Chalk up Den of Thieves as another action-packed heist movie filled with some great testosterone-fueled play between stars Gerard Butler and 50 Cent.

The story follows the lives of a hardened L.A. cop “Big” Nick Flanagan (Butler), and the state’s most successful bank robbery crew he is trying to bring down. When the outlaws plan a seemingly impossible heist on the Federal Reserve Bank, Nick tries to be one step ahead of them.

At the recent press conference, the boys – Butler, 50 Cent, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and director/writer Christian Gudegast – got together to talk about their movie and here’s what we found out.

The training was just as badass as it is in the movie.

Pablo Schreiber explained, “We had two weeks of training. We showed up a few weeks prior to shooting. We had two separate camps: Gerry’s the star of our movie, but he’s also our producer. He was pretty insistent that the cops and the thieves stay away from each other, which created a vibe of healthy competition between the two camps. We had a military trainer who had a Special Forces background. He really whipped us into shape, which was really important from our side (the thieves) of things. It was a very efficient team that looked like they’d had a Special Forces background. So, we trained a lot.

Butler added, “I was trained by an undercover policeman and a captain from the L.A. Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Division. We were schooled in their manner of fighting, shooting stance. There are a lot of subtle differences. It was about drilling drilling drilling with different guns and ammunition, and being fast and efficient. I already was working with these guys a few months before because Christian Gudegast and I have been involved in this movie together for a long time.”

Butler didn’t exactly know why his character had to be called “Big” Nick.

“My character’s called Big Nick O’Brien, and I weighed 200 pounds at the time,” said Butler. “I kept saying to Christian, ‘Let’s just call him ‘Nick,’ and he was like, ‘No, he’s Big Nick. You gotta get big. I ended up putting on 25 pounds. I had to around these guys, because it’s probably the most masculine cast I’ve been around since 300. That’s another reason why I wanted to keep us all separate – look at these guys – I’ve gotta have some self-confidence.”

Stealing stuff and trying to catch the bad guys takes a toll on the homefront.

Butler said, “One of the things that I loved about the movie was that it’s a very smart, complex heist movie that you could get involved with. It’s compelling and has a lot of action but it also gives you time to breathe. You get to sit with these characters and get to know them, and show how bruised and ravished they can be from having this lifestyle, and how it affects them, their families and turns the clichés on their heads, and show the cops, who, ultimately, are the good guys trying to bring down the bad guys, but sometimes they’re kind of like naughty boys, because it’s a troubling world they live in, and it definitely has an impact and causes an impact and requires a certain amount of release and disconnect. That gives a nice interesting allegiance that the audience has between the good guys and the bad guys, and the way you journey with them—you swap from side to side. That’s one of the things that’s very different about this movie.”

Gudegast added, “The end goal was really the final action sequence. The whole point was we wanted to audience to care about everyone equally. They’re all just human beings. As the writer, I wanted the audience to understand everybody’s motivations, know them, like them, good, bad or indifferent. Cops and criminals – it’s a yin-yang thing. It’s a symbiotic relationship. One doesn’t exist without the other. They almost appreciate each other for that. They’re basically the same kind of dude. Under any other circumstance, they’d get along, go drink beers and hang out. So, there’s a mutual respect and appreciation. The whole purpose of the film was to build towards that finale and understand everybody and care about everybody equally.”

How the Federal Reserve handles and disposes of its old money is pretty damn cool to watch.

“The whole world, the characters, are based on an amalgam of true stories,” Gudegast explained. “I went to the Federal Reserve three times and I got Gerry in there once. Of course, you can’t photograph it. You’ve got to commit everything to memory. The environment there is breathtaking. It’s a fascinating process when you think about where banks put their money. What’s the room that all the banks put their money into; and it’s the vault. Outside are all the counting rooms that count the denomination of the bills. There’s the noise of the bills being shredded constantly. It’s trippy to think it’s just paper there. A million dollars, right there. It’s fascinating. We committed everything to memory and tried to reproduce it to the best of our ability.”

O’Shea Jackson’s character, Donnie, gets the crap beaten out of him, but the actor impressed the hell out of his co-stars.

Jackson said, “In the beginning of my acting career, I seem to have a theme of being abused by Los Angeles law enforcement. I let Gerard know it’s OK, I’m used to this. He didn’t really want to choke me out in the hotel room. He’s a good dude. I’m a pro wrestling fan so I know how to get a nice choke off. This was definitely the most physical role I’ve taken but I knew I was in good hands and I was working with a pro. So, I wasn’t in danger during the making of Den of Thieves.

Butler laughed, “We beat the sh*t out of him because that’s supposed to be a very intimidating scene. He’s such a nice guy that we knew we had to start slapping him around, even between takes. He took it and it really allowed the scene to work. It got pretty brutal at times, though, especially when I started to choke him. He took it so well. My jaw dropped at the brilliance of his performance. Every time he would give us something different and every time he let us do it again. When I watch that scene now, I think, ‘That’s so gross. I think I went a bit too far.’ He took it like a champ, though. It wasn’t easy.

“Casting O’Shea was important because the character had to have a fine balance,” Gudegast added. “You had to feel sorry for him a little bit because he’s being pulled by both sides and they don’t really trust him. At the same time, he can’t be a total fish out of water; he has to belong. He just happens to be around apex alpha males. But it’s a fine line and that’s why O’Shea was cast in the movie. He was perfect for the part.”

Lastly, it’s really 50 Cent’s movie.

“Let me explain to you, this is my movie,” joked the rapper-turned-actor. “I’m overwhelmed by the love that Gerard Butler has shown me from being in it. The publicity, the marketing, the promotion of it—this guy is amazing. We need more people like Gerard Butler in the world.”

Den of Thieves opens in theaters this Friday.

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