Andy Garcia loved working on CONFIDENCE. He enjoyed collaborating with an ensemble "A-List" cast. He felt a connection to the intricate, richly drawn characters and witty dialogue of Doug Jung's screenplay. He felt director James Foley's unbridled enthusiasm for the project and the sense of commitment he brought to the set allowed for the cast to feel inspired. Just don't ask him to summarize the movie. He won't share any of CONFIDENCE's many plot details or any substantial information about his character. "He introduces himself as a special agent," Garcia says of Gunther Butan. "And that's really as far as I can go with it, because everything else would be spoiling the natural discoveries of the material. And that would be unfair to the viewer. "
Garcia isn't alone in his secrecy. The entire cast and crew are as tight-lipped and guarded as, appropriately enough, a group of con artists. "You want to talk about it but you don't want to give away the story and ruin the ending for the audience," Brian Van Holt, who plays Miles, adds. "But there are a lot of layers that are peeled throughout the whole story. Something new hits you every time you turn a different corner. "
Luis Guzman, who plays Manzano, chooses to explain the content of CONFIDENCE by relaying its most basic thematic elements: "I guess the plot line comes down to this: you can't really trust anybody. Everybody's not who they say they are. And if they say that they can help you, most likely they can hurt you. "
Producer Marc Butan first read Doug Jung's detailed screenplay during his days as an independent producer. Though his initial reaction to the material was overwhelmingly positive, it took more than one read for Butan to devote himself to CONFIDENCE. Like the esteemed members of the cast, Butan saw enormous dramatic potential in the deliciously convoluted story's innumerable twists. "I read the whole script and I thought, 'It can't all fit together, can it?'" Butan remembers. "And then I went through it with a pen and wrote down all the things that happened in order to make sure it all played back and forth. It all rang true. This movie will hold up for examination. "
Butan held on to the script when he began working as an executive at Lions Gate. Everyone at the Indie film company matched his enthusiasm for the project and quickly began a search for the best director to bring CONFIDENCE to the screen. Butan, along with fellow Lions Gate Films executives and producers Michael Burns and Michael Paseornek, poured through an extensive list of potential directors, always aware that they needed someone who had worked with a diverse group of seasoned male actors. "His name grabbed my attention," Burns says of James Foley. "When you look at "Glengarry Glen Ross," he did such a good job with a cast of fantastic actors. "
Foley was thrilled with the opportunity to make CONFIDENCE. He was impressed by the intelligence of Jung's screenplay and the depth of its conflicted, double-crossing characters. "I'm not interested just in heist movies, of people planning and of elaborate plot intricacies. That on its own does not appeal to me," he explains. "But if it can be combined with characters that are complicated and have a certain emotional reality to them, and if the plot revelations strengthen the characters 'aliveness,' then all the better. "
With a director and financing in place, Lions Gate and Foley began their careful search for Jake Vig. They wanted the film's central character to be a charming, charismatic con man that audiences could actually root for. They found their Jake in Ed Burns, an actor who naturally exudes an enviable sense of cool. "If we had the wrong guy, then we'd be sunk," Foley remembers. "Jake needed to be a calm man-to be able to con anybody out of anything. But he also had to have this soulful side. What I like about Eddie Burns is that he's got a strong, extroverted personality. He's very self-confident, but there is a part of him that's very private. "
"Jake needed to be likeable even though what he's doing is pulling off cons," Butan jokes. "There's just something about Eddie's demeanor. You can see that in him. He can get people to do what he wants them to do without them even knowing that they're doing it!"
"The thing that initially drew me to the script was Doug's dialogue," Ed Burns, says of the screenplay. "He writes really great, fun dialogue. " Burns devilishly concedes that he also enjoyed the prospect of pulling a con on moviegoers. "In addition to that, it's a great story with a lot of twists. It's going to keep the audience guessing. "
The filmmakers continued their casting search to find an equally suave and disarming woman to play Lily, CONFIDENCE's femme fatale. Following an exhaustive round of meetings, Burns passed the screenplay along to British actress Rachel Weisz. "Weisz was a real lucky stroke for me," Foley says. "She had to be believable as this tough talking broad who takes care of herself. On the other hand, she had to have a kind of vulnerability. "
"We looked at a lot of actresses for this part," Butan says of Lily. "Lily has so many layers and so much depth. We wanted this character to really pop off the screen and to be something more than just the love interest in the movie. "
For the role, Weisz adopted an American accent in order to embody the "trendy LA club girl" she portrays. "I work on my own, I live on my own. I'm a solo operator. " Weisz succinctly says of the tough and independent Lily. Weisz paid close attention to every detail of her character, even going so far as to study with a magician to learn how to best pick a pocket.
Another casting coup was Dustin Hoffman as the foreboding crime kingpin. "We wanted an established actor who was going to bring something to the part that wasn't just the traditional big hulking presence. " Paseornek says. Dustin Hoffman's manager called Paseornek when she heard about the project, and he gladly sent a copy of the script her way, certain that Hoffman wouldn't be interested in a supporting role.
Hoffman loved both the biting originality of the script and the challenges that playing the character, King, might present. He set up a meeting with Foley and Butan right away. "The meeting went fantastic," Paseornek recalls. "Dustin took the character in a completely different direction. What he brought to it is just wonderful. "
Andy Garcia was the next to sign on, eager to tackle the eccentric, complex character of Gunther Butan (no relation to producer Marc) and to work with Burns, Weisz and Hoffman. "When I look at a piece of material, I look at who's involved. Ed Burns and Hoffman were involved already. These are people that I admire. "
The casting, as Paseornek puts it, "snowballed" from there. Robert Forster, Donal Logue, Franky G, Brian Van Holt, Tommy "Tiny" Lister, Luis Guzman and Morris Chestnut quickly rounded out the group.
Production began in the spring of 2002 in Los Angeles and Vancouver. Though the extensive cast had years of experience and hundreds of credits under their belt, CONFIDENCE was an ego-free set. "This was one of those rare occasions where everyone got along," Ed Burns says. "Especially when you do an ensemble like this, you want to get a sense that the cast and crew really are friends. "
Andy Garcia attributes much of the cast's commitment to Foley's skills as a director. "He recognizes nuances, embraces them and gets excited by them very easily," he says. "He has a very precise, yet askew, vision of things. He has all the tools as a director to pull something off. "
From Jake's Silver Lake hideaway, to the Ontario Airport, to King's nightclub "Deep" in Los Angeles, all these surroundings are as much a character in CONFIDENCE as its con men. The locations allowed the cast to embrace many of the city's most spectacular, unusual and seedy locations, and at times added unanticipated character inspiration. "It's a pretty great place," Paul Giamatti says of "Little Joe's," a cavernous, shutdown Italian restaurant located in the heart of Chinatown. Hollywood legend has it that "Little Joe's" is actually a euphemism for the craps tables tucked away in a hidden back room. "It's just room after room after room. You definitely get the feeling there was a lot of shady stuff going on in this place. "
"My dad used to frequent this place back in the day," Van Holt says of the restaurant. "I told him we were shooting downtown in Chinatown. He said 'Me and your uncles--we used to go to the Dodger games and hang out at Little Joe's. '"
Though they aren't quick to admit it, Foley and his cast found disconcerting parallels between themselves and the men of CONFIDENCE. "Well, I'm a director so I have to be a con man. I've been working on that my whole life," jokes Foley. Adds Burns: "I guess being an actor is something like being a con man. And I'll leave it at that. "