The Russo Brothers’ new spy thriller The Gray Man is set to drop on Netflix this July 22, and while fans could expect some epic, action-packed sequences, the film also promises to further entertain fans with the directors’ brand of humor.
In The Gray Man, Ryan Gosling plays the CIA operative Court Gentry, aka Sierra Six– a highly-skilled Agency-sanctioned mercenary who becomes the target of the psychopathic Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a former CIA cohort that is now hellbent on taking him down.
The film also stars Ana de Armas, Regé-Jean Page, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Henwick, Dhanush, Wagner Moura, and Alfre Woodard.
In a recent press conference for the Netflix film, the directors and cast of the film answered some questions about the creation of the movie, its characters, the action scenes, and the film’s funny moments. Check out the highlights of the Q&A below:
What would you say sets The Gray Man apart from other spy thrillers?
Joe Russo: Well, this is a modern story. I think that, you know, Bond is about 60 years old at this point and Bourne’s about 20 years old and this film is connected in a lot of ways to some issues that are going on in the world right now. The character is exceedingly existential, quite funny, and we just find that it fits our sense of humor. And, you know, it’s the kind of film that, you know, we feel would work well with today’s audiences.
For Ryan Gosling, is The Gray Man one of the films that have required the most of you physically, and how was your training for this movie?
Ryan Gosling: Yes. There was, as you can imagine, a lot of training for the film. But, yeah, I had, you know, an incredible amount of help. There was an amazing stunt team. You know, at first, they sort of went through all these different styles of martial arts and sort of tried to curate it for you and the character. And then we had this amazing advisor named Chili Palmer, who’s an ex-Delta Force member. I tried to just sort of join myself at the hip with him. He had all these, you know, amazing tactical advice, but also these really amazing ideas.
How do you balance the comedic moments and the action-packed serious ones? Do you prepare differently depending on the tone of the script?
Gosling: Well, I think yeah, you prepare differently. It depends on the filmmakers. The Russos have a really cool process– one I’ve never done before– where at the beginning of the film, we sat with all of the department heads, and they put the script up on a big screen, and everybody, you know, sort of starts talking about it as they work through it. And at first, it makes it not precious and very collaborative. And also, it really gets you on the same page, literally. You know what movie you’re making. And it just became clear that we were kind of shooting for the stuff that I grew up loving in the ’80s and ’90s that had a kind of sense of humor about itself.
It also helps because, you know, it’s not often that you find yourself, like, falling through a trap door and end up in a well in some guy’s Czechoslovakian apartment. So the fact that you can comment on that, you know, that the Russos sort of open it up, that you can sort of say in the movie, “Okay, this is, you know, this was unexpected,” [LAUGHS] it sort of helps, you know? And it gives you a gear in the movie that you don’t have in a lot of other films. So, you know, this was kind of a unique process in that way, but I really enjoyed it.
For Chris Evans, would you say playing such a complex role as Lloyd gives you a more liberating experience as an actor?
Chris Evans: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, playing a villain is always a little more fun, you have a little bit more freedom, you get a lot more jokes, but working with the Russos is what gives that sense of trust and freedom. You know, when you trust the filmmakers, you’re more willing to take risks, and certainly a character like this demands risks. So, without the Russos and the relationship and rapport we have, I don’t know if I would have had such a rewarding experience. Look at that? Brought the lights up. Brought the lights up.
Did you work with Chris Evans in developing the comedic side of Lloyd?
Joe Russo: Yeah, I mean, it’s really important to us to work with the cast on the scripts. We want them to have emotional ownership over the characters. And everyone here is a great storyteller, as well as an incredible actor. They all have an amazing wealth of experience. And, you know, we encourage all of our collaborators to bring that to the table. You know, the script, for us, Anthony and I like to prepare so that we can throw things away. That’s a really, it’s an old adage in filmmaking, so we’re always available to what’s happening in the moment.
If there’s something organic or funny, or if somebody says something funny, it doesn’t matter where it comes from, if it works with the character and it works with the story, we’ll try it. And everyone here brought dialogue, jokes, you know, character accents in a way that really filled out the film and made it much more colorful.
For Ana de Armas, what was with The Gray Man that made you want to join the cast?
Ana de Armas: Many things. I was very, very excited that the Russos thought of me and as soon as I got on the Zoom call with them and they presented this character for me and the story, I was in. And I wanted to work with Ryan again, I wanted to work with Chris again, and all this amazing cast behind me.
And the character, I just loved it. I love who this woman is and all her background and training and her mentality and how badass she is and how fearless she is, and all of that.
What was the hardest part in filming the Prague sequence?
Joe Russo: All of it.
Anthony Russo: Yeah, every single element of it. You know, the Prague sequence, we needed a large section of the city to pull that off. That sequence starts in a major city square, and it continues through a chase throughout the city, so it was very complex. And, you know, just to give you an example of how hard it was, there’s a tram that the Gray Man gets on and Ana’s character is sort of chasing it in a car and there’s a lot of other mercs around and it careens through Prague, and in order to shoot that sequence, we were using actual trams in Prague.
We built a bus that was designed to look exactly like a tram but ran on wheels because sometimes we needed to run the tram faster than the tram could actually go, or we needed to take it down streets that didn’t have tracks, et cetera. And then we also had a tram that was located at a lot in Prague that was stationary that we would sort of shake, and we had blue screen around it. So, you’re building the sequence through all those different locations, we’re shooting with our main cast, we’re shooting with stunt performers for the portions that are too dangerous, and it was a very complex process to build that.
We’re grateful to everyone in Prague, Prague’s an amazing filmmaking center, they have an amazing crew there, and the people are very supportive of filmmaking. So, you can only pull something that complex off at a place like Prague.
Why did you decide to shoot it on location instead of in a studio?
Joe: It would have been tough and required a lot of VFX. I mean, that is a very tactile sequence, you know? And you know, it’s interesting, whenever you go into a town, we did this with Winter Soldier, we shut down a freeway. We went back to Cleveland, our hometown, to shoot the movie and everyone was very happy, and then we shut down the freeway for two weeks and…
Anthony: I was gonna say, they weren’t that happy. That was short-lived.
Joe: 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.
Is it possible that we’ll get more stories in The Gray Man universe?
Anthony: Look, part of our motivation to assemble a cast like this, an amazing cast like this who can embody so many interesting characters, was the hope of creating sort of a universe that you wanted to follow all of them, either forward or backward from this moment in time that we caught in this first movie. So yes, hopefully, there will be more stories to tell in The Gray Man world.
You can stream The Gray Man starting this July 22 on Netflix.