Los Angeles – When you think of a fast-action heist thriller, a cast full of Oscar and BAFTA winning actors probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, yet the new movie "Triple 9" comes out today with an overload of star power — Kate Winslet, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackie, Norman Reedus and Clifton Collins Jr.
“I was blessed with this cast,” director John Hilcoat told Fox News Latino during the movie's press day in Los Angeles recently. “They are at the top of their game because they’re so committed, they are so passionate.”
Set in Atlanta, Georgia, the thriller centers on a group of corrupt cops (Mackie, Ejiofor, Collins) who set up a fake "triple 9" – the code word for officer down – in order to distract police officers to get away with an almost impossible heist on the other side of town.
On the other end of the spectrum, Affleck plays the naive, rookie cop "trying to make a difference." His partner played by Mackie is the one setting him up to be killed, while Harrelson plays Sergeant Detective Jeffrey Allen, who is starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Mexican-American actor Collins Jr. plays corrupt police detective Franco, who appears to have no qualms about killing off one of his own.
“It’s a thrill ride, it’s a blast, I’m working with some dear friends, we go back 20 years, Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul, so it was easy to jump in,” he told FNL.
Collins said he infused the character with subtle nuances including inconspicuous tattoos, and even without the director’s instructions, inserted cigarette butts in his nose for the sake of a scene, an idea Collins told FNL was inspired by a real-life "triple 9" he had heard of.
“If a body has been sitting there decomposing for a while, it smells real bad, so he would grab cigarette butts and stick them up his nose,” he said, adding that the tobacco supposedly helps filter out the foul odors.
Hilcoat, who first noticed Collins performance as murderer Perry Smith in the 2005 movie "Capote," praised the actor's performance and contributions to the role.
“He had so much prior knowledge that he was able to bring an unpredictability and an interesting approach to things,” he added.
Up next for Collins is a role as a border patrol agent in the thriller "Transpecos," a movie shot a mile from the U.S.-Mexico border and premiering at SXSW later this year.
“If America thinks we have problems here, it pales in comparison to what the Border Patrol agents have to deal with," said Collins, adding that he learned a lot from the agent he worked with that served as one of the films consultants.
“He’d see guys in uniform loading up military state vehicles with pounds and pounds of marijuana and driving off on camera, with no repercussions whatsoever."
Oscar-winning actress Winslet plays fierce, ruthless Russian gangster Irina Vlaslov, who is pulling the puppet strings and blackmailing the bad cops into carrying out the heist. Although the British actress didn’t have to perform any stunts, co-star Ejiofor told FNL she did break her toe on set when a movie extra accidentally dropped a chair on her foot.
“[Winslet] is such a professional, we carried on the scene, she was worried about getting into the boots for the next day,” the Oscar nominee said.
He is referring to the red high-heeled boots Winslet’s character wears to help bring to life her mob-wife persona, whose style Winslet has described as “trashy slut."
"Triple 9" hits theaters February 26.