Kelly Reilly as Doreen Boyd and Scott Speedman as Edwin Boyd in CITIZEN GANGSTER, a film by Nathan Morlando. Picture courtesy IFC Films. All rights reserved.
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Citizen Gangster (2011/2012)
Also Known As: Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster
Opened: 04/27/2012 Limited
|IFC Center||04/27/2012 - 05/03/2012||7 days|
|Monica 4-Plex||05/04/2012 - 05/10/2012||7 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
Genre: Canadian Drama
The first feature from writer/director Nathan Morlando, CITIZEN GANGSTER is based on the true story of Edwin Boyd (Scott Speedman), the man who became postwar Toronto's most famous criminal. Edwin Boyd has returned from WWII and is dismayed by public indifference towards veterans and humiliated by his inability to fulfill his dream of being a Hollywood star or provide for his children and wife Doreen (Kelly Reilly). Seeing only disappointment in the face of his policeman father (Brian Cox), Eddie is desperate and starts to rob banks. But what starts as friendly and flirtatious robberies, performed while wearing thick makeup, evolves over time into a career that when mixed with a gang of small time criminals is not unlike that of Clyde Barrow or Butch Cassidy, in which crime and love are mixed to get explosive results.
CITIZEN GANGSTER is the powerful true story of one man's rise from obscurity to criminal celebrity -- and the dangerous price he pays for it.
There are very few lives whose stories are extraordinary and worth telling. But Edwin Boyd's is one of them. I got to know him, his wife Doreen, and his daughter Carolyn. When I think of them as a family, and Eddie as a father, my gut pulls on the inside. Eddie's life is an example of beauty that hurts.
Most have heard of him -- his reputation as an outlaw is legendary. History remembers his daring criminal accomplishments -- his charms and good looks. But when I found him living under a new name in a small decrepit cookie-cutter bungalow, his existence wasn't the Hollywood dream he imagined. But it was still extraordinary -- because that's who he was and that's how he continued to live life.
Eddie was a war vet. His desperation for living -- for really being alive -- could neither be fulfilled nor contained by ordinary mundane existence. He had the courage to reach for an extraordinary life -- albeit one with inevitable tragic consequence. But his life speaks to anybody who trudges through a job, a life, that suppresses their creative spirit -- his struggle speaks to those who desire, daily, to break through to the other side. His path, however, was a mistaken path for it would lead to the separation of himself from his family that he loved so deeply; it was a path with a predetermined end of loss and suffering -- and despite himself, he took it -- and hit existence hard at rock bottom, utterly alone. But he found something down there -- where redemption lives -- an opportunity to change. And with that same desire to live, he took it -- and became the man he, perhaps, should always have been. A man in the service of others, a soldier, of sorts.
For me, CITIZEN GANGSTER is not another period film -- grand, lush and temporarily distant. Instead, I wanted a portrait of the man that would be close-up, real and contemporary in feel. He was a man who turned the bank teller's counter into his stage. He had a rock star confidence fashioning his criminal persona the way he did, with subtle stage makeup and stylish gangster clothes. I see him as an early vision - a precursor of a yet-to-be-seen David Bowie, but with fedora and gun.
I want audiences to experience the world of Edwin Boyd as though it is here and now, in an age of reality television where audacious behavior is rewarded with celebrity, Eddie's fashioning of his criminal persona is radically modern. The intention was to craft an intimate, visceral portrayal of this man and his world that speaks directly to us, today.
My focus is on the man and his psychology and not on the larger canvas of the city and streets that surround. Eddie is isolated from his world -- the tragic consequences of such infamy and celebrity. For Eddie, the outside world eventually seeps in only through newspapers and on the waves of radio and TV.
Just as Eddie achieves his desires, he finds that the interaction he craves with the outside world and all he holds dear in his life, is taken from him. The film echoes the personal reality of his rapidly shrinking external world -- the isolated life of an adored but ostracized celebrity, of perpetually closed-curtained motels and hotels, backstairs and alleyways -- and brings him out of the past, both psychologically and culturally, to stand as a compelling 21st century contemporary.
The camera stays on the man and his relationships. Inspired by DOG DAY AFTERNOON or BONNIE AND CLYDE, I wanted CITIZEN GANGSTER to break from the genre of "cops and robbers." Though antagonists arise in the form of cops, the most threatening antagonist arises from within. We are, after all, our own worst enemy. And though there are shootout scenes, this isn't a shootout film. Though there are plenty of bank robberies, this isn't just a "bank robbing" film. It is a portrait of a real man who robbed banks "Hollywood style" and left extraordinary imprints on his society through fulfilling his deep and desirous need to feel alive.
I wanted the film to feel real and contemporary. I wasn't looking to create a "period" look using artificial light that takes us out of the present and into a nostalgic past. When Eddie strides across a sunlit-filled bank and leaps over the counter or dances with Doreen between the hanging sheets in his laundry-filled living room -- I want the audience to feel as though these scenes could just as easily be now. Real light is what connects the past to the present. It is what makes a Robert Frank photograph, a tonal inspiration for the film -- feel timeless. Frank photographed our world in its natural state, but always with an edge of found beauty. Drawing on the natural beauty of Frank's compositions, my intention was to create a look that is naturalistic yet aesthetically and thematically resonant. For instance, when Eddie leaves his closed-curtained motel dressed for "work" in his suit and fedora, and stands at the door to say goodbye to his family, his naturally darkened image would be a shadowy silhouette of a "gangster." The light would be real, but an aesthetic found.
From production design to costume to score and music, we were determined to be authentic to the period while creating a "look" and sound that was current, expressive and true for today. To that end, recording artists The Black Keys and The Strange Boys prominently resound on the film's soundtrack and help achieve the feeling of making the past and present feel seamless. I wanted Eddie's inspiration to be ours.
One of the most creative and experienced production teams rallied behind this vision, which gave me the opportunity to gratefully deliver the film I always hoped for CITIZEN GANGSTER. And that I promised Eddie I would.
-- Nathan Morlando
About the Development
Writer/director Nathan Morlando was raised as a boy hearing the legendary stories of Eddie Boyd and the Boyd Gang. His mother, Margaret, was a young Toronto teen at the time when Eddie's audacious robberies fascinated the country and she and her older brothers, Morlando's uncles, like many, idealized the charming rebelliousness that Eddie and Gang represented. Like the nation itself, they followed the Boyd Gang's audacious front page news and with avid fascination.
Fast forward to the late 1990's when Morlando began the quest to tell the real life story behind Canada's most notorious bank robber, Edwin Boyd. While in graduate school studying Existentialism and Religious Studies, Morlando was attracted to the idea of the modern anti-hero and found the perfect expression in Eddie Boyd's fascinating, complex story. He knew he had a screenplay to write.
As fate would have it, one of Morlando's professors had a connection to someone who knew someone who knew Eddie Boyd - an older man now living under a protected identity out West on Vancouver Island. The moment Boyd's phone number was handed to him, Morlando knew that he had a responsibility ahead of him. Morlando and Boyd developed a long distance telephone relationship that grew over years before they would finally meet. Morlando was entrusted with the telling of not only Eddie's criminal story, but most importantly, his love story.
In 1998, with his relationship with Boyd and a first draft script under his arm, Nathan pitched and sold his debut screenplay to a Toronto-based production company. Separately, but at the same time, Morlando met Allison Black, who would become his wife and creative collaborator and eventually, his producer. Black, herself an established film professional having worked for Alliance Atlantis and Robert Lantos, became Morlando's biggest personal champion. Through other serendipitous events, Morlando and Black met Eddie's estranged daughter Carolyn Boyd and, through her, Nathan was finally invited and entrusted to meet Doreen. The personal connection to Eddie and the Boyd Family story became even deeper.
Black and Morlando formed euclid 431 pictures as a producer and director/writer team and relocated to Los Angeles where the two created and developed several other projects.
Successes stateside did not deter Morlando from his promise to Boyd to tell his real story. Seven years later, with the script now shelved in Toronto by the production company he had originally sold it to, a more experienced Morlando set out to retrieve the rights to the story he and Black knew only he could tell. With both Black and Morlando now solidified in the US as an artistic creative team they knew it was the perfect time to bring Edwin Boyd to life.
Once Black and Morlando retrieved the rights to the original screenplay, they started from page one to create a modern psychological exploration that would show Eddie Boyd in all his complexity -- the loving husband and father, the confused war vet struggling to acclimatize, and the charming thrill-seeking bank robber. Black spent two years raising the capital while packaging the film and sold the Canadian distribution rights to Entertainment One at the same time as bringing on Daniel Iron of Foundry Films as Executive Producer. International Sales AgentMyriad Pictures soon followed.
About the Casting
Casting Eddie Boyd would be the key to the success of the film. Working with veteran casting directors David Rubin and Richard Hicks (The English Patient), the team knew they needed an actor who could portray Eddie's charm and tenderness while at the same time making his complex fall into gangsterism compelling, vulnerable and powerful.
The filmmakers knew that Scott Speedman, with his unequivocal natural charm and good looks coupled with a compelling dramatic edge, would be the obvious, perfect choice for Eddie Boyd.
The two most important roles to cast after Eddie were Doreen and Lenny. For "Doreen Boyd," it was imperative to Morlando and Black to cast a British actress in order to be authentic to the real life woman and mother. Doreen is a challenging role and they needed someone not only with beauty but great dramatic range, courage and depth of emotional understanding. Kelly Reilly -- a BAFTA nominee and the youngest actress ever to be nominated on the London stage Laurence Olivier Award -- was it.
In casting Lenny Jackson, Morlando also had a personal obligation. When news that the Boyd story was being made, Nathan received a call from Lenny's son -- the child that Lenny's death sentence prevented him from meeting. The two met and Nathan assured him that his treatment would not be sensationalistic but that he would treat his father with honesty and humanity. Familiar with Kevin Durand's work, they saw in him not only a unique pillar of strength and fierceness, but an emotional range and compassionate side that would give greater humanity to the role of WWII vet "Tough" Lenny Jackson. Kevin Durand has a rare deep rooted presence to his being, and this would make Lenny a perfect grounded counterpoint to Eddie and his movie star flamboyance.
Rounding out the Gang were the roles of Val Kozak and Willy "The Clown" Jackson. For Val, the filmmakers needed an actor to play the young impressionable immigrant man whose deep need to fit in would lead him to trade in his violin for a smith & wesson .45. Joseph Cross' career of subtle and powerful performances made him the perfect choice.
Brendan Fletcher was the unequivocal choice for Willy "The Clown." With a natural comedic flair and a fierce dramatic edge, Brendan perfectly embodied Willy - a man desperate to leave a severely impoverished and abusive Cabbagetown upbringing behind, leading to his deep willingness to embrace and follow Eddie to wherever the "warm embrace" of celebrity might be.
For the challenging role of model "Mary Mitchell", the filmmakers needed an actress who was uncompromising and brave to bring understanding to a woman whose tragic mistake changed forever the lives of those she loved the most. In the beautiful Charlotte Sullivan's raw, powerful performance, they found their perfect "Mary."
For the role of Detective David Rhys, the filmmakers knew they needed to have acclaimed actor William Mapother. Morlando knew he didn't want to have a typical "antagonist" cop in this non-traditional cops and robbers story. In William, he found someone who could represent almost an "older, more grounded brother" to Eddie Boyd, someone who as a war vet himself, could have been his unit captain. Mapother's intimidating intelligence and naturalistic performance style brings both a bounty hunter like focus and a fellow soldier's sympathy to the role of Detective Rhys.
For the pivotal role of "Glover Boyd", the filmmakers knew that the formidable Brian Cox would bring a gravitas and compassion to the role of the restrained father who is torn between a fierce judgment of his son's choices -- and a quiet unconditional father's love.
About the Making of the Film
The film was shot entirely in Sault Ste Marie, Canada over the course of five weeks in the winter of 2011. Doubling for 1950's Toronto, the "Soo" offered an opportunity to authentically capture the urban landscape of the period while also providing the stunning rural exteriors of the gang's escape routes.
The remote northern city and winter weather conditions, coupled with a tight schedule and budget for a period film of CITIZIEN GANGSTER's scope, made for a unique and powerful shooting experience for cast and crew. The dedicated cast and crew became a focused, tight knit team that tirelessly committed their hearts and talent to the intentions of the film.
The City and the people of Sault Ste. Marie welcomed the film's cast and crew with open arms, offering a rare level of enthusiasm and support that made the challenging shooting conditions not only doable, but a wonderful, unforgettable community experience.
Nathan and Allison created a cool and calm, open-minded set, with Nathan setting a collaborative vibe for all the actors and crew.