The Gray Man : Press Conference with Actors Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Alfre Woodard, Rege-Jean Page, Jessica Henwick, Billy Bob Thorton, Dhanush, Julia Butters, and Writers/Directors Joe and Anthony Russo

The Gray Man : Press Conference with Actors Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Alfre Woodard, Rege-Jean Page, Jessica Henwick, Billy Bob Thorton, Dhanush, Julia Butters, and Writers/Directors Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis : When the CIA’s most skilled operative-whose true identity is known to none-accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets, a psychopathic former colleague puts a bounty on his head, setting off a global manhunt by international assassins.

Press Conference with Actors Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Alfre Woodard, Rege-Jean Page, Jessica Henwick, Billy Bob Thorton, Dhanush, Julia Butters, and Writers/Directors Joe and Anthony Russo.

Q: Joe and Anthony — what sets “The Gray Man” apart from other spy thrillers?

Joe: This is a modern story. Bond is about 60 years old at this point and Bourne’s about 20 years old. This film is connected in a lot of ways to issues that are going on in the world now. The character is exceedingly existential, quite funny, and we just find that it fits our sense of humor. It’s the kind of film that we feel would work well with today’s audiences.

Q: Ryan, Is “The Gray Man” one of your films that required the most of you physically, and how was your training for this movie?

Ryan: There was, as you can imagine, a lot of training for the film. I had an incredible amount of help. There was an amazing stunt team. At first, they went through all these different styles of martial arts and tried to curate it for me and the character. Then we had this amazing advisor named Chili Palmer, who’s an ex-Delta Force member. I tried to join myself at the hip with him. He had all these amazing tactical advice, but also these really amazing ideas like, you should always have skittles on you. Or, if you’re going to go to sleep, tie your shoelaces to the door ‘cause if someone comes in, you’ll know.

All these little details are things that weren’t in the script, but were things you could only learn from experience.

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I thought [they] really made the film special and added this special sauce to it. So, we had a lot of help.

Q: You’re running a lot in this movie [LAUGHS].

Ryan: Lotta running. I would go to back to the pre-movie me and tell him to work on his cardio. I didn’t expect all the Prague running.

Q: You’ve portrayed excellent villains before in your career, but this is your first time doing so with the Russo Brothers; you played a hero for a lot with them. You certainly seem to be having a blast in this role. Would you say playing such a complex role as Lloyd gives you a more liberating experience as an actor?

Chris: Playing a villain is always a little more fun. You have a bit more freedom, you get a lot more jokes, but working with the Russos is what gives that sense of trust and freedom. When you trust the filmmakers, you’re more willing to take risks, and certainly a character like this demands risks. Without the Russos and the relationship and rapport we have, I don’t know if I would have had such a rewarding experience.

Q: Joe were you going to add something too?

Joe: I was just going to give Chris like 40 or 60 bucks later for that.

Chris: Call it an even hundred.

Joe: I don’t know how much I have on me. I don’t know how much I have on me, but I’ll check.

The Gray Man (2022) Ryan Gosling as Six. Cr. Paul Abell/Netflix © 2022

Q: Ana, You’re a busy and in-demand actress, so a project has to speak to you immensely, on many levels, for you to be a part of it. What was it about “The Gray Man” that caught your attention?

Ana: I wasn’t busy then [LAUGHS]. I mean, many things. I was very, very excited that the Russos thought of me and as soon as I got on the Zoom call with them, and they presented this story and character to me, I was in. I wanted to work with Ryan and Chris again, and I have all this amazing cast behind me.

And the character, I just loved her. I love who this woman is, her background, training and mentality — and how badass and fearless she is — all of that.

Q: Alfre, if you look historically at spy movies that have come out, it seems that an iconic woman is at the helm of the agency. How does it feel to be taking on such a role in this movie? It’s the role of a woman who always gets things done.

Alfre: I really like that I would go to work for these two guys… Oh, I learned a lot, not only about what I have to do but…

Joe: I just want to make sure they heard what you said. Repeat the $200 statement that you made.

Alfre: The big draw for me was that when I read it, I was excited. It reads just as exciting as it is on film, and I wanted to impress my grown-up children with the cast. But it was really that it was taking place in Thailand, Hong Kong, Czech Republic, London. And then I said, “Yes.” Then they told me that I was just going to be in Long Beach at the…

Joe: [LAUGHS] We ran out of money.

Alfre: But they were really nice to me, I wanted to kick ass, but they said, “You’re dying so you can’t…” But I really enjoy the fact that Ana kicks butt. You kick ass.

Q: Billy, your character is one who has seen and done some intense things. there’s so much history between all the characters in the movie, but at the same time he has these super protective relationships, both with Six and Claire, played by Julia. How do you think your character balances that rough history with these intensely personal and protective relationships?

Billy: The thing that really interested me about the character is that here’s a guy who’s a high-level spy, and you have to be cold-blooded in a lot of ways. You have to make life and death decisions all the time, but when you bring in the personal relationships, it’s like, “How do I remain a human and yet do my job?” That interests me about people in general but, being the protector of my niece and everything, it comes naturally because I’m a parent. I had to probably lean more into, “How do I remain this guy?” But protecting her, that was easy.

Q: Rege-Jean, your character is an American in this movie, what was the prep process for you to shift into that character? What sort of work did you put in to develop your American accent?

Rege-Jean: It was very similar to the prep that you put into any role. I try to come at each script like a duckling that’s never seen a script before in my life, and you start fresh. I always make sure that this guy has a background, he had a reason to be the way he is, because the immediate reaction to Lloyd is you look at him and go, “Who does this?” It’s very much the reaction to Lloyd, Lloyd’s on my mind. But I wanted to give him a bit of depth. I wanted there to be something interesting and blue-collar in his background. Something east coast and aspirational into why he’s pushing himself so hard, why this enfant terrible has risen so high so quickly and pushed so hard. All of that comes into the melody and nuances of where that accent comes from. I do the same in British accents, it’s always building the person and then how they speak.

Q: You were pulling from blue-collar, east coast [roots]. Were there any specific inspirations or villain inspirations? Early on we realize he’s not a great guy [LAUGHS].

Rege-Jean: Nothing in particular. It’s always a collage effect, you steal little pieces, but also you never say where you steal from, that’d be telling?

The Gray Man (2022). (L – R) Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen, Jessica Henwick as Suzanne Brewer. Cr. Paul Abell/Netflix © 2022

Q: Jessica, Your character has this really interesting arc in the film in that she’s watching the chaos ensue from Denny’s orders, and then decides to step in and do something about it. Talk about that turn in making her this dynamic and complex character?

Jessica: I didn’t approach it as a turn, I wanted it to be shocking, but I also wanted you to go, “Oh, okay, that makes sense.” I mean, to be surrounded by two douchebags for that long? Like who wouldn’t snap? I didn’t want it to be, like, “Oh, I don’t understand why she did that” moment.

Q: She has a great line at the end of the movie that’s basically, “Don’t underestimate me,” and we see that throughout you bring a lot of complexity to that.

Jessica: Thank you for reminding me, I didn’t remember that line.

Q: Julia, you get a chance to work alongside some pretty iconic actors and actresses in this movie, though they also get to alongside icon Julia Butters as well. Did you enjoy the opportunity to work with this amazing cast and did you learn anything from your screen-time with these individuals?

Julia: Working with these folks here was a delight because I’d seen [LAUGHS] half of them on SNL before anything else. Ryan and Rege-Jean were from SNL, and then I was a fan. So, thank you guys for that.

Ryan: Julia Butters knows who I am.

Julia: It was amazing working with these people. I respect them so much and think they’re so incredibly talented. I’m more of an observer than someone to ask for advice, whether watching Chris twitch into Lloyd, literally physically or [LAUGHS] watching Billy just take seconds to calm down and think. I honor them so much in their process.

For me, taking notes by watching what they do is my form of learning, and just seeing how professional they are and growing up seeing that through everyone I work with, I really try to get as much as I can from observance. Thank you so much for being amazing. And the Russo Brothers too, you guys are just incredible. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this.

Q: Dhanush, This is your first Hollywood blockbuster, though you’re no stranger to blockbusters. How has this experience working with the Russos and this cast been for you?

Dhanush: It was amazing. I had a great time understanding how Hollywood works. I’ve done about 50 films, 22 years of work in Indian film industry. You don’t often get chance to feel like a newcomer again because the first time it all happens in a blur, you don’t realize what’s happening. But this time, I had an opportunity to look at myself like a newcomer. It was really amazing. Growing up watching Hollywood films and to be in one is really nice [LAUGHS]. I’m thankful to the Russos for finding and casting me and it’s just amazing.

Q: Joe and Anthony, What would you say was the hardest part to film about the Prague Sequence?

Joe: All of it.

Anthony: Yeah, every single element of it. For the Prague sequence, we needed a large section of the city to pull that off. That sequence starts in a major city square, and it continues through a chase throughout the city, so it was very complex. And, just to give you an example of how hard it was, there’s a tram that The Gray Man gets on and Ana’s character is chasing him in a car and there’s a lot of other mercs around. It careens through Prague, and in order to shoot that sequence, we were using actual trams. We built a bus that was designed to look exactly like a tram but ran on wheels because sometimes we needed to run the tram faster than the tram could actually go, or we needed to take it down streets that didn’t have tracks, et cetera. And we also had a tram that was located at a lot in Prague but was stationary that we would sort of shake, and we had blue screen around it. You’re building the sequence through all those different locations, we’re shooting with our main cast, we’re shooting with stunt performers for the portions that are too dangerous, and it was a very complex process to build that. We’re grateful to everyone in Prague, Prague’s an amazing filmmaking center, they have amazing crew there. The people are very supportive of filmmaking. You can only pull something that complex off at a place like Prague.

The Gray Man (2022). (L to R) Rege-Jean Page as Carmichael, Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda.

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Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Q: Can you speak to the decision to shoot on location instead of building a set on a soundstage to look like Prague?

Anthony: Yeah, [of course].

Joe: It would have been tough and required a lot of VFX. It is a very tactile sequence. Whenever you go into a town, like we did this with “Winter Soldier,” we shut down a freeway. We went back to Cleveland, our hometown, to shoot the movie and everyone was very happy, and then we shut down the freeway for two weeks and…

Anthony: I was going to say, they weren’t that happy.

Q: They’re like, “Go to Prague.” [LAUGHS]

Anthony: That was short lived.

Joe: And then they weren’t happy. It was very short lived.

ANTHONY: Chris can call us on that one.

JOE: I don’t think we can go back to Prague or Cleveland, but we’re very grateful that we were able to shoot on location.

Q: Ana, what was the most interesting thing that you learned from the CIA agent who helped you with your training? Always bring skittles, tie your shoe to the door [LAUGHS]?

Ana: Well, that was Chili. I was very lucky to have Chili to train me on the military part of the character, the mentality of that having experience physically and endure the pain of what is like, this training for shooting and putting on all this weight of these weapons and, just running around. I started running like a chicken at the beginning with this vest around me. I didn’t know how to move or squat or do anything, and I really enjoy the process [of learning].

This pre-production, for me, was really fun ‘cause I could see myself improving [LAUGHS]. Thank god. But then I also needed this other side, more like the psychological part of it. Like, what do you do? ‘Cause at the end of the day, you’re on the mission, out there risking your life, and none of these other people are around you, they’re at the office. Ultimately you’re the one calling the shots. You’re the one who has to make a decision to solve the problem in the moment. So, the CIA agent was very helpful. At the end of the day, it’s all about doing the right thing.

Q: You can see that in your performance too. She’s so decisive and doesn’t take a lot of time hemming and hawing over decisions.

Ana: She has to. She has to be three steps ahead of everyone else, especially on this one [LAUGHS]. Yeah, that was really fast at making trouble [LAUGHS].

Q: That leads to the most fun banter though.

Ana: Guys, I wish we had more arguments in the movie.

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We can do that in the next one, right?

Q: Chris, since you have worked with Anthony and Joe on previous occasions, how has your work with them changed in “The Gray Man?”

Chris: It’s just a matter of evolving our trust, our understanding and communication. Film is this landscape of… You can get lost in a semantic fog, there’s all these creative minds on set, and you’re all trying to make the same thing, and trying to communicate that vision can be tricky. You develop an understanding of the person’s language and, they understand my strengths, understand things that I don’t necessarily want to do and the things that I can’t wait to do. That familiarity is what breeds trust, and that trust is what makes the risk-taking process of filmmaking feel less like a risk.

The Gray Man (2022) Ryan Gosling as Six. Cr. Stanislav Honzik/Netflix © 2022

Q: Joe, you wrote this as well. Having worked with Chris so long, were you weaving some of the comedic elements into Lloyd as well? Or did you guys work together to develop that side of the character?

Joe: It’s really important to us to work with the cast on the scripts. We want them to have emotional ownership over the characters. Everyone here is a great storyteller as well as an incredible actor. They all have an amazing wealth of experience. And we encourage our collaborators to bring that to the table. For Anthony and I, we prepare the script so we can throw things away. That’s an old adage in filmmaking, so we’re always available to what’s happening in the moment. If there’s something organic or funny, or if somebody says something funny, it doesn’t matter where it comes from, if it works with the character and with the story, we’ll try it. Everyone here brought dialogue, jokes, , character accents in a way that really filled out the film and made it much more colorful.

Q: Dhanush, what was the learning curve for you with the fight choreography? Was it challenging to keep your character’s drive and energy at the forefront of the action? you’re no stranger to action, but action with the Russos, is on a whole other level.

Dhanush: They started from the basics. If your left hand is here, where should your right leg be. It was amazing, right from the basics. The stunt crew… They take you through, and then it gets intense, and gets to the point where it feels dangerous. it’s very quick and very fast [LAUGHS].

But it was fun. It was very challenging, but fun. Towards the end, you feel like you’re a pro, you move so quick. They make sure you’re so good before you go on. It’s funny, because one week before the shoot, I sprained my neck [LAUGHS]. So, it’s a month, month and a half of training, and then just one week before you start filming, I have a sprain, and you’re, “I’m not able to move this side, or this side.” I was like, “Oh, damn, what am I going to do this now?”

And the physio just had a week’s time to get me ready. I have to match Ana’s speed. Somehow they found a way to make me fit for the stunt sequence. It was amazing, a great experience. Avik San’s supposed to be very calm, mysterious, and composed. But I have to have this kind of movement and energy coming out of my body. And the grunts without… I didn’t know how to do it. I have to be calm, but… [MAKES NOISE]. It was a bit challenging. It’s a good question, actually [how I did it]. But it was fun and great, something that keeps you thinking all the time, it’s always really great to do something like that.

Q: Jessica, Alfre, Ana, and Julia. The four of you are clearly strong characters within this film. Who wants to talk about why it’s important to see leading women within this action spy genre?

Alfre: It’s important because we are the stronger gender. These guys have to have these kind of women in their lives so we just need to make sure, thankfully, that they know that. Whether they’re moms, aunties, daughters, and all. Ryan is just rocked by strong women in his life. We’re just presenting real life. A lot of times you don’t get that in film.

Julia: It’s also very important that women in action movies aren’t presented as women wearing high heels, beating the guys, and oh, they’re so sexy. It’s very important that you represent them in a way where they’re doing a job, and it doesn’t necessarily matter if they are found attractive. Even though this is a gorgeous cast [LAUGHS]. It’s important to represent women as women instead of high heels, long hair, long nails, and whipping the boys. It’s very important to represent them respectfully and powerfully at the same time.

Ana: I feel like this comment was coming right at me. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I was a woman in high heels kicking ass in a Bond movie looking beautiful and the way I was supposed to for that movie. But it’s something really refreshing about this one where the focus is not on that. I’m not Ryan’s love interest. We’ve done that, too. We’ve been there. It’s about her power in a different way. And it’s really cool. It’s important to put women in action films in that light, and have that vision of it, and, accentuate that part of badass women. Does that make sense?

The Gray Man (2022). (L to R) Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda, Ryan Gosling as Six. Cr. Paul Abell/Netflix © 2022

Q: Billy, there’s a great scene between Fitz and Lloyd where you’re getting your nails pulled out in the grossest and most uncomfortable, but badass, way. Can you talk a bit more about that scene?

Billy: That was a really interesting scene. What’s great is the way Chris was playing this character. As opposed to playing him like the typical bad guy, he was so casual about everything. He could say the worst thing to you and be so casual about it. I had to really work myself up, because I would sometimes get lost in his funny way of being this guy. For one scene, it’s like, “Okay, well, the only way to do this is to tell him to take a hike.” I just have to say, “I don’t care what you do,” and show no pain; that’s what you’re trying to do. I chose to just growl at him, and tell him that I didn’t care what he was doing to me, “You’re not hurting me.” That’s the way we did the scene. In terms of the nails, he only pulled one of my real ones off. After that, I went to Joe and Anthony and said, “I’m not doing this, guys.”

Joe: But our visual effects artists were able to model all of the fake nail pulls off from the real nail pull. So it worked…

Q: Rege-Jean, when audiences see this film, they learn very quickly that Denny Carmichael is not someone who should be messed with. Did you enjoy taking on someone who has such an openly dark side?

Rege-Jean: It’s hugely freeing. there’s something fun about… The difference between villains and heroes, generally, is that villains are not burdened with a conscience in the same way as heroes are. They don’t have any barriers between themselves and their goals, or at least not the same barriers. My job was just to bring some relish to being unrestrained. My favorite villain in literature is Iago in “Othello.” People enjoy watching him enjoy himself be bad. I feel that Denny and Lloyd are cut from a similar cloth in that way. They enjoy themselves, just in different ways. I tried to bring some relish to the deviousness. It’s good fun, hopefully for myself and for the audience.

Q: Ryan, as an actor how do you balance the comedic moments and the action-packed serious ones? Do you prepare differently depending on the tone of the script?

Ryan: You prepare differently. It depends on the filmmakers. The Russos have a really cool process, one I’ve never done before, where at the beginning of the film, we sat with all of the department heads, and they put the script up on a big screen, and everybody starts talking about it as they work through it. At first, it makes it not precious and very collaborative. Also, it really gets you on the same page, literally. You know what movie you’re making. It just became clear that we were shooting for the stuff that I grew up loving in the ’80s and ’90s that had a sense of humor about itself. It also helps because it’s not often that you find yourself falling through a trap door and end up in a well in some guy’s Czechoslovakian apartment. The fact that you can comment on that; the Russos open it up, so you can say in the movie, “Okay, this was unexpected.” It sort of helps [LAUGHS]. It gives you a gear in the movie that you don’t have in a lot of other films. So, you know, this was kind of a unique process in that way, but I really enjoyed it.

Anthony: Ryan reminded me of something last night where, just to give you an example of how we like to work with actors, he was in a car with Ana and he tried to joke, and I walked up to him after the take and I said, “Yeah, that’ll never make the movie.” The line actually made the trailer.

Q: For Joe and Anthony. “The Gray Man” ends with Sierra Six disappearing. Is there a possibility for additional stories in “The Gray Man” universe.

Anthny: Part of our motivation to assemble a cast like this, an amazing cast like this who can embody so many interesting characters, was the hope of creating a universe that you wanted to follow all of them, either forward or backward from this moment in time that we caught in this first movie. So yes, hopefully, there will be more stories to tell in “The Gray Man” world.

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Here’s the trailer of the film.

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