''Training Day" screenwriter David Ayers is making his directorial debut with the police thriller "End of Watch," but he says he was unfazed by the enormous task of capturing the Los Angeles Police Department -- thanks mostly to his familiarity with the landscape. "It's the city I came of age in, I know it like the back of my hand," Ayers says. "I wanted to go at this like it was a documentary. It's as real as possible. It ended up a labor of love."
He apparently knows the LAPD like the back of his hand as well. Between writing "Training Day" and "SWAT" and helming "End of Watch," Ayers has a clear affinity for Los Angeles' finest. "I think the LAPD is a fascinating institution with incredible history," he says. "They set the benchmark for the rest of the country."
Taking on the role of one of the two officers at the center of the film, Jake Gyllenhaal felt he owed it to the real LAPD officers he met to live as they do in order to capture their essence. That meant not only long rehearsals -- and an aggressive shaved head -- but extensive training. "We did five months of ride-a-longs, two to three nights a week," Gyllenhaal says of his time spent with real LAPD officers. "What's behind the badge is a real human being and the relationships they have. Like in this movie, what these two characters have is incredibly special."
Playing the other side of that bond is Michael Pena, who says he knows what makes a good police film: "partners who click."
"In 'Training Day,' if Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington don't have that connection, it doesn't work," Pena says, though he admits it took a while for him and Gyllenhaal to find that connection themselves. "We did not get along that well in the beginning. We knew that there was that brotherhood that we needed in order to make this work. It was written right in the script. Damn! They're not just partners -- they're brothers."