Bandit is a Canadian crime caper, fresh out in the UK, which takes its title from the real-life character who inspired its protagonist: Gilbert Galvan Jr, aka prolific bank robber the Flying Bandit. With Josh Duhamel shining as Galvan, Carl Marsh speaks to director Allan Ungar about how it all came together.
As feel-good movies go, Bandit is just that, where rooting for the bad guy seems like a breath of fresh air. So, at what point did you jump on board for this project?
Allan Ungar: Yeah, you’ve got to root for the bad guy sometimes. No, it’s funny – my agent gave me the script as he also represented the writer [Kraig Wenman], so he wanted to put the two of us together. And I loved it. I was shocked it was a true story. I was somewhat familiar with the moniker the Flying Bandit, but I wasn’t that familiar with the actual exploits and who he [Gilbert Galvan Jr] was as a person.
I really wanted to get to the bottom of that – learn about who he was, what drove him to do all of this. It’s not that you want to glamourise it, but he kind of did it for the right reasons. He met a woman and fell in love with her; he wanted to go straight. He tried to do the right thing, but fell into this easy way out. I think a lot of that is relatable… not the whole robbing banks part. But, you know, this idea there’s got to be an easier way to make a living, to provide for the people that you love.
Was there any involvement in this film from the real Flying Bandit himself?
Allan Ungar: Gilbert was there from the very beginning. Kraig had built a relationship with him – that’s how he got the life rights to the story, and then the rights to the book from Robert Knuckle. But we really wanted to save a lot of that for when Josh Duhamel came on board so that he can tap into his mind, and understand the thought processes and everything about him as a character.
Gilbert was there on set; he showed up for three or four days. He has a little cameo, in the background as a bar patron having a drink.
Were Josh’s on-screen mannerisms copied from Gilbert’s own?
Allan Ungar: Not directly; I think it was more about Josh trying to create his own version of what he interpreted as this charming, friendly guy. I mean, so charming that he and the cop who arrested him are, to this day, good friends. The bank tellers always told the cops he was one of the nicest guys they’d ever met.
Gilbert today is very different from in the 80s – he looks different, life has taken a toll. And I think Josh brought this exuberance that he found on his own, and tapped into as an actor – being inspired by Gilbert’s stories more than his behaviour.
As for the rest of the cast, you’ve got Mel Gibson, Elisha Cuthbert, Néstor Carbonell from Lost… who came on board first?
Allan Ungar: Josh was in right from the beginning. And then, with COVID, we honestly weren’t sure what would happen – if we were going to make the movie, or where we were going to make it if we did. I’d always wanted Elisha for Andrea [Hudson, Gilbert’s love interest]; I found out that she had already read the script, loved it, and her agents were waiting for us to come and offer it to her.
Mel [who plays Tommy Kay, a renamed version of Gilbert’s real-life accomplice Tommy Craig] came shortly thereafter, two or three months before we were filming. And you know, creatively, he is crazy. He looks like the real Tommy – they’re doppelgangers. It’s crazy. So it felt like a dream come true.
For me, it would be a dream come true to have five minutes with Mel, and I’d be pinching myself to this day had that happened…
Allan Ungar: Yeah, I was pinching myself before that! But once you get on the set, you forget about who they are, and you’re just there to work. At least, that’s how I am. But he was great – super professional, patient, and courteous. Mel’s excellent in the film; he was surprised by how good it turned out and how much people loved it, and he was kind enough to do some publicity for it, which is not something he does very often for films.
Bandit is streaming now on Prime Video.
words CARL MARSH
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