Moviegoers unfamiliar with Greene’s life and legacy might not be aware of how pitch perfect Stevenson’s performance actually is. The surface details are all exactly like the real man’s right down to the thinning hair, the handlebar mustache and the groovy 1970s shirt collars.
But Stevenson goes far beyond the surface details in an indelible performance that will amaze you. One moment you find yourself rooting for him, even cheering, and the next you want to see him locked away for life.
“Each of the actors in this film are lead actors, but there’s no scene stealing going on. I was amazed by the style and the skill I saw all around me. It was a real collaboration between everyone involved,” says Stevenson.
“ We didn’t tell the story like a documentary; we looked for the truth of this journey and this world. If you believe in this journey then my job is done.”
Shonder Birns’s niece introduced herself to Stevenson at the film’s premiere in Palm Springs last week, which made him realize how close in time the film was to the actual events.
“This man brought down the five main mafia families and they never recovered from it. So it was strange to meet her in that sense. We’re doing a screening in Cleveland next, and I’m a little concerned about how it will go to be honest!” said Stevenson.
Shooting the film on the mean streets of Detroit as a stand in for Cleveland was a major eye opener for Stevenson.
“Our film trucks got shot at and had eight bullet holes in them. We saw a man get shot in the neck near the projects and he had to wait for 40 minutes before the ambulance arrived,” he said.
“Then they had to wait 40 minutes for the cops to arrive for an escort to pick him up. The people in the projects didn’t want him to survive. That was the kind of daily event there that blew my mind.”
In the role of Greene, Stevenson says he knew he was dealing with the fact that everywhere his character went, people had a preconceived opinion of him. He’d always been an underdog and it could be quite isolating and lonely. He had to live on his own all the time.
Says Stevenson, “But he wasn’t altruistic, he wasn’t a Robin Hood figure either. He did things here and there to make some people happy and to piss others off.”