Matt Dillon and Columbus Short Are Heavily Armored
Director Nimrod Antal, who rose to prominence with his 2003 subway mystery Kontroll and his 2007 snuff thriller Vacancy, returns to theater screens on December 4th with the star-studded crime drama Armored. This enthralling new adventure pits desperate men against desperate times in their no-holds-barred attempt to pull off the perfect crime. Starring Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, Amaury Nolasco, Fred Ward, Milo Ventimiglia, Skeet Ulrich and Columbus Short, the film follows a crew of armored truck guards as they meticulously plan to rob their own security firm. When their seemingly fool proof plan begins to unravel in front of them, the men must turn against each other to save themselves.
Earlier this year, we arrived on the Sony Studio lot to chat with some of the key players behind this hyper-charged heist. Greeting us on our visit were actors Matt Dillon, Columbus Short, Milo Ventimiglia, and Amaury Nolasco. We stood watch with Antal as he gleefully lit one of his main men on fire. Yes, Matt Dillon was going up in a ball of flames, an explosion of money drifting down behind him like green rain. Everyone seemed to be having a blast, and the armored truck at the center of this escapade had certainly seen better days. After hurrying to pat the fire out on his leg, Dillon, caked in black grease and smelling like smoke, came over to greet us, "This is the first time I've ever been set on fire. This is fun. It's like rolling around in the dirt and being a kid again."
Intense action had permeated the first few moments of our visit, and Dillon assured us it was not a fluke, "It is like a war, this movie. The characters go through some major arcs, and the audience will get taken on quite a ride. These guys are all friends when this starts out. It's like a fraternity. In the end, it all comes unglued, and greed gets the better of them." Is the actor having as much fun as it looks on set? "Yes, my character is great. He is very manipulative, very charming, and in the end he turns. He goes south. He becomes a monster. It is an action movie, for sure. But it's also very character-driven."
Moments before we started chatting with Matt, we watched as they shot his scene both with and without fire. Does it bother him that they can add in the fire later with computer animation? And not have to light him up? Not really, "They like it better when my leg is actually on fire. I want them to use what is best. I really trust Nimrod. He's got a great eye, he's got really good instincts, and sometimes you gotta go for it. These guys have stunt men around, so it doesn't bother me. Without giving away too much of the plot, the reason I'm on fire is that there was an explosion from one of the armored cars. It's been rigged. Myself, Jean Reno and Laurence Fishburne are going into the truck. I end up on fire. Fortunately, I'm not inside the truck, so I survive the explosion."
In the background, Nimrod watched the scene multiple times on the monitor, gleeful that Matt was ablaze. Dillon smiled at him, "I've really loved making this movie. It's a really great ensemble. This is a drama, there are chase scenes, there's some exciting stuff that really drives it home. It's a very energized movie. The script is good, but Nimrod's made it his own. He's transcended the subject matter and streamlined certain things. He'll combine scenes. He compresses it so it moves. The pace is really fast. I trust him as an actor's director. He's given me really good direction, and he's a real force on the set. Nimrod is a visual filmmaker first and foremost. It's his instincts about performance that make this great. His eye, his taste. I think so much of it comes down to instincts. He's got great passion. I came on board because I really loved his first film."
Who exactly is Matt playing in the film? "I'm a veteran with the company. I'm the captain of my own truck. Each truck has a team of three, and I'm the leader. Laurence Fishburne is the wingman, and in the jumpseat is the rookie, Columbus Short. Jean Reno has my same role in his truck. My guy has been at this for a long time. He's a little disillusioned; he's trying to make ends meet. He's got domestic problems at home. He uses that as part of his whole manipulative scheme."
It's been a long, rough shoot for all of the actors. Columbus Short, the man in the jumpseat on this whole operation, explained his condition in three simple words, "I'm beat up." Shooting Armored has been an exhausting process for the young actor, as well as a challenging one. As he explains it, he is the rookie; "I'm the new guy in this whole scheme. These older guys coerce me into this. Our plan is to get $42 million, and it goes awry. I become Public Enemy number one. It's hilarious. I'm the hero. I'm the guy that's going to foil the bad guys' plan and wait for the cops." Short has equally enjoyed working with such a great ensemble cast, "It's awesome here, because I've been learning so much about my craft. Everyone's been so open with sharing their pearls of wisdom. They want the movie to be good. It's a blessing, and it's humbling. I can't believe I'm doing a scene with Laurence Fishburne. He has his arm around me. It's cool. Our second day of working, and this is when I knew he was going to be my man, he comes up behind me while I'm just sitting there chillin'. He goes, 'This is going to feel a little weird.' I was like, 'Oh, shit. That's Morpheus!' He's a badass in this movie."
Columbus has stood by, watching with a smile as Matt Dillon is lit on fire, "I'm the one who does this to him. I'm the one behind it. I rigged the truck with those explosives. I spend the second half of the movie in the back of the truck trying to MacGyver my way into ending this situation. Matt's character, Cochrane, is my godfather in the movie, so it's this story of betrayal between the two of us. This man I've looked up to my whole life, that's taken me and my brother in; he turns his back and he's doing something reckless. That starts the divide halfway through the movie. Then I'm in the back of the armored truck, and I've got to figure this out. I'm an ex-Marine, so that comes in handy. My quick thinking and ingenuity."
Is Columbus going to be doing his own stunts like Matt? "Yes! I'm doing everything. They've let me do all my own stunts, which is great. I'm parkour-ing, I'm climbing up buildings, I'm jumping off trucks, I'm freaking crashing trucks into buildings. It's like all your childhood dreams coming true at once. I've been working with these stunt guys for about four months now, so we just talk it through and rehearse it. I can do most of this stuff without cables, but they have to put the cables on so you can be safe. It's great to challenge yourself to do things you've never done. My body's beat up worse than it's been beat up in my life, but it's fantastic. Its all well worth it." Would he compare the film to Reservoir Dogs? "Absolutely. We've even got the same DP. Nimrod Antal is doing a fantastic job. He's a genius. He's prepared. He's over-prepared. And he's just knocking it out. Boom, boom, boom! He knows what he wants, he knows what his vision is, and to see it come to fruition is friggin' amazing."
At this point in the game, Short still had a couple of big stunts in his future. He didn't seem too worried about that, though, "They have this one crazy stunt. Now that the truck's blown up, and I've got my brother and Milo to safety, I'm on the run. Matt's after me. He crashes, and I kind of parkour up the truck. He's about to run over me, and I run up the side of it. It's some very cool stuff. Some real Blackie Chan type of stuff. It's gonna be awesome!"
Amaury Nolasco is another guy that can't believe the luck he's had falling in with this group of actors, "I feel very honored to be in a cast with Lawrence Fishburne and Matt Dillon. That's two academy award nominees there; not to mention Jean Reno. That's like coming to school. Then I'm also working with Skeet Ulrich and Columbus Short. Here's a new breed of actor just coming up. I'm very blessed to work with Nimrod as well. He is a very hungry and passionate director, which is very rare. Especially in this industry, where a lot of people get really jaded. It's been a fun shoot. This is a $25 million movie, their making it look like a $75 million movie. It's been the hardest film I've ever worked on. Just non-stop. Running and jumping from here to there. There's a beautiful thing that I love about my character. He's got an arc. I can't say much. There's a little bit of a dark cloud with this guy. A lot of internal things going on. He's a born again Christian. He found God after being in prison for so many years and having to deal with gang related events. He's always got that duality, that conflict of 'Are we doing the right thing?' For me, it was a no brainer. This guy will sacrifice himself for his buddies."
How does being a born again Christian justify the whole "Thou Shall Not Steal" mantra? "You'll see! I don't know how much I can give away. You'll see these justifications come up, and I hope that they come across in a way where everyone's got their own reasoning. We all have our own reasons, and we don't voice them out. That's where a lot of the conflict comes from."
Milo Ventimiglia isn't playing one of the armed robbers. Instead, he is a security officer that gets wrapped up in this bad business, "My character, Officer Eckhart, responds to a siren. When getting to the location, he gets shot in the gut. He pulls his weapon. Then he gets another shotgun blast to the gut. Its one of the bad guys that shoots me. I spend a lot of the movie in the back of that armored truck, I'm lying there, dying, wailing, crying. Thinking about my own morality. My guy's a mess." Does he consider the character an homage to Tim Roth's Mr. Orange? "I intentionally didn't watch that before hand, because Tim was so genius in that role. It's kind of hard to be there, and witness somebody getting shot in the gut. And then do an honest interpretation of it. I think for me, it just understood more the mental pain and disconnect from the physicality of what someone in that position has to go through."
You can experience all of the excitement and thrills of Nimrod Antal's latest project when Armored arrives on the scene December 4th, 2009.