Academy Award nominee Greg Kinnear is known for portraying real people on the big screen. He's played former Philadelphia Eagles coach Dick Vermeil and former president John F. Kennedy. Now, he's taking on the role of California Innocence Project co-founder and attorney Justin Brooks in the new movie, "Brian Banks."
The film is based onwho was convicted of a crime he did not commit. After spending five years in prison and more time on parole, Brian Banks sought out Brooks to prove his innocence.
In order to prepare for the role, Kinnear said, he sat in on Brooks' classes at the California Western School of Law.
"In addition to starting the California Innocence Project, which has exonerated over 30 people… [Brooks] is also a tenured professor," Kinnear said. "I just wanted, of course, to hang out and see how he does his thing. And of course, I was the stupidest guy in the law class that day."
"Usually, when you make a movie, you don't always have the real-life person to draw on. Those Marvel guys can't look to Captain Amazing," he said. "So we were lucky to both have Brian Banks and Justin Brooks there as great assets, telling us exactly how these moments happened."
Both Banks and Brooks were executive producers on the film, Kinnear said, and they were on set for the majority of filming.
"Justin gave me a few acting tips…" Kinnear said. "He was a great asset, and obviously somebody — it's impossible not to admire a guy like this, who's made this his life's work. He's never taken a dime from this organization, and they've done a lot of great work like this from the get-go."
"It's impossible not to be deeply affected," he added. "I think anybody who sees the movie… I don't think there's a way in which you can't feel a passion for trying to get involved in criminal justice reform and trying to really look at what you can do to try to play a part in a system that is — at least when you look at Brian's case — in need of some examination."
Kinnear also expressed his admiration for Banks. "He starts at 16 years old, wrongly convicted. He gets pulled into that criminal justice system, spends six years in prison — and really, it was his own advocacy. Brian pulled the CIP with him through this story."
Banks case was unusual, because the Innocence Project typically only works with people who were incarcerated at the time. Banks was already out on parole. But he was able to convince the group that since he wasn't able to pursue his dream of playing professional football, he wasn't really free.
"There were a lot of things working against him," he said. "And the story — you know, even if it weren't a true story — plays like a hell of a movie."