How did putting on a police officer’s uniform make you feel?
I felt like a cop! [Laughs.] I really did. There was a time where I was riding around wherever I wanted—there’s cameras in the car but you can’t really see them—and some stuff was set up around the neighborhood. You see it a little bit in the beginning where I [pull up to a dice game of illegal immigrants] and all these guys run.
It was interesting the level of compassion [the cops I did ride-alongs with] had for the character because they see the temptation, they see that every cop has to deal with that in his own way.
But then there was also stuff that happened where I would stop and talk to a guy for a while who was working on some house and he had no idea I wasn’t a cop. He didn’t realize he was in a movie until they came back later and asked him to sign a waiver. Those moments were great. It was really amazing to feel that, like what it must feel like to be a cop cause, wow, what a thing to be a cop. It’s an amazing, kinda heady position, 'cause you are really the ultimate authority, period. Like, even a senator is gonna put his hands on his head and do what he’s told by to a cop.
Dave erupts in violence at several points in the film. How much of that physical brutality was improvised?
There is a great deal of improv but there is no choreography because the way [cinematographer] Bobby Bukowski shoots things, he lights the area and it's really wide open. It’s amazing how wide open it is. And that’s the beauty of working with Oren, because it’s kind of like anything can happen, and many times really unexpected things did happen. And yet you feel really safe because this freaking genius named Oren Moverman, you trust more than your brother and he really takes care of you, so it's a pretty cool way to work.
There's a scene early on where Dave beats and nearly kills a fleeing suspect. How difficult was filming that for you?
I didn’t much like shooting that scene. It’s hard because if you are kicking someone and you are not really kicking them then it looks fake, so you gotta try to make it look real. Although he is a stunt guy who used to be a Navy SEAL and he was very padded up it’s still no joke. The guy was actually taking a beating. I didn’t like doing it, especially because we did it over and over and there was paparazzi all around capturing it on film, which really bugged me… Yeah, that wasn’t my favorite scene. [Laughs.]
There's another brief physical altercation during an emotional scene with Brie Larson, who plays Dave's disapproving lesbian daughter, that seems like it would also be very uncomfortable.
I didn’t know she was gonna hit me and I didn’t know I was going to react like that but it’s exciting. Those scenes with the kids were the most difficult ones—in particularly that one with Brie. That was her first day and she came in and delivered.
That girl, the sky’s the limit for her. I think she’s a really great actress. Her part was not that big but she was so good. She’s good at improv, too; every scene with her grew into something better and bigger. The movie was not as focused on the family as it became but Oren went in the editing room and saw these are the most compelling scenes.
What was it like working with Ice Cube, who plays an investigator for the D.A.?
I really liked working with him. He is really good. When [Oren] first told me, I was like, “Ice Cube to play a D.A. investigator? What?” I didn’t have the big picture the way Oren does, and then once we were on the set doing it, I was like, you couldn’t have a better person playing this part. I thought it was perfect casting. I thought he was a really good actor. I mean, I thought that before but it was really a pleasure working with him. Totally professional, totally prepared and ready to go, and up for improv as well.
This one scene where he is saying get your stuff packed 'cause you're going up river, I ran back at him and fucking grabbed him. He didn’t know that was coming, that wasn’t in the script; as far as he was concerned I was gonna say it from across the street, and then I fucking grabbed him and got up in his face, “I been up river motherfucker!” and the way he responds... He's up for anything and he is really versatile actor. A lot of flexibility.
Dave lives next to his two ex wives, sisters (played by Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche) with whom he has a daughter each. As a married man with three daughters of your own, was there anything that you brought of your personal relationships into the dysfunctional relationships that Dave has with this world of women he inhabits?
Yeah, I'm in a world of women, I'm surrounded by women—my three daughters, my wife, my dog. One fine bitch she is. You can use that term in that situation! [Laughs.] I have a great relationship with my daughters but certainly the level of love and caring that we have kinda played into my relationship with my on-screen daughters and I really felt like those were some intense scenes. I was bawling after those scenes, just bawling, really. It touched on a real emotional nerve.
Have you gotten any feedback on the movie and character from the cops you rode with or other police officers?
Yeah, some cops have really responded well. I mean, the two cops who I was mostly doing my ride-alongs with liked the movie but they said they thought there was gonna be more action and violence. [Laughs.] I thought that was cool. It was interesting the level of compassion they had for the character because they see that stuff—neither of them are corrupt but they see the temptation for it, they see that every cop has to deal with that in his own way, and then they see this guy spiral out of control and they say, you know, it’s just too bad. [Laughs.]
Written by Justin Monroe (@40yardsplash)