From writer/director Bobby Moresco, the crime thriller Bent follows ex-cop Danny Gallagher (Karl Urban), who is on a quest for justice, after a drug bust goes wrong and he finds himself under fire. While Gallagher finds himself entangled with a seductive federal agent (Sofia Vergara), he must figure out whether or not there is anyone that he can trust.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, filmmaker Bobby Moresco talked about how Bent evolved, why he wanted to tell this character’s story, the tricky challenge of pacing, what made Karl Urban and Sofia Vergara the right choices for these roles, and who he likes to screen his films for, while he’s working on his final cut. He also talked about his TV series 100 Code (starring Dominic Monaghan and Michael Nyqvist and airing on WGN America in May), the film he’s doing about the life story of Ferruccio Lamborghini (with Antonio Banderas and Alec Baldwin), and his upcoming comedy, reuniting him with Sofia Vergara.
Collider: How did this come about? Did you want to direct something, so you wrote this script, or did you write the script because the story inspired you?
BOBBY MORESCO: It’s a great question. I received an offer that asked me if I wanted to look at a book that Joe O’Donnell had written. I read the book, and Joe’s a great guy and it was his first book, and I said to him, “I’ve always wanted to do a noir movie. I don’t want to do your book, but I’d love to take the character of Gallagher and create a noir film out of it.” Joe was so great and gracious, and he said, “Let’s go! Let’s do it!” So, I took Joe’s character and created a different kind of story, using a lot of his stuff, but creating a movie out of it. That was the beginning of it. And then, I knew (producer) Andrea [Iervolino]. We had done a couple of other projects, not only in the past, but I’m doing another project for him coming up, and he said, “Let’s make this movie!” That was the essence of it.
What was it about Danny Gallagher, as a character, that made you want to tell his story?
MORESCO: That’s a great question. The thing about Gallagher is he refuses to give up on what he believes, even when everyone else is saying, “No!” And then, I started reading about the origins of noir, and not just in America, which is where it began, in terms of film. In the great noir protagonists, or antagonists, depending on how you want to define it, they take one step toward the truth, and then they take another step. They don’t know where they’re going, and neither do we, but they take that one step, and then it leads to the next step. That was the idea, from the get-go, that Gallagher would not give up and just take the one step, having no idea where it would go. To live in that one step, for a whole movie, was cool for me. I don’t think he tries to do the right thing or be good, at all, in this. We’re all out there swinging, as we live in today’s times. None of us have an anchor to hold onto, and Gallagher has no anchor, except for this sense and feeling in him the he knows. He doesn’t know why he knows, but he’s gotta find out. Swinging in the breeze is the best way I can say it. We’re all just swinging in the breeze, trying to get an anchor to hold onto, and Gallagher’s got one anchor, which is his partner. It was really fun to hang onto that idea and have no idea where you’re going because he didn’t know where he was going. To see if the audience would follow that was really cool.
When you do something like this, that’s part action, part thriller, part conspiracy story, is it a tricky balance between when you keep things moving and when you slow down to unravel those threads?
MORESCO: It’s a big challenge, and that all comes down to pace. Action and suspense, and drama and conflict are all, overall, in hopefully every scene. Sometimes one takes a little more precedence, but the need is to create a pace that the audience will stay with.
Why was Karl Urban your Danny Gallagher?
MORESCO: You know, he asked me the same question. He said, “Why me?” It’s a fair question ‘cause he hasn’t done this kind of movie before. I had in my mind, from the get-go, from the moment I saw what I wanted to do here, I always thought of Robert Mitchum. Who’s another actor out there, who can bring that quality to the screen, the way Karl does here? There’s not a lot of actors who can do that. Karl was, for me, the guy who could do that, and I think it turned out okay. Karl is not only a great actor, but a great guy.
How did you come to Sofia Vergara for this?
MORESCO: Our casting director, Sarah Finn, who also did Crash and who does all of the Marvel movies, one day said to me, “Sofia Vergara read the script and is interested.” She’s never done anything like this, but I knew she was smart because, if you can do comedy, you can do anything. You can’t do the kind of work she does in comedy without being really smart. And then, I had one talk with her on the telephone and I got it. She got this character. I said, “Let’s do it!,” and she said, “Let’s do it!,” and that was it. She showed up on the set and had four or five questions, and that was it. She came in and never had another question. She knew that she was doing something different and she trusted me. We went places, emotionally, that I’m not sure she’s ever gone before, and she never held back. I think she’s just great in this movie.
What were the biggest challenges for you, with this production?
MORESCO: The movie is set in Louisiana, but we had to shoot it [elsewhere]. If you watch this movie and know that it was [somewhere else], then it doesn’t work. I think it plays like it’s Louisiana, in a big way, but that was a challenge. I had to have a great location managed an production designer, and my cinematographer and I had to be very careful about what was in the frame, and I think we delivered. It feel like Louisiana, or someplace like that in America, and the actors had to be consistent with their accents. I was grateful that we were able to do that.
When you were finessing the final cut of this film, did you screen it for any friends or family? Is that something you like to do, when you’re putting together a movie?
MORESCO: Always. What you don’t do is screen it for the people that you know are gonna compliment you. That’s the worst thing because that doesn’t help. Compliments are great, but when you’re cutting a movie, it doesn’t help. I’ve got some people that I really trust, including both of my daughters, who are in the business, and I’ve got two great assistants and some friends that I trust. And then, I bring in people who don’t know anything about the movie, didn’t read the script, and that I didn’t tell anything about it. If you have people you trust, who haven’t seen the project before, and who are gonna give you honest feedback from a point of view that is fresh, there’s nothing like it. If you have people who are just gonna give you compliments, don’t even bother.