‘Premium Rush’ Interview: Five Things We Learned From Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and director David Koepp have zoomed into town with no breaks, promoting their exuberant and enjoyable bike messenger movie 'Premium Rush.' We put on our tightest fitting spandex shorts, did some shots of Powerade and sat for an exclusive interview with the director and star about bringing this movie to its destination in one piece.
It's Called Bike-O-Vision
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is New York's greatest bike messenger not just because of his winning smile. He's got the ability to see and understand traffic patterns in a split-second, and it's this power that enables him to consider red lights more of a suggestion than a rule.
"Cycle-fu?" I ask.
"Bike-O-Vision," director and co-writer David Koepp responds. "We even added a little trademark next to it in the script."
"Yeah, I Googled that," Levitt admits. "Those scenes are fun because we get to break reality a little bit."
"Since it is inside his head we could use effects a bit and get creative, a little destructive, too." Koepp adds.
"My baby!" Levitt jokes, in reference to an imagined moment in the film wherein the high-speed cyclist smashes into a baby carriage.
"Not just that, but the jogger who gets run over by the bread truck? Whose shoe flies off? I finally got a chance to use a Wilhelm Scream."
Mrs. Gordon-Levitt Hasn't Seen the Film Yet
No, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's mother hasn't seen "Premium Rush" yet. Woe be to anyone who has to see their baby zip across insane Manhattan traffic, dodging cabs, trucks and a villainous Michael Shannon.
"She's gonna see it later this week. It might be rough," Levitt says.
"She's not just any mother, she's a Jewish mother!" I add.
"I know! What was I thinking? Though I don't think the character is Jewish."
"We didn't get too specific on his ethnic background," Koepp offers. "Though we did say he was originally from Pasadena. But one of the stunt guys was Jewish. Another was Asian. We've got everyone represented."
The Film is Rooted in Real New York City Geography
I congratulate the team for making a New York movie that makes really good use of the city, and, with one small exception, seems pretty legit with its location geography.
"What's the one exception?!?" Koepp barks, practically leaping out of his chair.
"Who goes from Columbia University to Chinatown by going north on Broadway at 125th?"
"Ahhhhhh! That's the one shot! It's the only one!"
"And it's only a few blocks over, really," Levitt adds, taking one for the team.
"We needed that shot in there. Joe's flying down just as the subway is coming up out of the ground on the elevated track. It looks terrific."
"You weren't there that day," Levitt reminds Koepp. "That was 2nd unit, and you would have lost your mind, it was a straight down, it moves really fast."
"Yeah, that was all Joe doing that shot, but listen," Koepp adds, "we wanted locations that looked great, but were real. And were ones you haven't seen a thousand times. You don't need to see the Brooklyn Bridge again. These were real streets and, with that one misstep you caught, all the real locations from the story."
Gordon-Levitt Trained With Actual Bike Messengers
"Premium Rush" has many fun moments inside the subculture of New York City's bike messengers. But do they really all hang out at a bar?
"They hang out at THAT bar!" Koepp informs me. "We definitely did our research, and you can learn a lot on the Internet. We got the newsletters, learned some of the jargon. We met up with a leading figure named Squid who became a consultant on the film."
"I did plenty of rides," Levitt adds. "I didn't make any deliveries, but I joined them on some rides."
Koepp Drove Nic Cage Crazy?
David Koepp has written plenty of legendary films ("Jurassic Park" comes to mind) but one of his most memorable, at least as far as I am concerned, is Brian De Palma's "Snake Eyes."
If you look back, "Snake Eyes" is basically the tipping point when Nicolas Cage transformed into the . . .unique performer that he is today. Does Koepp recognize his culpability for this transformative pop culture event?
"Let's just say that when we first presented him the script he said 'I want to play this like it was Dean Martin.' That was not at all what I had in mind. But . . .I listened to some Dean Martin and that's how I tailored all the rewrites."