When director Roger Donaldson took the reins on "The Bank Job," he delved into his own research, visiting newspaper archives and tracking down informants. He talked to policemen, the ham-radio operator and a man who knew Michael X and one of the MI5 operatives. A private investigator found one of the bank robbers, he says, "and after hearing the real story, it was more spine-chilling than what we had put together. I could never fit it all into the movie."
"When we started digging around in London, people thought we were making a movie about police corruption -- nobody wanted to talk about it," he says. He was equally intrigued by the media blackout on the case: "It has so much relevance to today's world and the way the media can manipulate things. Who knows what really goes on?"
During the casting process, Donaldson paid close attention to class differences and contrasts between characters to avoid complicating an already complex story. "I was determined to find actors who you would not get confused about who they were," he says. "They had to fit into the roles that they had, and since each level of British society has a very distinctive accent, I was very determined to get people whose accents were the real thing."
In real life, there were probably about 10 in the crew of bank robbers, but the film shrinks their numbers. Jason Statham's character, Terry Leather, is an amalgamation of characters -- but when one of the actual thieves visited the set, there was a striking resemblance. Donaldson immediately noticed similarities in their personalities: "He was like Jason at 70."
"People thought my dad had come to set," laughs Statham, who won't reveal the visitor's true identity. In his conversations with the man, who served two years in prison for the heist, he admits to getting "a slow drip of information."
The elderly visitor's tales also fascinated producer Steve Chasman. "He told me he robbed four more banks … they'd spray-painted 'Let Sherlock Holmes solve this!' on the inside of the vault."