Score, The (2001) - Synopsis
Nick Wells (Robert De Niro) is ready to retire from crime. He'll settle down with his girlfriend, Diane (Angela Bassett), and focus on running his legitimate business: a Montreal jazz club. But Max (Marlon Brando), his fence, friend and financial partner, has other plans for him.
Persuading Nick to violate two of his most important rules - always work alone and never operate in the city where you live - Max teams him up with Jackie Teller (Edward Norton). A young, aggressive and talented thief, Jackie needs Nick's safe-cracking talents to make his first big score: a prize worth millions locked behind the walls of Montreal's Customs House.
It's a volatile combination in which egos clash and sparks fly, but the thrill of the heist has a grip on all three men, who won't give up no matter what the risk.
A contemporary crime thriller, The Score is directed by Frank Oz and stars Academy Award® winner Robert De Niro, Oscar® nominee Edward Norton, Academy Award® and Golden Globe nominee Angela Bassett and Academy Award® winner Marlon Brando. Kario Salem and Lem Dobbs and Scott Marshall Smith wrote the screenplay for the Mandalay Pictures presentation from a story by Daniel E. Taylor and Kario Salem. The producers of the Horseshoe Bay/Lee Rich production are Gary Foster and Lee Rich, and the executive producers are Bernie Williams and Adam Platnick.
The Score is being released in the major international territories by Mandalay Pictures, a pre-eminent financier, producer and distributor of major theatrical motion pictures for the global marketplace. Mandalay Pictures is part of the Mandalay group of companies, which creates entertainment content for television, sports and e-media. Major international territories are licensed to Mandalay Pictures' output partners: Village Roadshow in Australia, New Zealand and Greece; Medusa in Italy; C+P, a joint venture between Canal+ and Pathe, in France and the United Kingdom; Constantin Film in Germany; Nippon Herald Films in Japan and Tri-Pictures S. A. in Spain. Paramount Pictures is releasing the film in the United States, Canada and in the remaining international territories.
The Score represents a distinct change of pace for director Frank Oz, whose previous directing credits have been comedies. It's a drama: a character-driven film built on the framework of a heist movie. When filming began in May, 2000, Oz encouraged his stars to treat the script itself as a framework on which to embellish and develop their roles.
"I really trust the actors to know more about their characters than anybody else," Oz says. "When you have De Niro, Brando, Norton and Bassett, you don't just say, 'Okay, read the words. ' I was banking on those actors coming up with good stuff that was not in the script, and they did. "
The film's star, Robert De Niro, elaborates. "I always like to improvise. There are certain points you have to hit no matter what. And we did - there was a structure. But parts of the script were improvised and I enjoyed that. "
The results of that process delighted Frank Oz, who felt the improvisations added an electricity to the performances. "The most enjoyable thing for me as a director is seeing sparks when actors work well," he says, "seeing things come alive and cook and bubble. I got a lot of that in this movie. "
De Niro stars as Nick, a world-class thief who has evaded capture for twenty years by being very, very cautious. Having grown older, Nick is ready to become a law-abiding citizen and make a deeper commitment to his girlfriend of six years. To ensure that their new life together is a comfortable one, he agrees, against his better judgment, to take part in one last heist that tops anything he's done before.
"There isn't a false beat in De Niro's performance," producer Gary Foster says. "He brings to it a sense of realism, authenticity and honesty. He could have played this role on its surface, but found a way to get into the soul of Nick. "
Edward Norton stars as Jackie, a young thief who wants to make his mark on the world - perhaps to become the new Nick. Though cocky, he respects his older colleague. Preparing for the heist, Jackie pretends to be simple-minded, landing a janitor's job inside the Customs House. This gives Norton the opportunity to play two characters in the course of the film, which he did so well in his Oscar® nominated performance in "Primal Fear (1996). "
Norton says of The Score, "I think we ended up edging things instinctively toward Jackie, Nick and Max having dynamics between them not unlike the dynamics between me, Bob and Marlon. "
"We had a scene in Nick's jazz club where the younger guy asks the more experienced guy for advice on succeeding in the game they're in, and that guy gives back to him. It's not unlike real dinner conversations I've had with Bob, so the scene felt really true. "
Marlon Brando stars as Max, Nick's friend, mentor and mastermind of the Customs House robbery. An art dealer and aesthete, Max is also a charming manipulator who, for financial reasons, desperately needs this heist to succeed.
Foster compares the complex relationships among the three men to a game of poker. "There's a lot of manipulation going on. Each wants something very badly, but won't show his hand too quickly - the others can use that information to take him down. "
Angela Bassett stars as Diane, an independent, cosmopolitan woman who travels the world as a flight attendant. She's loved Nick for six years, but they've always been careful to respect a certain boundary between them. Their relationship will enter a new stage if Nick succeeds with the heist and retires.
"Diane is independent and has a sense of adventure," Bassett says. "She doesn't need the ring and the house. She's attracted to Nick because he's offbeat, different, mysterious and bad. He, not Diane, is the one who broaches the idea of making their relationship deeper, more normal and more settled. "
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION:
Principal photography commenced May, 2000 in Montreal, where the entire film was shot. Many American productions have filmed in Montreal, but only to use the city as a stand-in for New York or elsewhere. The Score is actually set where it was filmed: in the cosmopolitan city that reminds so many of Europe.
Nick is an American who steals in the U. S. and Europe, then returns to a safe haven: his beloved adopted home of Montreal. This, Oz says, is one reason "this heist is such a big deal for Nick; it's the first and only time he'll steal in his home town. "
A happy accident led to the selection of the film's most important location, a selection that resulted in a major change in the film's plot line. Scouting locations in Montreal, Oz and his location manager drove past Place d'Youville near the port in Old Montreal and spotted the Customs House. Captivated by its massive, looming appearance, Oz decided then and there that the treasure sought by Nick, Jackie and Max should be locked up inside the Customs House rather than a museum, as originally scripted.
Nick's jazz club, named NYC, was an intimate space designed by production designer Jackson De Govia and constructed on a Montreal soundstage. Scenes filmed there included actual performances by jazz greats Mose Allison and Cassandra Wilson. For producer Foster, the high point in the production occurred on the club set, when he became overwhelmed by the legendary stature of the actors and the electrifying energy of their performance together.
"Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Edward Norton were doing a scene in the jazz club. They were excited about working together," Foster remembers. "I was watching them and thought 'Oh my God, look what we've done!' I mean, I don't think we'll ever see it again. "
Mr. De Niro is equally complimentary toward his co-stars and director. "After I took the role, Frank Oz told me he wanted Edward Norton and I was thrilled. Then Angela Bassett signed on. She's terrific and very professional. And then Marlon came in. You see his films, his work, it's great. The cast just got better and better. And Frank was very easy to work with; he's very open to new ideas or questions, and he includes everyone in the process. "