Law Abiding Citizen: F. Gary Gray Directs the Neo-Noir Thriller

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F. Gary Gray is the director of “Law Abiding Citizen,” which stars Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler. The film is being released by Overture Films on October 16, 2009.

A Qualified Visionary Director

The producers selected F. Gary Gray to direct the film based on the strength of his previous work, which includes The Italian Job, The Negotiator, Be Cool and Set It Off. “We knew we wanted to work with him,” says Producer Lucas Foster. “He continues to make really interesting movies. They’re all different in tone. What they have in common is complex characters. This movie required a very deliberate hand and he was the ideal filmmaker for this particular material.”

Since launching his career in the mid-1990s with the groundbreaking features Friday and Set It Off, Gray has developed a reputation as a director of great thoughtfulness and originality. “He’s very quiet,” says Foster. “But I could see the magic he was making. After watching the dailies, I was always amazed at the character development, and the visual development of the film. It was all in his brain from the beginning. He’s a master at what he does.”

Jamie Foxx has worked with some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed directors, including Oliver Stone, Sam Mendes and Michael Mann, but he had never done a film with Gray. The director remembers getting a phone call from Foxx that got the ball rolling.

“He called me and said, ‘I’m attached to this movie and I think you should get involved. It would be perfect for you,’” recalls Gray. “So I read the script and not only was it right up my alley, but I’ve wanted to work with Jamie for years and there couldn’t have been a more perfect project for us to start with.”

“Gary’s eye is incredible,” says Foxx. “Right off the bat, the movie looks epic because of the way he shot it, and not a lot of directors are able to do that. He’s able to work in larger-than-life proportions and make people want to give him the best they can on screen.”

Working Under Pressure

Butler credits Gray’s passion for the project and non-stop energy for bringing the material to the screen under a great deal of pressure. “Gary came on board and gave life to the words on the page,” says Butler. “We had a great script, but the film is so much better. It’s exciting to look at. The drama comes across brilliantly and he got great performances from all the actors.”

The idea of a man who takes an entire city hostage from behind bars set Gray’s imagination to working overtime. “How can someone in jail instill that much fear? I thought about Al Capone running his syndicate from jail. I love a cool gangster flick and I also love a great thriller.”

Working with Foxx and Butler

With the opportunity to work with two gifted actors sweetening the deal, the project was irresistible to him. “This movie doesn’t fit into a normal Hollywood formula,” the director points out. “Normally you have an antagonist and protagonist. You can pretty much predict who they are and what they’ll do. This is a chess game with a twist that you would never expect.

“Nick Rice, the D.A., is on the side of the law, but he can be a jerk,” says Gray. “Clyde has been horribly victimized. Throughout the course of the movie, you’re constantly switching allegiances, and depending on the scene, you’re not really sure who to root for.”

Gray says Law Abiding Citizen combines all the elements that keep him excited about filmmaking. “Every day, I woke up with tremendous excitement about the possibilities that awaited me on set,” he says. “With a script like that, with actors and producers who allowed me to open up the material and improvise a bit, I felt like I had an opportunity to create something extraordinary.”