With each film, actors get to step into different personalities and take on characteristics unlike their own. But it can also be a physically grueling job if the character they’re playing lives an action-filled lifestyle. We’ve seen it with Tom Hardy in Warrior, Kate Beckinsale in the Underworld franchise, Tom Cruise as a spy in the Mission: Impossible films, and now Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Premium Rush, a movie set within a world you’d rarely think about being as dangerous, or adrenaline fueled as it is – NYC bike messengers.
“Walking the streets in New York, you see bike messengers everywhere,” says director David Koepp. “Or more often, you don’t see them until they blast by you with about six inches to spare. They’re irresponsible as hell, they never follow the rules, but they’re the only ones that seem to be fully in control out there.”
“The whole movie is on the bike,” says Gordon-Levitt. “I trained for six weeks or so, five days a week, leading up to shooting. I had to be in good enough shape to spend 12 hours a day doing those scenes. I knew I wouldn’t be able to say, ‘Oh, I’m tired,’ while a 500-person film crew was waiting for me to catch my breath.”
“You realize immediately on meeting Joe that he’s a serious guy, treats what he does with real respect, he’s after honest entertainment,” says Koepp. “He immediately took to this. He started training as soon as he could, started talking to people, listening. He wanted to get on a bike and get in shape.”
That also applied to Gordon-Levitt’s co-stars, Dania Ramirez and Wolé Parks, who had to engulf themselves in the confidence and craziness of being a New York City bike messenger. Ramirez trained with Gordon-Leviit in Los Angeles, where they both learned to be fearless.
“Actors talk about being vulnerable, but there’s no vulnerability quite like going down a hill at 40 miles an hour with no brakes – I don’t know a lot of actresses out there that would throw themselves into it and get on a fixed-gear bike and go for it,” Koepp says. “But she really did. I love working with people who are game like that.”
Confidence was just the first step in the training process. For the actors to look like real bikers in the streets of New York, they worked with two trainers, Nate Loyal in Los Angeles and Dave Jordan in New York.
“I tried to make sure they felt comfortable at speed,” says Jordan. “Not only do you have traffic, but you’ve got manhole covers, potholes – there are a lot of variables. So we got used to swerving and maneuvering.”
Director David Keopp, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dania Ramirez, Wolé Parks, and trainer Nate Loyal give more of inside look into the training for Premium Rush, in theaters Friday, August 24th.