We've been fans of David Ayer ever since he wrote the script for the cop classic Training Day, a movie about a day in the life of a cool-ass corrupt detective, played by Denzel Washington, who sleazes his way through the gang riddled neighborhoods of LA. Depraved cops aren't a hard sell for us because we have a natural distrust for authority. What threw us for a loop, however, was Ayer's latest film End of Watch, which he wrote and directed. This time around, the coppers aren't claiming they're King Kong, instead the film is about good guys on the force who genuinely want to help their communities and support their family. Unfortunately, these LAPD patrol officers, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, cross paths with a badass drug cartel who will not go down without a fight. The film takes you on a wild trip filled with loads of shooting and high-speed chases. We caught up with David on the phone the other day to talk about the movie, which had a number one debut at the box offices.
Are you surprised by how well the film is doing?
Well, you want it to do well. But its performance is something you can't control. The only part I can control is the making of the movie. But I have to admit that it is pretty surprising because there is some heavy duty stuff in the film. There is quite a bit of violence. But what people are responding to, I think, is the relationship between the characters and these three-dimensional people portrayed in the film.
You've worked in the cop genre before. How is this different?
I think most cop movies are about corruption, especially the ones made after Training Day. So if I had did that again, it wouldn't have broken any new ground. With this film, I wanted to tell a story about a couple of guys who are just good dudes, the kind of stand up guys that we want protecting us.
What has been the response of the police who've seen the film?
It has been fantastic. I think they feel that finally someone has told their story. The cops that see it, no matter which agency, tell me they are thankful that someone got it right. Cops have been taking their families and friends and telling them, because they feel it is a window in their life.
When you start making a film, how do you generate ideas?
Well, the title was always there. But, for me, it all starts with the characters. This film was about good decent people doing their job.
How long did it take before you had a really specific idea of what the film would be like?
The script exploded out of me in six days. I'm pretty sure I outlined it. I'll usually do that with sample dialogue and a sense for the characters. That's my plan of attack. But, on the other hand, you can think of all these great thoughts at the outset, but you never know what you'll end up with until it's finished. And you never know if it is going to connect with people, but once I showed the script around I knew people were into it.
What was going through your mind when you were writing the script?
We have this war on drugs and instead of solving problems, we get more scary bad guys. But I'm in in a place in my life where I have a wife and kids and I am happy. So, I also wanted to show characters who had that in their lives, too.
How has having kids and a wife changed your art and perception?
As an artist, the more you learn and the more you experience, the better your stories become.
Did you have actors in mind when you were creating the world of End of Watch?
When I wrote the movie, I tried not to have any prejudice. I didn't want to twist the characters. I wanted to let the them speaks for themselves. I try to write the most three dimensional guys with the idea that good stories attract good actors. And that's what happened. Jake came along and got ahold of the script. He sought me out to make this film and he literally changed his life to be my collaborator on this project.
What's the absolute best part of the process of making a film?
The part I love the most is being on set. It is the most physical taxing aspect of the journey. It is rewarding to watch something unfold live that you once had in your head. Marketing is fun for me too because I like talking about the movie.
What's the worst?
Development is the part is the part I can't stand. You don't know whether it will get made. You just feel like you're throwing stuff at the wall. With this film, however, I had some fantastic backers who really wanted to tell the story I wanted to tell.
That's awesome. We're glad you got to tell it. Thanks!