Brian Banks tells the heartbreaking yet inspiring true story of a man who endured deep injustice within the American prison system and still came out on top. Premiering in theaters this weekend, it stars Aldis Hodge as the titular football star-turned-prisoner and Greg Kinnear as the California Innocence Project co-founder, Justin Brooks. The two stars sat down with Screen Rant to share how touched they were by Brian's story, as well as how getting to know these real-life heroes shaped their powerful performances.
Both of you, congratulations on Brian Banks, you both gave excellent performances. I was really moved by his story, and I was wondering what first made you want to help tell it?
Aldis Hodge: The thing is, I knew about the complexity of his story and personally identified with it because I know this is something that impacts me and so many like me on a daily basis. And I just thought that the way he handled it, the potential for inspiration, was magnificent in terms of how we can inspire an audience.
And then, beyond that, just trying to be an asset in terms of cultural progression when it comes to dealing with people in prison falsely accused. It's really an unnecessarily popular problem that doesn't seem to be getting dealt with in the best way possible. So if we can be an asset to help – especially put CIP on the map and expose it to so many people who don't know that they are there, who don't know that they are actually an accessible asset in that way – I think that would be incredible. To, you know, affect a little cultural shift when it comes to that conversation.
Greg, did you do a lot of research into CIP as you started working on the role? And what surprising things did you learn from Justin, or just from studying?
Greg Kinnear: Yeah, it started for me at California Western School of Law. I went down, and Justin was good enough to let me hang out and be the dumbest guy in the classroom for a few days. And he was completely forthcoming. with everything. I think that was a big benefit for this movie; both of them have been, and they were both present while we made the film. Justin, who’s never taken a dime from the California Innocence Project, who has co-founded this thing and exonerated over 30 people, which is an incredible legacy.
Brian's story is incredible in the sense that it works. Everything comes together in a way where you really get to see the best version of all of these people. But, normally, you're up against “No.” I mean, he's up against no in the criminal justice system in the state of California all the time. And he's constantly facing that. And yet he has this, I don't know, some sort of armor where he is able to still keep a fairly even-keeled, positive attitude about the world. And I found it humbling and inspiring.
And, Aldis, I heard that you worked out with Brian when you were bulking up for the role.
Aldis Hodge: Yeah.
Greg Kinnear: The three of us.
Aldis Hodge: Greg doesn’t get enough credit.
Greg Kinnear: Apparently, I didn't show on screen. I didn’t bulk up as much as you.
Aldis Hodge: I saw it, though, man. I saw it.
Your heart bulked up, that’s what it was.
Greg Kinnear: I gave it everything I got.
What did building that connection do to help you with the role as an actor?
Aldis Hodge: Well, it did everything, because I got to see his mentality. And at the same time, he got to see my commitment and dedication to preparing for this role and really making it everything it could be. So, we formed our relationship in the gym, working out. Because that's when we’re talking shop, you know what I mean? Just kicking it, and at the same time sitting there trying to get that last couple of reps out of one another. We were training each other, you know.
And when we took it to set, we still trained throughout the shooting of the film. It showed me a lot about his idea of perseverance and sort of explained how he was able to get through all that he went through when it came to dealing with the prison term, dealing with the parole. It just showed me how he got through adversity in subtle ways. So, it added so much to the options that I had when it came to trying to execute him on screen.
And I think your understanding of him really did show on screen. Thank you both so much. You guys did a great job telling this important story.
- Brian Banks (2019) release date: Aug 09, 2019