Ex-Cop Takes Actors to Police Academy
by Anthony Breznican
LOS ANGELES - Randy Walker may not be a cop anymore, but in the movie business he's still The Man.
He's the man who taught Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt how to question a serial killer. The man who helped Colin Farrell look like he could shoot straight. The man who orchestrated a raid on the Terminator and demoted Keanu Reeves from captain to officer.
The latest job for Walker, one of Hollywood's top technical advisers: teaching Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson and LL Cool J about the methods of a Special Weapons and Tactics division for the new action-thriller "S.W.A.T."
"It's my job to bring believability and reality. The mission is always the same: make the actors look like law enforcement is their career," Walker said. "Colin Farrell may not be an expert marksman, but I help make him look like an expert marksman."
Walker, 55, is a two-time Medal of Valor recipient who retired in 1999 after 27 years with the Los Angeles Police Department. The stars of "S.W.A.T." speak about him and his crew with something approaching awe.
"They were - invaluable," Jackson said at a party after the movie's premiere. "Everything you saw us do, they were responsible for. There was the weapons training, they gave us the history, they taught us all those entrances: how we went into the building, how we held the weapons."
Their instincts became so intense, he said, that the actors began to balk if director Clark Johnson (who played Det. Meldrick Lewis on the "Homicide" TV show) suggested something that conflicted with the training.
"We'd say, 'That's not how we were taught, so we can't do it that way,'" Jackson said, laughing.
For "S.W.A.T.," Walker used his training to arrange police responses to outrageous fictional incidents, like a private jet landing on a city bridge and a machine-gun attack on a prisoner transport bus.
"At the end of the day, it's a larger-than life Hollywood film, so there are going to be scenarios that aren't plausible in real life. But the way we approached it was realistic even if the scenario we were dealing with wasn't," said LL Cool J, who called Walker "an amazing teacher."
Walker spent 16 years with the real SWAT, seven years as a patrol officer and four years on horseback. He tries to focus on the positive side of law enforcement, turning down scripts he considers unfair to the police.
He's rankled by depictions of corruption, "but usually the good guy wins in the end."
Walker got involved in movies when a friend who was working off-duty directing traffic for a low-budget movie shoot asked him to show the actors some SWAT procedures.
Realizing there was money in such advice, he founded Call the Cops in 1988 with police partner Sgt. Ed Arneson, who is still an active Los Angeles SWAT member. Walker also employs several other police-expert friends as associate partners.
Their first big-budget experience was on 1991's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Director James Cameron hired them to stage the massive police raid on an office building while Arnold Schwarzenegger's good-guy killer-robot fought them off.
The downside? Walker had to lose to the Terminator.
On the 1995 serial-killer thriller "Seven," Walker showed Freeman and Pitt how to question a suspect in a shady hallway: "You don't stand face-to-face. You don't want to be caught flat-footed. You never stand in front of the door, and constantly read eyes and body language."
In the 1994 out-of-control bus thriller "Speed," Walker told the filmmakers to make Reeves an officer instead of a captain. "I said, 'He's only 30 years old. There are no 30-year-old captains," Walker recounts, still sounding annoyed 10 years later. "Captains are administrators, not the guys going through the door."
Other times, his work is limited to the page. For 1997's "L.A. Confidential," about corrupt Los Angeles lawmen in the 1950s, Walker said he tweaked the script to make the dialogue sound more like cop-talk.
Walker certainly has the credentials for that. He speaks in fast, clipped sentences. When asked about one of his proudest days as a SWAT officer, he recounted the experience as if reading from a police report:
1983. Walker's SWAT team gathered at a hospital. A man who had already killed one person held two women hostage at gunpoint for over 14 hours. He finally tried to flee in a car.
"Six of us approached the vehicle and neutralized him and pulled the girls out of the car to safety."