Woody Harrelson thinks cops are cool. Well, at least, some of them.
Monday night following TheWrap's "Rampart" screening at the Landmark Theater, the actor told the crowd how he buddied up with two police officers in preparation for his explosive portrayal of a dirty Los Angeles cop.
"My biggest hurdle was believing that I could be a cop, because it seemed so unlikely to me," said Harrelson said during TheWrap Awards Screening Series discussion moderated by Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman.
Harrelson rode along with two LAPD officers — "these really cool guys named Jerry and Bob" — and joined them at the shooting range while studying for his role as "Date Rape" Dave Brown.
To his gratification, they "mostly bought" his performance.
"They seemed to believe me as a cop, the guys I rode along with," said Harrelson, who hasn't always gotten along with men in blue in the past.
Director Oren Moverman said he's heard similar feedback.
"I spoke with some ex-cops, and their immediate reaction was, 'I know that guy'," the director said.
The reaction "Rampart" will draw from police officers — particularly those in L.A. — was a recurring theme during the Q&A, as the film takes place amid the city's Rampart corruption scandal in the late 1990s. At the center of the narrative is Harrelson's hard-core cop, who brutally beats (and even kills) criminal suspects, and tosses out racial and misogynistic epithets with aplomb.
However, Moverman was quick to point out that the movie, which he wrote with crime novelist James Ellroy, is "not the story of the Rampart scandal" or even the LAPD. Rather, it's "a movie that goes into a man's soul," he said, calling the character a dirty cop "who refused to change."
Emotions ran high on the set, cast members said.
Encouraging the actors to tap into their emotional core, their acting was unrehearsed. During the 35-day shoot, Moverman did fewer than five takes for most of the scenes, and the actors regularly improvised, including a Harrelson's striking performance during his final moments with his daughters.
"It was a very intense time," Brie Larson, who plays the cop's troubled daughter, recalled about acting in one of the movie's pivotal scenes. She said that Moverman would "hug us and calm us down," at one point stopping when emotions ran too raw. "All of us cried, and Woody [bought me] a smoothie."
"That was a tough day," Harrelson agreed. "Prior to 'The Messenger,' I don't think I ever cried onscreen."
He credited for co-star Ben Foster for pushing him to be braver in his acting. Foster, meanwhile, tipped his hat to Harrelson for his intense preparation for the role.
"The man lost 30 pounds and was in the street during arrests and was in very dangerous scenarios all the time," Foster said, calling his co-star "the only man who could play 'Date Rape' Dave."