“The Drop,” the new film from the pen of “Mystic River” writer Dennis Lehane, presents itself as a Brooklyn-based crime drama, but is, at its heart, the story of a boy and his dog.
Tom “Man of a Thousand Voices” Hardy plays Bob Saginowski, a mild mannered bartender at Cousin Marv’s a Brooklyn neighborhood pub owned by the Chechnyan mafia. Like many of the borough’s bars, Marv’s is sometimes used as a “drop,” a place where gangsters secretly hide money until it is collected by their crime bosses. One night after work Bob hears a dog whimpering from inside a garbage can. Lifting the lid, he finds a beaten pit bull puppy. He adopts the dog and romances Nadia, (Noomi Rapace), the woman who helped him rescue the animal, but soon a robbery, a scheme by his boss Marv (James Gandolfini) and the dog’s former owner (Matthias Schoenaerts) force Bob to show his true colors.
This is a boy-and-his-dog story, but it ain’t “Old Yeller.” Sure there are gun shots and a cute dog, but there is also a slow unveiling of the clues, red herrings and characters with shady pasts.
As Bob, Hardy is a cypher; kind to dogs, shy and lovesick, he is an average neighborhood guy. Except in this neighborhood average guys have pasts, and Hardy does a nice job of playing a guy who is trying to move on while the past tries to stop him in his tracks.
Gandolfini, in his final role, plays to type as the Tony Soprano-Lite bar owner and while it is a part he could play in his sleep, there is something comforting about seeing him, one last time, as a conflicted tough guy.
Then there is the dog (very cute), the one character that doesn’t seem to have a nefarious past.
“The Drop” is a slice of life, a slickly made look at the underbelly of crime, relationships and dog rearing. Nice performances make up for some plot idiosyncrasies and the cute dog earns some goodwill for a story that doesn’t so much comment on the condition of its characters as it does reveal it.
For many performers playing the Metropolitan Opera alongside Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti would be a career crowning achievement. To Emmy (that’s short for Emmanuelle) Rossum it was just another day at work. She made $5 a night singing with the children’s choir. “There was a horse on stage in a Zeffirelli production that got one hundred and fifty a night,” she laughs, before adding that the experience taught her to never take a job for the money. “You really realize you’re there because you love it,” she says.
Rossum, the New York City raised star of Shameless (which airs on TMN and Movie Central this month), left the opera at age twelve, frustrated that solos were only handed out to the boys. She took with her a work ethic: Be prepared, be on time. It’s a privilege to perform for a living. “Those are the ideas I’ve taken to every set with me.”
Her early resume looks like a lot of New York City based actor’s. A stint on As the World Turns here. A guest shot on Law & Order there. But it was a role as gap-toothed Appalachian orphan in the film Songcatcher that made people stand up and notice her. The movie showcased the preteen’s acting ability—she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance—and gave her the chance to show off her singing skills, performing five tunes on the soundtrack, including a song with one of her idols.
“Having a chance to record with Dolly Parton was something I’ll never forget,” she says of When Love Is New, a country duet that appears on the soundtrack.
The low budget film—just 2 million dollars total—led to more work, including playing title character from ages 12 to 16 in the television movie The Audrey Hepburn Story and the small, but crucial part of Katie Markum, Sean Penn’s daughter murdered daughter, in her first major studio film, Mystic River.
“When I arrived on the set the first day, [director Clint Eastwood] was incredibly warm,” she says. “But before the day ended, he was yelling at me for calling him Mister Eastwood. He’s a very quiet man who doesn’t say much, but you better listen, because, if he says something, it’ll be damned important.”
Working with Eastwood was exciting, but every career has a moment, a crack in time when an actor goes from unknown to known and for Emmy it was yet to come. Her career had been a slow build, from small roles in big films (Mystic River) and big roles in small films (like the urban fairy tale-romantic comedy Nola), that lead to 2004, her breakout year.
First the 18 year old spent six months shooting the wild end-of-the-world epic The Day After Tomorrow. With a budget of $85,807,341 the global warming disaster movie probably cost more than all of Emmy’s previous films combined, but it gave the young actress a showcase for one of her pet causes. “One of the reasons I’m glad I did The Day After Tomorrow is because it opened a dialogue about the effects of global warming,” she says, despite the movie being listed by Yahoo! Movies listed the film as one of the Top 10 Scientifically Inaccurate Movies of all time.
The second part of her 2004 breakout took her back to her stage roots. Fresh from Day After Tomorrow’s grueling shoot she auditioned for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber who hired her to play Christine in the film version of The Phantom of the Opera. “Actually I didn’t think I would get it just because it was too big. They don’t normally give Hollywood ninety-million dollar budgeted musicals to un-famous sixteen-year- olds.”
Amazingly she had never seen the stage show before taking the role, but she put an indelible stamp on the character, but it wasn’t easy. “I was wearing corsets the entire six months which were insanely uncomfortable and prohibited me eating any solid food all day long besides ice cream which would melt and actually pass my esophagus. It had enough sugar to actually sustain me and give me enough energy.”
Since then she has worked steadily. Her CD Inside Out was a mixture of pop-rock electronica, new age and classical. She’s lent her name to causes like breast cancer awareness and Global Green USA and of course, has stared in high profile films like Poseidon and the wild action flick Dragonball Evolution.
But despite all her achievements she hasn’t let Hollywood go to her head. “I would say a big accomplishment is that I’ve stayed true to who I am and not let fame affect me.”
Given the Hollywood success novelist Dennis Lehane has had in recent years you’d expect him to live in the 90210 area code. No dice, says the blunt speaking author of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island (which comes to DVD and Blu Ray June 8).
“If you live in LA you’re suddenly that guy,” he says on the line from his home in Boston. “You get lost in it. Everywhere you turn everyone is a writer. Where I live now I’m it, at least for a couple of blocks there’s no other writers.”
Certainly there are no other authors in his area with a tinsel town track record like his. The film adaptations of his novels have put him on a first name basis with legendary filmmakers like Clint and Marty and have earned seven Oscars nominations. But don’t look to him to take all the credit for the success of the movies.
“There are only two things I can take credit for and I’m not being falsely disingenuous or anything,” he says, “I’m just being honest. I seem to write characters that actors are attracted to. I invest a lot in my characters, so my characters tend to have multiple dimensions. OK, there I go. I just pumped myself up.
“Other than that I will only get in business with the absolute crème de la crème talent wise and taste wise. Just look at my behind-the-credits people. Look at my producers; they are people that if you look at the CVs are extremely impressive. That spreads out to other talented people. Who are talented people going to pick to write your screenplays? They are going to pick talented writers. Who are they going to pick to do the director’s job? They are going to pick talented directors. Who are the directors going to pick? They’re going to pick talented actors and so on. That’s really what’s been going on.”
Talented though he may be, he’s never adapted one of his own novels for the screen.
“I’m not particularly interested in adapting my own work. It is just not something that I can do. I’m just not competent. I’m the last person you should trust. I don’t know how to cut. I just spent two or three years of my life trying to get a book to 401 pages. Not 402 and not 399 and then you are going to turn around and say that’s the guy I want to trust to cut it to 135?”
Shutter Island, Lehane’s ominous thriller turned Martin Scorsese film about a U.S. Marshal (Leonardo DiCaprio) investigating a disappearance at the remote Shutter Island hospital for the criminally insane, sprung from two separate incidents.
“When I was a little kid my uncle took me out to one of the harbor islands and pointed out where a mental institution—the skeletal remains were still there—and it just stuck in my head. Many, many years later I had a crazy dream one night. I wrote it all down and woke up the next morning and looked at my notes and those notes are pretty much what Shutter Island is.”
Watching Scorsese work, he says was “mind boggling,” but true to form he didn’t spend much time on the set.
“Sets are so unbelievably boring if you don’t have a purpose on them,” he says. “A caterer is far more important on a film set than a novelist. A caterer, hey man, they give you the food; a novelist is just standing there saying, ‘I thought this up.’”
He’d rather be at home, in Boston. “It continually fuels me plus Bostonians are just funny sons-of-bitches. How else would I get to hear great lines all the time?”