place where she
feels justified in her behavior."
Throughout the casting process, the director
brought on actors to play against typecast. That was
the case with the character of Manny "Papi" Greco,
the powerful drug cartel leader whom both Bobby and
Stig are attempting to capture. Just because Greco
has to make deals with other devils in order to get his
product across the border, it doesn't mean he doesn't
bristle at the inequity. Still, he bides his time, plays
the game and pays off a mysterious partner at the Tres
Cruces Savings & Loan.
Edward James Olmos, who portrays the dangerous
drug lord, was taken by the powerful script. He
commends: "It's a very well-written action-comedy
between two 'buddies' that connects with the public.
What drew me to the story is the humoristic, but
very honest, look at the contributions of different
parts of the American government in the actual
Villains live on both sides of the 2 Guns drug war,
and nowhere is that more evident than with Earl, a
shadowy CIA affiliate whom everyone calls "God's
S.O.B." Earl is fond of preaching to his victims,
meting out punishment to the "guilty, ignorant or
unlucky" as he deems fit. Earl is played by actionfilm
staple Bill Paxton, who discusses his interest in
the meaty role: "When I read the script, I was struck
with its central theme of honor. I liked the idea of
all these supposedly honorable men who are loyal to
these supposedly honorable organizations, but at the
end of the day the only two men in the movie who
have true honor are Bobby and Stig -- because they're
honorable to each other."
After the bank heist goes south and our heroes
take $40 million more than they intended out of the
CIA's pockets, Earl arrives on the scene to "properly
incentivize" anyone in his way and set things right.
Everyone, including the FBI, scurries out of his path,
especially when Earl starts playing Russian roulette
with his prey. "He may or may not work for the CIA,"
says Paxton. "Earl's likely an independent contractor
that they have to rely on occasionally when they're in a
jam. He's somebody they don't want to call up because
he creates a lot of paperwork for them. I describe him
as a 'human bloodhound.'"
The man pulling Stig's strings is none other
than Quince, a spit-and-polish naval officer and the undercover agent's superior at Naval Air Station Corpus
Christi. Stig considers Quince above suspicion, but
Quince might not be the straight arrow he appears.
Action-film veteran James Marsden discusses his
reasons for joining the film: "There's a great sense of
fun to the action, and the tone of the movie is similar to
Because Quince holds Stig's future over his head,
the undercover agent bristles whenever his superior is
around. Marsden explains their dynamic: "They joined
the Navy around the same time, but my character shot up
the ranks through the academy, aced every test. He's a bit
of a sociopath and very into his power; he's the puppet
master, the intellectual behind the plot. Quince has got
his muscle behind him, but there are times when he gets
his guns out and isn't afraid to get his uniform dirty."
Rounding out the principal cast of 2 Guns is Fred
Ward, who portrays Navy Adm. Tuwey, the only person
whom Stig believes can get to the bottom of the coverup.
Ward brought a personal spin on the role; he had
served as an enlisted airman when he was a young man.
Discussing his process with Kormakur, Ward offers:
"Balt was very detailed with me during the shoot. The
admiral's speech to Stig is a long one, and Balt was
very patient. What I like about directors like him is that
they'll pick up my ideas and give me
theirs; it's a respectful conversation."
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