Recently The Shadow League had the chance to discuss film with one of the illest practitioners in the game, Brad Furman. He's the director of the riveting and relevant film Infiltrator. Bryan Cranston plays undercover U.S. Customs agent Bob Mazur, who successfully posed as a money launderer to take down a Pablo Escobar trafficking network in the U.S. by freezing its funds - which were located off shore in what was then the seventh largest bank in the world.
Based on a true story, the film offers a perfect glimpse into American psyche in an unforgettable decade.
The Shadow League: How were you so readily able to bring the 80s to life?
Brad Furman: "I lived in the 80s, I grew up in the 80s. It was just the things that I took with me through the experience. Like anything in life, you have those memories through time. Obviously, I remember those commercials. The color palate of the times, what the 80s movies were like, in the theater, I remember Cyndi Lauper and all that kind of stuff, not that I was into Cyndi Lauper, but I remember that time. Run DMC, L.L. Cool J, all of that stuff is just so much a part of my personal experience. It was very easy for me to make it real and raw."
TSL: The score and soundtrack are part of what makes this film officially of the 80s.
BF: "I am the music supervisor on the movie. I work with my partner Seth Harris and Brian Waters, who I worked with in this movie and is sort of our guru. Like Rush Tom Sawyer, I was 9-years-old when that song came out, but remembered it and thought it would be a great song to start a movie with"
TSL: Each character is very personable and relateable despite their opposing stations in life.
BF: "There was no question that the characterizations needed to be tapping into the humanity of every individual. Benjamin Bratt is a Shakespearean trained actor... went to the Conservatory of San Francisco I think. Not many people know that about him. I have a 20-year relationship with him as a friend. I have a 20 year relationship with Yul Vasquez, who played Ospiena. Bryan Cranston starred in Lincoln Lawyer, John Leguizamo starred in Lincoln Lawyer and my first movie The Take. As a result of these trusted relationships I think we're able to do our due diligence. Really pick the best people for the roles, they sort of took notes, worked, they got back together and you play, and you play, and you play. And if you do that, you make it great."
TSL: What was it like working with Bryan Cranston?
BF: "I feel that Bryan is such an incredible actor and he brings so much gravitas. What I love about Bryan most is his moral and ethical core. He's a great man, a great individual, and a great leader. When you have that kind of person starring in your movie, and that everyone is looking to as a talented partner, it's a great thing because everybody's putting 110 percent in. And with Bryan, he's putting a million percent in. It doesn't surprise me the way people respond to the level of his work. He's so great because he put the time in and I believe it has paid off."
TSL: The film was only partially shot in Tampa, Florida yet one wouldn't be able to tell it wasn't filmed entirely in Miami, which is where it takes place. How'd you pull it off?
BF: "We spent 90 percent of the time shooting in London. As a result of that it took a tremendous amount of creative talent. How do I get a period piece of 80s era Miami, Florida in cold, rainy, snowy London. I had to get creative. I started doing it with interiors, I shot some exteriors there, I started reworking the script, and just found creative ways where whatever box (logistics) put me in I would find a way to crawl out of it. I'm very proud to say this movie does not look like it was done in London."
"Every time I'm shooting a scene I go in advance with a plan of execution, with a well thought out storyboard, lighting angles. I'd like to be as well planned as possible because when you get in there and something happens you're prepped and ready. All these tweakings impact the emotional value of the movie and the journey as a whole. As a result of that I felt very strongly in the choices I made in each layer in the fabric of a well-woven movie."
TSL: You amassed quite a catalog of very good films. If I may be cliche, what's next for Brad Furman?
BF: "I'm working on something really personal. It's a film called Intricate, based on a true story of a good friend of mine in the backdrop in the world of hip-hop and the evolution of that world. It's a real New York story that is really near and dear to my heart. I attended NYU in the 90s. There's no question I want to make a personal movie. I'm very proud of Infiltrator, but it's Bob Mazur's movie. Who knows what the next movie coming up will be, but I'd definitely like to make a personal story. It's called Intricate, I've been working on it for 10 years, it's my baby."
Infiltrator opened in theaters nationwide on July 15 and is one of the most well-reviewed films of the summer movie season.