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– by Gig Patta

Den of Thieves will rank up there on being one of the most realistic, gritty bank heist movies.

The film stars Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson in this memorable film of the cat and mouse chase between an elite group of police officers against the most successful bank robbery crew.

The film is written and directed by Christian Gudegast. The film marks as Gudegast’s directorial debut.

Den of Thieves is out on digital download, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand today from STXfilms and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

LRM had a phone interview earlier this month with director Christian Gudegast on his research and writing process to make one of the most realistic heist movie on to the screen.

Read our interview transcript below.

LRM: I’ve checked out your film. Very fascinating. Very Gritty. Very real. So tell me what inspired you to actually write Den of Thieves?

Christian Gudegast: Two specific things. One is I’ve wanted to do a series of films, a crime films, specifically to on parts of LA I’ve never really explored despite knowing it very well. It is sort of the whole vibe, the culture and the world there. Secondly, it’s based on a few different true stories. One is about the Hole in the Ground Gang, which was essentially Merrimen’s crew in the movie. All these high profile bank robbers they did in LA, which was the late nineties in the mid-2000s. They were never caught. Also several people that I know that are the characters based on specifically, Big Nick and even Donnie. They are actual people that the characters are inspired by bringing all these stories together and making them.

LRM: You’ve written several types of these stories before. What is your experience and the fascination with bank heists?

Christian Gudegast: I don’t really have fascinations of bank heists to any more than I do than a crime film in general. There’s just something there. The challenge of it pulling it off is interesting. The ability to tackle the challenge of pulling it off and the specific details about how one would do are interesting. When you read these actual cases of what they do–you’ll marvel at the intelligence and the genius of the criminal. That’s all very real. Some of the stuff they pull off is pretty incredible. I like the idea of exploring who those guys are. What makes them tick? Why they do what they do? How it did it? It’s the emotional tone at all.

LRM: Tell me about your writing process on trying to make this very gritty and very real. How did you work with Paul Scheuring, who you worked before with A Man Apart?

Christian Gudegast: We worked together only in the conceptual stage. We were writing partners probably in the first eight years of our careers. We divide and conquer, and later we just want to do on our own. One of the things was Prison Break. We slowly over time started doing our own thing. We’re still good friends. We’ve [worked together for] a long, long time, but was something I want to do on my own. On the kernel level, we had a lot of ideas together. There will be some more products down the road where he and I share some kind of story.

My process is that I’m a research hound. I just do like a crazy amount of detail in the research. I literally find the actual people from a world that the movies are set in. I interviewed them, hanged out with them and photographed them. Then I bring on advisors, whatever I need to give it reality. We’ve done it with the Den of Thieves.

With the cast, it was the training of the actors. We really, really trained all the guys very, very hard. We got this many detailed exactly right as we possibly could.

LRM: How did you come to the decision to directorial debut? How as that overall experience for you?

Christian Gudegast: When I finished writing it and I knew that I wanted it to be my directorial debut. I know the so world intimately. I know the specifics of it. I know the people. I wanted to sort of expose a specific part of LA and the specific world that I know very well and very comfortable around. The process was, at first, the most frustrating parts of the world because the movie was set up a Relativity Media. The company that went bankrupt. We were green lit there for probably about four different times for the first time in 2009 with [Mark] Wahlberg. The company ended up going bankrupt. So that speaks for itself. That’s why it never got made there. Once we finally were able to get out of bankruptcy court and moved over to STXfilms where I’m finally able to make it. The experience of making it was honestly the experience of a lifetime. It was everybody in the cast. It was the best experience anybody’s ever had. Everybody was just a camaraderie. We all worked our asses off and got along. We had a great time making the movie.

LRM: I loved the cast that you actually brought on for the Den of Thieves. Could you talk about some members of the cast? I think this is the second time you worked with Gerard Butler in from a previous movie?

Christian Gudegast: Yeah. It is. I actually worked with him on quite a few projects in the past, but primarily in development. The cast was a very, very, very carefully put together. The casting director and I really wanted to make it as a cast of familiars and some not, substitute and wanted people to get lost in the world of the movie. It’s like you to watch like a foreign film–a European film or an Asian film–you’re not familiar with the actor and you sort of lose yourself in that world. You’re not seeing all these familiar faces. The key was to get people that really fit the world. It’s a very, very muscular, very tough world. I wanted everybody to be very, very real and authentic. We went through, even on some of the smallest roles, for fifty or even a hundred people. We really, really drill down to cast hard. We think the results paid off.

LRM: Speaking of realism, I’ve drove by the Federal Reserve in Los Angeles and Alameda Street several times. But, you filmed this movie mostly in Atlanta. Why don’t you just base it in Atlanta instead? LA and Atlanta are quite different.

Christian Gudegast: Correct. That was a debate we had for quite some time. We all knew it had to be set in Los Angeles, because it was too specific to LA. The rules of the streets are different in Atlanta completely. The whole script was very, very, very specific. To lose that would’ve been a shame. That’s the reality of making movies these days. So if you have anything set anywhere specifically your fucking knock the shit out there anyway. It’s just something you just have to be in process in production. You have to be careful. You have to choose your locations well. You have to be disciplined about it. That’s just the reality and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you want something to set somewhere, you just have to go for it. You can’t just give up, because of the realities of that. We shot in LA in the end for a week. We were very discerning and picking out what case in Atlanta.

LRM: How did you get the accuracy of inside the Federal Reserve look there? Not many people know what’s actually going on inside a federal building. How did you do your research and to basically make it as accurate as possible?

Christian Gudegast: We did a truck load. We actually went there. I personally went into the set 10 times. We couldn’t get all the crew in there, but we’ve got the production designer and art director. We actually got Gerard Butler in there. The producer, Tucker Tooley, his father actually used to build buildings for the federal government. One of the buildings that he built was the Federal Reserve of Los Angeles. So we were given, obviously there’s only so much access you can be given. We were given an extraordinary amount of access and help. What you see in the film is pretty much exactly what it looks like. The process described in the film is absolutely 100 percent correct on how it goes down to the last detail.

The machines, the money counting machines, are the actual machines from the actual company. They kept on turning us down for months. They finally agreed to help us and not only help us, but they brought all their engineers from the Federal Reserve to our set. They helped us build our set and installed all the actual machines. Those are the actual accounting machines that count the money. That’s a real thing that you see right there None of that was built. It was all real. When you see Donnie opening it up and all that–those are the actual machines themselves. We had all these engineers that are operating for us and they basically welcomed us with open arms. They were very, very cool. That was crucial, because to reproduce those machines would have been basically impossible.

LRM: I understand you already got the call for the sequel for Den of Thieves 2. Was that unexpected for you or did you actually knew you had a good thing in your hands?

Christian Gudegast: You know how it is. We thought that we did a good thing on their hands, but you never know until you know. I was pretty confident. Everybody was, was fairly confident. In the business, people think the movie over performs, then we’re very happy with the results. We’re opening now this week and a bunch of European and territories. We’re think it’s going make well over $100 million. I actually personally think maybe under performed with the release in January. We’re very happy with the results and the sequel had already been planned. I’ve got the whole plot. I’ve already done all the research. I’m talking to a place in Europe and we’re very, very excited about it.

LRM:That’s pretty awesome. Thank you very much for um, for speaking with me and I wish you good luck with it with the sequel. Thank you.

Christian Gudegast: Thank you very much. Nice meeting you.

Den of Thieves is out on digital download, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand today from STXfilms and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Source: Exclusive to LRM

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.