I was having trouble finding who was going to be that person and Ryan suggested, “Why don’t you look at Eva?” I was like, “Oh yeah, why didn’t I think of her?” Because I always liked her, I’ve always thought she’d been great. So she came to an audition and she showed up with some high-waist, 1990’s jeans and a big, baggy T-shirt and her hair was a mess and she had on no make-up and she was trying her hardest to be unattractive and, of course, she was failing miserably at it, but it meant so much to me that she was making herself vulnerable. I told her she didn’t need to read, that I didn’t need her to read anything, and I asked her instead just would you take me for a drive and she took me around the neighborhood where she grew up. She showed me this school she went to, the house she grew up in, and over those two hours, I realized what kind of human being she was and not this image. I kind of fell in love with her as a human, and she was definitely scared. She had fear about the role, but I don’t relate to a fearless actor. I relate to an actor who is terrified because, I think that’s the meaning of courage, that’s the definition of courage. It’s not fearlessness, it’s fearfulness and confronting it anyway and I felt like we could make some magic together.
Can you talk about shooting the action scenes? It’s probably the first time you’ve shot anything that intensive with stuntmen and all that entailed.
Well, my reference-point for the action scenes were not other movies. It was America’s wildest police chases and “Cops.” I felt like if “Blue Valentine” was noted for anything, it was noted for its kind of realism and frank take on sexuality and now I’m entering a genre picture and I wanted it also to be equally as true. And so for instance, there was Bradley Cooper’s introduction in the film when he’s chasing Ryan Gosling’s character on the street. I remember taking my producers on a walk-through. It was a two-and-a-half minute shot, but to walk it took about fifteen minutes, cause we’re not going 75 miles an hour. So I took them from point A to point Z, where it starts and where it ends, and I remember walking them on the set’s path and at the end of it, I was like out of breath cause I was so pumped up and excited about how it was going to feel as I was seeing it and they were just dead-silent, and I was like, “What is wrong with you guys?” And they were figuring out logistically how we were going to do it. They were like, “What if a kid runs out into the street?” Well, that meant we had to put people, crewmembers in every one of those houses to make sure no one came out, but I wanted to shoot these scenes without cuts.
We had to do training. Ryan was working with Rick Miller about eight weeks before production and, after that first training session, I asked Rick, “Where did he get to? Scale of one to ten.” He says, “He’s about a three.” I said, “Oh no.” I said, “Well, at least you have eight weeks to train him.” And he said, “Okay.” I said, “What can you get him to in eight weeks realistically?” And he said, “Maybe a three and a half...Look, this is a lifetime commitment, like a basketball player, you can’t be NBA unless you’re shooting hoops from age six.” I said, “Well, you don’t have a lifetime, you’ve got eight weeks.” So the day before production, last training session, I had pulled Rick aside and said, “Where did he get to?” He said, “A seven.” And so to me that speaks to Ryan Gosling’s kind of magic and his ability to do things that normal people, like me, could never do.