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The Making of “The Place Beyond the Pines”

Paul Kalis
A&E Editor

Photo by Atsushi Nishijima
Photo by Atsushi Nishijima

On March 10, the Pioneer attended a college press conference with the cast of “Place Beyond the Pines,” which debuts in select theaters this Friday. Actors Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen joined Director/Writer Derek Cianfrance to discuss the drama that explores the unbreakable bond between fathers and sons.

In the film, Luke (Ryan Gosling) passes through Schenectady, New York, and tries to reconnect with a former lover, Romina (Eva Mendes). He learns that she has given birth to their son, Jason, and resolves to forsake life on the road and provide for his newfound family. After a string of bank robberies, rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) confronts Luke sending the consequences reverberating into the next generation.

“A number of years ago, when Ryan and I were working on the script for Blue Valentine, we started talking about this fantasy [that] Ryan always had of robbing a bank on a motorcycle,” said Cianfrance. “And I said, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me because I’m writing that movie right now.’ We both imagined it in the identical way. It was one of several moments when I knew we were meant to make films together.”

The film was shot over a period of 47 days last summer in Schenectady, New York. For authenticity, locations included a functioning police station with real officers, a live hospital with real nurses and patients and real banks with real bank tellers and bank managers who had been robbed before.

“Derek had the idea of working in the diner that my character works at,” said Mendes. “I was like, cool, yeah. I went and got to know the people that worked there and their families and their stories. It was great because a lot of people didn’t recognize me. They were hungry, they wanted their food fast or I didn’t get a tip. It was a great idea because honestly, I wouldn’t have thought of it.”

Production was canceled for one day when Hurricane Irene struck. Equipment trucks were buried under water and the camera department took a canoe out and rescued two days worth of footage. When combined, the footage tells three linear stories about a motorcycle stunt rider who turns to a life of crime to support his newborn son, an ambitious rookie cop who takes on a corrupt police department rather than confront his own demons and two troubled teenage boys who confront the mysteries of their past by battling each other.

“It was pretty compartmentalized,” said Gosling. “We were all pretty excited about that structure because you have to admire Derek, he can be frustrating at times and everybody told him to cut it, to change it, and not to do it that way. What he has done is take all the conventions of the reasons why you go to the movies—the heist, the crime drama and family drama, thriller—you have all those things that you love but constructed in a way that to experience them in a different way.”

The movie was partially inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” due to the stories hand off of main characters from Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane to Tony Perkins’s Norman Bates. Cianfrance wanted characters who would have real consequences for their actions—where guns come into the movie and actually have an effect.

“Ryan has this incredible presence and charisma on the screen and in real life,” said Cianfrance. “He’s inherently interesting and cinematic and is just such an amazing human being who just makes everyone better around him. He is a magic man. When I met Bradley, he had that same kind of incredible charisma that Ryan has. But the thing that really convinced me on Bradley more than anything else was how hard he worked. After meeting with Bradley a couple of times I went back to the script and completely re-wrote the character for him because I knew he could go deep. Much deeper than I originally had suspected.”

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