In “Premium Rush,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, a hard-charging, no-brakes (literally) bike messenger regularly dodges disaster delivering packages throughout Manhattan. His day gets considerably more dangerous, however, when he’s given a mysterious envelope to deliver “premium rush” — and finds himself a hunted man. As you might expect, the movie is a non-stop thrill ride that will either make viewers want to grab their own bikes and hit the streets — or retreat to the relative safety of a taxi.
In my interview with Gordon-Levitt and his co-star Dania Ramirez (whose character also finds herself swept up in the high speed chase through New York City), both of them downplayed the grueling nature of the shoot, which required them to spend up to 12 hours a day on a bike — and on location in Manhattan. That meant blowing just one line could throw off a schedule that had to stay within the boundaries of what the bustling city could allow — and one reset could take 20 minutes, a NYC lifetime.
But learning lines was the easy part. Though Gordon-Levitt trained for six weeks leading up to the shoot and Ramirez became such an ardent biker she actually signed up for part of a triathlon (the biking part, of course), both of them gave the real credit to the movie’s stunt riders. Special props went to Austin Horse, a real bike messenger who also served as one of Wilee’s four stunt doubles. Not only did he do some of the toughest stunts, he was an invaluable resource — another goal of the film is to show the gritty, quirky world of bike messengers, from costume design to lingo and what a bike says about its rider. Still, Ramirez and Gordon-Levitt were definitely front and center a lot of the time — even if they were too nice to brag about it. “Premium Rush” rides into theaters August 24.