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''I'm attracted to making movies about family,'' says The Place Beyond the Pines director Derek Cianfrance. ''Those movies have secrets and intimacy. This picture is a family picture of Ryan, Eva, and the baby, played by Anthony 'Tony' Pizza Jr. With Ryan and Eva, it was amazing to see their chemistry on set. It was two old friends making the movie. I've always thought Eva is great.''
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''This scene is no longer in the movie, shot on day one,'' says Cianfrance. ''In this, Luke (Gosling) has just decided to stay in Schenectady. He has found out he's a dad to this baby from a one-night stand. He has to decide whether to stay or go with this traveling circus. He's counting that he has $106 left. How does he become this father, this object of security in this baby's life, covered in tattoos, in the worst hotel room you can find, with only $106?''
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''Those are all tattoos that Ryan says he wants, but can't have them as an actor,'' says Cianfrance. ''He thought he should have the most tattoos in movie history. He really wanted a face tattoo. I asked, 'Are you sure?' He said, 'Face tattoos are the best.' He said, 'It should be a dagger dripping blood. It's so tough.' First day we're shooting, Ryan pulls me over and says, 'I think we should lose the face tattoo. It's too much.' And I said, 'That's what happens with a face tattoo. You regret it. Now you're stuck with it.' Every choice has a consequence.''
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''[Eva] actually worked at the diner, working eight-hour shifts. There's Eva, cover girl model, working at your table,'' says Cianfrance of Mendes prepping to play character Romina, a mom and waitress. ''That's important for actors, to get in the mundane experience of life. She's at that diner, and she knows how to do it. I can cast the rest of the diner with real patrons, and suddenly everything is real. It was also great to see her bond with this kid so effortlessly.''
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''As I struggled to make Blue Valentine and Pines, people said, 'It's too heavy, it's too this, too that. People want fantasy.' Sometimes fantasy makes you feel lonely. I put people in my movies,'' says Cianfrance. ''I think people are flawed, which makes them interesting. I tell actors to show me their flaws. Eva, in these scenes, she's responding to me telling her not to be perfect. My grandma had the oldest wrinkled face I had ever seen. She was so beautiful. I was asking Eva to be human.''
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''My idea of who 'Bradley Cooper' was before I met him was wrong,'' says Cianfrance. ''I didn't think I was in for an experience with a deep actor and a deep human being. Then I thought, 'Wow, that's the guy from my movie.' He has a lot going on. He has this exterior good moral guy thing, good and loyal, a good guy, someone you would party with. Inside he's got a lot of demons — a lot I can relate to.''
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''Playing a police officer, [Bradley Cooper] spent a lot of time with the cops out in Schenectady,'' says Cianfrance. ''He went on real police runs. We shot in a real working police station. Most of the cops in the movie besides Ray [Liotta] and Bradley were real cops. This part of the movie takes place in the mid '90s. I always thought his hair reminded me of Dan Marino, circa 1995. Leading up to this scene, in the house, where Cooper is chasing Gosling on a motorcycle, we were doing three-minute single shots, we were filming in these cop cars going 75 mph.''
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''I thought [Bradley Cooper] was so committed to the performance, like Eva and Ryan. This movie passes the baton between actors, and I needed someone who could take it from Ryan. Bradley more than stepped up to the challenge,'' says Cianfrance. ''Bradley did his stunts, and Ryan did a lot of his own stunt scenes too. Blue Valentine was noted for its frank take on sexuality. I wanted to do the same thing with Pines with the stunts, with the crime aspects of the movie. All of the heist-y chases are heist-y chases, without the safety of cuts.''
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''When I first met with my cowriter Ben Coccio, we decided three things: three stories in linear order; we decided to shoot in Schenectady; and we decided to work with Ray Liotta,'' says Cianfrance. ''I love Goodfellas. Growing up in Colorado, [I watched] Goodfellas tons of times. He unnerves everyone around him, he throws people off their center, which is what I want. Deluca, his character, is a cop who plays in a gray area of justice. He's very successful at getting bad guys off the street, but he doesn't live in a black and white world.''
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''The third story in the film is about the kids. I looked at at least 500 kids for the parts of Jason (Dane DeHaan, right) and AJ (Emory Cohen, left),'' says Cianfrance. ''Then I saw Dane's casting tape. I couldn't take my eyes off him. I wore out his casting tape like my VHS tape of Goodfellas. ... We had Dane do readings with other people, and Emory came in. He looked like he had a chip on his shoulder. I asked them, 'Who's your favorite actor?' Emory said, 'Marlon Brando.' Dane said, 'James Dean.' Then they started fighting. I set up the situation, and let them live and breathe on screen.''