The scene with the 1,000 extras, the water tank and other challenges from ‘Way Down’, the film about the assault on the Bank of Spain

Jaume Balagueró directs his particular robbery in one of the best guarded places in the world. In the cast, a mix of international names like Freddie Highmore and national talents like Luis Tosar.

The Bank of Spain is the third safest in the world, only behind the US Fort Knox that conserves the country’s gold reserves and the BIS of Basel. His vault is a secret, which explains the fascination it awakens in the world of cinema. Unveiling its unknowns and getting inside is a feat only suitable for the magic of the seventh art and it is what Way Down proposes. Jaume Balagueró’s film -which opens on Friday, November 12- imagines how a group of ‘treasure hunters’ deciphers the mystery and goes where no one has gone.

To make it happen – at least in fiction – the production itself became an adventure. Descents through the elevator shaft, liters of water that put the actors to the limit and a scene with thousands of extras that had to shoot in a single day. “It was a very big challenge, you had to do very difficult things, like the reconstruction of that festival of euphoria and madness that was the World Cup final with thousands of followers. From the first time I met with the producers to discuss the project, we knew we wanted to get there. It became a passion for everyone, “reveals Balagueró at the film’s press conference.

Way Down tells the story of Thom Johnson -interpreted by Freddie Highmore-, a brilliant young engineer who joins a group of people with a clear objective: to assault the bank of Spain’s vault and take the treasure of Francis Drake that is there . Taking advantage of the fact that Spain is playing the final of the World Cup in South Africa and that the eyes of all citizens will be on the screens, the thieves are preparing to execute the plan as soon as possible.

Balagueró’s goal was for the filming to be as real as possible. Using chroma was unavoidable, but key action locations were created specifically for production. “There was a mammoth construction of that chamber. The chamber physically existed, it was physically flooded with water … The moat, the bridge … We built all that”, says Balagueró in an interview with SensaCine. Of course, nothing that appears in the film is a replica of the real one. “We were not interested in the real camera, what we wanted was to reinvent that universe with the sense of an adventure film and playing with the legend that exists around that vault and the mystery of its security”, clarifies the director in their meeting with the press.

Invented or not, what they achieved on the set was a sensation of spectacularity that impacted the actors – and surely will do so on the viewers at its premiere. “There was a lot of real water. I was surprised how powerful it was. They said ‘ok, let’s fill it little by little’ and it wasn’t slow. It was huge jets of water. We didn’t have to act too much because it was just putting up with the best you could“, explains Freddie Highmore in an interview to this medium.

Sam Riley, actor who plays the expert diver of the group of thieves, lived it differently. Highmore was the ‘amateur’ of the group, so he didn’t have to play an expert, but Riley did. “It had to seem that I knew what I was doing,” says the actor, who reached a very good level of diving based on training for the film. “I’ve never done it. Secretly, I’ve loved doing it. It’s always been a dream to be able to wear all black and climb through the windows and be like James Bond, or something like that.”

Luis Tosar: “In Spanish cinema we are more and more pacatates and less hooligans”

Another challenge of Way Down It was to recreate the masses of people who on July 11, 2010 invaded the streets to watch the soccer team play. The scenes were shot in 2019, before the pandemic, but that does not reduce the difficulty of bringing together thousands of extras in the center of Madrid.

It was necessary to shoot there for 12 hours and as many shots as possible to later recreate that festival in the most impressive way and similar to the reality of what it was. It is a very important post-production job that has to be designed very well, “says Balagueró.

Highmore, who had to move through this huge crowd, remembers it as “crazy” and thanks the city for letting them make it happen. “We were very grateful, of course, to Madrid, to the city, for allowing us to do so, but it was truly crazy. The access we were able to have and to be able to recreate that moment was very special.”

The film is an international co-production, with Spanish and British actors, so another conflict was to be understood on the set. “The funniest moments were when Jaume wanted me to Axel Stein [que es alemán] do something, so Jaume would say it to Freddie in Spanish, Freddie would tell me in English and I, as I have lived in Germany, would say it to Axel in German “laughs Sam Riley.

A mix of cultures, languages ​​and personalities that worked perfectly. “There was a coexistence of languages ​​in the filming that was very interesting. They spoke Spanish, English, French, even German, Catalan … Everything lived together in a very natural way and everyone understood each other very well and we all enjoyed it very much”, explains Balagueró, who has described the filming of the film as one of the best weeks of his life.

You can enjoy Way Down in Spanish cinemas from Friday, November 12.

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