Street Kings: Creating Authentic Police World

To create the world of STREET KINGS, a great deal of emphasis was placed on the authenticity of everything that related to the specifics of law enforcement and the LAPD. To guarantee absolute accuracy of the aesthetics ranging from tactical techniques to the smallest details of the uniforms, the filmmakers enlisted the expertise of several seasoned ex-LAPD cops as technical advisors on the film.

Technical advisor Jaime Fitzsimons spent fifteen years in the LAPD and worked closely with David Ayer in hopes of bringing an unprecedented insight into the inner workings of the LAPD. Cops have been portrayed inaccurately in movies for so long and David wanted to make this a real LAPD experience, explains Fitzsimons. When youre an LAPD officer youre specifically trained a certain way, from tactics to how you wear your uniform and carry your gun. In most movies you dont see the specifics of an agency like LAPD, you see a mixed bag and we worked very hard to make sure that wouldnt be the case with this film.

A 35 year veteran of the LAPD, Technical Advisor Brian Davis spent the last twenty years on the force in a very specialized tactical unit that did a lot of undercover work that included extensive surveillance with career criminals, kidnapper and murderers. His unit trained with the Navy Seals, Marine Force Recon and SWAT teams and worked with some of the best shooting instructors in the United States. My unit got in a lot of shootings and we arrested a lot of bad people. I think the filmmakers wanted me to put my experience into Ludlow as far as the darker side of police work, says Davis.

Before the onset of production, Keanu Reeves and various other members of the cast were put through extensive training on all the facets of law enforcement. They received firearms training, were taken on ride-alongs through various Los Angeles neighborhoods and instructed on the day-to-day operations of the LAPD.

Training the Cast

We spent a lot of time with the actors preparing for their roles and getting them in the LAPD frame of mind, recalls Fitzsimons. We took them on ride-alongs and shared our old war stories and taught them how to properly wear the uniform. Once they put on that uniform and got that feeling of whats its like to wear those blues, they understood.
To become a true gunfighter, Reeves worked closely with the technical advisors and dedicated a great deal of time and effort towards the training. Keanu took it very seriously and gave one hundred twenty percent of himself to discover what its like to be an LAPD cop, explains Fitzsimons. I think any LA cop will watch his performance and think that he is one of them.

I taught Keanu how to handle a gun; how it felt, how to shoot it, to the reaction from the recoil, how to walk with it, explains Davis. We worked on how to present yourself to suspects and how to approach a scene. He has worked very hard and it shows.

I received a lot of training that included simulation, basic timing techniques, double-tap citing, movement, entering rooms, etc., recalls Reeves. We did something called a shoot or dont shoot simulator and it was interesting because when we first started out I was a long-haired hippy who didnt want to shoot anything while my director David Ayer was killing everything that moved. If I was to do it now, I think Id be closer to the other guy.

In addition to the physical training administered for the role, it was important to Ayer that the technical advisors also share the psychological aspects of life as a cop. In addition to the ride-alongs and tactical training, the experts and advisors were very open about the emotional side and how it affects you, your family and your soul. What happens when you hang up the badge and go home What is your life like when youre alone and when its quiet asks Ayer.

The advisors were very generous with me in sharing their experiences in balancing the job and life outside of that. They spoke about what it took to have a marriage or kids and deal with all that entails while simultaneously dealing with rapists and killers and how your eyes change. I was able to internalize these deeply affecting and moving stories and imagine the intensity of what they survived all the while trying to have a somewhat normal life, notes Reeves.

For Ludlow, his alcoholism was a way of escaping the demons that stayed with him at the end of day. Im sure Ludlow drinks because of what hes seen or because of who he is, explains Davis. The horrific things you see change you and hes doing what he has to do and doing it very well. I saw a lot horrible things in the tenure of my career and they stick with you for the rest of your life. People say you learn to live with it, but you dont.

Ive seen a lot of heinous things, but I believe that for some people it is a calling, explains Fitzsimons. You get up and do it again no matter how bad the day before. If youre not out there doing it, then who is
The filmmakers worked closely with the technical advisors when approaching the specifics of Washingtons LAPD funeral. There was a meticulous attention to detail from instructing the hundreds of extras in their dress blue uniforms, the numerous props down to proper placement of the police cars and fire trucks within the scene. Both the LAPD honor guard and LAPD Emerald Society were on set to salute and play the bagpipes for the ceremony.

Being on set on the day of Washingtons funeral made me feel very emotional, recalls Fitzsimons. I knew we had all the details right when the motor cops doing security and traffic control for the film said that it made them feel eerie. We worked very hard to make sure that what you see is a real LAPD funeral.
To raise the bar even further, the filmmakers were able to secure ex-LAPD police chief Daryl Gates to appear in the film as the police chief who speaks at Washingtons funeral. A highly decorated and publicized public figurehead for the LAPD, Gates was attracted to the films message of redemption.

Darryl Gates

The film doesnt put the LAPD in the best light, but there is a strong message of redemption and I responded to that, explains Daryl Gates. That meant something to me because in my eyes the LAPD is extraordinarily special.

We tried to give the film authenticity in every regard and it was Davids idea to ask Daryl Gates to appear as the chief of police, recalls Lucas Foster. When we called him he asked if the film was pro police and we told him that it was for certain types of police. We sent him the script and he thought it was excellent. We were so shocked and are so grateful that he was willing to do it.

Having Daryl Gates in the film was awesome, says Reeves. He is a very nice man and was very cool to everyone. I read his book before meeting him and having him speak at Washingtons funeral brought it to a deeper level for me.