Directed by Baran bo Odar, Sleepless is a gritty thriller about Las Vegas cop Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) and his partner Sean (Tip “T.I.” Harris) who rob a cocaine shipment bound for a drug-dealing casino boss (Dermot Mulroney). The casino boss retaliates by kidnapping Vincent’s son (Octavius J. Johnson). Pursued by a dogged Internal Affairs investigator (Michelle Monaghan) and a sadistic drug kingpin (Scoot McNairy), Vincent must rely on his street smarts and sheer force of will as he tries to rescue his child over the course of a single night in this gritty, action-filled thriller.
A fan of action thrillers, Foxx was drawn to the role of Vincent, a work-obsessed undercover cop who has neglected his family only to find himself in a brutal cat and mouse game that endangers his only child. “I wanted to do something with some grit on it, something that had a different type of flavor,” says Foxx, who previously appeared in another one-night thriller when he co-starred with Tom Cruise in Michael Mann’s Collateral.
As Vincent, Foxx sought to create a relatable, fully fleshed-out character. “I wanted to make Vincent seem like somebody you’ve seen in the neighborhood,” says Foxx. “He’s living in a place where everything is desperate. ‘I want to get back with my girl. I want to do right by my son.’ At the same time, he’s under the gun and there’s this one guy who keeps following him, sort of like the Terminator, and he won’t stop coming.
“Vincent cuts corners a bit and takes some chances — and sometimes blows up in people’s faces,” Foxx adds. “Because your job as a police officer is one thing, but when someone takes your kid, it becomes personal. You do anything to make sure your son is okay. ‘Take me instead of my son’ — that’s the mindset I used to play this character.”
Foxx’s excitement about the role grew after acclaimed Swiss filmmaker Baran bo Odar agreed to direct the project. Producers recruited Odar in the wake of his critically hailed characterdriven crime thrillers Who Am I and The Silence. “Bo definitely had a vision for this film,” says Foxx. “This guy has almost like a third eye when it comes to directing. Any time I get to work with people who really know how to make things cinematic, I jump at the chance.”
With Foxx and Odar on board, Michelle Monaghan readily signed on to portray uncompromising Internal Affairs investigator Jen Bryant. “She’s a tough cookie,” says the actress of her character. “When I read the script, I was immediately intrigued because I loved the fact that this woman was slightly damaged and sort of struggling from this need to always be right. Jen’s relentless to a fault. I hadn’t played anyone like that before.”
Monaghan is no stranger to action movies, having co-starred in Mission: Impossible III and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. But Sleepless offered the Golden Globe nominated actress her first opportunity to take part in a knock-down, drag-out fight, filmed over the course of one long 12-hour day. “It was intense,” says Monaghan, describing her showdown with Jamie Foxx’s Vincent, which takes place in a casino hotel room. “There were definitely some bumps and bruises and maybe some chipped teeth along the way. Jamie said, ‘I’m a man. Just give it to me,’ so I clocked him right in his teeth. That’s what makes the fight feel so real. Training with Jeff Imada, one of the best stunt coordinators in the world, and then getting to kick Jamie Foxx’s ass — to me that sounded like a good day at the office.”
Apparently Monaghan’s training was a success according to Foxx. “Michelle packs a mean punch,” he says. “But it was a lot of fun, getting a chance to roughhouse. And Michelle’s character ups the ante in that Jen really has an axe to grind about doing things the right way. That made for a very interesting dynamic between the two of us.”
In addition to the physical action, Monaghan gravitated to the film’s taut plot and constrained setting and time frame. “There’s something about a film that takes place in just one night,” she says. “The camera doesn’t stop moving, the characters don’t stop moving; you experience a really incredible energy while you’re making a film like this.”
Director Odar made his creative goals known to Monaghan when she first met with him via Skype. “Bo said that he wanted this film to be in the vein of the old Die Hard or Lethal Weapon movies,” the actress recalls. “He wanted to make this gritty, character-driven story and that really appealed to me.”
Sleepless opens in theaters January 13th.
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