Matthew McConaughey, Rene Russo and D.J. Caruso discuss making the highly charged gambling film

MovieWeb recently sat down with the cast and crew of the upcoming, fast paced, sports gambling film Two For the Money. Inspired by a true story and set in the adrenalized world of wheeler-dealers whose fortunes are won and lost betting on sports. Matthew McConaughey stars as Brandon Lang, a former college football star whose uncanny ability to predict the outcome of a game introduces him to an unexpected new career when his gridiron glory is sidelined by a crushing injury.

Brandon's talent makes him a prime candidate for recruitment by Walter Abraham (Oscar®-winner Al Pacino), the head of one of the biggest sports consulting operations in the country. Walter hires the small town ex-athlete and grooms him into a shrewd front man. Brandon soon begins to enjoy his status as a Manhattan golden boy and finds himself growing comfortable with Walter's high-rolling lifestyle. The surrogate father/surrogate son relationship fattens Walter's business and personal accounts... until Brandon's golden touch begins to falter at the same time that Walter's manipulation of his protégé crosses the line.

With millions of dollars on the line, Brandon and Walter engage in a deadly game of con versus con, each one trying to maintain the upper hand while everyone in their world, including Walter's wife, Toni (Rene Russo), are drawn into the escalating duel-where ultimately everything isn't what it appears to be.

Up first was the very affable director D.J. Caruso. Helmer of such films as Taking Lives and The Salton Sea, Caruso is proving himself to be very adept at handling many different cinematic milieus.

"It was a challenge...," Caruso started, "making this film in 43 days with 20 million dollars." Initially, it was made outside of the studio system and was picked up by Universal Studios later. The obvious first question that was posed, was Caruso nervous working with someone of Pacino's caliber and legend? "Rehearsals made it not so, but there was that first moment, when we were shooting the movie and I had to take off the headset and direct him. The thing is, Al wants to be directed so bad." Caruso also loved the idea that Rene Russo's character would be like a moral compass. "She shows him it's just you, me and our daughter and that's all that matters."

The biggest cinematic license he took in the film was making Brandon's character a football player when in the real life the character had played basketball at UNLV. He also wanted to show how the internet has basically revolutionized the business of gambling. "Most people don't have a bookie. If they lose money they just add it on their credit cards. No matter what happens with the economy, Vegas seems to be getting bigger and bigger." For a character like Novian (a very high stakes gambler played by Armand Assante) "he's not a compulsive gambler. For him, it's more like a game."

What attracted Caruso to the character of Brandon Lang was "this was a character who had never felt sorry for himself. He was always going to try to win." Another challenge was how to explain the gambling in the movie without inundating audience members. Also, the NFL, which wants nothing to do with gambling (even though they do everything in their power it seems to promote it), was very uncooperative with the production. All the sports scenes in the movie were done with "green screens" with Caruso "talking the actors through" the scenes, because the NFL would not grant them any rights to use any footage

Next up for D.J. Caruso is a movie with Kate Hudson titled Sleight of Mind which was written by Ron Bass.

After D.J. Caruso's interview, Rene Russo came into the room, gave everyone a big "Hello" and graciously sat down and fielded questions.

"Total enabler," is how she described her character Toni Morrow. "She's not as in control as she'd like to be. She didn't want to know that Walter was gambling, yet when she knew it was too late." When asked what it was like working with Al Pacino she said she was, "intimidated by him. Then I looked across the table [during rehearsals] and I saw a kindred spirit. As for how she prepared for her role, she states she's never done a drug "but I know about addiction. I've known people that have gambled with their lives, drugs but not with money." She went on to say that she didn't meet with gamblers and she didn't meet with the real life "Walter or Toni."

She described the set as being "very focused. Al had pages and pages of dialogue, so he was running lines all day and Matt was really focused on his character." As she is married to the writer of Two For the Money, Dan Gilroy, she joked that writers "live in a fantasy world." Russo also mentioned that Gilroy had written the role of Toni with her in mind. When asked about working with Matthew McConaughey, she described him as "up and positive, but he's got a lot going on underneath."

Lastly, Matthew McConaughey walked into the room to finish off the Two For the Money interviews. I was very impressed by his ability to think about the answers he was giving to the questions posed, and not just answer with stock comments.

He described the character of Brandon Lang as "a winner who starts losing. You find out your whole world was an illusion. You need to win to survive... to help your family survive." McConaughey utilized the real life Brandon Lang to inform his character. "I met Brandon early on. Did a lot of homework. Played football. Called the services [the types of gambling advising services his character works at in the movie]." He soon realized that a lot of gambler's needs are too prove that they are "right. If you win you can say you were right, if you lose you walk around wondering why you lost, trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle."

"Working with Al was like dancing with a great partner," he stated about his costar. "While you're doing it you're in it." He also said he didn't see the role of Brandon Lang and his alter ego John Anthony as two people. "It's different packaging but basically the same product." In relating his character's rise to his own rise in Hollywood he said that "with success comes many options" but what has always kept him grounded is a sense of "self respect." He feels that "people who are successful can get cynical," whereas he chooses the philosophy "everyone's innocent until proven guilty but don't be a fool."

When asked about the 43 day shoot (compared to the length of some other shoots he has worked on) he described it as "ideal. We showed up and we were immediately doing the work. We'd already done the preparation process. D.J. gave us a lot of room to breath. I loved working on this thing."

Other than Failure to Launch, a romantic comedy with Sarah Jessica Parker, he said he didn't know what his next film was going to be.

Two For the Money will be doubling down in theaters on October 7th, 2005. Stay tuned for more interview with the cast and crew of the film, coming this week!