A huge fan of award-winning crime-writer James Ellroy, producer Erwin Stoff came across the script for STREET KINGS as a potential project for Keanu Reeves. Stoff recognized the moral relevance of the story in today's world and began searching for ways to get the movie made. "I've always been an admirer of James Ellroy's work and became completely enamored with the script," recalls Stoff. "It was the kind of movie that I love and thought it would make a phenomenal film."
To help foster the development of the project, Stoff brought producer Lucas Foster on board, knowing his experience with numerous large-scale action movies and personal interest in the culture of law enforcement would benefit the project. Originally a period piece set in post-Rodney King Los Angeles, the producing team began to re-conceptualize the film in a contemporary setting while keeping the general thematics of the story in line with Ellroy's original vision.
"Erwin and I decided to not make a period movie, which was a big decision that had various consequences both good and bad," explains Lucas Foster. "We stuck to our guns and wanted to make a movie for adults so that we could have the freedom to be edgy and tell the truth, or at least our perception of the truth, about what it is like to be a cop in Los Angeles."
The producing team approached accomplished screenwriter and director David Ayer for the project, who had to pass due to prior commitments. Eventually Ayer's project fell through and he jumped at the chance to work on the project that seemed tailor-made for his sensibilities. He was interested in working with Keanu Reeves as well as material that encompassed his interests and inside knowledge of both the LAPD and Los Angeles.
As seen in his previous work on such films as TRAINING DAY, HARSH TIMES and SWAT, Ayer gravitates toward material addressing the complexities of law enforcement, power and corruption and STREET KINGS was a great opportunity to probe further. "I'm fascinated by corruption in law enforcement and what can happen psychologically to someone trusted to exercise deadly force on our behalf," explains Ayer. "Giving someone the potential to take a human life is incredible power and I like to explore what change the perpetrators of violence, even if it's on our behalf, undergo psychologically."
Although Ayer and Ellroy come from different eras and viewpoints artistically, both share a great love for the city of Los Angeles and all its beauty and ugliness. Producer Erwin Stoff sensed that the pairing of Ellroy and Ayer would put a unique spin on the LA crime drama. "In a lot of ways, I felt like they are an ideal pairing because David has the same level of fascination with Los Angeles and the tribal culture of the police as Ellroy," comments Stoff. "David is a product of LA, he grew up on the streets and is able to preserve the incredibly complex characters that Ellroy created and fit them into an ethnically diverse Los Angeles of today. They are two very similar sensibilities separated by different eras."
Ayer adds, "James Ellroy understands police psychology and law enforcement culture very well and what I bring to the table is my understanding of how law enforcement operates today. By combining Ellroy's incredible novelistic story and grand canvas with my organic understanding of what's happening on the streets of LA on any given day, you end up with an incredibly rich tapestry in a very realistic environment."
The filmmakers set out to put their own unique spin on the police-thriller genre, which has become its own force within American fiction and film. Unlike most other urban thrillers, STREET KINGS would be steeped in realism and contemporary politics. "From the beginning we set out to make a movie that transcended the genre and not just hit the expected
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