In the 2012 action thriller “Premium Rush,” dodging speeding cars, crazed cabbies, open doors, and 8 million cranky pedestrians is all in a day’s work for Wilee (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the best of New York City’s agile and aggressive bicycle messengers. It takes a special breed to ride the fixie: super lightweight, single-gear bikes with no brakes and riders who are equal part skilled cyclists and suicidal nutcases who risk becoming a smear on the pavement every time they head into traffic.
But a guy who’s used to putting his life on the line is about to get more than even he is used to when a routine delivery turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan. When Wilee picks up his last envelope of the day on a premium rush run, he discovers this package is different. This time, someone is actually trying to kill him. Here is what Gordon-Levitt and Dania Ramirez (who plays Wilee’s girlfriend Vanessa, another bike messenger) had to say at the Los Angeles press junket for “Premium Rush.”
Can you describe the storyline for “Premium Rush”?
Ramirez: It’s a bike-messenger movie. We’re all after this one package, and we have this bad guy.
Gordon-Levitt: I call it a rockin’ good time. It’s a great popcorn action-chase movie … It is a classic Hollywood chase movie. If you go as far back as the 1920s when they were doing silent movies, every epoch of Hollywood cinema has chase movies like this.
And Dave Koepp, who co-wrote and directed this movie, he wrote the first “Spider-Man” movie, he wrote “Jurassic Park,” he wrote the first “Mission: Impossible Movie.” This is a guy who knows how to tell the classic Hollywood action movie. But instead of fast cars, he wanted it to be bicycles, which in a way, is a lot more fun because you’re not protected by all this metal around you. So the stakes are kind of higher. And the underdog hero is riding a bike; the villain is riding in a car.
Ramirez: But it still takes the element of surprise. Why are these people after him and trying to kill him?
What kind of training did you have to do?
Ramirez: The training, the biking was definitely the hardest thing. I fell off my bike almost every single day. And you went a cab!
Gordon-Levitt: That’s true. I did go through a windshield of a taxi cab. I didn’t fall every day, but I fell enough. That was enough. It was tougher training for [“The Dark Knight Rises”], to be honest.
Ramirez: I have to say there’s no CGI in this movie, so all the stunts are actually real. That’s pretty cool.
Gordon-Levitt: Yeah, and I think it makes it more fun to watch. When you see actual human beings doing this stuff, it’ll get your heart going. There are some brilliant stunt performers who are in “Premium Rush.” I’m one of five performers who play my character. There are four other guys who have various skills on different bikes in different situations that make up the performance. It’s fun to watch these guys do what they do.
How was it filming on location in New York City?
Ramirez: I think that’s one of the big challenges of the movie, the fact that we were in New York City and riding around. You could only close down one or two lanes at a time. We weren’t really able to close down all of the streets at the time we were shooting. So for every take, you got cars that weren’t part of the filming, or people who weren’t extras just crossing in front of you. It always kept it exciting.
Can you talk about the unique visual style of “Premium Rush”?
Gordon-Levitt: [David Koepp] had this really cool visual idea. And that’s part of why I wanted to do the movie. Even just by reading the script, you could feel the style he wanted to have
Ramirez: It kind of goes into your psyche: Right before you make a decision, you should go over these different options. When you’re on a bike in New York City, you have to think quickly. That kind of comes across in the way that he shot it.
Gordon-Levitt: And that’s part of the character too. That’s part of the strength and the fundamental of Wilee: He won’t get caught up in indecision. He’s just at the moment, he’ll do it. I know something in my life, you come up against a fork in the road, and you get caught up in, “I could do this or I could do that,” and before you know it, you haven’t done either one.
Ramirez: Bike riding is like Hollywood. You have to make a decision.
Gordon-Levitt: Or just anything in life, wherever you are. It’s true.
For more info: “Premium Rush” website