Ocean’s Thirteen: What are the odds of getting even?

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What are the odds of getting even?

Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and the gang would have only one reason to pull off their most ambitious and riskiest casino heist – to defend one of their own. But they’re going to need more than luck on their side to break “The Bank”. Ruthless casino owner Willy Bank (Al Pacino) never imagined that the odds were against him when he double-crossed Danny Ocean’s friend and mentor Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), putting the distraught Reuben in a hospital bed in critical condition. But Bank miscalculated…badly. He may have taken down one of the original Ocean’s eleven, but he left the others standing and, worse for him, gave them a shared purpose: to take Bank down on the night of what should be his greatest triumph – the grand opening of his new casino, appropriately named “The Bank”.

“Ocean’s Thirteen” reunites stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, and Shaobo Qin, with Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould. Al Pacino joins the cast as Willy Bank, with Ellen Barkin starring as his right-hand woman, Abigail Sponder.

 

THE OPERATIVES

 

DANNY OCEAN

Danny Ocean had tried to warn Reuben about going into business with Willy Bank, but when the deal goes bad, Danny’s only thought is how to help his friend. He calls the rest of the guys together, initially so they can be there to support Reuben and then so they can figure out how to fix the situation. But while the others are already dreaming up revenge scenarios, Danny is resolved to go by the “rules.” First, he intends to have a conversation with Willy and offer him a “Billy Martin,” their slang term for a second chance.  It is only after Willy turns Danny down flat that the gang starts planning how to break The Bank. The reward, this time, won’t be financial or professional; it will be personal. “They’re not stealing anything; they’re letting everybody else rake it in. You could say they’re helping Bank give it away,” Clooney smiles.  “It’s great to be around a table that’s hot – like a craps table when people are winning. When you’re around one that’s on fire, the place just explodes. To have a whole casino on fire is everybody’s fantasy.”

 

RUSTY RYAN

While Danny Ocean is the idea man, his most trusted ally, Rusty Ryan, is the tactician – the man who knows how to turn plans into actions. An inveterate thief, Rusty is right in the middle of another delicate robbery when he gets the call from Danny about Reuben. Without hesitation, he abandons the prize and jets to Las Vegas. Rusty is worried about Reuben and is as keen to go after Bank as the rest of the crew, but he supports the decision to offer Bank a Billy Martin. Like Danny, he knows that’s the rule. But when Bank rejects the offer, he’s as anxious to bring down The Bank as the others. Brad Pitt comments, “The message here is if someone screws over one of them, he screws over all of them.”

 

LINUS CALDWELL

Linus Caldwell, played by Matt Damon, has been eager to take a more active role in the planning and execution of each heist. In “Ocean’s Thirteen” he finally gets his chance. He also gets the girl, but this romance is all part of the plan. Sporting what Damon describes as “a ridiculous prosthetic nose for no real reason,” Linus arrives at The Bank in the guise of Lenny Pepperidge, the “mouthpiece” for a mega-rich Asian real estate mogul, who is actually none other than the gang’s resident Chinese acrobat, Yen.  While passing Yen off as a super high roller who is ready to risk up to $10 million at The Bank casino, Linus is angling for – and gets – the undivided attention of Abigail Sponder, Willy Bank’s right-hand woman. I finally got the love interest in one of these movies,” Damon says, admitting that his character gets a little help generating “chemistry” with Ms. Sponder, played by Ellen Barkin. “Linus is given these ultra-powerful pheromones, which act as an aphrodisiac to maximize her attraction to him. The plan is for her to get him into the Diamond Room.” The Diamond Room is where Bank keeps his collection of Tiffany & Co. diamond necklaces for his wife – one necklace of five perfect diamonds for each of the Five Diamond Awards his hotels have earned. Worth an estimated $250 million, the necklaces are secured behind two-inch thick concussion-proof glass, wired with pressure-sensitive seven digit coded alarms in an impenetrable room at the top of The Bank. Once in the room, Linus has to keep Ms. Sponder distracted long enough to switch the diamond necklaces for worthless fakes.

 

TERRY BENEDICT

Stealing the diamond necklaces was not part of the group’s original scheme. But there was an unforeseen financial crimp in the plans that demanded they find someone to bankroll them. At first glance – in fact, any way you look at it -Terry Benedict would seem to be the last man Danny Ocean could turn to for help. But in keeping with the old credo “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Benedict has his own personal stake in beating The Bank. Andy Garcia explains, “Terry is not happy about Willy Bank’s new hotel. It’s not that it’s bigger or better than his; it shadows his pool. Terry is very proud of his pool. In some ways, Terry Benedict and Willy Bank are cut from the same cloth; they made their fortunes in a similar way and they’ve been longtime rivals. Terry Benedict always enjoys a good game, especially against a formidable adversary.  He’s been making money hand over fist for a while now, and he’s feeling the need to be challenged in his life. Terry would like to hurt Willy Bank. Terry feels hurting your rival is always good, and if there’s money to be made in it, then it’s very good.” Benedict agrees to lend Ocean and his crew the money they need, but he drives a hard bargain.  In exchange, they must steal Bank’s prized diamond necklace collection. The stakes have just gotten higher. Soderbergh remarks, “People really love Andy in this character, so, if we were going back to Vegas, Terry had to be in the mix somewhere. I think we came up with a fun and unexpected way to involve him.”

 

The Mark: wiLLY BANK

The addition of Al Pacino to the “Ocean’s Thirteen” ensemble in the pivotal role of Willy Bank was orchestrated by Jerry Weintraub, who states, “We had worked together years ago, and he’s an old friend of mine.  He’s such a great actor and he fit right into the mix.” Although Pacino had worked with Weintraub, “Ocean’s Thirteen” marks his first collaboration with Steven Soderbergh. “It was a great experience working with Steven,” he remarks. “He makes scenes come alive for you, which is one of the things great directors do. He creates a certain ambience on the set, a feeling of comfort that frees you up as an actor.” “I don’t think there is any filmmaker – certainly not one from my generation – who doesn’t admire Al Pacino and wouldn’t want the opportunity to work with him,” Soderbergh says. “For the role of Willy Bank, we needed somebody with enough power onscreen to come across as a threat to these guys. That’s a very short list.” Pacino notes, “Steven and I talked about how this character treads the line between being formidable and a little crazy.  Willy Bank is a megalomaniac.  His hotels are everything to him, which is why he’s so obsessed with the Five Diamond Awards.  They have become his cause celebre, his reason for being, which is a little pathetic when you think about it.  When Danny Ocean first approaches him about Reuben, Willy thinks he knows his adversary, and believes Ocean’s gang is no match for him.  In some perverse way, he enjoys engaging in this kind of contest of wills, and it was a treat for me to play.”

The latest addition to the cast of Ocean’s 13 is legendary actor Al Pacino playing the mark, Willy Bank. In an exclusive interview Al Pacino tells about his experience during the shoot and about his role.

 

Were you a fan of the first two movies?

I was a fan of Ocean’s Eleven, which I saw, but I never got to see Twelve, which I’m looking forward to seeing. 

 

Why do you think it worked? 

Well, it was a good story and they played it really well. All the boys and the director, Steven Soderbergh, just got into it and had fun with it. That was infectious. 

 

What did you think of Brian and David’s script on this one?

That’s the reason I did it, because it was a good script.  Not that I was surprised; it was just that you don’t expect something that good in a film that is part of a franchise. 

 

They captured the voice and tone of the other movies.

And the story twists. It was fun.

 

Can you describe your character, Willy Bank?

Well, he’s a sort of megalomaniac-type guy. Everything is his work; everything is the hotel, to the point where it has blinded him to everything else that’s going on around him. So, eventually, it’s that one track that is his undoing. I like playing someone that puts the blinders on. That was fun to play.

 

He has done several hotels before this and they’ve all been very successful but each one just keeps getting bigger and grander.

It’s just how far can you go, you know?  He, in his own way, is pushing the envelope to his own destruction. He almost sees his fate and has this crazy dance with it. What is his final outing going to be?  Steven and I both talked about a character who is, at the same time, almost clownish in some ways, but also a formidable power. That is the whole idea of the game – to take on someone who is not easy.

 

Does he know Danny Ocean’s world just as well as the gang knows it? 

Oh, yeah.  He knows his adversary. And in some perverse way, it’s fun for him to engage in this kind of thing, except he’s a little bit caught up with the pomp of everything. He enjoys this boss status he has acquired.  But I’ve met some of these guys and they’re intense. I talked to someone who has 42,000 employees, and brilliant isn’t the word to describe this guy. I mean, he answered questions that I would have asked before I asked them. He was way ahead of everything.

 

You get the sense that men like this know ever detail of their hotels because it’s all part of the organization. 

Yeah, but my character just takes it a little further. It’s almost farcical. He’s on the way to his first real nervous breakdown, I think. And these guys give it to him.

 

What is his obsession with the Five Star Diamond award? 

That’s his Oscar, and either you have an obsession for an Oscar or you don’t.  I think in a lot of ways the Five Star Diamond thing is his way of avoiding life and real connection with people.  He gets connected to a Five Star Diamond award instead. I mean, that becomes his reason for being, which is pathetic, actually. It’s fun to talk about, though, and fun to play.

 

Tell me about the hotel itself, The Bank. 

The Bank. It’s sort of a warped version of the Bellagio. What they did with this movie, they’ve taken everything and just upped it a little so it’s almost garish. It’s wonderfully orchestrated and thought out. I appreciate that.

 

What’s it like filming on the sets for The Bank? 

It’s spectacular. It opens the world for you. It’s refreshing and at the same time it’s stimulating. It’s Vegas but it’s got an energy to it that’s different.

 

Have you worked with producer Jerry Weintraub before? 

Yes, I have. He’s a great producer. Jerry is a producer who’s present. He’s really into it. He likes doing it, and you can feel it, so everybody goes with it. You know where he stands on things.  That’s good to be around.

 

What is it like to work with Steven Soderbergh as a director? 

He’s a great director. I had heard how great he was and, of course, saw his great movies. It was one of the great experiences, being around him and working with him. He makes scenes come alive in such a way for you and at the same time you never feel as though you’re in a movie. It’s just so easy.  To the manner born, as they say, and that’s him. He creates this ambience, which is one of the great things directors do, and feel that place of comfort, which frees you up as an actor. You know that he’s watching. I never worked with him before, but I met him and talked to him a little bit, and knew he was a sensitive person. But to work with him was a real treat.

 

I got to ask you just a question about your sidekick, Abigail Sponder, played by Ellen Barkin. Who is she to him? 

Well, she’s someone who for some reason is enamored with Willy, because this guy does have certain gifts. Anyone who gets this far has gifts and I think she respects those gifts. I think she’s also someone who has a certain look which she appreciates for business because everything is for business with these people. I don’t think he knows much about her personal life or anything.  I don’t think he could tell you the color of her eyes, but she’s there and he knows somehow that she looks good in a dress because people have told him.  She gets the job done, though. Other people sort of don’t exist for him, really. 

 

Does it even occur to him that Danny Ocean and his crew could pull this job off that they’re planning against him? 

I don’t think he’s threatened by them. I think he feels superior, but he knows he has to think and he can’t quite believe it because he’s very well covered. Whoever he’s got behind him are people of some sort of weight. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t. And people I’m sure owe him favors and stuff. But at the same time, it’s human nature to underestimate people. That’s one of his flaws, you might say. 

 

Can you talk about the sumo match in the film, where he comes out and gives a speech? 

Owning a place like this is also getting to reap some of the benefits of it – just hanging out, seeing the beautiful people who look at you like you’re somebody. I think he enjoys the attention, in a way. And he fancies himself some sort of bon vivant.

 

By the way, had you ever seen sumo wrestling before? 

No. That was impressive because when they go at each other like that, it’s quick and strong. So it was impressive, yeah.

 

Was it fun to be part of this cast, which has worked together on the past films? 

Oh, yeah. When you’re around people who do this the way they do it and they want you in, it immediately makes you comfortable. I did know some of these guys from before but it’s just a warm, wonderful feeling they have. I’ve met Julie a couple of times, Brad, and having met Matt, he’s just a great guy, Don Cheadle, and all of them. It’s wonderful. Elliot Gould is a friend of mine. He’s a card playing buddy, Elliot.

 

Do you consider Willy Bank the villain of the piece?

Oh, no. I think he is an unconscionable person, the things that he does, yeah. But when you play a part like this you try to at least find that balance where you can see some of his foibles. I’m not talking about his humanity; it’s not that kind of picture. But at the same time, you want to give a slant on it. He could go both ways, and there’s something about him that is vulnerable even though he’s not. 

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