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TAKERS

Pulling It Off
Every movie is partly script, partly actors and partly locations, according to executive producer Glenn S. Gainor, whose dozens of producing credits include Death at a Funeral, Vacancy and Happy, Texas. "In this particular case, it was a phenomenal blend—a gifted cast, a very fine script and fantastic locations. You can't beat Los Angeles, and the downtown settings we used aren't the usual version of the city you see in films.” 

The film was originally set in New York City, but after 9/11, the filmmakers focused their sights on the West Coast. "When I first got the script, it said, ‘Fade in: San Francisco,'” says Gainor. "We planned to incorporate all the city's iconic images. But San Francisco had its challenges.”

A Far East incarnation was considered as well. "I had a Hong Kong version, with an international cast,” says Luessenhop. "Now it's hard for me to imagine the film being set anywhere but Los Angeles. We chose to use a very glamorous side of L.A., but the picture is still grounded in the streets to take in the iconic landmarks, like the Hollywood sign, Dodger Stadium and the Hollywood Hills.” 

One of the film's chicest locations is the Roosevelt Hotel, located smack in the middle of Hollywood. "The Roosevelt Hotel is the slickest place ever,” says Avery Duff. The scene of the film's climax, the Roosevelt was the site of the first Academy Awards® ceremony and became a playground for the movie industry's rich and famous as soon as it opened in 1927. After a complete overhaul in 2005 restored its Art Deco glory, it is once again a spot for to see and be seen. 

But the Roosevelt is just one of many unique locations in one of the most style-driven movies to come out of Hollywood in recent years. Takers owe its singular look to a trio of top movie professionals—production designer Jon Gary Steele, costume designer Maya Lieberman and cinematographer Michael Barrett. 

"Michael created a signature style and look for this film,” says Will Packer. "He's got a great eye for non-traditional shots. You're going to see bright, vivid colors that will leap off the screen, and camera angles that are more edgy and raked than what you would normally see. 

"We've got a shot where the crew is shoulder to shoulder and they're walking towards the club after they pulled off a perfect heist. We took our time filming because this was the quintessence of these guys—they don't have a care in the world, just self-confidence and swagger.” 

Lieberman took an aggressively fashion-forward approach to the costume design, creating a distinct look for each character. Even Screen Gems executive Clint Culpepper had a hand in selecting the clothes. "When I showed up for the wardrobe fitting, Clint Culpepper, the president of the studio was there,” says Paul Walker. "He was very specific about what he wanted. 

"It was in the script that Idris' character, Gordon, was real flossy in the way he dressed,” the actor continues. "But that was the only mention of it, character-wise. Clint had a very specific look in mind for each and every one of us. Dolce and Gabbana fit me the best, so every suit I wear in the movie is D and G.”

Packer admits it wasn't much of challenge to make this cast look sharp. "We've got an amazing-looking cast,” he says. "And these guys wear suits like hangers. You have five or six guys, all under thirty, dressed really, really clean in suits and ties and cuff links and pockets squares and wing tips. It's not a look that you've seen before and the guys pull it off so well. They grabbed the opportunity to put on this look and really wear it well.”

In addition to a unique sartorial style, each character expresses his individuality through the car he drives—after all, it is Los Angeles. "There's a scene set outside the Mercury Lounge, and we shot it just like a music video,” says Packer. "All the guys pull up in their various whips, one at a time, and it's this great shot of them set against the skyline of Los Angeles, walking into the club as if they own the world.” 

Some of the actors had strong opinions about the car their characters should drive that didn't always jibe with the producers'. "There was some battling back and forth about who got to drive what,” says Packer. "Everybody wanted the coolest car. Idris has the Range Rover, Paul Walker has a cool roadster, and Hayden Christensen has a Cadillac. Michael Ealy got an SUV; Chris Brown is on a motorcycle. We let them have some input, but if we'd let these guys have their way, they each would have been driving half-million dollar cars.”

With only 45 days to shoot the film and over 300 scenes to be filmed, the producers often ran two units at the same time, one filming action and another covering the dramatic scenes. 

The film's most intricate sequence, which involved dropping two trucks into a subterranean cavern under a downtown street, presented the biggest challenge. "John and I were trying to figure out how one drops a truck into the belly of a Los Angeles street,” Gainor says said. "We realized that we were going to have to build the whole thing, because we're never going to be able to actually dig a hole that big in a public street. 

"So if you're seeing action, we're doing action,” he adds. "Nothing is ‘virtual.' And that's what makes this movie fantastic.”

As an example, the two producers point to the same scene, a favorite for both. "We got to blow up a helicopter,” says Packer. "That was the coolest day. I called and said, "You're not going to believe what we did today. I literally blew up a real helicopter today outside of Dodger's Stadium.” 

Gainor is happy to offer a few tips on blowing up a helicopter. "Here's what you need to know,” he says. "Before you do it, you need a lot of gasoline. Then, get a chopper that doesn't really work. It's a lot cheaper. We put gas cans in the body of the helicopter and we actually shot it actually at Dodger Stadium. When you blow up a helicopter, you've got one shot, one shot only. Everybody had to stand back, we rolled four or five cameras and it was perfect.”

Luessenhop is confident that when the smoke clears—literally and figuratively—audiences will enjoy Takers as a new twist on a classic heist picture, but they will remember it because of the characters and their relationships. "We set out to make a great genre movie,” he says. "And I think we did that. But the emotional connections make this more than a one-note movie. The combination of the two is what is most satisfying and that's what I hope really resonates with our audience.”

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