THE BANK JOB
About The Production
In 1971, Britain was experiencing a hangover. Following the indulgences of Swinging-era London and the decline of Flower Power, Londoners were unceremoniously faced with a series of labor conflicts under Edward Heath's Conservative Government and escalating violence in Northern Ireland. It seemed only logical that the transition into the "Me Decade," as Thomas Wolfe put it, would be marked by a group of enterprising bank robbers involved in Britain's biggest robbery ever.
"This is a fascinating period in history and an even more fascinating crime," says director Roger Donaldson. "The fact that it all actually happened only makes it more intriguing."
Dubbed the "Walkie-Talkie Robbery" by newspapers, the crime was discovered by an amateur radio "ham", Robert Rowlands, who alerted Scotland Yard after overhearing a robbery in progress somewhere within a 10-mile radius of Central London. Seven hundred and fifty banks in the inner London area were checked that weekend, but there were no signs of forced entry anywhere. It was only when Lloyd's Bank, on the corner of Baker Street and Marylebone Road, opened for business on Monday that hundreds of safety deposit boxes in the main vault were found to have been looted.
The robbery left countless questions unanswered. After only four days of reportage by newspapers, the story disappeared entirely, the result of an alleged 'D Notice' issued by the government. Only four men were convicted in connection with the crime and much of the loot was never recovered. Of the stolen property that the police did manage to retrieve, most was never reclaimed - a testament to just how many incriminating secrets are buried in the vaults of banks.
In the years since, the "Walkie-Talkie Robbery" has lived on as a contemporary urban legend. Says producer Steven Chasman, "Often, in London, when I'm in a taxi or speaking to someone who was around at the time, they remember the Walkie-Talkie Robbery and what happened. They knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone who was involved."
"The story went off the front pages very quickly," says THE BANK JOB'S co-screenwriter Dick Clement. "It was there for a couple of days and then nothing. Obviously, we had no idea about any of the hidden agenda that's in the movie, because so many aspects of it have never come to light before."
"I've liked that this is an old-fashioned robbery," adds co-screenwriter Ian La Frenais. "Instead of people breaking in using computers to hack into security systems, there are picks and shovels, digging under the ground, blasting through the bank and tearing those boxes apart with crowbars."
When director Roger Donaldson was sent the script of THE BANK JOB by producer Charles Roven, he was immediately interested in the story's real-life basis. "I was attracted to the fact that it's inspired by real people and real events," says the Australian-born director. "I enjoy taking a look at what makes society tick."
Donaldson's interest in the political and cultural details of the period resulted in an in-depth research period. "I love the research. That's one of the things I really do embroil myself in," he admits. "I finished up going to the newspapers of the time, to the national archives, digging up facts that have not seen the light of day since they happened in 1971."
Producer Charles Roven, who produced Donaldson's 1990 film, CADILLAC MAN, believes Donaldson is the ideal director for the project. "He's done thrillers like NO WAY OUT, character pieces like THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN, and action movies like THE RECRUIT, and this is the kind of movie that allows you to blend all those techniques. It's very suspenseful. It's got a tremendous amount of real-life comedy and the characters are really interesting. There's a part of us in all of them."
For the lead role of Terry Leather, the used car dealer-turned-bank-robber, Donal
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