Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Director John Hillcoat (THE PROPOSITION) explores the complexities of human behavior with his latest crime-thriller, TRIPLE 9. Set in Atlanta, Georgia, the film tells the tale of a ruthless Russian-Isreali mob boss’ wife (Kate Winslet) who hires a crew of dirty cops (Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins, Jr.) and ex-special ops mercenaries (Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul and Chiwetel Ejiofor) to attempt a seemingly impossible heist. To pull of this caper, they manufacture a “999,” code for “officer down.” However, as the saying goes, “the best laid plans of men often go awry.”
At the film’s recent Los Angeles press day, the affable actors and talented director let us in on a few of the secret, behind-the-scenes goings on. And these anecdotal stories are the stuff that will live on beyond the walls of the theater.
5. The actors didn’t really want to do their own stunts. Anthony Mackie spilled that during the first heist that ends on the bridge, once their masks are on, they wanted the stunt doubles to take over. “We tried to get it. We were like, ‘So we wear a mask, but other people can do this. What’s up?’ John was like, ‘You have to do this and you need the feel of the gun in heat.’ I was like, ‘Dude. We’re actors!’”
4. Atlanta wasn’t always the setting. Hillcoat said, “It was set in L.A., written as a West Coast crime-thriller. Then we had to change for economic reasons. I think Detroit and Chicago [were options]. When we chose Atlanta, it was a revalation. Rather than all these film crews using Atlanta as some other part of the country, because it has a lot of generic architecture, we wanted to embrace it as a contemporary city that’s one of the fastest growing.”
3. There’s a wink to THE WALKING DEAD in TRIPLE 9. There’s a perfectly placed prop that Eagle-eyed viewers will spot rather easily: a traffic sign that reads, “Zombies Ahead.” The visual gag was a very obvious nod to Reedus’ TV show that he was filming concurrently. Reedus confirmed that it was abandoned sign that Hillcoat left in the shot and added, “Sometimes when we shoot downtown they will put up signs to not freak people out.”
2.This marks the first time John Hillcoat isn’t working with frequent collaborators Warren Ellis and Nic Cave. But don’t worry – it’s not because of any bad blood. He candidly stated, “It was really tough. It was the first time we haven’t worked together. We were both mutually disappointed, but he also understood it would be like asking him to do reggae or something. It’s so out of his wheelhouse. I think he understood and he gets it and we’re okay.” Hillcoat went with a composer who knew how to innately capture the sound of the streets of Atlanta. “I knew Atticus [Ross] via Nic, way back as a young D.J. – that’s where he cut his teeth. I knew I wanted to have someone involved that really understood the whole history of hip-hop and urban streets – and also the South. A lot of new hip-hop has been referencing electronic music in a really interesting way. Atticus is very experienced in the electronic world. It was a combination of that urban hip-hop, electronic and jazz. That’s the sound of the city.”
1. The abandoned baby on the bed during the apartment complex raid really happened during Casey Affleck’s ride-along. Affleck, who plays department rookie “Chris Allen,” researched his role by going on a police ride-along. To increase the authenticity of the material, Hillcoat thought it prudent to include one of Affleck’s experiences during his excursion. He said, “He told me about the baby when he did a raid. There was this kid who was just left. So that became part of it.”
TRIPLE 9 is now playing.