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The Need for Speed: Behind the Scenes of PREMIUM RUSH
By Evy Baehr, Associate Editor
PREMIUM RUSH is filled with the “rush” to get the package to the destination. With everything he can, a New York bike messenger named Wilee tries to get a very important package to its destination while being chased by a corrupt cop and gangsters.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Wilee) and Dania Ramirez, playing Wilee’s girlfriend, Venessa, in the movie, recently gave MOVIEGUIDE® some insight into the movie’s production.
Q: Joseph you got hurt? What happened?
Joseph: There was a bit of an accident. . . a diplomat broke through our lockup. They can break the law. So, he broke through our cones and props. Basically I ended up going through the rear window of a taxicab and getting 31 stitches. Everybody was worried. I [was] flooded with adrenalin.
Q: Where you out at all?
Joseph: It was towards the end of the day, so. . .
Dania: Nah, he was at work the next day, with a smile on his face.
Q: And saying that, did you do your own stunts?
Joseph: The character of Wilee was played by five of us. Me and four other guys. Everyone had their own specialties. One was an actual bike messenger. One was a Hollywood stunts man who would get hit by cars. One’s really good at trailbike riding, which was the chase towards the end of the movie were he is on a different bike, and that’s the kind of bike that is conducive to jumping. There was a fourth guy who was really good at doing tricks on a track bike.
Dania: There is no SGI. The stunts are actually real. We were lucky enough to have great stunt people.
Joseph: It’s more exciting watching real human beings do crazy things than watching computer generated cartoons.
Dania: Yeah, the real essence of movie making.
Q: How would you compare the intensity to your other roles?
Joseph: Physically, this is the hardest one. I was on the bike every day all day. . . the entire movie.
Q: Would you talk about meeting some of the real bikers
Dania: It’s a really tight community. They are really caring and thoughtful people.
Joseph: One of my doubles, his name is Austin, and he is arguably the fastest biker in the world. He races and competes, and he happens to look a lot like me.
Q: What research did you do so you wouldn’t kill yourself riding a bike?
Dania: We had to become really aware of everybody around us.
Joseph: I thought a cool kernel of wisdom was that I learned, that multiple people told me, if you want to avoid hitting something, don’t look at it. Look at where you’re going. As soon as you start looking at where you don’t want to go, you’ll hit it. You have to have the confidence to stay straight and go forward. And, I think there’s something kinda allegorical with that and in life in general. And, that’s part of the movie too. Wilee is that kind of confident guy who has no hesitation and will make a split second decision. There’s a lot of virtue in that, but there’s also a complication, and that’s where you get the love story. There’s a downside to not having any consideration to your future.
Q: Does it help to find parallels to your own life?
Joseph: You always have to find a connection. If you’re alienated from your character, you won’t be believable. To me, I come away from acting learning how much we all have in common. We’re all people. And, we all can connect with just about anybody if we allow ourselves to.
Q: There are two different sides to this career as a bike messenger, one chosen by Wilee and the other who wants to get out. Can you expand?
Dania: Well, absolutely! Throughout the relationship, you can see two different people and how who have grown together from this profession. For me, it’s something else and for him it’s something else, and I think we both learn from each other. I think there comes a point where you have to live in the moment and stop planning the future, and she’s sort of faced with that.
Joseph: Like what I said, he’s a guy that lives in the moment. There’s a really strong upside to that. Maybe nowadays more then ever we are a culture obsessed with the future. Making plans. What am I going to be? Five years from now, am I going to fit? Wilee’s a character who has very much turned his back from that thinking, and I think that’ admirable. But, it’s also cool the movie shows the other side to that thinking.
Dania: He might lose the girl.
Q: The movie occurs essentially in real time. Does that change the way you are performing?
Dania: I think the fact that it is 90 minutes, and he has to get the package to a certain place in 90 minutes. I think it’s challenging to the audience, which is really exciting. Cause you have to really pay attention. And, try to figure out what’s going on what’s going on, what’s the package about, and the little times you get a flashback that actually tells the story, you have to make sure you are paying attention. It speaks well, the title of the film is called PREMIUM RUSH – you’re in a rush.
Q: Why would he stay on this package? Is it important for you to answer this question?
Joseph: That’s the difference between a gratuitous, kind of meaningless thing, and that there’s a reason, there is a good reason. And, it gets to the heart of who Wilee is and his personal growth on this day. That’s not merely just a chase movie – you see the hero actually learn something.
Dania: And, it makes you want to care about him. Even through Vanessa also and their relationship. I think she is sort of at that place, Is this going to be the person I’m gonna be with or not? I think that speaks a lot about Wilee and his personality and his integrity. To top it off, I think [the movie] will be a rocking good time for anybody.
Note: MOVIEGUIDE® has rated PREMIUM RUSH extreme caution, mainly due to plenty of foul language. Readers can see our full review in our theatrical movie section this weekend at www.movieguide.org.