'Premium Rush's' Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dania Ramirez on Stunts, Stitches and Shooting in New York (Q&A)

Premium Rush
Sony Pictures

The stars of the bike messenger action film talk to THR about filming in record-breaking temperatures, and reveal the accident that hurt Gordon-Levitt more than his bloody, 30-stitches incident.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dania Ramirez star as a pair of bike messengers in New York City who become involved in a deadly game when a dirty cop finds interest in one of their deliveries.

The fast-paced thriller winds through the dangerous streets of New York, with its stars spending the majority of time in the film riding bikes and handling intense stunts.

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Both Gordon Levitt and Ramirez spent many hours training on bikes for David Koepp’s film, and spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about working on the film, and why it was so important that they shot on location in New York. Also, Gordon-Levitt -- who needed to get 30 stitches after an accident on set -- reveals that he suffered an even worse accident just a few days later.

The Hollywood Reporter: Were the real-life bike messengers open to speaking with you about their work?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Yes, Some more than others, of course. I have four different stunt doubles in this movie and one of them is a working bike messenger and arguably the fastest one in town -- he happens to look a lot like me. His name’s Austin Horse. Super sweet guy, incredibly talented. Sometimes, you look at someone do what they’re good and it’s like, "That’s another level. You’re not just good at that. You’re a bit of a phenomenon." And I rode around town with him a lot and he turns heads. Literally.

THR: Did you find that there were many women in this line of work?

Dania Ramirez: From what I saw, there were as many women bike messengers as there are guys. And there’s some really bad ass chicks. The one thing that I did like to see is that the misconception of the bike messenger bad ass woman has to be sort of tattooed. I met a few of them, and some of them even ride in skirts. I met one, and her uniform was actually a pink skirt. I rode with her a few times. Women are just as into it as the guys are.

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THR: How would you describe your biking skills before the film compared to now?

Ramirez: I think my bike skills were at zero, and now I’m training for the bike section of a triathlon in September. So, I got pretty good on a bike.

THR: I can’t even imagine riding a bike without brakes.

Gordon-Levitt: Well, Austin does ride without brakes -- I don’t ride without brakes. But to the kids reading at home, you shouldn’t really ride without brakes. The people who do are so exceptionally skilled. I never felt like Austin was unsafe without brakes because he can skid his wheels just as easily as you can push a brake pedal on the handlebars. I got to the point where I could skid a bit, but it’s not something I could just do anytime and anyplace.

THR: Joseph, you got in an accident on set that made some headlines. You needed 30 stitches. Was that the worst accident on set?

Gordon-Levitt: It’s funny -- that was a very spectacular accident because it involved loads of blood. Actually not that long thereafter, I fell off  in a very unspectacular way. I fell off the bike and landed on my wrist, and I actually ended up having to tape my wrist the whole rest of the shoot. Whereas with the stitches, I was shooting the next day, just covered it up. So funnily enough, I was injured worse in a much less exciting situation.

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THR: Was this some of the most physically challenging work you’ve done in a film?

Ramirez: Absolutely. This was the most challenging film I’ve ever done. You’re on a bike the entire movie. You’re having conversations on a phone the entire movie -- while you’re riding a bike through New York City.

Gordon-Levitt: In the hottest part of the year, a record-breaking summer.

THR: Were you glad it was shot in New York City?

Gordon-Levitt: I think that’s a huge part of the charm. You really get to spend a summer day in New York. And Dave, as well as the cinematographer, did a great job capturing that -- that New York feel, which is truly inimitable. There’s no other places that feels like New York. There are movies that get away with being set in New York, but they shoot in Toronto or in downtown L.A., because maybe the setting is not as fundamental an aspect. But this movie, it’s a big part of the charm.

Ramirez: It’s the huge silent character and unless we would have been there, I don’t think it would have worked out as well.

THR: Were the regular New Yorkers on the streets cooperative with the film?

Ramirez: I’m actually from the East Coast. I think we get a bad rap that we’re rude. I really think you have to command your space in New York City. So, the New Yorkers -- yeah, you’re going into their city and you’re shooting a movie and they don’t care. I actually kinda like that.

Premium Rush opens in theaters on Friday, August 24.

Email: Rebecca.ford@thr.com; Twitter: @Beccamford