Heists, robberies, elusive tactics—it all adds up to make an exciting story. But, what makes ‘Bandit,’ the latest film starring Josh Duhamel and Elisha Cuthbert, stand out, is the fact that it’s true.
And also, you almost empathize and root for a “career criminal.”
Director Allan Ungar—with a script from Kraig Wenman, based on the novel detailing the real-life story, ‘The Flying Bandit’ by Robert Knuckle—follows the real story of Gilbert Galvan Jr. in this new feature. After escaping from a Michigan prison and hightailing up north to London, Canada, Galvan (Duhamel) is looking for work and for a way to get on his feet in a new country. And he’s able to assume a new identity after offering to pay a homeless man for his name ($22 to be exact), and from there, the story kicks off.
You can see parts of Galvan, now under the alias of Robert Whiteman’s personality come through even before he gets into the robbery aspect of the story. He’s charming—or more so, intriguing to people. He also is able to keep a positive attitude and joie de vivre about himself even when working a popsicle selling job on a cart, and having to bunk at a church at night.
And it’s at that church where Galvan meets Andrea (Cuthbert) and eventually, she ends up falling for his charm. What starts as a date turns into a relationship, and it eventually forms to be a touching love story at the center of this film. It’s also the incentive that drives Galvan to start robbing banks in the first place, and it’s kicked into high gear once Andrea becomes pregnant.
“I think a reason he did all this was because he wanted this family. He wanted to build a family with her,” explains Duhamel. “He truly loved Andrea, and so, out of desperation, for better or worse, he decided that this was his best option to be able to support his family. He would do everything he could to make that work.”
But, it’s not quite the pure reasons that totally fuel Galvan. After a while, he becomes quite good at the heists. He even mentions at one point in the film that “it’s the only thing I’ve ever been really good at.” By utilizing clever tactics (disguises, recon, and even using the fire department from time to time) the robberies become a career. Especially when he meets drug lord, Tommy Kay (Mel Gibson).
“It’s that high wire act that he became, I think, addicted to in some ways. The thrill of the heist—all the costumes and disguises that he would plan out and build and wear into these things, and how he would get out of them quickly,” Duhamel continues.
As for Andrea, eventually, she finds out about Galvan’s less than savory doings. But what surprises him, and will likely surprise audience members as well, is the fact that she doesn’t immediately reject the idea. She actually goes on a job with Galvan and is intrigued by it all. Or so, that’s how Galvan saw it.
“A lot of Andrea is really taken from my conversations and research through Gilbert’s eyes. Obviously, she didn’t really want to be a part of the film in any way, and she has her own life going on now after all of that,” Cuthbert explains. “I had these things kind of pop up as I was going through the film…Would she really have been down with that? Would she really have reacted that way? But, that was the way he— Gilbert—remembered it happening. So, I had to stay true to that to keep my character consistent. I made sure that it felt right and I was being true to his side of the story. That’s what made it so fun.”
Andrea has some rules when she finds out about the robberies, and it’s all to lead to Galvan eventually going legit and “getting that beach bar that he’s always wanted.” Besides, a lot of loved ones of Andrea’s have gotten screwed over by the banks in her words, so the self-Robin Hood act is welcomed for a bit.
“I’ve never got to play someone that really existed to have actual, factual stuff. It adds a layer to the performance that you always have to consider. It’s not just completely made up or fictitious on your side,” Cuthbert continues. “But, yeah, she’s really interesting and I can’t even imagine… I mean a little bit, but the life that that would have been like. To fall in love with this man who just goes off and is robbing banks and having children with this guy. It’s a wild story, but that’s why I was so interested in it.”
Even with the law (in the form of B&E agents, one of whom is played by Néstor Carbonell) on his tail, Galvan is able to pull off 59 “perfect heists.” As The Flying Bandit jet setting across Canada, he earns a reputation, and it’s the character that Galvan is that drove those who made the film to follow this story in the first place.
“When I read it, I thought the script was really exciting. But just to add to it, there was that layer of being Canadian and being able to be part of a film that was telling a true Canadian story. That was really fascinating and exciting for me. I also just thought the love story in the midst of all the action in the film, in the way that it was entangled, it was really interesting,” explains Cuthbert.
And with ‘Bandit’ dropping in theaters and On Demand this weekend, audiences themselves will get to decide who to root for in this story. And with nuanced, exciting and even comical moments, the story of Gilbert Galvan Jr. will leave you with some scenarios to think about, and a bit more insight into a true criminal who made deception his career.
“What really kind of drew me to this was the fact that this was a guy who was not afraid to take a huge risk for better or worse. I mean he took some stupid risks, but he really believed that he could pull these things off,” Duhamel finishes. “I immediately sort of understood what Allan’s idea was for this film [when I read the script.] I could feel his enthusiasm for it and the vision that he had for it. Turns out that he was just awesome. The guy works and hustles and just doesn’t miss a beat. All that stuff to me just felt like it was going to be a lot of fun—and it was, we had a blast making this film.”
‘Bandit‘ opens in theaters and On Demand Sept. 23.