Ramin Bahrani interview: ‘2nd Chance’ director
When Ramin Bahrani came on board to direct “2nd Chance,” about Richard Davis, the project’s producers, Johnny Galvin and Daniel M. Turcan had a much different idea as to what it was going to be. “When I saw the material and the archives of Richard, they wanted to make a fiction film and I said that this is, to me, very interesting as a documentary. I had done two short docs but never a feature doc,” he tells Gold Derby during our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above).
Even with Davis already on board, Bahrani made sure to communicate to his son Matt about what he envisioned for the movie. “I let Matt know I am not coming there to make a vanity film about his father, but I’m also not coming there to do a takedown movie. I hoped his father would be truthful and honest and open about things.”
“2nd Chance,” which is currently playing in select theaters, chronicles Davis’s journey as the inventor of the modern-day concealed bulletproof vest. He developed the product himself and even tested it on himself, having purposefully shot himself over 190 times in order to demonstrate the vest’s effectiveness. The film also explores the way in which Davis sought to promote his product which included pulp-like video presentations as well as the influence he wielded within the town that produced the products.
Like all documentaries, “2nd Chance” had a number of parts that Bahrani loved but was ultimately unable to include in the final product. While one of these was Davis inventing a device to treat erectile dysfunction, there was another one that Bahrani really wished he could have included. “He invented a bullet called Thunder Zap. It was one of the most brutal bullets ever made. When it pierced you, it would blow up inside of you and rip you apart from the inside.” While he discontinued making the specific bullet, Bahrani couldn’t help thinking about how Davis was making body armor to stop bullets but at the same time joining the bullet makers in making more extreme ammunition that would pierce that very armor. “He has to keep making more and more strong body armor that is still lightweight, but then he turned around and made this bullet, which was strange.”
One of the doc’s most moving moments comes in the form of a tearful reunion between Aaron Westrick and Clifford Washington. Westrick was a police officer in the 1980s and was wearing one of Davis’s bulletproof vests when he was shot by Washington (and vice-versa) while he was running from the authorities. Bahrani had the producers to find Washington and discovered that since being released from prison, he had become a professor and a pastor. Bahrani was very hopeful that they would be open to meeting in person for the first time since they were both shot. “They said they did want to meet. I proposed that maybe they could meet where they first met, which was at a breaking and entering that Clifford was involved in and that’s when he shot Aaron and Aaron shot him back, and so that’s where the meeting took place.”