Elizabeth Banks Interview For ‘Man on a Ledge’
An ex-cop and now wanted fugitive (Sam Worthington) stands on the ledge of a high-rise building while a hard-living NYPD negotiator (Elizabeth Banks) tries to talk him down. The longer they are on the ledge, the more she realizes that he might have an ulterior objective. Directed by Asger Leth (Ghosts of Cité Soleil), ‘Man on a Ledge’ stars Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Anthony Mackie, Ed Burns, Titus Welliver, Genesis Rodriguez, Kyra Sedgwick, and Ed Harris. The film is set for release January 27th in the US, and Febuary 3rd in the UK.
I really enjoyed your character in the film, she’s sort of the surragate for the audience?
Elizabeth Banks: Thank you. Yeah, Lydia, she’s an NYPD police officer and negotiator. My job is to get people to not commit suicide, give up guns, give up hostages – essentially resolve situations without death (laughs). But when you first meet my character I’ve lost somebody, in the parlance of the NYPD: somebody went over on me. I lost a jumper who also happened to be a fellow police officer. So, I’m lacking in respect for my colleagues when you first meet me in this movie, I’ve definitely been on a bender, I’m at a real low point in my career. And then when I walk into this situation, which one of the fun things about this situation is that you think you’re running into one thing, but of course your walking into something totally different. That’s what kept me really interested, this is a woman that has to stay on her toes, she’s there to figure out the truth and find out what’s really going on. Also, like you said, she’s sort of acting as a surrogate for the audience, the whole time you’re sitting in the theatre asking, “What the hell is really happening here?” I’m on camera going, “What the hell is really happening here?” (Laughs) We’re learning along with each other what this movie is really about. It’s very thrilling because there’s a lot of layers.
I know you met with a number of people who do this for a living….
Elizabeth Banks: I hope I’m never in that situation (laughs). One of the things that I was taught by the NYPD negotiators is that they have a saying of, “Jumpers jump.” So if you want to kill yourself, you go to the top of the roof and you jump off. You’re not waiting around. If you’re still standing there by the time I get a phone call and get dressed, get in the car, drive up, take the elevator, walk out and start talking to you….hopefully, you don’t really want to kill yourself. But, then if you still jump, it’s my fault. So it’s really devastating when they lose someone because if they’ve actually entered into a negotiation, it’s a game then, it’s a win or lose situation – but losing is life or death. Obviously they don’t want to lose. Luckily it’s very rare when they do lose, but it’s also very devastating for them. I think it’s a true burden to do that job. I would never want somebody’s life in my hands, that responsibility, I don’t know how you live with yourself if you don’t win.
Character wise, what did you learn from being around these negotiators?
Elizabeth Banks: It was really interesting, it was great. It was the first time I’ve played a police officer. I hung out mostly with people off hours. The great thing about the woman I met was that they were kind of girly, they were Mums, they were real women, they didn’t try to hide that fact. They weren’t trying to be men, they were just very practical about what the job is. They were very proud of the job they do. The negotiators, I asked them whether they thought men or women made better negotiators, and of course they all said that women are better at it (laughs). We are empathetic, we are good listeners, we tend to be pretty impassioned talkers as well….it was interesting to hear their thoughts on all those things.
You get to go out on the ledge yourself, what was that like?
Elizabeth Banks: I think one of the great things about ‘Man on the Ledge’ was the filmmakers commitment to shooting the film practically. There’s no green screen involved, we didn’t fake this. I think audiences are very savvy and they would have picked up on that, we really wanted people to feel like they were up there with us, they were getting vertigo, they had the pit in their stomach. And also, Asger Leth (director) was committed to realism, believe me, you cannot fake it when you’re standing out on that ledge (laughs), your body is having a very natural and instinctual reaction to being in such a dangerous position. It wants nothing to do with it (laughs). Your heart is racing, your palms are sweating, the adrenaline is pumping, there’s a sense of anxiety the entire time that you’re standing out there. Hopefully the camera really captured that.
Does that make it easier for you to act or harder?
Elizabeth Banks: It’s good because you don’t have to think about, “Am I selling it?” (Laughs) Believe, it’s being sold, you don’t have to question yourself. It’s also a great reminder to how little it takes, I think, to sell it. The natural reaction is not to over sell it, it’s much smaller, and being up there was a reminder of that. I wasn’t screaming and hollering. That was really fun, it was fun to really learn what I would do in that situation, how I would really act. It was fun to teach myself (laughs).
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