One Of The Boys

By Simon Braund

Provided you werent completely dazzled by the spectacle of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino sparring onscreen for the first time, youll remember Amy Brenneman as De Niros level-headed, but ultimately expendable, girlfriend from Michael Manns crime flick Heat.

She also turned up in last months Fear as the new wife of William Petersen who is first charmed then terrorised by her step-daughters loony boyfriend, ex-rapper and underpants model Mark Wahlberg. Its a tribute to Brennemans screen presence that she holds her own against Wahlbergs pec-popping psycho shtick and much macho slow burn from two of the heaviest hitters in the Screen Actors Guild..

And in her latest film, she has even more to contend with. In Daylight, Rob Cohens disaster epic starring Sylvester Stallone as a reluctant hero, she is vying for attention with the full gamut of pyrotechnic FX as a tunnel beneath the Hudson river between New York and New Jersey disintegrates in alarming fashion. A role, if youll pardon the pun, in which it must be difficult to keep ones head above water.

Yeah, theres a lot of action, understates Brenneman from her trailer at Daylights decidedly un-exotic location shoot in New Jersey. The unit is here to film the movies closing sequence.

My own taste tends to be towards tiny dramas that nobody goes to see, says Brenneman when asked how exactly she came to be trapped in a New York tunnel up to her neck in freezing water, choking on toxic smoke while the roof caves in and hordes of large rats scrabble around her. But I was intrigued by this movie. I liked the fact that we all do a lot of stuff. You read a lot of these scripts and its always the guy who does everything. The girl is just the object of desire who doesnt do anything and is kind of a ninny.

Another thing that really turn me off most of the action films I see or read, she continues, is that theyre really sick. Like terrorists, guns, sado-masochistic, really sicko stuff. And I thought this was a way to get involved in an action movie thats really exciting, but thats not about people being really sick to each other.

The thirtysomething Brenneman grew up in Glastonbury, Connecticut, the offspring of an attorney (father) and a high court judge (mother), studied comparative religion at Harvard before joining the American Repertory Theatre Company. Next came TVmany may recognise her from her regular NYPD Blue role as Officer Janice Licalsibefore she made the jump to film, landing first in Bye Bye Love, then the dead mom role in Casper, before she joined the big boys in Heat.

Which brings up the irresistible temptation to enquire of Brenneman how her current leading man measures up in against De Niro and Pacino in the acting stakes.

It wasI mean, they were both great, she says, briefly taken aback. De Niro gave me a lot that I took in. I learned a lot from working with him. In something like this, because we dont have a lot of backstory, the challenge is to create a character who you hang onto throughout all the explosions. You have to pick something where the colours are quite bold, so that there are characters in the midst of the situation. So its not just the history of explosions. And Bobs grounding in that was very helpful. But Stallone isan actor, she laughs. Im not that familiar with his most recent work, but I knew the guy was a movie star. I mean, he just walks into the room and whether you like him or not, he is very charismatic. But what surprised me was that his impulses are actorly, and I think Rob (Cohen) was interested in that part of him."

And, of course, he looks good with his shirt off and is no stranger to the physically punishing Sturm und Drang of a major league action moviesomething, that cannot be said of Brenneman (the Sturm und Drang bit, not the shirt off).

Did the physical demands of the role amount to a little more than she bargained for?

Are you kidding? It was amazing. I loved it! Im a real tomboy, she beams. As much as I complained about how tough and hard it was, it was great. It was like going on an outward bound. I mean, I couldnt do it all the time, nobody could because its so physically draining. But the lovely thing in this film is that we are drained; were not playing superheroesnot even Slyso if were tired and dont feel like doing something, thats fine, thats exactly how these people are.

My character (a frustrated New York playwright) is not supposed to be a super-adept, or super-fit so its not like she had any skills that I dont have. I really wanted to make this pasty-faced New Yorker, you know, un-physical.

Having seen some terrifyingly realistic footage of the doomed tunnel, Im interested to know which variety of inter-bourough conduit Brenneman has favoured for her trips between the set and her Manhattan hotel.

Well, today was the first day I worked. But, yeah, we came through the tunnel, she laughs. The first thing I thought, actually, was that our set designer had done an unbelievable job; recreated it down to these minute details. And then there was a little bit of a traffic jam

She trails off. Shell be taking the bridge home