PITTSBURGH – Brian Andrew Mendoza is still impressed by the chaos he had to wreak while filming Sweet Girl in Pittsburgh.
The action thriller starring Jason Momoa and Isabela Merced came out on Netflix on Friday. It was Mendoza’s first directorial job and he really enjoyed doing big action sequences around town. We’re talking big swings, like closing a downtown street to turn an ambulance and choreographing a violent fight while a T-train went from one station to the next.
He was even allowed to film at PNC Park for a week when he was involved in a crowded Roberto Clemente Bridge, a helicopter, and Momoa climbing at the top of the pirate stadium at the beginning of film production while his character, Ray Cooper, tries to do the Being evasive arrested by the authorities.
“It was pretty crazy to see we had 1,000 extras, 80 cars on the bridge and a ballpark closed,” Mendoza told the Post-Gazette. “It was a big goal. I definitely had a moment when I remember looking at Jason like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.'”
“Sweet Girl” finds Momoa’s character seeking revenge on a pharmaceutical company that has delayed the release of an experimental drug that could have been used to treat his late wife’s cancer. His mission quickly gets out of hand, drawing a target on his back and that of his teenage daughter Rachel (Merced).
Mendoza said the original script for “Sweet Girl” was shot in New York City, but after exploring Pittsburgh and the Big Apple, he realized it had to be both shot and set here.
“There’s history in Pittsburgh,” he said. “You can feel it on the walls, on the buildings, in the streets. I loved the fact that when I was exploring Pittsburgh I knew immediately that this was the city to tell this story because our character was a working class I love the nooks and crannies the city has, the downtown area, the outskirts. It’s a really cinematic city. “
Merced was fairly familiar with Pittsburgh as he grew up in Cleveland and often drove to Steel City for auditions. The friendly rivalry between Pittsburgh and Cleveland was “a fight for my father and his friends” and did not affect the 20-year-old’s joy in filming “Sweet Girl” behind enemy lines. In fact, Merced felt “super at home” here, and she broke into a fairly believable Pittsburgh accent to express how much fun she was having watching this authentic Yinzer dialect.
She was also involved in this PNC Park set piece and remembered sneaking out onto the field and “singing some stuff”, because why not? Merced also took part in the action, which included a particularly vicious battle sequence in an exact replica of the well in the courtyard of the Allegheny County courthouse. It was a step up from the more kid-friendly stunts she got to play in the title role in “Dora and the Lost City of Gold”.
“I’m really excited that little people are seeing it specifically,” said the 5-foot-2 Merced. “I belong to the short community and we are always underestimated. I’ve auditioned for a lot of action films and they always need someone tall and intimidating. My attitude is intimidating, what are you talking about? … Hopefully this will change the way people see me and what I am capable of. “
Momoa and Mendoza have known each other for years, but this was the Sweet Girl director’s first collaboration with Merced. Mendoza looks forward to seeing Momoa play “a contemporary character” as opposed to the warriors and superheroes he loves to play, and he is especially fond of the audience’s “off the record” chemistry between him and witnessed Merced.
It’s hard to talk about “Sweet Girl” without mentioning a story beat that turns the narrative of the film upside down. Mendoza has made a great turn, but it’s also not the core of what he wanted to achieve.
“We worked meticulously for this moment,” said Mendoza. “There are little nuggets that lead to this. We really wanted it to be character driven, not a trick pony. We wanted it to feel necessary and useful for the film. “
The high-octane action in “Sweet Girl” is interrupted by a tender father-daughter bond and pointed comments on the relationship between politics and the pharmaceutical industry. Mendoza hopes his film will “raise awareness” of how these two worlds work.
Merced spent a lot of time pondering this topic and the psychology of Rachel who, after all the tragedy that destroyed her young life, was diagnosed with fairly intense post-traumatic stress disorder. While discussing a possible sequel to “Sweet Girl,” she said she hoped Rachel would go to therapy and that Mendoza would be able to better explore “the BS that is going on in the healthcare industry.”
“I don’t think healthcare should ever be politicized,” she said. “That’s awful and the opposite of what it should be, and yet it is. If you politicize it, it can be monetized. It’s a very difficult situation, but if we address it in the sequel, it would become more People take care of it. “
They both hope “Sweet Girl” gets enough hits to warrant another episode, and Mendoza said he would be returning to Pittsburgh “in a heartbeat” to make another movie. His connection to Pittsburgh goes deeper than just making his directorial debut here: his wife gave birth to their son a week before filming began in Steel City.
Most of all, he is grateful to the local governments, police forces, port authorities, pirates and all the other entities that let him smash things for the entertainment of millions of people in Pittsburgh.
“When we do all the sequences and all the things we did in Pittsburgh, when you make a movie, you are in that bubble as you move forward,” Mendoza said. “There is this mass of people everywhere making these things happen. … I just want to thank everyone involved.
“We came up with every crazy idea we had and we could do anything. There is nothing we couldn’t do.”