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Taking It To The Streets
Weeks prior to the start of principal photography, members of the cast began preparing for their roles, in both an emotional and practical sense. Authenticity was vital to Gavin O'Connor, which applied to the actors playing a family, as well as portraying cops.

"The central characters are a family with a shared history going back decades,” the director explains. "It is not just in the dialogue; it's in the subtext. You have to feel it in their behavior and the way they relate to one another. So how do you create that feeling of familiarity in a relatively short amount of time? You do it by putting people in situations where they have to rub elbows day in and day out. We engaged in a workshop, where we created the back stories of the family and did a lot of improvisational work. Most importantly, it was all of us just hanging out and breaking bread together.”

The actors all agree that the workshop period greatly contributed to their family dynamic. Edward Norton confirms, "The time spent together translated into a level of comfort and the kind of shorthand that families have. Scenes as a family are very challenging because it's not about things being articulated; it's about energy and flow.”

Emmerich recalls, "It was a rolling continuum of exploration, improvisation and discussion. We really dove into the script, scene by scene, line by line. And we were able to come at it from different angles, which is hard for a writer alone in a room to do. Gavin encouraged us to question anything and everything and to feel free to speak up about any problems or ideas we had. We all responded to that pretty enthusiastically. It was very collaborative.”

A screenwriter and director in his own right, Norton says that kind of collaboration called for an uncommon commitment and generosity on the part of Gavin O'Connor because "it was not just about directing; there was authorship, too. Gavin's level of passion for this project was really high. He was willing to have the material tested by everyone involved and handled it with an impressive amount of equanimity. I don't think he ever put the brakes on anyone. But that kind of rigor is also really good for a film because generally something really interesting comes out of the process. Even within the best laid plans, you have to embrace surprise and discovery.”

"Gavin loves working with actors, and he wants them to be as fully invested in the movie as he is,” Greg O'Connor states. "He also wants to get every detail right, both aesthetically and emotionally, beginning with the cast spending time together. In the case of our actors playing cops, he had them spend time with real cops, driving around with them, training where they train. It was all about getting into the skin of a cop, speaking the way they speak and understanding how they think.”

"We tried to have all the guys hang out with cops who were representative of who they were playing,” Gavin reveals. "Edward was hanging out with homicide detectives, Colin was riding with guys in the Special Narcotics Enforcement Unit, and Noah was with deputy inspectors. Our senior technical advisor Rick Tirelli was extremely helpful on that, as was our technical advisor, Tom Pilkington, and, of course, Robert Hopes.”

Tirelli, Pilkington and Hopes were also instrumental in recruiting several NYPD veterans to play police officers in the film, so many of the policemen in the opening crime scene investigation are actually retired cops.

Several of the main cast members also traveled to the NYPD's training facility in the Bronx, where, Norton relates, "We did a certain amount of weapons and tactical training because you want to try to move the way these guys are trained to move. That was really interesting, but in large measure, my preparation involved just talking to cops, hearing how they do wha


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