Metro: About The Production

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When "Metro" director Thomas Carter first met with Eddie Murphy to discuss the possibility of working together, the two-time Emmy Award winning director hardly recognized the actor who had gained worldwide popularity for his performances on "Saturday Night Live" and in some of the most successful films of the past decade.

"I went to meet Eddie on the set of 'The Nutty Professor,' and he was in full makeup for the role of Sherman Klump," director Carter explains. "It was very odd to say the least, seeing him dressed as a 400-pound man, replete with a few extra chins. His transformation was uncanny but once I saw his eyes, I knew it was him.

"After my initial shock," Carter continues, "we went on to have a great meeting, sharing a lot of the same ideas about the 'Metro' script. I also discovered that Eddie is a very sensitive, very thoughtful man who has a very strong sense of himself and a deep perspective on life in general. I was excited at the prospect of working with Eddie on this project.

One of the most popular actors on the planet, Murphy was interested in doing a film that was a little edgier and at the same time had humor like some of his earlier action movies. "I'm a comedian at the core, so I try to interject humor into everything that I'm doing-even if it's something that's kind of serious," Murphy says of his attraction to the role of a hostage negotiator. "I thought it was a fantastic idea. The character is somebody who by the very nature of his job has to adapt himself to different situations. Each time he's in a different predicament, in very subtle ways he's sort of a different character, in the sense that he's trying to connect with the person he's negotiating with."

In addition to Murphy's obvious and renowned comedic gifts, director Carter had always sensed that Eddie had the makings of a good dramatic actor. "This seemed to be a script that would allow Eddie to exhibit his dramatic skills as well as his comedic skills," Carter says. It's a story about a cop who is constantly put in situations where he has to be fast on his feet in order to avert crisis situations. Mix that up with Eddie's quick wit and sharp tongue, and you've got a fast-paced cop drama that takes the audience on a great ride."

A great ride, indeed. From the opening aerial shots of San Francisco's glistening Bay Bridge to the rousing cable car chase scene to the apocalyptic conclusion at the Naval Shipyards on Mare Island, "Metro" combines the tension of the action/drama genre with the all-out suspense of a contemporary thriller.

"This is the most physical role I've done in a movie," Murphy concedes. "I tip my hat to Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis-I don't know how they can do movies like this all the time, because you really get beat up doing them. But it's great when you finally see the results up on screen. We had a lot of fun doing this."

According to director Carter, the tension and suspense in "Metro" are seasoned with just the right amount of humor. "In addition to my desire to work with Eddie, it was the combination of the dramatic and comedic tone of the film that initially attracted me to this project," Carter says. "After doing 'Swing Kids' (his feature film directorial debut), I was looking for something that was very contemporary and very American in its sensibilities. 'Metro' fit the bill perfectly. It was a fantastic opportunity for me as a director because of the great balance of human emotions that are explored and experienced throughout the story, all of which is set against the backdrop of urban crime. And with Eddie Murphy in the lead, I knew that the innate dramatic energy of the story could be equalized by his unique comedic talents."

For producer Roger Bimbaum, the proper blend of drama and comedy was of foremost importance in capturing the realism of Randy Feldman's script.

"One of the first conversations Eddie Murphy and I had regarding this project was about the focus on the drama. We both wanted to play the drama for real and let the funny stuff happen naturally. We agreed that life can be funny even in the midst of intense situations. Our mutual understanding of those dynamics is the reason the character of Scott Roper is perhaps the most realistic character Eddie has ever played on screen. Roper is real and believable because he doesn't suppress his wit even during the most trying of times. He's a brilliant cop with a not-so-perfect personal life who has a great sense of humor. And I think those are the qualities that Eddie has brought to life here."

Not only did Bimbaum want to achieve a proper balance of drama/comedy in the script but as "Metro's" producer, he was responsible for finding and nurturing the proper blend between the movie's star and director. "I think Thomas Carter and Eddie Murphy were a great match," Bimbaum says. "I've known Thomas for a long time and was aware of him as a director due to his exceptional, award-winning work in television. He's got a very creative eye-a strong, aggressive visual style. His work always seems to have a very interesting edge to it. And he always gets terrific performances from his actors. That, combined with Eddie's persona and his talent and experience as an actor and filmmaker made for a very cohesive collaboration. They each possess an incredible attention to detail, which, in my opinion, shined through from their mutual enthusiasm about the project."

Carter's reputation as an amiable director adept at mining superb performances from his casts was not overlooked by Eddie Murphy who says, "Thomas is a perfectionist and really got something totally unique out of me as an actor. He works well with everyone and can tell actors exactly what he wants out of a scene. He lets you stretch, but at the same time he won't let you go too far either. I also like the way he moves his camera around in the shots; the composition is always interesting. He's a good, solid director."

An inordinate amount of detail extended to the filmmakers' choices in casting, as well as the choices for the creative personnel behind the camera.

Three bright co-stars: Michael Rapaport, Michael Wincott and Carmen Ejogo round out the principal cast of "Metro." For Rapaport, the primary attraction to the project was to work with his idol, Eddie Murphy.

"I grew up wanting to be Eddie Murphy," Rapaport says. "I used to walk around dressed up in a white leather jacket and gold chains. I had pictures of Eddie all over my bedroom wall, and I started my career doing stand-up comedy, which led to acting and my dream of one day being in a movie with him. And now my dream has been fulfilled."

Returning the compliment, Murphy says, "Out of the new generation of actors, Michael Rapaport is one of the best. He's a solid actor, with a strong screen presence. Working with him brought out the best in me."

"Putting Eddie and Michael Rapaport together in this film was a lot of fun " says producer Bimbaum, "because Michael could not believe he was actually going to have a chance to work with his childhood idol. That excitement came through in the natural-born chemistry between them. The differences in their characters was highlighted by the fact that both of them are very talented actors and genuinely like each other. It was a great piece of casting."

Of Michael Wincott, who plays the story's antagonist Korda, Carter says, "He brought a great amount of style to the part and he is absolutely fantastic. He is fun and scary and ruthless and brutal -- a lot of things you like to see in a movie villain. But he always maintains an air of sophistication. How often do you see a bad guy who listens to Duke Ellington music with the same calm with which he commits an act of murder?"

Of Wincott's accomplished performance in the film, Murphy says, "Michael's a wonderful actor and is always excellent. He plays deviant real well."

Carter and Birnbaum's other find was British newcomer Carmen Ejogo, who plays newspaper photographer Ronnie Tate, the "off-again on-again" girlfriend of Murphy's character. Producer Birnbaum says, "Our casting director, Ellen Chenoweth, saw a lot of actresses for the role and Carmen was one that Ellen put on tape. Thomas Carter urged me to fly into New York to see Carmen in person. Simply put, I was blown away by her beauty, charm and talent. We consider ourselves very lucky to have found her for this role."

"Terrific, beautiful, talented, and she has an incredibly fresh, very original face," director Carter says about Ejogo. "And since she is from London, her accent and her European sensibilities provided a very interesting contrast to Eddie in the sense that you might not expect these two seemingly different people to be in love with each other."

"She did an incredibly wonderful job bringing the love story to life," Murphy says. "Carmen's a wonderful actress. She's beautiful and talented, and I was delighted to work with her."

Though Carmen says that as an actress unknown to American audiences, she really didn't expect to land the female lead in "Metro," she was thrilled to be cast opposite Eddie Murphy. "When I first met Eddie, I was nervous," she recalls. "But not because he was a star. Rather because I was his co-star. I was anxious because as an actor you have to have a connection with whomever you're playing opposite. But when we met, it was immediately clear that he was a warm, human being; the key words: 'human being'."

Behind-the-scenes, the filmmakers brought together a group of highly respected creative talents including director of photography Fred Murphy, whom Carter credits with doing "a fantastic job. Fred is first and foremost a brilliant cameraman and a great guy," Carter says. "And his body of work is impressive. But he had never done an action genre picture. He and I both wanted to couple a
more artistic film quality-like Fred's work on Mazursky's 'Enemies, A Love Story'with the cinematic shoot-em-up, cops and robbers attitude of action/suspense films. He made a tremendous contribution to this film and I thank him for it."

As Eddie Murphy generously acknowledges, "You know, those names that go up the screen at the end of the movie, everybody up there does something important. We had an excellent team working on this film. I'm really happy with the cast, the director and everybody who put this together."

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