After 10 years in prison, Driver (Dwayne Johnson) has a singular focus - to avenge the murder of his brother during the botched bank robbery that led to his imprisonment. Now a free man with a deadly to-do list in hand, he's finally on his mission…but with two men on his trail - a veteran cop (Billy Bob Thornton) just days from retirement, and a young egocentric hitman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) with a flair for the art of killing and a newfound worthy opponent. The hunter is also the hunted. It's a do or die race to the list's finish as the mystery surrounding his brother's murder deepens, and new details emerge along the way hinting that Driver's list may be incomplete.
George Tillman, Jr. (Notorious, Men of Honor, Soul Food) directs from a screenplay written by Joe and Tony Gayton.
A PROJECT HITS THE GROUND RUNNING
It was a fateful day a few years ago when writer/producer Tony Gayton approached his brother, and Faster co-writer, Joe Gayton with the thread of an idea. "I remember imagining a guy in prison on the day of his release getting a speech from the warden then just breaking into a sprint out of the prison gates and going straight to kill someone," recalls Tony Gayton. "I liked the idea of this introduction where you have no idea who this guy is. He turns out to be the hero out to get revenge for his brother's murder but he could very well have turned out to be the bad guy." On that day, the character that would come to be known simply as 'Driver' was born.
"(Driver) is like a shark - he has a clear mission," notes Joe Gayton who also serves as Executive Producer on the film. "It was apparent at this early stage that his determination would provide for a true, high-octane adventure." As the screenplay evolved, what emerged was not just an action film but also a character study and exploration into the minds of three men - the other two main characters known simply by the monikers 'Cop' and 'Killer.' But Driver's mission was at the story's core and finding the right actor to portray him would be the first target.
The script soon made its way into the hands of superstar Dwayne Johnson who, after spending a few years exploring other genres, was anxious to get back to action. "The story and the characters really spoke to me," recalls Johnson. "It is a very simple and distinct storyline, yet all the characters are layered with complexity and complication."
With character comes motivation and Johnson took special note that Driver's motivation is very raw and doesn't require suspension of disbelief. "If something important to you is ripped away leaving you with nothing, the only thing you have left is the ability to make those individuals pay. There are many different ways a person can respond when they lose everything but his response is still reality-based at its core. For Driver, the response is 'You took everything I had, now you pay.' When he gets out of prison, it's safe to say you should put the kids to bed."
The Gayton brothers couldn't have imagined a more appropriate or capable actor to flesh out their vision. "There are not a lot of actors who can truly pull off the big brooding presence of this role," says Tony Gayton. "Dwayne is perfect for this."
With Johnson, and producers Martin Shafer and Liz Glotzer of Castle Rock Entertainment, now on board the project found its way to CBS Films in February 2009. The studio fast-tracked the film bringing on director George Tillman, Jr. and producer Bob Teitel of State Street Pictures, whose credits include Soul Food, the Barbershop series, Men of Honor and Notorious. Johnson could not have been happier with the choice.
"I was thoroughly impressed with Bob and George," compliments Johnson "They got the tone and understood the characters. George was certainly the right director for the movie."
The director was equally thrilled to work with Johnson whom he had met on another project five years earlier. "I've always been a big fan of Dwayne's. As a guy you can't help but look at him and go 'I want to be that guy!' And to work with him on his return to the action genre, on a role that feels written just for him - that's something I had to be a part of."
Though this would be Johnson's return to the genre that made him a box office heavyweight, Tillman notes that the film also allows audiences to see him in a new kind of role, "unlike any other he's done before, namely playing more dramatic elements."
Aside from Dwayne's attachment, and the intriguing title, Tillman also responded to the material as a throwback to action films of the 70s. "70s action films have cool heroes but those same heroes also have a dramatic essence; they are complicated characters. I think audiences today yearn for a more sophisticated action film where they can relate to the characters since people are by nature complicated."
Bob Teitel had a similar reaction to the material's nostalgic factor. "It felt like a movie you don't really see these days - where the lead character has a presence that immediately commands the audience's attention and they instantly follow him on his journey. It's only along that journey that the audience learns more about the character."
Along this journey, the audience doesn't just learn more about Driver but also of the other two men who are on his trail…
CASTING A FEW (COMPLICATED) MEN
Driver's first hit takes him to a telemarketing office where he finds his first target and lands on the radar of Bakersfield homicide detectives. Two weeks away from retirement, force veteran Cop is assigned to the case. He has been through a lot in his tenure on the force and now, with retirement and the promise of a new life on the horizon, he is trying to gain respect from his colleagues and mend fences with his estranged wife Marina and their young son.
Oscar-winning writer/director/actor Billy Bob Thornton was attracted to Cop's deeply-rooted shades of gray and signed on. "It's always fun to play someone who's a bit ambiguous," says Thornton. "Those characters are usually a lot more interesting to portray and more entertaining for the audience to watch."
"Cop is a guy whose life has really gone the wrong way," Thornton continues. "He doesn't have much. In his feeble way he is trying to scratch his way back to some kind of semblance of normalcy but it's not easy."
Tillman knew that Thornton's immense talent and commitment would bring a lot to the project. "Aside from his ability to play Cop's vulnerability and flaws, Billy Bob is a talented writer/director so he is a great collaborator on all aspects of how to make a scene better."
"Billy Bob is absolutely perfect for the role of Cop," adds Johnson. "He is very talented, intriguing and extremely passionate, especially when he finds a character he loves."
Also hot on Driver's trail is a professional assassin, Killer, who has an insatiable appetite for the extreme. Killer is an intense character driven by an innate insecurity and an unquenchable thirst for approval. When first sparring with Driver and experiencing his total lack of fear, Killer is shaken to the core. The encounter sparks something within the character that triggers an obsession with besting and essentially killing Driver.
"Killer is truly a fascinating character," says Teitel. "While his main objective is to get Driver, he also admires and respects him. He wants Driver to acknowledge him, and becomes increasingly angry that Driver doesn't give him respect. Throughout the film, you witness him progressively going off the deep end."
When casting the role of Killer, the filmmakers assumed they would find another big-name actor to round out the male lead triangle. But they were blown away by a virtually unknown British actor named Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
"Oliver came in to read and really nailed the part," remembers Teitel. "He never played a scene the same way twice - he always gave a little variation."
Though the character was not originally written as a Brit, Tony Gayton loved what the difference in cultural backstory could bring to the character. "It added another layer of strangeness to Killer. You wouldn't normally think of an English hit man out in the middle of the desert."
Jackson-Cohen was intrigued by Killer and the opportunity to show a different side of a hitman's life. "I remember reading the script and thinking it was the first time I recall a movie dealing with a hitman carrying out a hit while simultaneously having to live with himself and deal with repercussions in his personal life."
"Oliver has done a tremendous job with the character," says Johnson. "It's not an easy character to play, especially considering the character is on-and-off medication."
The male cast list is rounded out by a number of well-known, talented actors including Academy Award-nominee Tom Berenger (most recently seen in Inception), Mike Epps (Lottery Ticket), and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje ("Lost").
THE WOMEN OF FASTER
The female characters in Faster balance the film's male energy and play a significant and influential role in the lives of the men - both inspiring their male counterparts, as well as playing a part in their unraveling.
For Driver, a visit to his ex-girlfriend offers a deeper look into what he's sacrificed since he's been in prison. The scene allowed Johnson to play a more dramatic moment and a chance to work with "Dexter"'s Jennifer Carpenter
"Jennifer is great," notes Johnson. "At the end of our scene, her character calls after Driver and says, 'I hope you kill them all!' With Jennifer's delivery, the line truly packs a punch."
For Killer, whose mania and obsession with being the best is all-consuming, his lover Lily provides the only emotional connection in his life.
While Lily is very supportive, she is also growing in a different direction from Killer in what she wants out of life. She tries to hold on to him and keep him invested in their life together but she can see that she is losing him to the chase.
The role of Lily called for an actress who is not only beautiful, but a strong enough force to reign in Killer. Filmmakers found their Lily in actress Maggie Grace (most notably known for starring opposite Liam Neeson in Taken, as well as in the television series "Lost").
Grace was intrigued by Lily and her complicated dynamic with Killer. "Lily tries to keep Killer safe but he fully commits to whatever he does in life," she explains. "He's an adrenaline junky to the nth degree."
From his first reading with Grace, Jackson-Cohen was taken by the actress's presence. "She walked in to the audition and she brought something I never even expected. She was so caring and all-knowing without being motherly," recalls Jackson-Cohen.
Whereas Killer's relationship with Lily is intact (albeit at a pivotal crossroads), Cop is desperately trying to salvage whatever is left of his relationship with his wife Marina and their 8 year-old son Tommy. Although Cop had a hand in helping Marina face her own demons in the past, she is no longer willing to let him drag her down.
Actress Moon Bloodgood, who recently broke out in the film Terminator Salvation, was enthusiastic about tackling a role with such grit and realism. "I found the role of Marina very compelling having never before played someone with such a dysfunctional background who is trying to proactively make her life better," explains Bloodgood. "Everyone has secrets and pain but Marina carries that all with her."
For Bloodgood, the opportunity to work with Billy Bob Thornton was a dream. As for Thornton, he was completely impressed with Bloodgood whom he describes as "a terrific actress and a great person."
Marina is not the only woman Cop has to win over. Cicero, a tough-as-nails, by-the-book homicide detective, is baffled when she learns Cop has been assigned to be her partner on Driver's case. Cicero is a rising star on the force and has no tolerance for Cop's antics.
Though Driver doesn't share any scenes with Cicero, Johnson was ecstatic to learn Carla Gugino (Watchmen) signed on to play the role (they previously starred together in Race To Witch Mountain). "Like the character of Cicero, Carla is a strong, independent woman. She can easily go toe-to-toe with Billy and still be very sexy."
Gugino loved the script's unexpected twists and turns, and also saw an opportunity to play against a cliché in a particular aspect of Cicero's dynamic with Cop. "Generally it's a woman who tries to soften a hardened male cop but in this script Cicero is definitely the one who needs softening - the gender roles are reversed. I really like that flip dynamic."
A DIRECTOR ON A MISSION
Describing George Tillman, Jr. as a prepared director would be a gross understatement. His impressive work ethic was first demonstrated in the extensive presentation he gave the studio prior to being hired.Read more
VISUALIZING A JOURNEY
Principal photography on Faster began in February of 2010 and continued for eleven weeks in various locations throughout Southern California (as scripted Driver's journey takes him through parts of Southern California and Nevada). In choosing specific locations, the filmmakers made certain each environment resonated the idea that environment plays a significant part in affecting character and their perspectives. Read more
HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL: THE ACTION OF FASTER
The filmmakers wanted the action steeped in realism and void of CGI or overblown special effects. The primary goal was to create an aesthetic that wouldn't be a reach for audiences. To compliment the simplicity of Driver's objective, all he would have in his arsenal would be a fast car, a big gun and total lack of emotion or fear.Read more
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
GEORGE TILLMAN, JR. (Director)
After seeing the film, Cooley High, Milwaukee, Wisconsin native George Tillman, Jr. became inspired to make films of his own. In 1994, George wrote and directed his first feature film, Scenes For The Soul. It was shot entirely in Chicago, using local talent and resources. The film, which cost $150,000 to make, caught the attention of Doug McHenry and George Jackson who acquired it for Savoy Pictures for $1 million. Following the momentum of this success, George began to write a script, loosely based on his own life--Soul Food.
Soul Food began production on November 6th, 1996 on a hectic 30-day schedule with a cast that included Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Nia Long, Mekhi Phifer, Michael Beach, Irma P. Hall, and Brandon Hammond. Modestly budgeted at $7 million, Soul Food opened to critical and financial success, grossing over $43 million domestically. As a result, George and his producing partner, Bob Teitel, landed a two-year, first look deal at Fox 2000. State Street Pictures became their company's new name--a reference to their earlier years as a filmmaking team in Chicago.
George's next directorial effort was Men Of Honor, an epic story inspired by the life of Carl Brashear, a man who battled the obstacles of racism, a lack of education, and the loss of his leg to become the United States Navy's first African-American Master deep sea diver. The film starred Oscar winning actors Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Robert De Niro with an ensemble cast that included Charlize Theron, Michael Rapaport, Lonette McKee, Glynn Turman, and Hal Holbrook. The film opened nationwide on November 10th 2000 and grossed $85 million worldwide.
After the success of Men Of Honor, George ventured into producing. In addition to his role as Executive Producer of the beloved "Soul Food: The Series" for Showtime Networks, George co-produced with partner, Bob Teitel the MGM film Barbershop. Tim Story directed the comedy, about a day in the life of a Southside Chicago barbershop. The film starred Ice Cube, Anthony Anderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve and Cedric The Entertainer. Widely praised by moviegoers and critics alike, Barbershop opened on September 13th, 2002 to record-breaking box office success. With a domestic gross upwards of $75 million, Barbershop has become the most profitable African-American themed film of all time.
Hot on the heels of Barbershop came the sequel Barbershop 2: Back In Business. It was released February 6th, 2004. The film, directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan, was number one in an opening weekend that was even bigger than its predecessor, raking in more than $24.2 million. The success of the two films spurred two more spin-offs: Beauty Shop, starring Queen Latifah, Kevin Bacon, Alicia Silverstone and Djimon Hounsou, as well as a television show based on the original film that was made for Showtime.
George, together with partner Bob Teitel, followed up the success of the Barbershop franchise with the Fox Searchlight/Fox 2000 film Roll Bounce in 2005. The 70s-inspired coming-of-age comedy featured an all-star cast led by Bow Wow, Chi McBride, Khleo Thomas, Mike Epps, Meagan Good, Nick Cannon and Kellita Smith. The film was directed by Malcolm D. Lee.
George stepped back into the director's chair in 2007 to direct the biopic Notorious at Fox Searchlight. This edgy telling of slain rapper Notorious B.I.G.'s life proved to be the perfect vehicle for George's directorial style and finesse. Starring the unknown Jamal Woolard as Christopher "Notorious Big" Wallace, the film also boasts strong talent such as Derek Luke as Sean "Puffy" Combs, Oscar nominated Angela Bassett as Voletta Wallace and Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur. The film opened to 23 million dollars in January 2009.
TONY GAYTON (Writer/Producer)
Tony Gayton graduated from the USC School of Film and Television where he was the recipient of the Jack Nicholson Screenwriting Award. He is the writer of three feature films: The Salton Sea, Murder by Numbers, and Faster which he co-wrote with his brother, Joe Gayton. He co-wrote and produced the television pilot "Southern Comfort" with Joe Gayton for the Fox Network and he and his brother are currently in pre-production on "Hell on Wheels," a television pilot for AMC. In addition to writing, he has also directed two documentaries about rock music and musicians: Athens, Georgia Inside/Out and Two Headed Cow.
JOE GAYTON (Writer/Executive Producer)
Joe Gayton grew up in Merritt Island Florida. He moved with his brother Tony to Los Angeles in 1980 to try his hand at screenwriting. His first produced movie was Uncommon Valor. He has since written the feature films Shout and Bulletproof. He has also directed Warm Summer Rain and Sweet Jane. He and his brother wrote the pilot "Southern Comfort" for Fox. "Hell On Wheels" (pilot written Tony and Joe) will shoot this summer for AMC in Calgary. Faster is their first produced co-written feature film.
THE ART OF ORIGINAL FILMMAKING