If one word could be used to describe the making of “We Own the Night,” it would be “perseverance.” At the Variety screening series, director James Gray shared the difficulties he had with casting the cop drama.
“I never once had an actor say, ‘Yes, I want to do your movie,’ “ said the helmer.
“I was in New York researching the movie on a ridealong and saw a cheesy talkshow that Eva (Mendes) was on. And she was obviously a thousand times brighter than the person interviewing her,” said Gray. “We sent her the script. And we got the answer: ‘No!’ “
The lovely Eva was on hand at the screening to explain her decision at the time.
“A year goes by, and he’s relentless. It’s amazing,” said the actress. “And then I heard he might offer it to another actress that shall remain nameless, and suddenly I’m like, ‘what?’ “
Once Mendes said yes, Gray then needed to secure Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix. After all, he wrote the roles with those two actors in mind.
“I remember after finishing it, I gave the script to Mark, and he said, ‘I can’t do this movie, Jim,’ “ said Gray. “I called Mark one or two times a day for seven straight months.”
“When he got me on board, he called me and said, ‘Eva, you gotta help me out. Mark just had a baby and he doesn’t want to do the movie. It has to be Mark Wahlberg. You have to help me get him.’ So we created ‘Operation Seduce Mark Wahlberg,’ “ joked Mendes. “Mark doesn’t know me. I’m actually a decent young woman in a relationship, and yet I still called him and said, ‘Hey Mark, this is Eva Mendes. Do you want to go have a drink?’ “
Once the filmmaker secured Wahlberg, he set his sights on Phoenix. Gray explained how he nabbed the Oscar-nominated actor by playing up to his artistic side.
“It’s very easy for people of this stature to go off and make a lot of money by doing stuff that’s easy,” Gray said of Phoenix. “You have to appeal to the artist in them. Joaquin’s approach to material is that he’s very afraid of not understanding the arc of the character. So I put the character to him in personal terms. I got him into it that way.”