End of Watch is a gritty police drama that follows the lives of two patrol officers played authentically by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena.
Gyllenhaal, who is an executive producer and Pena play bonded for life partners Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, respectively. The two document their daily activities via a video camera as they patrol the streets of South Central.
Their mission as police officers is not only to protect and serve, but to also have each other’s back to make sure they both make it home at the End of Watch.
The raw action is in your face and the stories and situations aren’t very pretty. The officers have formed a bond that allows them to function as a unit in the face of danger, knowing full well, at any moment, they could be called on to lay down their lives. The movie takes the audience into the city’s darkest, most violent streets and back alleys,
and the brave men and women patrolling them.
The movie is written, produced and directed by Michael Ayer (Training Day), who is no stranger to LAPD based gritting dramas. Ayer moved to the mean streets of LA as a teenager. The experiences of his youth helped shape his artistic vision and his inside knowledge and affection for the culture of Los Angeles can be seen throughout his work.
I caught up with Gyllenhaal (JG), Pena (MP) and Ayer (DA) to talk about the making of the film, set for nationwide release on Sept. 21.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL & MICHAEL PENA
Q: How long did you do research for this film and what did you do to prepare?
JG: We spent five months on the streets with LAPD. We did ride-alongs. We did fight training. After five months of being around the community, it changed my life. My life as a person changed. This was a once in a lifetime experience.
MP: Well, actually we didn’t do fight training. We did sparring. That’s a lot different from fight training.
JG: Yeah, it is. I got beat up.
Q: Was this like a boyhood cop and robbers dream for you?
MP: This is a movie I hold close to my heart. It’s not often you get characters like this. It’s our movie. You don’t always get that.
Q: Was there a lot of rehearsal to prepare?
MP: We did a lot of rehearsals to know what it’s like to be in the inner city.
JG: David Ayer (the director) actually grew up as a white kid in South Central. He was raised in Hispanic culture.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL & MICHAEL PENA
Q: What was your relationship while shooting the film?
MP: We are completely different people. The first two months was difficult. The two months helpedme train in the streets and to do the fighting, um, sparring training.
Soon it became, you know, like chill. It wasn’t this Hollywood thing. It was such an experience.
Q: How long was the shoot?
MP: We shot in 22 days. We shot in dangerous neighborhoods
Q: Describe some of those moments.
JG: There was a time I was lone. Michael had left just 15 minutes before because he needed to go get his son. There was some sort of shooting. When we got there we realized someone had thrown rocks through a window, but it looked like gunshots. We got a call about a stolen vehicle when it ran right past us. So, it ended up on the tracks and a train was coming. I was thinking, “Am I in a Denzel Washington movie?” They had to move the stolen vehicle off the track. I mean, it was literally 30 seconds out before the train would have hit.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL PLAYS BRIAN TAYLOR
In END OF WATCH
Q: So, talk about the ride-alongs.
JG: The first one I went on somebody was murdered. I went on ride-alongs where there was domestic violence and stolen vehicles. One time there was a domestic violence call between two dudes.
MP: I saw someone who was shot in the face.
Q: Your thought about police officers.
MP: You have officers who really want to take care of the neighborhood. The criminals are a small part of it.
Q: Jake, talk about your experience making the film.
JG: This movie was from the moment I started….it was like…well, I first met David (Ayer) his wife was cooking me a meal, the kids were running around, friends were around. This movie changed my life. It was such a family to me. The culture was so inspiring.
Q: What do you think people will take away from the film?
MP: Maybe people will appreciate cops a bit more.
Q: David, this is an interesting film.
DA: This is cops filming themselves. I had never seen that before.
Q: David, why did you want to tell this story?
DA: (he turns to his friend, Jamie, who for eight years used to work the gang division in South Central) I did it for this guy, he says pointing to Jamie. This guy right here is why I did it. He worked gangs for eight years. He worked it with a friend of his named Darren, who was black. He got grief. He was told he’s not supposed to work with a black copy. Jamie didn’t care. He’s cool!
Q: Who are you in all this?
DA: I grew up in South Central. I used to run from the cops. I got beat black and blue from LAPD.
Q: The partnership in the movie is white/Hispanic.
DA: My wife is Mexican. It’s a culture. I’m familiar with the culture. It’s the changing face of LAPD.
Q: You seem to have an affinity for this kind of film.
DA: I hope I can hang up my LAPD. I want to do a hardcore gangsta movie with no cops in it.
Q: What do you hear from police officers about the film?
DA: They say, finally somebody got it right.
Produced by John Lesher, Nigel Sinclair and Matt Jackson, with a cast headed by Jake
Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, and featuring Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera, Cody Horn, Natalie Martinez, and Frank Grillo, END OF WATCH (Open Road) is a powerful story of family, friendship, love, honor and courage.
End of Watch is RATED R.