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A Perfect Crew
To create Takers' cast of cops and robbers, the filmmakers filled their eight leading man roles with some of the hottest talent in movies, television and music. Idris Elba, T.I., Hayden Christensen, Paul Walker, Chris Brown and Michael Ealy play the suave outlaws, with Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez representing the long arm of the law. 

"To have the level of cast we have in this film is really exciting,” says Packer. "With that kind of a cast, what can you be but cool? These guys bring it. They have so much swagger. They ooze self-confidence and it all comes across on screen.

"It's just an honor to have someone like Matt Dillon anchoring this film,” he continues. "As an Academy Award® nominee, he brings a level of gravitas with him, as does our other Oscar® nominee, Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Everybody from Matt and Marianne to Jay Hernandez brought their A-game. And then we got great actors like Steve Harris and Glynn Turman in supporting roles to give us that extra oomph.” 

Dillon plays Jack Welles, an old school, hard-as-nails, workaholic detective, unhappily divorced with a daughter he loves but can't connect with. Unable to reconcile his job and his personal life, Welles becomes obsessed with sniffing out the bank robbers. "Matt was the ideal Jack Welles,” says Luessenhop. "He brings balance and weight to the role that counters the crew he's up against.” 

Dillon, who was nominated for an Oscar® for playing a police officer in Crash, was intrigued by the filmmakers' ambitious goals. "John had great vision for this film from the beginning,” he says. "It's a really big film. There are two storylines that eventually converge. On one side is this crew of guys who are doing these heists and on the other, the guys who are tracking them down. It's an outsized story and I liked that. 

"I haven't done a whole lot of action and while it's definitely an action film, there's good, strong character development and very dynamic storytelling,” he adds. "John knew he wanted lots of action, and he wanted it very real. But he never got so swept up in the technical aspects that he forgot who these people are. There's some very poignant stuff on both sides of it. It's not just a straight-up cops and robbers.”

Dillon and Jay Hernandez, who plays his partner, Hatcher, have the kind of chemistry that can't be faked, says Gainor. "I've worked with Jay on so many movies and he lives his roles. We made a film called Quarantine and when my wife came to set, she asked him if he really worked at the fire station.”

Dillon too, admires Hernandez' commitment as an actor. "I loved the chemistry we had. Hatcher is more laid back than Welles, more easy-going with a good sense of humor. Jay's very natural, so when I'm working with him, we're just having a conversation.” 

On the other side of the thin blue line, Idris Elba as Gordon Betts and Paul Walker as John Rahway head up the heist crew. Elba is a British actor who first came to the attention of American audiences when he played Stringer Bell on the critically acclaimed HBO series "The Wire.” "Idris is a movie star from frame one,” says Casseus. "Women love him. Even when he got shot on the show and he was obviously dead, I heard smart women, saying, ‘God, I hope he gets up from that.'” 

Elba is blessed with that ineffable quality they call "presence” in Hollywood, according to Luessenhop. "Your eye seems to go to him automatically. Idris brings definition to his role with everything he does, from the way he walks, and the way he carries his briefcase, to the way he sits at a table.”

Walker, best known as Brian O'Conner in the Fast and Furious franchise, matches Elba's quiet intensity as Rahway, the crew's other alpha male. "Paul has some Steve McQueen in him, with those blue eyes,” Luessenhop says. "He just has to look at something and you want to know more about what he's doing. And I love the interplay between Paul and Idris. You might think these guys would never have anything in common. But on the screen, they come together in a unique, warm friendship.”

John Rahway, Walker points out, would seem completely unassuming to the casual observer. "He'd fit right in on Wall Street. But all these guys all have a thrill-seeking mentality. They like living like kings, and the nine-to-five just doesn't suit them. John is a pretty level-headed guy who stays cool in really tense situations. If things go sour, he's the one who's going to kick in the door and pull you out. 

"That's why he and Gordon get along so well,” the actor adds. "They're both really secure with who they are and they realize how much they complement one another. They know that the more often you play with fire, the better the chance of getting burned. So they've agreed they will do one job a year and give things time to cool off before they even begin to entertain pulling another job.”

When asked about his cast mates, Walker says he grew up watching Matt Dillon and has enjoyed seeing Elba's recent work. The film also gave him a chance to work with a familiar face, Michael Ealy, who appeared in 2 Fast 2 Furious. "Ealy's just a real genuine guy,” he says. "We worked together a few years ago and he hasn't changed at all. He's a professional who takes his work seriously.” 

The catalyst for the film's final fiery showdown is Ghost, played by Grammy®- winning hip hop artist and actor T.I. Released from prison on the day of the crew's latest hit, Ghost is itching to get back to business. "He lets them know they owe him big time,” says T.I. "Then he strongly suggests a job the crew should consider. When he rolls up at the Mercury Lounge, it doesn't seem like he's left one stone unturned. All the dots are connected. It's the job they always wanted to do, the biggest job they've ever pulled. And he has all the ins and outs figured out.

"Ghost is the most interesting character I've ever played,” he continues. "He is a wild card and really street-savvy. And he's got something in him that isn't quite right. You'd like having him in your corner if stuff really hit the fan, but you trust him about as far as you can throw him.”

For T.I., finding the sympathetic side of Ghost was paramount. "I wanted to make him a likeable character,” says the rapper-turned-actor. "Ghost is a manipulator, but he feels he has to manipulate in order to regain his position in the crew. He's done time for these guys and he doesn't feel like they remained loyal to him. Jake is now with Ghost's ex, Lily. No one checked in on him while he was away. He could have rolled over on them any time, but he didn't. They're not as sensitive to those facts as he would like, so he has a bit of chip on his shoulder. Maybe Ghost is a bad guy, but he's also a guy you feel for. He's a bit of a complex character. 

"I wanted him to be approachable, not standoffish or in-your-face,” he adds. "A bit of finesse was required to keep the audience guessing. You never want them to be able to see exactly where he's coming from.”

Although T.I. is a relative newcomer to acting, one would never know it based on the comments of his co-workers. "The man is icy cool,” says Paul Walker. "I think he's learned everything he knows experientially, and that gives him an inner confidence that radiates. He commands attention. His posture's phenomenal. You'd think he was in the military.” 

"You watch him work and it is like the camera isn't there,” adds Casseus. "His whole essence reminds me of what Tupac had on screen. He's a natural in his ability to pull from his own experience and be real.” 

Director Luessenhop concurs, T.I. is quite simply a powerhouse of an actor. "Just the way he talks an

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