‘The Gray Man’ directors explain why they made big changes from the source material

Ryan Gosling looks out of a broken window in The Gray Man
Image via Netflix

Joe and Anthony Russo share their reasons for the changes made in The Gray Man movie. The story is adapted from the thriller novel of the same name by Mark Greaney and the directors had the task of condensing it into movie format.

In an interview with Digital Spy, Joe Russo discussed how the dynamic between Ryan Gosling’s Sierra Six and Chris Evans’ Lloyd Hansen was handled.

“When you’re adapting a book, obviously there’s way more detail in the story that’s contained in the book than you could possibly put in a two-hour movie. So you have to make some choices. One is, you know, who is Six talking to? We can get his thoughts through a book on the page. We can’t get that in a movie.”

The benefit of novels is that there’s ample room to explore characters’ thoughts, but with movies being a visual medium, the adapted version has to rely more on what’s seen onscreen than on inner monologue to get the point across. With big names like Gosling and Evans, audiences are going to want to see their confrontation, and the Russo’s were aware of this.

“Once we knew we had Evans, we knew we had to bring a physical threat. And in the book, he’s more cerebral. He’s behind the scenes. And we thought that the audience would expect a showdown between those characters. And if we didn’t him out front, then they’d probably be disappointed. So that was another key shift that we made from the book.”

Another change the directors made was in their creation of Ana de Armas’ character Agent Dani Miranda. She’s an ally of Gentry who acts on the behalf of the Sierra squad and doesn’t always follow the letter of the law. She’s as lethal as Gentry and composed of other characters in The Gray Man series.

“We knew he needed somebody that he could intersect with,” added Joe, “and help the audience understand what he was thinking, and get out his backstory about his father, etcetera.”

The Russo brothers have been candid about the decisions they’ve made pertaining to this movie. They explained why The Gray Man didn’t get a wider theatrical release, and the relationship between traditional studios, the streamer, and the theater industry. They’ve had a string of successes in the MCU with Captain America: Winter Soldier, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, and hope to add this new one to their list.

The Gray Man is available to stream on Netflix, and you can read our review here.