Pride and Glory: Shooting Family Cop Movie in Family Style

Weeks prior to the start of principal photography on Gavin O'Connor's new policier, “Pride and Glory,” members of the cast began preparing for their roles, in both an emotional and practical sense.

Authenticity was vital to Gavin O'Connor, which applied to the actors playing a family, as well as portraying cops.

Authentic Family

“The central characters are a family with a shared history going back decades,” the director explains. “It is not just in the dialogue; it's in the subtext. You have to feel it in their behavior and the way they relate to one another. So how do you create that feeling of familiarity in a relatively short amount of time You do it by putting people in situations where they have to rub elbows day in and day out. We engaged in a workshop, where we created the back stories of the family and did a lot of improvisational work. Most importantly, it was all of us just hanging out and breaking bread together.”

Values of Workshop

The actors all agree that the workshop period greatly contributed to their family dynamic. Edward Norton confirms, “The time spent together translated into a level of comfort and the kind of shorthand that families have. Scenes as a family are very challenging because it's not about things being articulated; it's about energy and flow.”

Emmerich recalls, “It was a rolling continuum of exploration, improvisation and discussion. We really dove into the script, scene by scene, line by line. And we were able to come at it from different angles, which is hard for a writer alone in a room to do. Gavin encouraged us to question anything and everything and to feel free to speak up about any problems or ideas we had. We all responded to that pretty enthusiastically. It was very collaborative.”

A screenwriter and director in his own right, Norton says that kind of collaboration called for an uncommon commitment and generosity on the part of Gavin O'Connor because “it was not just about directing; there was authorship, too. Gavin's level of passion for this project was really high. He was willing to have the material tested by everyone involved and handled it with an impressive amount of equanimity. I don't think he ever put the brakes on anyone. But that kind of rigor is also really good for a film because generally something really interesting comes out of the process. Even within the best laid plans, you have to embrace surprise and discovery.”

Actor's Director

“Gavin loves working with actors, and he wants them to be as fully invested in the movie as he is,” Greg O'Connor states. “He also wants to get every detail right, both aesthetically and emotionally, beginning with the cast spending time together. In the case of our actors playing cops, he had them spend time with real cops, driving around with them, training where they train. It was all about getting into the skin of a cop, speaking the way they speak and understanding how they think.”

“We tried to have all the guys hang out with cops who were representative of who they were playing,” Gavin reveals. “Edward was hanging out with homicide detectives, Colin was riding with guys in the Special Narcotics Enforcement Unit, and Noah was with deputy inspectors. Our senior technical advisor Rick Tirelli was extremely helpful on that, as was our technical advisor, Tom Pilkington, and, of course, Robert Hopes.” Tirelli, Pilkington and Hopes were also instrumental in recruiting several NYPD veterans to play police officers in the film, so many of the policemen in the opening crime scene investigation are actually retired cops.

NYPD Assistance

Several of the main cast members also traveled to the NYPD's training facility in the Bronx, where, Norton relates, “We did a certain amount of weapons and tactical training because you want to try to move the way these guys are trained to move. That was really interesting, but in large measure, my preparation involved just talking to cops, hearing how they do what they do, and also drawing them out on how they would respond emotionally in these types of situations. I always find that aspect fascinating because, in a way, the best part of being an actor is what I call the 'classroom'–learning everything you can about being a New York City police officer in four months. It was amazing.”


“What was most impressive to me was the great camaraderie the police have,” relates Colin Farrell, who was in a special position to observe their unique bond while training with the actual NYPD football team–The Finest–for the film's opening scenes. “You hear about the camaraderie between cops, but when you spend time with them, you really feel the vibe. We shot for a week in freezing cold on Coney Island. It was tough on those guys because they were still working their regular shifts as police officers. They gave me a hard time–as they should since I was the 'rookie' in the group–but it was great fun. I loved it.”

Shooting in the Winter

“Pride and Glory” is set in the winter and was filmed in the winter. But despite the cold weather and the challenges that came with it, Gavin chose to film “Pride and Glory” on location on the streets of New York City. The director asserts, “It goes without saying that the elements, the textures and the ambiance are different on location than they are on a soundstage. It obviously looks more authentic to film in the actual locations, but it also feels more authentic to the entire cast and crew. So, despite having to deal with any obstacles, filming in New York was an important decision we made early on, and we stayed committed to it.”

Gritty Ambience

In capturing the gritty atmosphere of the streets and bringing it to the screen, Gavin worked closely with his creative team, including director of photography Declan Quinn, production designer Dan Leigh, and costume designer Abigail Murray.

Declan Quinn's Touch

“I spent a lot of time with Declan even before we began pre-production,” says Gavin. “He and I broke down every beat of the script and developed a very distinct visual style. One of the first things I said to him was that I wanted the audience to feel like they were inside the movie…like the story is swirling around them. From there, we started working with Dan and Abigail on the production design and costume design because we had come up with a very specific color palette.”

In post-production, Gavin's attention turned to editing, working primarily with editor John Gilroy, and scoring the film, collaborating with composer Mark Isham.

Gavin reflects, “The process of making this movie with such talented people brought me so much joy and satisfaction. Everyone on the cast and crew was working together as a family to push the story forward and squeeze as much emotion and truth out of it as we could. That's the magic–knowing you worked hard and gave it everything you could. After that, all any filmmaker can do is let it go and hope for the best,” he smiles.