The Place Beyond The Pines, Cooper, Cianfrance
“I’m full of epic stories,” the loquacious Derek Cianfrance told Vanity Fair recently. And it’s true. We sat down with the director and co-writer behind “The Place Beyond The Pines,” and Cianfrance was indeed full of amazing stories. He told us in the part of our interview we ran yesterday that he had to pare down a 158 page script to 120 pages to earn his financing. So, did the filmmaker do a rewrite? Nope. He increased the margins as far as they would go and then selected the smallest font possible and got down to 120 pages. The financiers didn’t notice and he got his green light. Crafty, right?

"Bradley Cooper, I was like ‘Who? The guy from ‘The Hangover’?’ They're like, ‘Yeah, he's actually a very good actor.’ I was like ‘Well maybe he is but I doubt he's going to be in this movie.’ "

But that’s just one small story. ‘Pines’ stars Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes Dane DeHaan, Ray Liotta, and Bradley Cooper in particular puts in another powerful performance that reveals him to be much more than just one of the boobs from "The Hangover" movies. In fact, shot before his Oscar-nominated turn in "Silver Linings Playbook," Cooper desperately wanted the role and had to convince Cianfrance who didn’t think much of him at the time. But then later on, getting cold feet, Cooper actually dropped out of the film shortly before shooting began and then Cianfrance, now firmly believing he was perfect to play the part, had to convince him otherwise.

“I met [Bradley] before he had done ‘Silver Linings,’” Cianfrance told us, gearing up for his own epic story. “I knew Ryan was the [bankrobber] for so long, for forever, he helped me with it and I was meeting all of these actors to play [the policeman] Avery. I met with a lot of great actors and someone that I was going to meet with was Bradley Cooper, I was like ‘Who? The guy from ‘The Hangover’?’ They're like, ‘Yeah, he's actually a very good actor.’ I was like ‘Well maybe he is but I doubt he's going to be in this movie,’ but I said, ‘I'll meet with him, I'll meet with anyone.’ ”

“So I went and met with Bradley and immediately upon seeing him, I'd say the visual I had, the thing that came to mind when I first saw him was a pot of boiling water with a lid on it,” Cianfrance continued. “There was something unhinged, there was something inside of him that was wild and stormy, wrestling. As I talked to him I realized that he was my brother, that he was dealing with a lot of the things that I was dealing with as a man and I thought: ‘Wow, couldn’t I make a movie with this guy? Why don't I rewrite the character for him and really make it about the misperception of someone that on the outside he's the hero?' On the outside he's the Sexiest Man Alive but on the inside there's a corruption happening, there's a toxic shame that's rotting his soul and let’s see where he can play there. Maybe the audience can see him in the movie and have the same thing; here's the hero, but conflicted.”

Cianfrance, Mendes, Place Beyond The Pines

“In my life I don't know any heroes, I don't know any villains in my life. I know a lot of people in the gray area, people that are both, duplicitous and that’s the kind of people I relate to,“ Cianfrance continued. “So I rewrote it and gave it to him and there was resistance from him, he was a little scared of it I think. But I related to that in an actor too. I don't relate to the idea of no fear. I relate to being scared shitless and being courageous, that's courage to confront fear.”

“But he tried to get out of it actually and I said, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I'm up in Montreal shooting ‘The Words,’ I said, ‘Okay it takes me about 5 hours to drive there from Brooklyn, I'll see you tonight, be there about 11.’ I came and saw him about 11 pm and we had a dinner from midnight until 4 in the morning and for 3 hours and 45 minutes he was out," Cianfrance elaborates. "It wasn’t until the last 15 minutes, maybe I just exhausted him, but I told him I wasn't going to make the movie without him because I believed so strongly that no one but him could do it. You know? I'm so thankful that he agreed.”

Cianfrance’s second epic story comes from the aforementioned Vanity Fair piece. The short version: Andrij Parekh, who shot “Blue Valentine,” dropped out eight weeks before shooting was supposed to start. Cianfrance then replaced him with “Shame” DP Sean Bobbitt. It gets bonkers...