This week, we got to attend a press con with The Gray Man directors and cast members, and even do a Zoom interview with Ryan Gosling about the amazing new action spy movie on Netflix. If you thought all action spy movies were the same, think again. The Gray Man stands out from the rest in many different ways:
It’s a modern story.
Joe Russo, director of The Gray Man, points out that the film has a modern story. “This film is connected in a lot of ways to some issues that are going on in the world right now,” he says. “It’s the kind of film that we feel would work well with today’s audiences.”
The lead character is a different kind of spy.
Although we’ve all grown up watching spy films and action films (these are actually the movies that made Ryan Gosling fall in love with movies as a kid!), Ryan admits that he had to think about how to create a character that feels new in some way. “I really thought it was compelling, this idea of a spy who doesn’t wanna be a spy, who has no romantic ideas of being James Bond, who would rather be at home watching Netflix like the rest of us.”
He adds, “He doesn’t have gadgets. He doesn’t rely on technology. His superpower if he has one is that he’s smart. He thinks on his feet and he doesn’t give up and he’s very human in a way. It’s human ingenuity that gets him out of situations. He has to make the best of what he has around him and a lot of it is just very practical pragmatic thinking. He’s not reliant in any way on technology or anything like that. I thought it was interesting because we live in such a digital world that a character like this felt unique within that.”
Ryan says he tried to approach it like a plumber who is just doing their job: you have a leak and he goes in and he fixes it. Ryan explains further, “They put him in fancy clothes and he goes to fancy locations but he’s a very blue-collar kind of guy and I thought that’s an interesting juxtaposition to the kind of work that he does and the glamorized way we’ve seen this kind of characters in other films. I like those films a lot but I felt like that made this character unique and that’s where I connected to him. I felt like that was something I could relate to.”
Even parents will be able to relate.
Billy Bob Thornton points out that while his character may be a high-level spy who has to be cold-blooded in a lot of ways, he also takes his personal relationships into account. “It’s like, “How do I remain a human and yet Page 6 of 22 do my job?” That interests me about those kinda people in general but, you know, also being the protector of my niece and everything, it comes naturally because I’m a parent myself,” he shares.
It’s filled with leading women.
While other spy movies sometimes sexualize women, The Gray Man doesn’t do that at all – and we’re all for it! Alfree Woodard points out that this is important “because we are the stronger gender”. “Thankfully, these guys have the kind of women in their lives that they know that,” she points out. “Ryan is just rocked by strong women in his life. And so we’re just presenting real life. And a lot of times you don’t get that in film.”
Julia Butters adds, “It’s also very important that women in action movies aren’t presented as women wearing high heels, and beating the guys, and oh, they’re so sexy. It’s very important that you represent them also in a way where they’re doing a job and it doesn’t matter if they are found attractive necessarily. I think it’s very important to represent them respectfully and powerfully at the same time.” And The Gray Man does exactly that. “It’s womano a mano, too,” Ryan quips.
The Prague scene is amazing!
Although The Gray Man is action-packed from beginning to end, the Prague scene definitely stands out. Director Anthony Russo shares that they needed a large section of the city to pull that off and it was very complex. They actually used actual trams in Prague for it and had to build a bus to look like a tram when they needed it to run faster. They also had a stationary tram that would shake and had a blue screen around it. “I don’t think we can go back to Prague or Cleveland, but we’re very grateful that we were able to shoot on location,” he laughs.
Ryan also shared that the Prague sequence was his favorite scene as well. “It was so fun to be in Prague and it’s such a beautiful city and such a great crew and there are so many elements to it from the town square to the stuff that happens on the train. The train sequence kind of summed up the experience for me because there’s a moment in the end where I’m running on top of the train cars and they’re falling out behind me and the whole movie sort of felt like that. I was just barely making it out of every action sequence alive and it also was the last thing that we shot so it felt exciting in that way too.”
If you’re looking for a James Bond film, this may not be it. As Ryan puts it, Six is more like a blue-collar Bond so you can’t really compare them. “Six is an interesting person because it’s about what he wants. A lot of the heroes in [spy] films want revenge or they want power or they want money or they want information. But Six just wants to be free. He just wants his freedom and I think that that’s something most of us can relate to and I think it makes him relatable in a unique and interesting way.”
Watch the trailer here:
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