Directed by Ron Shelton. USA. 2003.
Dark Blue is released in the UK on July 4 2003.

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Over the course of four days, a brutal murder and a racially charged trial trigger a chain of events that resonate throughout Los Angeles.

Dark Blue is a dramatic thriller set within the Los Angeles Police Department in April 1992, just days before the acquittal of four white officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King and the subsequent LA riots.  Amidst this potenially-charged atmosphere, the LAPD¹s elite Special Investigations Squad (SIS) is assigned a high-profile quadruple homicide at a South Central liquor store.

As they work the case, veteran detective Eldon Perry (Kurt Russell), known for his tough street tactics and fiery temper, tutors SIS rookie Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman) in the grim realities of police intimidation and corruption. Meanwhile, Assistant Chief Holland (Ving Rhames), the only man in the department willing to stand up to the SIS, threatens to end Perry¹s brand of singlehanded "justice" on the Los Angeles streets. While navigating through the tumultuous neighborhoods of South Central LA, Perry and Keough must track down cold-blooded killers and face their own demons, which prove to be more ruthless than the criminals they pursue.

The dramatic thriller stars Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Michael Michele, Brendan Gleeson, Ving Rhames, Kurupt, Dash Mihok, Jonathan Banks, Khandi Alexander and Lolita Davidovich.

Dark Blue is directed by Ron Shelton (White Men Can¹t Jump, Bull Durham) and produced by Caldecot Chubb (Eve¹s Bayou, The Crow), David Blocker (15 Minutes) and Sean Daniel and Jim Jacks (The Mummy Returns, Down to Earth). The screenplay is written by David Ayer (Training Day) from a story by James Ellroy (LA Confidential). Intermedia¹s Guy East, Nigel Sinclair and Moritz Borman are executive producers. Production designer Dennis Washington, director of photography Barry Peterson, costume designer Kathryn Morrison and editor Paul Seydor round out the creative team.

Dark Blue is being co-produced by Alphaville and Intermedia affiliate IMFilmproduktion. United Artists will distribute the film in the U.S. and Canada with Intermedia handling international distribution.

Intermedia is a diversified entertainment investment company with offices in London, Los Angeles and Munich, which develops, finances and distributes motion pictures in collaboration with leading producing partners. Its parent company, IM Internationalmedia AG, is listed on the Frankfurt Neuer Markt stock exchange. Intermedia¹s films include Nurse Betty, Sliding Doors, Small Time Crooks, Hilary and Jackie, Playing By Heart, Blow Dry, Sweet and Lowdown, Where the Heart Is, Where The Money Is, K-19: The Widowmaker, Enigma, The Quiet American and Adaptation.

About the story

The events that followed the Rodney King case in Los Angeles inspired the idea for Dark Blue.  Like most Angelenos, producer Cotty Chubb has first hand experience of the emotions that the incident stirred in the City of Angels.  As a filmmaker, he also was drawn to the cinematic possibilities.  "I thought about  what a great movie it would be.  A couple of years later I had the opportunity to meet James Ellroy, who had a story to tell.  It was about the Watts riot but my partners and I at Alphaville suggested that he make it more contemporary."

The idea of attaching his original idea to the circumstances surrounding the Rodney King case also appealed to Ellroy.  And so, the story of Eldon Perry¹s journey of self-discovery and redemption began.  Actor Kurt Russell was the first choice for the role of LAPD officer Eldon Perry, and the screenplay was written expressly with him in mind.

Over the next five years, Russell stayed with the project as it developed.  Russell recalls, "There was something about the importance of the message in the screen play that I liked.  And when Ron Shelton became involved as a director, and I learned about how he wanted to make the movie, I felt that now was the time to do this picture."

Shelton explains, “I liked the script and the fact that it was a cop story with a political backdrop interested me a great deal.  It wasn¹t just a shoot ‘em up." However, he brought several of his own ideas to the script that he inherited from screenwriter David Ayer.  According to Shelton,  "The script had the Rodney King riots at the end and I moved them up so that they’re a part of the story.  While the story has nothing to do with the Rodney King riots, it actually has everything to do with it." 
Shelton, along with Ayers and Russell also focused on the character of Eldon Perry.  "I wanted to humanize Eldon without compromising the darkness of the character. I tried to turn him into a man wrestling with the devil and losing," remarks Sheldon.

Chubb recalls, "It really took Ron’s presence for Kurt to feel comfortable that the movie wasn’t going to be political; that his character was going to be understood. It took Ron’s sensitivity to his concerns and Kurt’s faith in that for the project to really take off."

About the Cast and Characters

For Kurt Russell, Officer Eldon Perry was a chance to play a type that he is not usually associated with.  "He’s a change from the characters that I have played in the past.  This is a contemporary film about real people. Like all individuals, he's got 360 degrees.  He's also completely politically incorrect in a real sense.  He's a man who has become educated by the street.  He's gone over the line.  And he is a man who, over the next four days is going find out how far over the line he's gone. More than any other character I've played, he's a very real person."

In-spite of Perry’s obvious flaws, Russell thinks that there is something that attracts people to him. "That's what makes him dangerous.  People, like Eldon Perry, have a side to them that’s likeable.  However he mixes that likeability with a volatility that is real.  His hatred for certain criminals is real.   What's going be interesting to see is if and where the audience lets Eldon off the hook.  Where they buy Eldon and where they reject him.  He’s a risky character, one that you can hate.  I think at times you can also like him.  And in the end, I hope they feel some compassion for and empathy with him."

Russell continues,  "Eldon Perry is legendary in his police force for a number of different reasons; some of which aren't good. He's complex and I think that he's at fault.  And he suffers the consequences. He understands there are certain aspects of his job that nobody else is going to do.  And he can do them.  He does do them and he can do them.  Whether he should do them or not is another story.  All of these characters are complex."

"The character that we will hang our hat on, and hope and wish good things for, is the character played by Scott Speedman.,” says Russell.  “That's who we hope climbs above this quagmire of bad deeds and bad thoughts."

Scott Speedman plays the young rookie, Bobby Keough. Unlike the other actors in the film, Speedman was a young teen living in Toronto when the Rodney King case ignited Los Angeles. As a result, he did not have the same frame of reference as the other actors. He decided to use that to create Keough¹s naivete and inexperience.

He recalls, "I look at Bobby as a guy that's just in a situation where he's in way over his head. He's trying to figure out where he is amongst all these characters.  He wants so much to belong with the SIS guys.  His uncle, his idol, runs the department.  And he just wants so desperately to please him and belong that he ends up doing things that he never would have, never should have done."

Speedman likens Keough’s relationship to Perry as a family one.  "Since Bobby’s uncle runs the SIS, he’s been around Eldon for a long time.   He's basically a brother, but I really idolize him.  And he's just amazing at what he does.  He's crazy, but he gets the job done, and he goes about things like nobody else does. And I'm desperately trying to please him."

Russell sees Keough as one of the few good people in the film.  "Sometimes good people are forced into situations where they have to make a decision that might not be the right decision.  Bobby is not a bad guy.  He wants to do good.  He just finds himself in the real world of having to do some things that are not right."

One of the benefits of working on the film for Speedman was the opportunity to work with both Russell and Rhames. "I haven't worked with a lot of "movie stars," but Kurt has been pretty amazing to watch.  What's nice about him, is he takes the time to share his knowledge about the business with me. Ving has also been amazing. He likes to improvise.  The scene will be going fine, and he'll take it to that next level. He'll get dirty, he'll get mean, he'll get nasty.  And it is great.  It immediately wakes you up and you just listen so much more.  It has been a wonderful experience."

Cast as Assistant Chief Holland, Ving Rhames was attracted to the script’s focus on social issues.  He explains, "This is a film that deals with something of social relevance.  And I think that it's also a piece that shows that the more things change, the more things remain the same.  The Rodney King case was ten years ago, but recently there was the Amado Diablo case and the Luimia case."

Rhames sees Holland as a man who is struggling. "He has that dilemma with being a black man in blue.  If the police department is corrupt, then where does he fit into his equation?   He also has his own imperfections.  He's committed adultery, but he's also a man who wants to do the right thing.  Holland reminds me a bit of Serpico in a sense.  This is an African-American who's willing to take on the whole establishment.  I found that intriguing about the role."

Among actors, Rhames is well known for his improvisational approach to his craft. He found himself in the company of actors who were open to the challenge.   "Kurt Russell is an actor's actor.  I think he's very receptive to improvisation.  He's very open to hearing different takes on the scene, because he’s playing a character that is very opposite to his personal core. On the other hand, we're trying to help make that character more human, but show his achilles heel, his flaws."

Michael Michele plays Beth, Holland’s former lover who despite her best efforts falls in love with Bobby.  "We read several actresses for the part of Beth. Michael had a unique combination of grace and strength. Plus the connection that she made with Scott made their relationship real. We didn’t need to see anyone else," says Chubb.

Having played a police officer in two other projects, Michele is familiar with the ways of being a cop.  "I have the experience of handling weapons.  I have the experience of learning the talk and the walk.  The personality of a female cop is very familiar ground for me.  And I'm very comfortable in this skin." 

This time Michele gets to experience a love affair on screen.  "It's interesting because it's a very innocent love affair, that happens rather quickly.  And the backdrop is what's happening with the Rodney King riots. So you have polar opposites happening.  There’s the ugliness of the Rodney King riots involving civilians and police officers.  And then you have these two police officers, an African-American female and a Caucasian male, who find themselves falling for one another."

Michele hopes that audience will look beyond the fact of Beth and Bobby¹s race. "If people forget about what's happening in terms of race, with these two people, they will see the innocence of it.  You see that it's attraction, it’s love, it's passion, it's physical and it's sexual.  It's all of that."

For Speedman, Beth serves as the truth for Bobby. "She's my truth in a lot of ways.  Bobby keeps running around, trying to please everybody, trying to belong.  And she's just looking at me going, no, it's you.  It's you that I love.  She's the purity of the film.  You can look at her and she really just tells me who I am over and over, even though I don't really listen."

Joining this group of actors are Brendan Gleeson as the corrupt Jack Van Meter; rap artist Kurupt who plays Orchard, Dash Mihok as Sidwell, Jonathan Bank as Barcomb, Khandi Alexander as Janelle Holland and Lolita Davidovich as Sally Perry. 

Russell feels that "everything's been done to give these characters a chance to flourish.  They're well drawn people with extremely good actors playing them.  What else can you ask for.”

About the Production

According to Russell, "Dark Blue is a labour of love. We didn't have all the money in the world to make the picture with.  And these kinds of movies often find themselves in that position. The people in this movie, the actors that taken on these roles, have all pulled together to make it work."

Part of making it work was getting the details right. To help accomplish that, Shelton brought Bob Souza, a former LAPD detective, on as a technical advisor. "He helped with the details of police work and trying to get the procedural stuff right and humanizing the cops. It was very important to me that this wasn’t a cartoon of good and evil," explains Shelton.

Bob Souza explains, "This is a fictional story but it’s really close to me. It depicts detectives in robbery homicide as well as in the special investigations section. It has been important for me to keep everything as technically accurate as I can. I retired as a detective in the robbery homicide after 20 years on the force."

Souza’s work began in the pre-production where he worked with each department, set designers, costume and others to make sure that everything is accurate regarding the department circa 1992.  He also worked with Speedman and Michele. "They wanted to see how cops actually function in their daily lives. I took them to the police building."

Given the film’s subject matter, the LAPD was not willing to give their full cooperation. As a result, Speedman was unable to go on a ride-along. "I tried to get on a ride along.  That was one of things that I was most excited about when I got this job, you know.  To go on one of those ride-alongs.  But no, it didn't happen."

The cast is unanimous in their praise for Ron Shelton. Rhames describes Shelton’s approach as one of "classic simplicity. He found the nuances of the characters and of the film that are simple, but some of the most truth provoking." Michele speaks of him of a double threat.  "He's a great writer.  That coupled with being a great director, is somewhat of a one-two punch. He’s someone that not only can stand behind the camera and give great direction, but also has the knowledge of words.  And the knowledge to put a word in an actor's mouth, that works. So it's, wonderful when you can work with a director that also has the ability to write well."

Russell adds: "I've enjoyed many of Ron’s movies.  I think this is a director's medium, and he fits perfectly into that.  His style blends extremely well with the way this story needed to be told.  And that is to say that at the height of tragedy, there's humor.  And when something's really funny, there's also a tragic side to it.  Ronnie finds that throughout this saga and in the James Ellroy style.” 

The cast and filmmakers hope that the film will resonate with audiences and inspire discussion.  "I would like people to be engaged by this tale through the dark world of cops, their problems and their solutions. I want them to follow the story of a cop who goes to hell and sees if he can make it back.  I also want them to think about corruption and racism. If they come out of the theatre saying that was a really irritating movie about a bunch of crazy cops and on the drive home realize and say ‘I think it was about more than that,’ I will have done my job," comments Shelton.

Nigel Watson
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