Rob Cohen Discusses The Hurricane Heist

Rob Cohen, director of the original The Fast and the Furious, released The Hurrican Heist on March 9. (Courtesy of Facebook).

Rob Cohen, director of the original The Fast and the Furious, released The Hurrican Heist on March 9. (Courtesy of Facebook).

By Ryan Di Corpo

Rob Cohen, director of the newly-released film The Hurricane Heist, deserves your gratitude. Most known for originating the multi-film, multi-million dollar The Fast and Furious franchise in 2001, Cohen became an unlikely part of film history during his early career. Working briefly in the early 1970s for Martin Jurow, producer of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Cohen was later hired as a script reader by co-founder Mike Medavoy of Orion Pictures. While employed under Medavoy, Cohen, sifting through a slush pile, discovered and fervently advocated to sell to Universal Studios what Mr. Cohen described as “the great American screenplay.” Eventually bought by Universal, the screenplay for The Sting earned writer David S. Ward an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1974, along with an additional six Oscars for the film.

Preventing the screenplay for a veritable classic of American cinema from being tossed into some wastebasket of drama was one of the things for which The Fordham Ram sat down with Cohen during a brief interview with him on Feb. 28. His new film, The Hurricane Heist, follows suit with his other directorial efforts: high-octane, adrenaline-drive action films such as 2002’s xXx and 2005’s Stealth. Heist, released March 9, follows the attempt of a group of hackers to rob $600 million from a mint during the course of a Category 5 hurricane. When asked where to start working on an obviously costly and technically complex endeavor, Cohen stated that he began with the script. Cohen was highly critical of the original script sent to him, referring to the original gun-wielding meteorologist character as akin to Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. Despite the failings of the initial screenplay, Cohen said he was able to restructure the story to his liking. Eschewing a romance between two central characters, Cohen instead placed emphasis on the relationship between the two brothers in the film. In further reimagining the role of the meteorologist, Cohen crafted a character afraid of the severe weather at hand, instead of a hyper-masculine stock character ready to take on the world.

By his own admission, the shoot for Heist was not easy on his main actors, including Ryan Kwanten, Toby Kebbell and Maggie Grace. Required to do all of their own stunts, the film’s actors received the same words of warning from Cohen prior to the shoot: “You’re going to be miserable.” Despite his prediction, Cohen said that the actors hired were willing to heed the challenges of shooting, including jumping between moving vehicles and withstanding the force of 44,000 gallons of water. The shoot itself, according to Cohen, took 65 days, a medium-length shoot when compared to 24 days for The Boys Next Door and 110 days for Daylight. Despite the high profile of Cohen, who directed his first feature film in 1980 and whose last four films have grossed domestically an average of 49 million dollars, the production of Heist was met with financial difficulty. Cohen stated that while the budget for the film was set at $35 million dollars, he was in constant need for several million more towards covering visual effects costs. Cohen, who was able to work around the film’s budget constraints, stressed the importance of maintaining a sense of realism in the visual effects, lest the audience completely dismiss the quality of the film.

The Fordham Ram also asked Cohen how he felt about action films have since directing The Fast and the Furious. “I still like gravity,” he said. Cohen explained that current action films, such as seemingly unending slate of Marvel and DC Comics films, exist within their own universe and therefore have no regard for the laws of physics. Cohen prefers to situation his films on planet Earth, where people cannot fly and would likely regret it if they tried. Further, he referred to the now eight sequels to The Fast and Furious as mainly focused on “spectacle.” Yet, notwithstanding what sounds like some criticism for how other directors have approached The Fast and Furious films, Cohen says he can’t complain about the continuance of the franchise; those films pay for his children’s education.

Rob Cohen, director of the original The Fast and the Furious, released The Hurricane Heist on March 9. (Courtesy of Facebook).