The movie was acquired by the Weinstein Company during the Sundance Film Festival in January 2005.
The movie's screenplay almost never made it to Pierce Brosnan. Richard Shepard said: "I wrote it to make it on digital video for two hundred fifty grand. I wrote the most outrageous character I could (in Julian Noble), because I figured it would never get made in Hollywood."
This motion picture's closing credits dedication reads: "For my dad, who loved movies".
Pierce Brosnan found Mexico City surprisingly familiar. He said: "You have a working community, which is not unlike Ireland. Being Irish is like being Mexican, in many ways. The people are earthy, they have the same religion, oppression, and conflict. Both have deep pride, big hearts that can never pull us under. For me, it's been an incredibly creative time. I've been painting, set up a studio in the hotel. I've been writing, too, and that comes from work. That comes from a place of contentment, when your creative juices are flowing. It was great to feel Mexico in my blood."
While Pierce Brosnan's comfort with handling a gun may have shown some familiarity with audiences with his era as James Bond, but it was the potent mixture of viciousness and self-loathing which Brosnan poured into his character of hitman Julian Noble that made all the difference. Brosnan said: "He's a mad, discombobulated, arrested development guy. But you just feel for him, especially in the third act, while he's invading the quiet of lives of Danny (Greg Kinnear) and Bean (Hope Davis)."
Producer Beau St. Clair, Pierce Brosnan's producing partner at their company Irish DreamTime, said: "I've never read a story like that before with such an unpredictable plot. The Matador (2005)'s got a very good plot that doesn't let you know where things are going. So, you are continually surprised within the story."
For writer and director Richard Shepard, hotel lobby bars, and the encounters in them, have been the setting and theme for several of his short stories and movie scripts. He said: "My initial impetus was a story about two complete strangers who meet in a bar. The thing about hotel bars is that you can tell the absolute truth about yourself with the safety net of knowing you are never going to see the person again. It's the perfect set-up for a good story." For Shepard, that story was taking two disparate men. One, an average businessman abroad, and the other, an international hitman, and crossing their paths to see where the characters went. The result, Shepard explains, was to take a frequently clichéd character, the hitman, and make him "off kilter", much the way the film Sexy Beast (2000) took the heist film, and made it a character-driven story. Shepard said: "I was very inspired by Sexy Beast (2000). It took the 'one last heist' genre and re-invented it, by stressing character over action. After I saw that film, I thought, 'Hey, maybe there's a way to tell a hitman story without falling into the clichés of that genre as well'. While there's action and suspense, and hopefully a lot of tension involving the hits, this film is also, at its heart, a comedy, and a warm one at that."
"Films like this are not easy to do", said Producer and actor Pierce Brosnan, who portrays Julian Noble, a hitman on his way out. "It's about keeping a balance, keeping it serious, real, dramatic, truthful, and yet obscuring it at the same time. Richard Shepard has drawn it well, and when the writing is good, all you have to do is just follow the words, use a bit of imagination, and keep it as simple as possible."
Richard Shepard's agent sent the movie's script as a writing sample to film company Irish DreamTime, which is the production house of Beau St. Clair and Pierce Brosnan. Shepard said: "But before you know it, I'm getting a call from Pierce saying he wants to produce and star in it. Yet it still maintains its edgy script. It's still a character-driven story. I think that's why it attracted Pierce in the first place." In the end, Shepard's little two hundred fifty thousand dollar digital feature got a whole lot bigger.
Bryan Furst said: "This is, in a sense, the anti-Bond. This film takes fearless, almost blank consciousness, and has him reflect upon this crazy life of international intrigue and murder. Self-reflection in most spy movies is generally kind of brushed over. This is a story about a man who actually does these things and is coming to a point where he's starting to reflect on these things. James Bond is obviously the highly romanticized version of that life. So, it ended up being really perfect when we imagined Pierce as Julian."
Of the two lead male characters of Julian Noble and Danny Wright, Richard Shepard said: "With Danny, it plays to the comedy, because Julian is so far out there, that Greg's character becomes our eyes and ears, reacting to Julian as we might. It's the darkest version of a man like Bond. It's the complete opposite end of the sort of smooth and perfect superhero. Julian is a man who has no one. He's lonely, sad, a real mess. While he's audacious, it's because he doesn't have normal relationships, he doesn't know how to act in those social situations. The tragedy of Julian is definitely something I'm interested in."
The movie was the type of material, Pierce Brosnan said, "that makes you get out of bed in the morning wanting to push yourself as far and fast as you can, and at night, you go to sleep dreaming of the character and what the next day will bring."
Pierce Brosnan said he built his character of Julian Noble first by finding his voice, then his walk. Brosnan said: "There's a friend of mine who has this nasal kind of whine, and combined that with the hard lives of lots of people from South London. So, it began there. Then, I spoke to Cat Thomas (Catherine Marie Thomas), who is the costume designer, and she found these Italian retro sixties zip up Chelsea boots, and that gave me the walk." From there, Brosnan said the other image that helped create Julian Noble was Samuel Beckett in "Photograph of the Sun", where, "he's kind of like a jet dog", Brosnan said. "He likes gold, he has money, it's always the externals. He has the women, and the deeper and darker he gets into his life, the more strange it becomes, until the killing leaves the blood on his hands. It's in the text, really."
When Pierce Brosnan, Richard Shepard, and Catherine Marie Thomas (Cat), all met to discuss the look of Brosnan's hitman Julian Noble, all agreed the character would depart completely from Brosnan's James Bond persona, and his Thomas Crown character, in The Thomas Crown Affair (1999). Thomas said: "I looked at a lot of old pictures of Pierce, stuff from the eighties, where he actually did have a mustache, and there was just something so different about it. It fit this man who was past his prime, holding onto something he doesn't have anymore. Maybe, a little sleazy." Shepard said: "From the beginning, I wanted Pierce to have a mustache and a crew cut, and in Cat's first meeting with me, she said, 'I think he should have a mustache' and I jumped, 'you're hired'. The best part was when we had a rehearsal in Los Angeles two weeks before shooting, and I had not seen Pierce in months, and he shows up with a crew cut and mustache. If you could have seen my smile that day, 'cause I knew he was totally going to go for it'."
The DVD sleeve notes for the film state that the film was "an official selection at the Sundance, Toronto, and Deauville film festivals". Fest wreath logos for these three film festivals feature on many promotional materials for the picture.
Producer Sean Furst said: "In many ways, this film looks and feels like a genre movie, but Richard (Richard Shepard) took those archetypical characters and evolved them. They become three-dimensional in the script. We read tons of scripts, as any producer does, and if something comes along that hooks you and carries you through, and is begging to be discovered, that's when you know it's something you want to become involved in."
Pierce Brosnan said the screenplay for this film was a page-turner: "I didn't know where the story was going. I loved the audacity of the character, and ultimately, the heart of the story. You feel for these characters. Julian's been killing for years, and while he's lost his soul, somewhere deep down in the catacombs of his heart, there's a flame. He's at a crossroad in his life with choices to make."
"It's kind of a character piece about two very different men, who happen to find themselves in very similar moments in their lives", adds producer Bryan Furst. "They happen to meet at this very critical point, and end up turning each others' lives around. They're very different men coming from very different places, but somehow because of their vulnerability at this particular time, they sort of gravitate towards each other, and ultimately end up pulling each other out of their respective crises in a sort of funny and exciting manner."
Irish DreamTime, the production company of Beau St. Clair and Pierce Brosnan, and the production company of the Furst Brothers (Sean Furst and Bryan Furst), Furst Films, had gravitated towards Richard Shepard's screenplay almost simultaneously, and quickly joined forces. The Furst Brothers had just gotten the rights to Shepard's script, and were thrilled Brosnan wanted to play Julian Noble. When St. Clair and Brosnan took it to the Stratus Film Company, the movie got fast-tracked and green-lit.
The producers quickly discovered that the cast members responded just as positively to the scripted material as they had. Greg Kinnear, who portrays Denver-based businessman Danny Wright, said: "Richard Shepard had written a script that was very believable, had great plausibility to it, and was just kind of surprisingly emotional and funny. It had a whole culmination of things that I really followed in the script. It felt very human to me, the idea of this character, this very regular person heading off to a foreign country and coming across somebody who's not part of his life, not part of his universe, and how those two people might interact."
Dylan Baker, who plays Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan)'s "fixer" Mr. Lovell, observed crossing boundaries and going over the limits is often part of the experience of travelling. Baker said: "There's something about meeting in a tropical place that's different from home, where inhibitions kind of go away. Sometimes, you say things you normally wouldn't say, and you start thinking about doing things that you would never do if you were at home."
Of the character of Danny Wright, Richard Shepard said: "I wanted to create someone who had the best values, the most decency I think people have in them. Danny loves his wife, he's honest, and struggling, at a real crossroad in where Julian could help him succeed. The Wrights are at a point where a lot of couples are, where their money is drying up, their hope is drying up, and they need some good luck. So when Danny and Julian meet, Danny allows himself to think 'Well, this could be the answer to my problems, if I am willing to go there.' I was interested in doing a movie about good people who are just pushed to the point where, to save their marriage, save their lives, what would they do?"
Philip Baker Hall (Mr. Randy, Julian Noble's mentor and boss) said "This film takes flight a little bit, it moves up and out of the routine. Not just because of the novelty of the story, but because I think Richard is trying to do something in terms of his observations about the human condition. The quality of the writing was really impressive. It kind of knocked me out when I read it. It's rare to find material that has such substance to it."
For Pierce Brosnan, playing a professional killer in this film was far different from the polished, elegant Secret Agent 007 in the James Bond film franchise. Brosnan said: "I loved playing this character. Richard Shepard gave me a gift, a real jewel at just the right time in life, I guess. The freedom that he has allowed me, has been invigorating, liberating. It's been a romp." While Brosnan's comfort with handling a gun may provoke some familiarity, but it is the potent mixture of viciousness and self-loathing which Brosnan pours into his character of Julian Noble that makes all the difference. Brosnan continued: "He's a mad, discombobulated, arrested development guy. But you just feel for him, especially in the third act, while he's invading the quiet of lives of Danny and Bean."
Hitman Julian Noble's chance at redemption proves to be particularly dangerous for him, since "a hitman with emotions is not a very successful hitman", Richard Shepard said, and added: "He's a guy who's had his whole life under complete control, because he never let himself feel anything. He's an island, a rock. Yet, he meets Danny, who just has this open, honest way. It takes Julian by surprise that he wants to have a friend." Not only does Julian want to connect, but as Brosnan observed, the ever-opportunistic killer also spies Danny's vulnerability. Brosnan said: "I think maybe I can use him if I help him with his problems. I think maybe I can bring him in to help me facilitate my work, since I am losing it. Eventually, I really do lose it, and I'm the vulnerable one, having to go back to him."
The name of the company that Danny Wright worked for as a salesman in Denver, Colorado, was "Garrison & Wright, Inc."
In a field of six nominees, Pierce Brosnan was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical in 2006, for his role as hitman Julian Noble in this movie, but lost out to Joaquin Phoenix for Walk the Line (2005).
Intelligence agencies referred to in the movie include "The Agency" and "The Farm". These are respectively references to, and nicknames for, the C.I.A. and their training facility.
This movie's disclaimer about bulls, bullfights, and bullfighting displayed during the film's final credits roll states: "The filmmakers do not condone bullfighting, but respect its long tradition in the Mexican culture. It was extremely important to the producers that no bulls were harmed because the production of "The Matador". In no way did the producers of this film create, arrange, or organize any of the bullfights seen within this movie. Sequences staged by the producers employed fake and computer generated bulls exclusively. Absolutely no animals were harmed by the production of this movie."
"The most important thing for the actor who played Danny was to cast a great actor who has a level of humanity and comedy. Greg has all of that", said producer Sean Furst. Writer and director Richard Shepard said Kinnear was right there from the start: "Greg fit everything. He is an everyman. He's easy to relate to, likeable, and has a lot of heart and soul. He has been great in everything he's done, and fit perfectly into this movie." But, "most guys would play the everyman, and it's pretty much just that. They're sort of a flat portrayal", said producer Bryan Furst, who added: "Whereas Greg, because of his comedy chops, is able to read into what exists on the page. Just his inflections and the way he approaches saying these words and being this man, always making it enjoyable, is what makes him great."
For Greg Kinnear, taking two characters on "opposite ends of the universe who reach a strange connection" on a forty-eight-hour journey through Mexico City, proves to be an irresistible combination of humor and pathos. Kinnear said: "Their relationship is a bit of a tight rope, and it begins in this exotic locale. There are moments of great truth, and then there are moments where you just want both of them to walk away from each other very quickly. Maybe 'run' is the word I'm looking for."
Pierce Brosnan was impressed with Greg Kinnear from the start. Brosnan said: "Like most people, I discovered Greg on Talk Soup (1991), and you knew the guy was funny, and the next thing you know, this guy is showing up in movies, alongside my heroes: (Jack) Nicholson, (Robert) De Niro", said Brosnan. "And he's stolen thunder from those guys, because he's bright, smart, funny. He's got heart, a great sense of timing, and great sense of self-deprecation."
"You can't ask for better guys to work with than Greg and Pierce", said Hope Davis, who plays Bean Wright. "Pierce is an absolute gentleman, a real pleasure to work with, and Greg is lovely. He's extremely meticulous, and he watches out for everything, for everybody's job on the set." Richard Shepard said: "They're yin and yang. They're very funny guys, Greg and Pierce, and they really try to lift up one another."
"Danny is a dynamic foil for Julian", said producer Bryan Furst, who added: "Pierce's character is completely outrageous, and has no censor, no filter, will say or do anything, and Danny plays against that, bringing a consistent level of sanity to the film." Producer Beau St. Clair said: "What Greg brings as a performer, are many layers and shades of color to his character. It allows Pierce a chance to play a scene in different ways."
For Greg Kinnear, working alongside Hope Davis, who portrays his wife Carolyn "Bean" Wright, was all the preparation Kinnear needed for his role. He said: "'Richard Shepard cast this beautiful woman who just radiates, glows, and has such a presence. There's great strength in Danny and Bean's relationship, and Hope's a very strong woman. She's exactly what this character needed. She is at the emotional core of everything that's going on in this relationship between Julian and Danny."
Hope Davis became involved with this picture early on. Richard Shepard said: "Hope came to an early script reading to play the part of Bean, and about halfway through the read, I think we all kind of looked at each other, and it became clear. From then on it was Hope, and only Hope for the role. She's one of the best actresses working today. When I think about this cast, I have to pinch myself." Pierce Brosnan said: "Hope was someone that we always wanted. Her character kind of permeates the story, even when she's not on-screen. By the time you get to the third act, she's this angel that appears to Julian. She's just lovely, and Hope, bless her heart, was with child, so it was very dramatic for her. She's a real trooper."
"Much like the way in which Greg Kinnear brings levity to his character, every line Hope says somehow is funny," said Bryan Furst. "We were honored to have her come to the table reading, and right after that, Pierce really locked onto Hope, and so did Richard. Very early on, she somehow was able to cull humor out of moments that was totally unexpected."
"Besides our principal actors, we've got Philip Baker Hall, Dylan Baker, and Roberto Sosa" said Richard Shepard, who added, "we've taken advantage of the enormous talent in Mexico, and the grace and posture of these guys". Sean Furst added: "It's the smaller characters who give a movie life. They help you to create the world that your character lives in. We're fortunate to have really fantastic character actors who make these characters three-dimensional, and the film more dynamic. Actors such as Dylan Baker and Philip Baker Hall add such texture and flavor to the film that only someone like that could contribute."
Dylan Baker worked with Richard Shepard on Oxygen (1999), with Pierce Brosnan on The Tailor of Panama (2001), and with Philip Baker Hall on A Gentleman's Game (2002). Baker described his role of Lovell as "a little mysterious. It's Lovell's job to travel around the world, find the appropriate person, get the message conveyed, and take off back to his family, wife and kids, and sit around the television and eat popcorn."
Philip Baker Hall, who worked previously with Pierce Brosnan on the film Live Wire (1992), said he not only likes the name of his Mr. Randy character, it was a chance to play a great "bad guy". Hall said: "I've played a lot of secretaries of defense, judges, bank Presidents, lawyers, and roles like that. So, an opportunity to do what is probably a really, really bad guy, I don't get that chance very often." Unlike other characters he's played, Hall said: "I felt Mr. Randy was an actual, living breathing person. Something about him jumped off the page for me. I was anxious to do it." Pierce Brosnan said: "Mr. Randy is the father figure for Julian. He's got this voice that comes from his feet up and his face shows so much character. Philip is brilliant to work with in a scene." Hall believes his character followed a similar path as Julian. Hall said: "They can't have normal relationships really, so it seems natural that the men who are in this together, see each other as family. I think over the years a father-son relationship has developed between them. He once was the hitman, like Julian, and moved up to his present level."
A key character in the story is the location of Mexico City, where Danny and Julian meet. "This is the second film that I've done in Mexico," said Richard Shepard. "I feel very at home here 'cause I'm from New York, and Mexico City reminds me of New York City." Shepard cites the city's art scene, cultural warmth, and diversity as factors in making Mexico so compelling. "It's the size of Los Angeles, but with the population of New York times four", he said. "It's huge, and that vitality of the city, you can see it in our film, you can feel it, the actors felt it on the streets." Shepard also said: "Mexican crews are great. They're hard working, funny, and passionate. The reward in being there, is a new and vibrant way to look at things. I think our film captures the energy of Mexico."
Greg Kinnear said: "Mexico is a fascinating place. It feels like a hundred different cultures, having all sort of chaotically clashed with one another and created this interesting, vibrant place. Mexico City plays a character in the movie. Much of the film takes place in Mexico City, and there's something very powerful about that foreign element, that loss of place." The danger of a big city like Mexico City is part of its allure. "Danny is at a place in his life where he is very confused. He's lost, and this is the kind of city where you get lost, and are never sure exactly where you're at."
"Being in Mexico City has definitely informed the acting and filmmaking," said Bryan Furst. "Being surrounded by things that are unfamiliar, and places that are unfamiliar, I think has sort of untethered us all a bit, and allowed the characters to evolve."
Production designer Robert Pearson had been to Mexico, where the film was shot, and knew they could achieve a variety of looks there. He said: "I have a series of color palette meetings, and all the department heads sit down. We discuss for hours on end in detail, every scene, what color meant to that scene, what the spaces mean. We knew we wanted to keep those pallets very simple, right across the board. It will still feel like a very colorful movie, but if you look at each particular frame, I think it's more about what's not there than what is there, that will give it strength."
The film's title was inspired by the character of Julian Noble, a burned-out killer. Richard Shepard said: "I, by a rule, hate hitman films. I know where they are going. I know all the beats. But I love them as well, because I happen to enjoy an international story involving guns. My goal with the script to 'The Matador' was to write a hitman film I'd actually like to see."
Pierce Brosnan plays a character named "Julian Noble" in this film. Brosnan portrayed a character named "Ian Dunross" in the television miniseries, Noble House (1988).
Richard Shepard previously wrote, produced, and directed Mexico City (2000). Mexico City and the surrounding area is where this movie was principally filmed.
The first cut of the film ran for two hours and ten minutes. The final running time is one hour and thirty-six minutes. Therefore, thirty-four minutes of cuts were made to the initial run time of the movie.
Whether it's waiting for the plane at the gate, or having just one drink in the bar before heading upstairs to your hotel room, everyone, especially those travelling alone, understands just how a chance meeting or incident can lead to all sorts of wild adventures. Greg Kinnear said: "I liked how their relationship evolved in a very real way. Their initial encounter is in a hotel lobby, a quick hello that leads to a conversation, that leads to a shared experience, and that leads to a friendship." Pierce Brosnan, who plays Julian Noble, was equally intrigued by the premise, and said: "I really like the strangers meeting in the night, who find an unlikely salvation in each other. Julian is so whacked out when he meets Danny, he doesn't know which end is up. He meets this rather innocent guy, who's really suffering great pain, and has no luck, and is trying to do the best he can. For the first time, I think Julian feels this tickle, this shade of guilt, and within that window, a friendship begins." Richard Shepard explained: "Danny is the catalyst for Julian to actually feel something, which he has not been able to do for about twenty years. Anyone who kills for a living has to turn themselves off emotionally, and that's deadening. A very simple friendship, which starts by accident, awakens some of Julian's emotions." The resulting vulnerability, which both characters reluctantly reveal while pushing their luck and limits, brought surprising moments. Producer Beau St. Clair said: "The movie's turned out to be much more comedic than I ever anticipated, because Greg and Pierce did their jobs really well. I think that because the movie is very unpredictable, and has dark thriller aspects to it, the comedy is what we're all going to hang on to through the wild moments."
This film features a character named "Mr. Stick", portrayed by William Raymond. In Stick (1985), Burt Reynolds portrayed Ernest Stickley, whose nickname was "Stick".
The movie's "the matador" lower case title logo in promotional artwork, formed a gun sight symbol out of the letter "o" in the movie name's "matador" word.
Of Pierce Brosnan's performance and characterization of hitman Julian Noble, writer and director Richard Shepard said: "Pierce completely jumped into Julian, and has gone into places that I've never seen him do before. He's so funny and dark, so smart as an actor, and he brings it all to Julian. Julian's a strange, dark, off-kilter guy, and Pierce has achieved more with him than anything I had imagined. He gives Julian such twists and emotional comedy. There's a vulnerability that's refreshing." Further, producer Sean Furst said: "There's nothing more exciting to us than taking an actor and watching him play against type in a way that really surprises people. James Bond is a staple, and an actor playing him can't depart too far into the nether worlds. The idea that Pierce would be willing to be bold and dig deep, and create a character that at times is very dark, is so terrific." Moreover, producer Beau St. Clair said: "At the core, there's a familiarity to this type of character, an assassin, a killer, and yet there's a humanity to it that Pierce hasn't been able to access, in terms of the other characters he's played before in this genre. I love his performance in this movie. He's a very dark character, tormented, a killer, who is basically running out of steam, who's lost his way. I think Pierce inhabited this character from the beginning, from when he decided to do it. It's kind of electrifying to watch him play something so different and edgy." In addition, Greg Kinnear commented: "This takes all of the James Bond imagery of Pierce and mixes it up in a churner and spits it out in a way that you've not seen him before. He does some really interesting work in the movie."
The closing credits declare that: "This motion picture was shot entirely on-location in Mexico City in collaboration with technicians of Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria Cinematografuica, Seccion 49 S.T.I.C. and talent from Asociacion Nacional de Actores, A.N.D.A."
Second of four collaborations (to date, October 2016) of cinematographer David Tattersall and Pierce Brosnan. The others being Die Another Day (2002), The Foreigner (2017), and Some Kind of Beautiful (2014).
Mortdecai (2015) and this film feature the Tom Jones song "It's Not Unusual" (1965), the latter in a montage sequence in the middle of the movie, and the former used the track particularly with its promotional trailers and television spots. The central characters, played by Johnny Depp and Pierce Brosnan, respectively, noticeably sport a moustache. This film debuted in the 40th anniversary year of the famous song, while Mortdecai (2015) premiered in the classic track's 50th anniversary year.
Former James Bond Pierce Brosnan stars in this espionage-action-thriller-comedy principally filmed in Mexico City, Mexico. The James Bond films to have filmed there did not star Brosnan though. The Bond movies to have shot in Mexico have been Spectre (2015) and Licence to Kill (1989). Spectre (2015) and this film feature a hit on a target, by Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan, respectively, from a rooftop in a central Mexico City square.