There are over 300 bank robberies in Boston every year. And a one-square-mile neighborhood in Boston, called Charlestown, has produced more bank and armored car robbers than anywhere in the U.S.
One of them is Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), but he is not cut from the same cloth as his fellow thieves. Unlike them, Doug had a chance at success, a chance to escape following in his father's criminal footsteps. Instead he became the leader of a crew of ruthless bank robbers, who pride themselves on taking what they want and getting out clean. The only family Doug has are his partners in crime, especially Jem (Jeremy Renner), who, despite his dangerous, hair-trigger temper, is the closest thing Doug ever had to a brother.
However, everything changed on the gang's last job when Jem briefly took a hostage: bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall). When they discover she lives in Charlestown, Jem gets nervous and wants to check out what she might have seen. Knowing what Jem is capable of, Doug takes charge. He seeks out Claire, who has no idea that their encounter is not by chance or that this charming stranger is one of the men who terrorized her only days before.
As his relationship with Claire deepens into a passionate romance, Doug wants out of this life and the town. But with the Feds, led by Agent Frawley (Jon Hamm), closing in and Jem questioning his loyalty, Doug realizes that getting out will not be easy and, worse, may put Claire in the line of fire. Any choices he once had have boiled down to one: betray his friends or lose the woman he loves.
Academy Award winner Ben Affleck ("Good Will Hunting," "Gone Baby Gone") directed and stars in "The Town," a dramatic thriller about robbers and cops, friendship and betrayal, love and hope, and escaping a past that has no future. The screenplay is by Peter Craig and Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard, based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan.
ON "THE TOWN"
Charlestown, Massachusetts: only one square mile in size but with a legacy larger than its geography. Its towering landmark, the Bunker Hill Monument, commemorates the famous Revolutionary War battle, but the town's more recent wars have been between cops and robbers.
It is against that backdrop that the motion picture "The Town" is set. Ben Affleck directed and co-wrote the film, in addition to starring in the central role of Doug MacRay. He comments, "It's interesting because, on the one hand, you have this outer shell of a heist movie, but, at its heart, the story is about a guy who's dealing with being stuck in a place he doesn't want to be and wants to change his life, which was much more compelling to me. It's about how rooted you are in how you grew up and also about children paying for the sins of their parents. I think that's something many people can identify with, even those of us who can't necessarily relate to the criminal aspect."
"The Town" is based on the novel Prince of Thieves, written by Chuck Hogan. Hailing from Massachusetts, Hogan situated the crime drama in Charlestown for a reason: the Boston neighborhood has produced more bank and armored car robbers than any other single square mile in the world. The seeds of that distinction were more than likely planted when Charlestown was the site of a maximum security prison, leading to a self-perpetuating criminal enclave. Affleck offers, "It served as a kind of revolving door. People would go to prison and their families would move there, and, as they got out and then went back in, a community developed around it. It was hypothesized in the book--and we included it in the film--that robbing banks became a trade that was passed down from fathers to sons."
Jeremy Renner, who plays the role of Doug's accomplice and best friend, Jem, adds, "In that very small, tight-knit community, they developed a strict code of silence. Everybody knew everything, but nobody talked, which made it easier to be successful in that line of work."
Published in 2004, Prince of Thieves won the Hammett Prize from the International Association of Crime Writers and caught the attention of producer Graham King. "The whole flavor of the book, with its criminals and cops, was right up my alley," says King. "But I also loved the undercurrents of the story--the friendship of these guys hanging out and working together, regardless of their occupation. Then Doug falls for this woman they had taken hostage and now has hard decisions to make that will impact all of them. It's an interesting mix."
Rebecca Hall, who portrays Claire, the woman for whom Doug falls, notes, "It's a proper thriller in the sense that it is very gripping and has all the action you want. And it also has a romantic angle that contains a few surprises. It's just really good storytelling."
Producer Basil Iwanyk agrees. "The story has so many layers. It has the relationship between these lifelong friends from Charlestown, who are inherently doing the wrong thing, yet you care about them. The men have a swagger and an energy that I was drawn to, but there is also an unlikely romance that immediately pulled me in."
Screenwriter Peter Craig says that in adapting Hogan's novel the interwoven relationships of "The Town" took precedence for him. "Every single relationship is complex. There is a love story at its core, but Doug also has connections to Jem, to his father, to Jem's sister, and to the rest of his crew, that are all just as integral to the story. The goal in adapting the book was to maintain the history and the depth of those relationships."
King sent Affleck an early draft of the script after seeing his directorial debut on "Gone Baby Gone." "Ben did great work on 'Gone Baby Gone,' so we were happy that he gravitated to the material straight away," King states. "Added to that, he's from Boston and knows it like the back of his hand."
Nevertheless, Affleck and fellow screenwriter Aaron Stockard soon discovered that, despite its proximity to their hometown, Charlestown was a world away. "Ben and I both grew up in Cambridge, which is a stone's throw from Charlestown, but there was a lot about it that we didn't really know," says Stockard, who had also collaborated with Affleck on the screenplay for "Gone Baby Gone." "We knew its reputation, but we assumed that most of it was overblown. It turned out that what we thought were mythical notions about Charlestown were actually true, which made the story even more appealing to us."
"We did a ton of research," Affleck recalls. "We went to prisons and talked to former bank robbers and also met with guys at the FBI who were counterpoints to Agent Frawley, the character played by Jon Hamm. We started incorporating what we learned into the architecture of the story to bring in as much detail and verisimilitude as we could."
"On both sides of the camera, Ben's level of preparation was incredible. He thought about every moment in this movie," Iwanyk says. "He also had the wisdom to surround himself with an amazing cast and crew, and fostered such a creative atmosphere on the set. He was always open to ideas from anyone."
Adding to the authenticity sought by the filmmakers, "The Town" was filmed almost entirely on location in and around Boston, including, of course, Charlestown, as well as the North End, Cambridge, and venerable Fenway Park. The oldest Major League Baseball stadium still in use, Fenway was the site of the movie's climactic action sequence. Several locals were also cast in featured roles or as extras, including both ex-cops and ex-cons.
TOWNIES AND TOONIES
When we meet the character of Doug MacRay, he and his crew are in a van outside the Cambridge Merchant Bank, seconds away from their next robbery. In Affleck's words, Doug is "banging against the walls of his own life, still doing the stuff he knows is bad for him but unable to change."
Affleck continues, "He had a shot at a different future--he had a chance to play pro hockey--but he self-destructed. He got addicted to drugs and spun out, so instead of getting out, he came back and, in spite of himself, ended up even deeper in it. That's where we find him. He's cleaned up a bit, in terms of getting sober, and he wants to leave, but he can't escape his circumstances."
"That's what was most intriguing about this guy," Stockard asserts. "He is at a point in his life where he realizes if he doesn't leave, he's never going to change. It's not just that he doesn't want to go to prison or, worse, get killed, which is what will inevitably happen if he stays in Charlestown and continues to do this sort of work. What he wants more than anything is to be a different person." Read more
ACCENTS AND ACCURACY
The locally cast actors had one major advantage over their non-native colleagues: they didn't have to learn to do a Boston accent--more specifically, Charlestown. Contrary to the popular stereotype, it's not just about dropping your Rs. "It's fairly nuanced, so the accent can be pretty hard to get," Affleck says. Nevertheless, he recommended that his cast to do more listening than learning, so to speak.
"I was initially nervous about the accent," Renner offers, "but when I mentioned getting a dialect coach, Ben didn't want any of that. He told me, 'Just listen to some of the guys here; you'll get a feel for it.' He didn't want to go too heavy-handed. We just tried to layer it in as accurately as possible, without overdoing it." Read more
COVERING THE BASES
For the filmmakers, achieving realism also meant there was only one location to shoot "The Town." Graham King asserts, "It had to be Boston: the houses, the streets, the people... And with Ben being from there and still so committed to his hometown, it was even more important that we film in Boston. There could be no substitute."
The movie was shot almost entirely in and around the city, including sites in Charlestown, Cambridge and the North End, as well as the home of the Red Sox nation, Fenway Park.
Principal photography began in the spot that inspired both the story and the title, which Iwanyk calls "a place in transition. Charlestown has been gentrified quite a bit in recent years. I could stand on a street corner and look one way and see gorgeous townhouses and beautiful trees; it looked like something out of a storybook. And, on the same corner, I could look in the other direction and would see the projects, just a few blocks away." Read more
BEN AFFLECK (Doug / Director / Screenwriter) has been recognized for his work as an actor, writer and director. He made his directorial debut in 2007 with the feature "Gone Baby Gone," for which he won several critics groups' awards, including the Best Directorial Debut Award from the National Board of Review. He also won the Breakthrough Director of the Year Award at the 2007 Hollywood Film Festival. Affleck also co-wrote the screenplay for the film, adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel.
In 2006, Affleck earned widespread praise for his portrayal of ill-fated actor George Reeves in the noir drama "Hollywoodland." The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where Affleck won the coveted Volpi Award for Best Actor. He also received Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Award nominations for Best Actor, as well as the Best Actor Award at the Hollywood Film Festival. He more recently appeared in the ensemble casts of "Extract" and "He's Just Not That Into You," and starred in Kevin Macdonald's crime thriller "State of Play," alongside Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren and Rachel McAdams. In addition to "The Town," he stars this fall in the indie feature "The Company Men," with Kevin Costner, Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones.
Affleck first came to prominence in 1997 with the acclaimed drama "Good Will Hunting," which he starred in and co-wrote with Matt Damon. The two won numerous honors for the film's original screenplay, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and the Humanitas Prize. They also shared in a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Motion Picture Cast.
Affleck went on to star in John Madden's Academy Award-winning "Shakespeare in Love," winning a SAG Award® as part of the ensemble cast. His subsequent film credits include "Armageddon" and "Pearl Harbor," both directed by Michael Bay; "Forces of Nature"; Ben Younger's "Boiler Room"; Roger Michell's "Changing Lanes"; Phil Alden Robinson's "The Sum of All Fears," based on the Tom Clancy novel; the screen adaptation of Marvel Comics' "Daredevil"; Kevin Smith's "Jersey Girl"; Mike Binder's "Man About Town"; and Joe Carnahan's stylish thriller "Smokin' Aces."
In 2000, Affleck partnered with Matt Damon, Chris Moore and Sean Bailey to form LivePlanet, Inc. Their first endeavor, "Project Greenlight," aired on HBO and drew critical, audience and industry attention for its behind-the-scenes look at the challenges faced by a first-time filmmaker. The second season of "Project Greenlight" aired on HBO at the beginning of 2003, with a third season on Bravo. All three series were nominated for Emmy Awards.
In addition to his successful film career, Affleck is also a passionate advocate and philanthropist. In March 2010, he founded the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), with the mission of helping the Congolese people support local community-based approaches that create a sustainable and successful society in the long-troubled region. ECI is the first U.S.-based advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo. Affleck is also a longtime political activist and strong supporter of many charitable organizations, such as Feeding America, A-T Children's Project, and The Jimmy Fund.
PETER CRAIG (Screenwriter) is a novelist, whose published books include Hot Plastic and Blood Father. "The Town" marks his screenwriting debut. He is presently working on several screenplays that are in various stages of development.
AARON STOCKARD (Screenwriter) previously teamed with Ben Affleck to write the screenplay for "Gone Baby Gone," based on the book by Dennis Lehane. He also served as an associate producer on the film. Stockard is currently working on a number of screenplays, including one titled "The Blade Itself," to be produced by Affleck.
THE ART OF ADAPTATION