LRM Exclusive Interview: David Ghantt, Real Life Thief Who Inspired MASTERMINDS Movie

– by Gig Patta

No one could just pull off the crime of the decade.

MASTERMINDS is based on a true story about a Loomis Fargo robbery, in which a small group successfully stole $17 million—making it the second largest bank heist in history back in 1997.

The film stars Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Kate McKinnon and Jason Sudeikis.

Here’s the official synopsis:

David Ghantt discovers the true meaning of adventure far beyond his wildest dreams. He is an uncomplicated man stuck in a monotonous life. Day in and day out, he drives an armored vehicle, transporting millions of other people’s money with no escape in sight. The only glimmer of excitement is his flirtatious work crush Kelly Campbell who soon lures him into the scheme of a lifetime.

Along with a group of half-brained criminals led by Steve Chambers and an absurdly faulted heist plan, David manages the impossible and makes off with $17 million in cash…..only problem is he foolishly hands the money over to this wild group of double crossers and has been set up to take the fall. With the bandits blowing millions on lavish and ridiculous luxuries, they leave behind a glaring trail of evidence. Now on the lam and in over his head, David must dodge the authorities, evade a hilarious hit man, Mike McKinney, and try to turn the tables on the ones he trusted most.

LRM had an exclusive phone interview with David Ghantt last week, the real-life culprit who pulled off the successful bank heist. We talked about the fiction and fact from the movie. Additionally, we also discussed about his life in Mexico, the discoveries, and his life today after all this fame.

MASTERMINDS is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download tomorrow.

Read the interview transcript below.

LRM: Most people who commits the crime of the decade—don’t usually want their story to be told. Why would you want this story to be told and to enjoy this?

David Ghantt: I think it’s a great story. I might be a little biased. It has a lot of things you’ll look for in a story—a little romance, money, adventure and travel. There are also a bit of comedy and some tragedy. In the end, it is a good story.

LRM: You were a movie consultant on this project. So what exactly did you do for this production?

David Ghantt: Mostly, it concerned for Zach [Galifianakis] to have the right shirt and carrying the right pistol. I even helped them design the set, where he breaks into the vault. That’s some of my work. When they painted the cars, they were the wrong shake. I took a picture from back in those days to show them. I told them that this was the color regiment.

And most importantly, talking with Zach. Mostly with Zach. I also explained to Owen [Wilson] on what it was like to be in Federal prison. I gave him the short synopsis. I was also made myself available on set in case if someone wanted to talk to me.

LRM: You did serve time in Federal prison and it was a very well-known bank robbery. Were you really hailed as a hero?

David Ghantt: It’s a little less dramatic on what they had shown in the movie. People did come up to me and asked me for my autograph. People did ask questions or they wanted to chat. It’s the small things like that.

LRM: Do you still have that well-known fame today after being a free man?

David Ghantt: Since the movie came out, I probably say I would have more now. After the movie [premiered in theaters], my Facebook account exploded. I had more than 700 message requests. I’m still going through the friend requests. I might even have more these days.

LRM: Do you enjoy the publicity for yourself? I know your compatriots would like to keep this low key.

David Ghantt: In my way of thinking, you are part of the story and people will talk about you regardless. You might as well take part in the conversation.

LRM: Did you like the portrayal of yourself in the movie? You look nothing like Zach? [Chuckles]

David Ghantt: When I first met Zach and sat down to talk about it, he said, “You realize I’m going to be playing a dumber, clumsier version of you.” It’s all being part as a comedy and it’s Hollywood. I thought he did a really good job.

LRM: Obviously, this is comedy and not a documentary. Tell us on what was actually real from that movie.

David Ghantt: There are quite a few small facts and tidbits. The amount of money stolen is correct. When they showed the mansion scene, the great big velvet Elvis painting was for real. The mansion party is real.

I did do a lot of diving down in Mexico, which is a great diving spot. They put some elements of the real thing into the movie.

You know as well as I do—it’s Hollywood. It’s comedy. I pretty much let them have their way with it, as you say.

LRM: When you actually pulled off this heist, was there any comedic incidents at all that was actually true?

David Ghantt: Well, my compatriots did lock themselves out of the van. That was probably the first thing. The true part is that Kelly did say, “Did you try the backdoor?” They were ready to set the van on fire for real.

There were things in real life that my compatriots did that was pretty comedic and stupid. They bought a huge diamond and paid with cash for it. One of them went into a bank and asked, “How much money can I deposit before you call the IRS?” It’s things like that.

Then you have the huge velvet Elvis. There are a bunch of bizarre things they bought. That just added to the comedic element.

LRM: [Laughter] As for yourself, besides diving, what did you really do in Mexico? Eventually, the money had to run out. What did you have to do to survive?

David Ghantt: At first, I had a pretty good party. Then I realized I needed to be more conservative. I ended up buying a small sailboat and go out to catch lunch. Just lounging around. I cut out a lot of partying and stuff that wastes my spending. I just sat back and waited on my money.

LRM: Were you actually concerned that you were one of the most wanted man in the United States while you were in Mexico?

David Ghantt: I was very sure they [were looking for me]. The Internet was still new at the time. In Kukulcan Plaza in Cancun, Mexico, they had a small Internet café. I went in there to do a basic search. My face popped up. I was like, “Okay.”

LRM: [Laughter] Now the movie portrayed that they sent someone to kill you in Mexico. You did something else instead. Could you talk a little more about that?

David Ghantt: They did hire a guy to kill me. It was one of the first things they voted on. Every time I meet this guy, it was always in a very public place. One time, he knocked on my door when I was getting ready to go scuba diving. I was standing there at the time with this hug spear in my hand. He just never had the opportunity.

I would like to think, in my heart-to-heart, he wasn’t going [to kill me]. Money does weird things to people.

LRM: When you first heard the story he was there to get rid of you, what was your reaction?

David Ghantt: That was the first thing the FBI told me when they had arrested me. I was shocked. I was taken back. To me, [all of this] was a business deal between the original three of us. Like I said before, money does weird things to people.

LRM: So tell me on where are you now? I’m assuming you don’t have any more contacts with your co-conspirators.

David Ghantt: No, I haven’t talked to them in a very long time. I live down here in Jacksonville, Florida.

LRM: Are you working?

David Ghantt: Oh, yeah. I work for a small construction company. I run the heavy equipment. My wife and I are starting a microbusiness. It’s baggeditup.net. We’re just getting started on that. Just living day-to-day.

LRM: If you had to relive that heist again—what would you do differently?

David Ghantt: I would be really philosophical about this. I really shouldn’t change anything. If I hadn’t done on what I did and how everything unfolded like it did—I wouldn’t have my daughter today. She is the diamond of my soul. I wouldn’t want to change anything. I loved it that she is part of my life now, because of all this.

On the non-philosophical side, it probably be much better off if I done everything by myself.

LRM: True. Here’s my last question for you—not all of the stolen money was accounted for—what do you think actually happened to the last few million dollars?

David Ghantt: That is the like the number two question that everyone asks me. One of my compatriots, Steve Chambers was in charge of the money. He said he put that amount of money in a storage building. One day, he went to check on it and the lock had been cut. The contents were missing.

Honestly, it got spent and no one noticed. But, that’s a huge amount of money that would just disappear.

LRM: I’m curious. You said that was the number two question. What was the number one question?

David Ghantt: The number one question is usually, “What made you do it?”

LRM: Oh, that is an interesting question. So what made you do it?

David Ghantt: My standard answer now is [to say] that the person I was then—I am certainly not that person now. I wanted to change my life. I just wanted to restart. That’s probably not the best answer to be honest with you. That’s my standard answer these days.

LRM: For whatever it’s worth, it’s a good answer. Anyways, David, I appreciate this conversation. All of us will be looking forward to your story by watching the movie on Blu-ray or DVD.

David Ghantt: Awesome. I enjoy talking to you.

MASTERMINDS will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download tomorrow.

Source: Exclusive to LR

Interviews, LRM Exclusives, Film Masterminds, David Ghantt, Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis