I often find myself approaching the wee hours of the night, quietly procrastinating on whatever paper is due in the morning by facebooking or wikipedling. I consider leaving my moderately privileged college life and joining a monastery, or a dude ranch or maybe becoming a sous-chef. Something that is definitely not on this list is bounty hunting.
Such was the choice of model-turned-bounty hunter Domino Harvey, whose life is loosely depicted in the new film ‘Domino,’ set to release on Oct. 14 from New Line Cinema. The film is directed by Tony Scott and supported by a star-packed cast featuring Keira Knightly, Mickey Rourke, Christopher Walken, Lucy Liu and Delroy Lindo as well as newcomer to American cinema Edgar Rodiriguez.
The movie’s plot, scripted by Richard Kelly (‘Donnie Darko’), treads a fine line between fact and fiction, this relationship being best described in the opening text of the movie, which states: ‘This is Domino Harvey and this is her real life story … well, sort of.’
The beginning of the movie is devoted mostly to Domino’s childhood boredom and transition into the field of bounty hunting before shifting into a complicated story in which Domino’s team gets unintentionally involved with heists, kidnappings, and the Mafia.
On Sept. 17 at the W Hotel in Westwood, director Tony Scott and most of the cast had a chance to speak about their experiences in making this movie. It was a process which Tony Scott began over a decade ago when he first sought out the young bounty hunter.
‘I don’t think it was having to do with anyone seeing me do anything [different],’ Knightly said. ‘It was more to do with the fact that ‘True Romance’ was one of my favorite films ever and [Tony Scott] said he thought I’d be really good for this role. I read it and said, ‘Fuck that’s cool.”
Though Knightly has had some experience with action in parts of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ as well as ‘King Arthur,’ this movie is by far the actress’ most gritty and violent film, in which the actress most significantly strays from roles like ‘Love Actually’ and her upcoming period piece ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
The surprisingly personable and down-to-earth actress was quick to point out that she even did all of her own stunts. She also commented, on the other hand, how difficult it was for her personally to perform such realistic violence over other aspects of the film that were new to her.
‘The sex scene was the easiest. It was fun. I’m European, I really don’t have a problem with it. It was quite liberating to be out in the middle of the desert completely topless. I just don’t have a problem with it,’ Knightly said. ‘I had more of a problem with the guns. The first time I shot the machine guns I burst into tears because of the force. I remember I lost control of them and they crossed. The idea that I didn’t have control over it freaked me out and I burst into tears. Tony shouted action and I couldn’t move.’
Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez, who plays Choco, a vicious Latino ex-con who works with and secretly obsesses over Domino, has done what many Hollywood agents would deem impossible. He has shifted from a few small independent Venezuelan movies to starring in a $60 million American movie featuring legend Tony Scott.
‘I was promoting ‘Punto y Raya,’ which was one of my Venezuelan movies. It was a nominee for Oscar consideration for best Foreign Language Movie. I got the script for Domino. Then I read it, I loved it. Then I met with Tony. A week and a half later I was in the movie,’ Ramirez said.
This sounds too good to be true, and it almost is. The only missing piece is that Scott actually had someone else cast for Choco, who dropped out shortly before filming. Ramirez, happy to capitalize on his luck and took the part shortly after. His late coming to the film forced him to use his native Venezuelan dialect in the Spanish speaking parts of the film.
‘I was the last actor to enter the movie. Choco was raised here in the States, in East [Los Angles]. He had El Salvadorian background. I arrived to [Los Angeles] one week before we started the movie. Tony wanted me to speak in Spanish. And for a week the only Spanish I knew was my own accent. He didn’t want to be disrespectful to the El Salvadorians. We talked it over. Tony said ‘I want you to give your own input to the character,’ because he cast us very much based on the people we are. I didn’t want to do a caricature. I wanted to try to portray a real character with real traits,’ Ramirez said.
The handsome and rough looking Ramirez will surely follow similar paths of fellow Latino actors Gabriel-Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, in that he will be lusted after by the American female audience. But, like Bernal and Luna, Ramirez proves himself to be a very talented actor, by bringing an intense persona to the screen.
‘He is possibly one of the sweetest guys in the entire world. Gentle, beautiful man,’ Knightly said about Ramirez. ‘But you shout action and he turns into a psychopath. His choices were exquisite.’
Domino’s bounty hunter team is led by Ed, a famous bounty hunter played by Mickey Rourke, who revitalized his career last year in ‘Sin City’ with a similar tough guy character. Fellow veteran actors Christopher Walken, who plays Mike Heiss, a reality television producer who follows the bounty hunters, and Delroy Lindo, who plays Claremont Williams, the bail bondsman who hires Domino’s team, both bring their credibility and craft to the movie.
‘Because my coming to this film was so quick. I had very little time to prepare. I don’t like to work like that at all. I feel that my best work has been when I had time to really prepare properly,’ Lindo said.
All of the actors spoke in detail about their preparation in creating their characters, all of whom were based on real people. In order to continue with the film’s interesting mix of fact and fiction, none of the actors created a direct characterization of their real life personas. Rather, they integrated the real life person with bits of themselves.
‘I couldn’t do a direct characterization of Domino because I was in the middle of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ so I couldn’t spend the time that I needed to do that,’ Knightly said. ‘I took the interviews, the tapes with Domino, listened to those so I had a background, then put my best mate Bunny into it and took it from there. So it’s a combination of Domino, Bunny and me.’
‘The closest I got to [Choco] before the movie was through a letter that he wrote to Tony from jail about seven or eight years ago,’ Ramirez said. ‘This letter fortunately for me was like a mind map of him. It was great to have the chance to identify his vision, his relationship with the world, with his inmates, with Domino, which of course had a huge impact on his life. It was like Choco’s drive somehow, his relationship with Domino.’
The reality of Harvey’s story, specifically with her profession, became clear when she died on June 27 this year from an accidental overdose of Fantanyl.
‘Here’s someone who loves touching the dark side,’ Scott said on his original fascination with Harvey.
Despite this, most of the actors mentioned that their interactions with the real Harvey, though brief, were positive.
‘I thought she was amazing. I met her twice before we started filming,’ Knightly said.
‘She was a very tough woman,’ Ramirez said. ‘But it seemed that she was very tender, she was very sweet, and I think that’s what is so inspiring about her story, because it’s all about contradiction.’
A recent report in ‘The Guardian’ printed claims from the Harvey family that implied Harvey was not pleased with how she was portrayed in the film, which both Scott and Knightly say is ‘total bullshit.’
‘Regardless of what the press said, she never saw the finished product because she died before,’ Scott said. ‘But she saw more than half the movie and she said she loved it.’
The seediness of Domino’s lifestyle, the underlying qualities which she seemed to seek out, is aptly depicted through Scott’s directing choices, which often seem to be very music video-oriented. The quick cuts and manic mixing of color hues are reminiscent of movies like ‘Natural Born Killers’ and ‘Kill Bill.’ The complicated subject feels fairly new and draws the attention of the audience quite well.
‘I think that everybody can identify with her. There are points in absolutely everybody’s life where we want to do something completely different. I do it all the time. Maybe that’s why I’m an actress,’ Knightly said.
Scott was going to begin shooting a new film with Denzel Washington in New Orleans, which has been subsequently delayed due to the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Knightly is currently shooting two ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ sequels in Los Angeles. Domino opens on Oct. 16 nationwide.