Man on a Ledge stars Sam Worthington as a falsely accused fugitive desperate to prove his innocence. While he hangs precariously on a ledge, his younger brother prepares to carry out a daring diamond heist. A heart-pounding thriller, Man on a Ledge also stars Jamie Bell, Elizabeth Banks, Edward Burns, Genesis Rodriguez, and Anthony Mackie. Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier recently sat down with the cast to discuss how the story pertains to our economic crisis, their upcoming projects, and what it means to live on the edge.
Emmanuel Itier: When was the last time you were on a ledge, beyond that movie?
Elizabeth Banks: I went up yesterday, and I tried to stand up, but I didn’t have time to get in the harness, so they didn’t let me stand up there. And I’m actually glad they didn’t. I sort of leaned over.
EI: Have you been on a ledge in your life, metaphorically speaking?
EB: Sure. I’ve definitely met some precipices in my time. I’ve definitely had those moments in life where you need to make the leap. I’ve also physically done some cliff-diving in my time, and I used to dive at an old quarry off of the big sides. I’m a little bit of a dare devil. I fell out of a tree – 35 feet – when I was 12 years old and was unconscious in the ICU in the hospital for three days, and I don’t remember those days at all. So I’m a thrill-seeker in real life.
EI: Tell me about the thrill of this one – the challenge of doing this one. Were there scary moments, such as going on the ledge?
EB: The great physical challenge of this is that even if you aren’t psychologically afraid of heights, your body still has a physical reaction to being in danger. So you always had sweaty palms and the heart was always racing, my knees were shaking. I constantly had adrenaline pumping. Your body’s engine just runs really hot while you’re out there trying not to hurl yourself [laughs] down to the ground. So every day at the end of work, it was so hard just to physically calm down. And also it was very cold, it was very windy, and I was constantly worried about birds flying into my head [laughs], and I was worried about safety harnesses not being on properly, and tripping… You still have constant anxiety the whole time you’re doing it – physical anxiety.
EI: If you had to describe this movie, what is it about for you? What does it say?
EB: One of the fun themes of this movie that I think is really poignant for today is that Ed Harris plays a super villain who is essentially a corporation, and this movie is about a working class guy – a blue-collar guy – played by Sam Worthington, who really needs to stick it to this corporate guy, and I feel like that’s a theme everybody is feeling right now, especially here in America, and around the world. And it’s really fun to figure out – there’s a great mystery at the heart of this movie, and it’s fun to figure out exactly what’s going on. You think you’re watching one thing, and really you’re watching something else. And my character steps into a situation she thinks is one thing, and of course it’s something totally different.
EI: How was it to work with Sam? He’s super committed, super passionate? Tell me a little bit about your relationship…
EB: Sam has done so many of these high-octane, high-action movies. I found that what was really great about making this movie was he and I had just small character scenes to do together. He’s stuck on a ledge and I’m stuck in this window, and our challenge was to make every minute of that different and thrilling and exciting, and find something new to do and ways to give the audience new information about the two of us and where our relationship is heading. We get to create an entire relationship over 90 minutes of standing in a window.
EI: How was it shooting in a hotel? Did you feel a little bit claustrophobic at the same time, or on the contrary, did that help to be in that situation?
EB: Any time you film in New York City and you really use New York in the way that we did – we were in a real hotel and we had real tourists walking around, and we used the real elevators with people with their luggage to go up and down, and we shot on Madison Avenue, two blocks from Grand Central Station… There were just people everywhere. New York City is one of the busiest cities in the world. So I found that the city became almost another character in the movie. It was something that we had to deal with that challenged us, that gave us things to play off of. Sam and I were 22 stories up, and in the windows around us would be people at work with their coffee mugs, waving and trying to get our attention. We were constantly having to deal with those things, and I find New York a really invigorating place to make a movie.
EI: What’s coming up next for you after this one?
EB: The Hunger Games. I play Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games, and it comes out March 23rd.
EI: And what is The Hunger Games about for you? What is the message?
EB: For me, the message is for kids that everybody matters. That a revolution can happen from small acts by one person, and I think that’s a theme that’s playing out all over the world right now as well. You matter. I think it’s a really good thing to remember – that everybody matters.
Emmanuel Itier: When was the last time you’ve been on a ledge, beyond that movie?
Sam Worthington: Never! [Laughs] And never again! It was petrifying up there.
EI: Was it the main challenge of the movie, to be out there? And tell me what happened the first time they put you there.
SW: The first time is on film. What you see in the movie – me stepping out – we just rolled the camera. I said, “Just roll it. Let’s see what happens.” I’m lucky I didn’t burst into tears. It would have been a different character choice, but I think it was a smart way of just presenting me getting out there, rather than having to act it. And I think the challenge of the movie was we didn’t know how much we could actually do on the ledge, so when I got out there and suddenly got comfortable, the camera crew got more ambitious, and we started to realize we could film a majority of it actually out there.
EI: Does it help to be in that situation as an actor? Does that come naturally – the intensity because you’re…
SW: I think it does because you don’t have to act. I think the authenticity is spot-on because you are 225 feet in the air.
EI: What do you think the movie is about? What are the themes and messages that you enjoyed exploring with this movie?
SW: This is an unashamable popcorn movie. That’s what it is. It’s a desperate man in a desperate situation who just wants to get his family back together, I think. He proclaims his innocence against all this adversity, and doesn’t jump, and his family can live a normal life and he can clear his name, and that, to me – I just like those kinds of acts. I like that kind of tale.
EI: Elizabeth Banks compared it to what’s going on today – the 99% against the 1%; the blue-collar guy against the…
SW: Yeah, kind of. There’s always gonna be that, and people like movies about heroes against all odds, I think. There was a movie called The Negotiator with Samuel L. Jackson. I thought this movie is a lot like that. There’s one guy just going, “I’m innocent. Please believe me.” And we like to root for those kinds of heroes.
EI: What type of synergy was there with Elizabeth? Was it really intense, emotional, especially when you’re on the ledge?
SW: She’s great. I’ve seen all her comic work and her work on other movies, and I saw her work on The Next Three Days with Russell Crowe. I thought she was sensational. So you feel completely safe with an actress of that caliber. It means that we can bounce together and flirt a bit more, and I thought that was kind of like an old Cary Grant relationship, in the old movies where the guy, even though he’s on the ledge of a building fighting for his life, he can still flirt with the ladies. And I like that kind of bounce.
EI: What’s going on next with you, and when are we going to see you in Avatar again?
SW: I see Jim (Cameron) next week, so I’ll ask him then. But I know that he’s writing it, and when he’s ready, it will be when he can satisfy an audience. He makes these movies so audiences go on a massive journey, and he’s not gonna do a second-rate job. I know he’s gonna excel…
EI: Did he tell you anything about it?
SW: He told me the story, yeah. He told me the story of 2 and 3. It’s monumental. It’s huge.
EI: Underwater, right?
SW: There’s bits of that. There’s a whole planet to explore; there’s a whole universe to explore. Jim’s mind is unlike any other man on the planet, and his creative bones are out of this world, so we got halfway through, I was exhausted. I thought, “This is insane,” but if anyone can pull it off, it’s him.
Jamie Bell & Genesis Rodriguez
Emmanuel Itier: When was the last time you were on the ledge, beyond being in this movie? Were there other times in your life where you’ve been on a ledge?
Jamie Bell: I think, metaphorically, one is always on some kind of ledge, but usually that ledge is self-inflicted. So I feel like I constantly put myself on a ledge, which is probably completely pointless.
Genesis Rodriguez: Why do you do that?
JB: I think because I usually set the bar very high for myself, I kind of set really high standards.
GR: You’re wonderful. People should tell you that more often.
JB: Merci beaucoup.
EI: What about you? When was the last time you were on a ledge?
GR: I’m a very mellow person. I wake up happy.
JB: She wakes up happy, just in case you were wondering.
GR: I wake up happy. I don’t think I have…
JB: I wake up very blocked and stuffy.
GR: Nasally? He wakes up nasal.
JB: Yeah, I wake up with lots of allergies.
EI: What type of challenge was it, making this movie? Trying to get into that skinny outfit…?
GR: Ugh, that was horrible.
EI: I wanted that scene to never end.
GR: [Laughs] Thank you. I take that compliment. I wanted it to end.
JB: He’s trying to make a pass at you.
GR: I understood that. I hope it goes by really quickly in everyone’s eyes, because that was very painful for me to do. Awkward.
JB: But we had a lot of fun, though. We had all the cool parts of the movie. Sam and Elizabeth are kind of stuck outside on a ledge, and for us, we’re getting to do all the cool heisty stuff, repelling down elevator shafts and disarming stuff and blowing stuff up. For us, that was great fun because these characters are just regular kids really, who are trying to figure out whether they should commit to each other in this relationship. But the stakes are so high in the whole movie, that we have to succeed and get right.
GR: You keep on saying that thing about committing to the relationship, but this girl, Angie, was committed because she wouldn’t go do this if she wasn’t committed. You keep on saying that. That’s not true. Reevaluate the script.
JB: The movie is called Man on a Ledge. It comes out January 27th.
EI: [Laughs] If you had to describe the movie, what is it about for you? What are the metaphors, the themes that you enjoy about it?
GR: That you would do anything for your family, and to prove someone’s innocence, how far would you take it? How loud would you scream? I would do it.
JB: The metaphor of the movie – I think Genesis nailed it. I think it’s about loyalty and shouting above all of the voices in what you believe in. So I think that’s a worthwhile thing. In terms of the movie itself, the way it plays as a movie, I think it’s a thriller that lives up to the promise of the genre, which is to be thrilling. I see lots of movies like that you can either predict what’s going to happen or you’re second-guessing everything, but this movie constantly is misguiding you and misdirecting you, and making you believe stuff and then ripping the rug out from under you, and I think, for me, that was definitely one of the reasons why I wanted to do the movie in the first place.
GR: I enjoy movies like that. Don’t you?
JB: I love them.
GR: I’m glad we’re in it.
JB: Yeah, I’m so glad we’re in it. It’s so awesome.
Emmanuel Itier: When was the last time you were on the ledge?
Anthony Mackie: I went on the ledge once, and never went on the ledge again.
EI: What was it for?
AM: It was for this movie, and that was it. I’m not a ledge guy. I like my life to be simple and plain.
EI: What type of challenge was this movie about for you?
AM: The biggest challenge was crafting the character to not give anything away in the film, because I’m like the crux of the plotline. I tried to play everything tight to the vest and play everything honest so I didn’t have a problem with people being like, “Oh, that guy is the bad guy or the good guy,” or anything.
EI: What way would you describe the movie? If you had to pitch the movie, what would you say it’s about? What other metaphors, messages…?
AM: If I had to pitch the movie, I would say it’s an action-thriller. It’s about a guy who’s innocent and who’s trying to proclaim his innocence to the world. And the only way he can do it is by doing something so drastic that everyone takes focus and notices him on the ledge.
EI: Shooting in New York – tell me about that experience. How was it? Did it bring something extra?
AM: New Orleans is the best city in the world to live in; New York is the best city in the world to shoot a movie in. It makes every movie ten times better, no matter what they shoot there.
EI: Was it a little bit claustrophobic to shoot in that hotel? Do you feel at times that you guys were a little bit “on the ledge”?
AM: Not at all. The hotel staff at The Roosevelt was really accommodating and really helpful with everything we were trying to do. And the way they built the set – it was on tracks. So they could put it on the edge of the hotel, or they could roll it back to where it was ten feet from the ledge, so it was always safe. Shooting in New York, you have the best of the best of every crew in the film business, so you can do whatever you want because you know you’re always safe.
EI: How was it working with Sam? Everybody says he’s passionate and to an obsessive point almost…
AM: Sam is a very quiet guy. We had a lot of fun. We got to know each other a little bit during the press tour and stuff for Hurt Locker and Avatar, so we’ve always been friends. And when this came about, it was really cool. It was really interesting to work with him because he is such a good actor.
EI: What’s coming up next for you?
AM: July I have Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and December I have Gangster Squad. F*ck yeah.
EI: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – tell me a little bit about that. What can we expect?
AM: Just like Man on a Ledge, it’s about Abraham Lincoln – our president – and he hunts and kills vampires. I don’t know what else would make you want to go see the movie, but that sounds d*mn intriguing to me.
EI: What do you do in the movie?
AM: I play Abraham Lincoln’s best friend. Huh? You see a theme? Yeah!
EI: So you’re killing some vampires?
AM: Of course. That’s what I do. [Laughs]
Emmanuel Itier: When was the last time you were on the ledge?
Edward Burns: Day one of shooting this film, the stunt guy said, “Do you want to throw the harness on and go out there and at least have the experience?” So I threw it on, went out, terrifying. Don’t need to do it again. And I’ve not been back to the ledge since.
EI: And metaphorically in your life, have you felt you’ve been on a ledge sometime?
EB: Quite honestly, no. I mean, I guess you could say potentially, on the film-making side of my career, any time you’re gonna put all of yourself out there as a writer/director/actor, I guess you could equate that to stepping out on a ledge, because if that thing fails or falls, I should say, it’s all on you. Whereas, as an actor, the blame can be spread across the whole spectrum of folks who worked on it.
EI: What type of challenge did that movie present for you?
EB: This one, the challenge was: What I do with Jack Dougherty so he doesn’t just feel like that archetype – the hardnosed veteran cop who’s pissed off at the world and doesn’t like the fact that he’s been demoted? And fortunately, the producers and Asger (Leth), the director, were cool letting Elizabeth and I kind of explore some things and improvise, and come up with a little bit of a history, that maybe the two of them had had a relationship or at least a night at one point. So there was more for us to play with in those scenes, and the good thing is, in doing that, they saw that we found some good stuff, and they wrote some additional scenes for us.
EI: How was it shooting in that hotel, and did you feel a little bit claustrophobic at times? Because it seems like it’s so contained.
EB: No, it was great shooting in the hotel. Given that you’re shooting in the middle of midtown Manhattan, there’s just a great energy on the street. Obviously I’m not out on the ledge, but Sam is… But even just watching the shots that they were able to get was incredible because you can tell this isn’t green screen. He’s really up there. And the other thing is the director wanted New York to be a character in the film, and he kept talking about the crowd on the street. He would reference Dog Day Afternoon and wanting that kind of energy to be sprinkled throughout the film, and I think he did a great job with that.
EI: How was it working with Sam, who is supposed to be a very passionate and committed actor?
EB: That guy is exactly that. Just a great actor, cares so much about the work. Any time you work with somebody like that, it just elevates everybody’s game, and you can tell he is there to work, and I think the work reflects it.
EI: If you had to pitch the movie to sell it, what would you say it is about? What is it about for you?
EB: It’s a look at how far you would go if you were unjustly accused of something. Sam is a wrongly accused cop who breaks out of prison and then comes up with a plan to prove his innocence, and that plan is to step out onto a ledge to divert the attention from an attempted jewel heist that will hopefully prove that he’s not guilty of what he’s been charged with.
EI: Are you going back to directing sometime?
EB: I just finished one that just got released here in the states two weeks ago, called Newlyweds. It’s out On Demand and iTunes right now, opening in Chicago on January 13th and New York on January 27th, and in March, hopefully we’ll start shooting my next film, which I wrote and direct, called The Fitzgeralds’ Family Christmas, which is kind of a return to the world and milieu of The Brothers McMullen.
EI: What has been, so far in your life, your favorite scene from all the movies you’ve seen? Is there a scene that, every time you see it, you are very moved?
EB: Probably the final scene in Godfather, where Kate is looking through the door at Michael. That’s probably my favorite scene in all of cinema.
EI: And why?
EB: Because The Godfather isn’t just a gangster story – it’s a family story. It’s a story about relationships, the human condition, and here within this very complicated world, it boils down to a man and wife, and the things that we can talk to one another about. It’s funny – I haven’t given it any thought, not to compare my movie to The Godfather – my movie is all about lies of omission, and this film I made, Newlyweds, is all about the little things we don’t tell one another, and what kind of price we might eventually pay for that. And I guess that last scene in The Godfather is all about: how honest can we be with one another?
Summit Entertainment's 'Man on a Ledge' is released in theaters on January 27, 2012.