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About The Story
As the director of 2004's zeitgeist-defining nerd comedy Napoleon Dynamite and 2006's Nacho Libre, which stars Jack Black as a misunderstood Mexican monk who moonlights as a luchador, Jared Hess has demonstrated his gift for generating big laughs from underdog heroes. So it seems only natural that the Utah-born filmmaker became intrigued with the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction 1997 Loomis Fargo heist. Hess says he experienced an instinctive connection with the bizarre story, particularly with its protagonist, armored-truck-driver-turnedrobber David Ghantt.

"The first time I saw an interview with David and heard his side of the story about how things went down, it felt to me like he was always being underestimated by everybody," says Hess. "I could tell he was a good person who did the crime for love. Most people are risk-averse. They're afraid of failing so they don't take any chances, live quiet lives because it's easier. But when people take big risks, whether they fail or succeed, it's interesting to see them try."

Well before Hess signed on to helm the project, legendary "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels had spent years championing a film based on the infamous heist, inspired by coverage on the ABC news magazine "20/20." "I saw the footage of the robbery when it first happened in North Carolina and we originally wanted to develop the story for Amy Poehler to play the character of Kelly," Michaels says. After a succession of scheduling conflicts and script revisions, including a rewrite by Jody Hill and North Carolina native Danny McBride, the story eventually came to Hess' attention.

Owen Wilson, who has starred in his fair share of quirky comedies, starting with his feature-film debut in Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket and including high-concept goofs like Zoolander and Starsky & Hutch, appreciated the story's hilariously flawed master plan. "It's about a heist pulled off by the worst criminals you could imagine," he says. "In Body Heat, Mickey Rourke says to William Hurt, 'Anytime you pull a crime, there's 50 ways you can screw it up. If you can think of 37 of them, you're a genius.' Our characters couldn't even think of three ways they could screw it up, so that's the problem."

Kate McKinnon, who plays David's fiancee Jandice, gravitated to the sheer zeal exhibited by the hapless gang. "The story's great because it's about people who are valiantly trying to do something and they think they're doing a great job," she says. "They actually couldn't be doing a worse job, but their enthusiasm is a beautiful thing and that's an American tale."

While Hess and company invented some sequences for comic effect, there were plenty of astonishing facts to work with. "I was surprised to find they really did hire someone to go down to Mexico and kill David," says Wilson. "This film's a little bit like Fargo in that there's some dark stuff yet it can still be funny. Most of the things in this movie really happened, and it's all so crazy and ridiculous, I thought if we just honored that, we'd be okay."

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