Andrew Liner and Tim Blake Nelson in 'Bang Bang'.

(L to R) Andrew Liner and Tim Blake Nelson in 'Bang Bang'.

Premiering at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival on June 11th is the new boxing drama ‘Bang Bang,’ which was directed by Vincent Grashaw.

The movie stars Tim Blake Nelson (‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ and ‘The Incredible Hulk’), Andrew Liner (‘Gray Matter’), Glenn Plummer ('Speed'), Kevin Corrigan ('The Departed'), Erica Gimpel ('King of New York'), Daniella Pineda ('Jurassic World Dominion') and Nina Arianda ('Being the Ricardos').

Moviefone recently had the pleasure of speaking with director Vincent Grashaw, as well as actors Tim Blake Nelson and Andrew Liner about their work on ‘Bang Bang’, Grashaw’s first reaction to the screenplay and what he wanted to say about the sport of boxing, Nelson’s approach to his character and playing a former boxer, the fight sequences, Liner’s character’s relationship with his grandfather and working with Nelson and Kevin Corrigan, and why Nelson enjoyed making the movie.

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Andrew Liner and Tim Blake Nelson in 'Bang Bang'.

(L to R) Andrew Liner and Tim Blake Nelson in 'Bang Bang'.

Moviefone: To begin with, Vincent, can you talk about your first reaction to Will Janowitz’s screenplay and the themes you wanted to explore as a director?

Vincent Grashaw: The script speaks for itself. As a director, unless you write the thing, which I always feel, you're a little more naked and probably protective and less collaborative, not even something you're aware of. I always find you're a little more guarded, and I don't like that. That's why I prefer to read somebody else's material, fall in love with it, and then take it and bring yourself to it. Will's script, when you're reading something like that, you find yourself disappearing in it, and it doesn't take long. I can gauge my interest based on how long it takes me to read a script based on the page count and how long, and it's one that I breezed through, and everything happened quickly from there in terms of getting it made. But I was really excited about the boxing aspects to it on top of the intimate characters and their relationships. It was an unexpected direction that the script takes that also just, it kept surprising me, and by the end, you're throwing the script across the room because you're just like, "Dude, it's fantastic." I think it's one of those things, as a filmmaker, you see an opportunity and you're like, "I want to tell the story." It becomes an obsession almost until it gets done.

MF: Tim, can you talk about your approach to playing Bernard and what were some of the aspects of the character you were excited to explore on screen?

Tim Blake Nelson: I've never encountered a character quite like this. The swerve to which Vince refers also interested me and recalled the John Huston film ‘Fat City’ and how deeply that movie delved into the aftermath of a career in boxing. I felt that I hadn't read a script or seen a boxing movie that had those sorts of ambitions. I was very excited to lend myself to that. The big question for me was how credible I could be as this guy, particularly as somebody with a boxing past. Luckily Vince, in addition to being a wonderful director in his own right, regardless of his association with boxing, has a boxing past, comes from a family with boxers in it and has boxed himself. He was able to talk me through not only the simple aspects of the fact that I could have been a lightweight or a featherweight fighter, and in fact it would make perfect sense for my build if I could devote myself to the training, which I was certainly willing to do. But he helped me start to think about the mindset and allowing that to seep in during the training process. Because of Vince, I had the confidence that I was going to be able to fill the character out inside of this rather slight diminutive frame. Then at the time we made this movie, I guess I was 59, and to be able to continue acting at my age, and not only that, but be given a challenge like this, this is why I set out on this career path in the first place. I couldn't be happier. I'm a lucky soul to have been guided through this character by Vincent Grashaw.

Tim Blake Nelson in 'Bang Bang'.

Tim Blake Nelson in 'Bang Bang'.

MF: Can you talk about the anger that Bernard carries with him and his obsession with his past?

TBN: Well, the script is so well written that in the way I was trained way back, as my wife would say in the Mesozoic era, I am guided by the writing and Will Janowitz's script supplies an actor with everything an actor needs. Really, I just answered that without ladling a bunch of confusing stuff on top of that. I just played the truth of the character as written, as directed by Vince, refracted through a lot of boxing training and hanging around boxers. In terms of the relationship with the grandson, I had this wonderful scene partner in Andrew who was open, honest, available, professional and everything you'd want in a scene partner. The anger, the love, the disappointment was just all readily there for me to open myself up to it.

MF: Andrew, can you talk about Justin’s relationship with his grandfather and what he learns from training with him?

Andrew Liner: I think it's interesting having Justin be a young man trying to find who he is without a male role model in his life until Bang Bang. The messy weird relationship that Bang and Justin have is in a way cathartic for both because in a way they needed each other and they have a deep love for one another, even though it does get messy because Bang gives Justin purpose. I think that in exploring these characters, I think Tim and I also just were very prepared and got to talk and listen with one another. I think at the end of the day, the writing was so good that there was nothing else needed. You could just talk to one another, and it'll ring true. Having the characters be so real and so thought out, thanks to Will and Vince bringing those characters to life, the story fell in place. I think that Vince is very specific as well. If he wasn't getting what he wanted, he would very much explain what exactly he wants. I think through that, it's hard to mess up. It was a great experience because we all came together and told a story.

Andrew Liner in 'Bang Bang'.

Andrew Liner in 'Bang Bang'.

MF What was your experience like working with Tim, and what did you learn from him while making the film?

AL: I learned a lot working with Tim. He's one of the best actors of his generation, and he pours himself into these characters not only emotionally and spiritually, but physically as well, which is everything that I want to do with what I take to acting. Just picking his brain and seeing how he operates during rehearsals, or asking Vince questions about what the shot is, or asking Will questions about where the character is going in this scene, what the target is, just watching him do his thing. With Bang being the character that he is, it's daunting and it's hard. Seeing him obsess over who he is and the relationships, that was a learning experience for me because it got me to a place where I was like, "Okay, I can start trying this. I can start pushing this envelope here, and I'm not so much in a box." He broke that box down for me.

MF: Tim, you have some very physical scenes, did you work with a stunt coordinator for the fight sequences?

TBN: I don't think I've ever been so despised by a stunt coordinator as I was on this movie because I just kept saying, "No, let us just, please don't worry about us." I think the guy wanted to kill me. Stunt coordinators, to their credit, it's their job. I admire it. I fault myself in the way that I was at times with this guy, who's a perfectly wonderful guy and good at his job. But he was protecting us and really protecting me because Andrew is, he's like an Adonis and I'm getting a little superannuated. So, he didn't want me to get hurt, but I'm also in really good shape and I wanted Andrew to be able to whack me. It was that kind of thing. I think the guy very much, I take his side against me on this. I think at times he was just saying, "Would this guy just get over himself and let me do my job?" But I wanted to get whacked and really play the scene, and I didn't feel that Andrew Liner, the actor, was going to be irresponsible in that scenario.

Glenn Plummer in 'Bang Bang'.

Glenn Plummer in 'Bang Bang'.

MF: Glenn Plummer, who plays Darnell Washington, has a great speech at the end of the film where he talks about the “truth” behind boxing. Vincent, as a filmmaker, what did you want to say about the sport of boxing with this movie?

VG: It's a beautiful seven-minute back and forth between these two, and mainly Glenn speaking, just how things really are. On an intimate level, for me, its exploring what boxers are left with post-career. A lot of times it's a sad, lonely place. You see it all the time. Boxers don't know when to retire. Not all of them, but a lot of them aren't really left with much money. They're forgotten by an audience that if you were at the height of the sport, it's a drug. That's one of the reasons they don't know when to retire. That was the heart of it. Then, almost all sports are regulated, and they have a commission. As much as boxing does have a state-by-state commission, it's the wild, wild west. There's no union, there's no protections. There was a fighter, not too long ago, he was a young prospect, undefeated, good-looking kid, and he got knocked out in a fight that was six months or three months after a previous time he lost. He wasn't protected. The athletic commission typically would suspend you after a knockout to give your brain a certain amount of time to recover. He ended up with brain damage and ended up thankfully recovering and being able to live a life. But he's out of the sport and he was forgotten by his own promoter. You're done at that point, who do you turn to? He's got his family and he's able to live now and have a life. I don't want to spoil anything, but there was a similarity to the character of Bang Bang's brother that this guy went through. It just breaks your heart. I wanted to be honest about the sport, really.

MF: Andrew, you have a scene with Kevin Corrigan where he starts singing spontaneously at the end of a monologue. Was that in the script or something he improvised?

AL: Yeah, that was in the script and that was also Kevin's first day, and that was my first day as well. That was the last shot of the day, I think. It was like a crazy experience for me to just sit there and watch and listen and it made my acting job easy because he was so phenomenal. I think it just showcased the bizarre world that they both live in. Also, you feel a lot of what these characters are going through with that scene because Kevin is so emotional and powerful and boosts my ego and tells me how Bang feels about me. It's not like Justin and Bang are going to go sit, get coffee and be like, "I actually love you so much." It was a very important scene that not only told Justin, but told the audience that "No, no, no. You got to understand how he looks at you. He looks at you like you're a king, and he believes that, and that's why he's giving you this tough love."

Kevin Corrigan in 'Bang Bang'.

Kevin Corrigan in 'Bang Bang'.

MF: Finally, Tim, what was the experience of making this movie and working with Andrew and Vincent like for you?

TBN: Well, I loved working with Andrew. He was wonderfully open, available, and generous as a scene partner. I couldn't have asked for a better scene partner. I think he's going to have an incredible career, and anybody would be lucky to work with him. That was fantastic. I was somewhat involved in the casting process, not with any final decisions, but with a bit of a say-so and certainly supported Vince in his choice of Andrew. It was clear this was going to be a great citizen on the film, and the unknown was what performance he would give, and I think it's extraordinary. As for Vincent, I'm incredibly grateful to him for trusting me with this role. I credit him very much for guiding what the performance is and for giving me the space and wherewithal to give him what he needed for his movie. I think Vince is going to make some extraordinary films in his life, and I hope I'm a part of them.

Bang Bang

Bang Bang

Not Yet Rated1 hr 43 minJun 11th, 2024

Retired pugilist Bernard “Bang Bang” Rozyski is inspired to try his hand at training once he reconnects with his estranged grandson. While their training brings... Read the Plot

What is the plot of ‘Bang Bang’?

Retired pugilist Bernard “Bang Bang” Rozyski (Tim Blake Nelson) is inspired to try his hand at training once he reconnects with his estranged grandson (Andrew Liner). While their training brings Bang Bang out of the hole he’s been living in, everyone questions his motivations, including an ex-girlfriend (Erica Gimpel) from decades ago, who was privy to Bang Bang’s meteoric rise in the sport in the 80s as well as the rivalry with his former opponent, her cousin and Detroit's Mayoral candidate Darnell Washington (Glenn Plummer). Is Bang Bang merely passing down inherited rage, or is there true altruism behind his tutelage?

Who is in the cast of ‘Bang Bang’?

  • Tim Blake Nelson as Bernard “Bang Bang” Rozyski
  • Glenn Plummer as Darnell Washington
  • Kevin Corrigan as John Eton
  • Andrew Liner as Justin
  • Nina Arianda as Jen
  • Erica Gimpel as Sharon
  • Daniella Pineda as Officer Flores

Tim Blake Nelson in 'Bang Bang'.

Tim Blake Nelson in 'Bang Bang'.

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