‘5Lbs of Pressure’ Interview with Writer & Director Phil Allocco

5Lbs of Pressure, the newest film from writer and director Phil Allocco, showcases a dangerous world where people live between the cracks of society. Starring Luke EvansRory CulkinAlex Pettyfer, Stephanie Leonidas and Rudy Pankow, the film is 15 years in the making and is so worth the wait. In the movie, Adam (played by Evans) returns home to his old neighborhood, looking for redemption for the sins of his past, including taking a life. But his demons won’t stay buried, and the brother of the man he killed seeks revenge. Adam embodies the idea that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. 5Lbs of Pressure is a movie about unintended consequences, both good and bad. Over Zoom, we sat down with  Phil Allocco to discuss the film and more. 

The cast of 5Lbs of Pressure is full of heavy hitters, and Allocco shared how it started with Luke Evans coming on board. He talked about how the film got its interesting title and shared some insight into Stephanie Leonidas’ character (and on-screen mom to Rudy Pankow), Donna. Allocco also reflected on his musical background, and shared how it influences his filmmaking. 

(L-R) Luke Evans and James Oliver Wheatley in Phil Allocco's 5LBS OF Pressure
(L-R) Luke Evans and James Oliver Wheatley in Phil Allocco’s 5Lbs of Pressure. Image courtesy of Lionsgate.

The Interview with 5Lbs of Pressure Writer & Director Phil Allocco

[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]

Ayla Ruby: I have so many questions about the film. I’m really excited to chat. I guess I’ll just get right into it. So this is a crime drama, but there’s a really cool family drama in the film as well, which I absolutely loved. Can you talk about how this project came to be and how the story came to be? I read there was a really personal element to it.

Phil Allocco: Yeah. I started writing this over 15 years ago. It’s a world that I grew up in, and where people kind of live between the cracks of society and don’t really trust any of the systems, social systems or the police or any of that. And really feel like they’re on their own and have to take matters into their own hands.

Phil Allocco: And I was trying to get this made for a very long time, and so to finally have … Luke [Evans] was the first one who attached and came on, and that really allowed the film to be made at this level with such great actors and a great cast.

On connecting with Luke Evans for 5Lbs of Pressure

Ayla Ruby: How did you get connected with him? How did he read your script?

Phil Allocco: Yeah, I mean, the producers who were shopping the script around and our casting director, who got it to his team, and they responded to it and I think it was … I mean, Luke would have to speak to it, but I think maybe they were looking for material like or knew he might something like this. And he did respond to it and really got into it.

Phil Allocco: And I’m thrilled that an actor of that size would even be open to doing a film with me, especially when I don’t have that kind of experience that he’s used to and the large films that he’s worked on with the biggest directors, on the biggest films. But that just shows what an artist he is and also how humble and what kind of person he is, that he would even do this. And he got involved before COVID and then that held us up even more, and then eventually we actually got it made. So it’s a miracle.

Still 8-Luke Evans in Phil Allocco's 5LBS OF PRESSURE (Lionsgate)
Luke Evans in Phil Allocco’s 5Lbs of Pressure. Image courtesy of Lionsgate.

On how 5Lbs of Pressure got its name

Ayla Ruby: Well, the film is really cool…There’s so much theme stuff there and I love theme stuff, so I’m really excited about this. The name, I have to ask about the name, I read that it came from a Glock ad?

Phil Allocco: Yeah, I saw it, and they were talking about the trigger pressure. It’s so light, it doesn’t throw off your aim. And I just thought something so powerful that could have such consequence being made to be so light and so effortless, it just seemed to fit my story. You have these reoccurring cycles, and then you have something so powerful and dangerous that manufacturers are trying to make it even easier to pull that trigger. And it’s only meant to do one thing, so I thought it was a good title for the world that I was writing about.

On toxic masculinity and breaking the cycle

Ayla Ruby: Breaking the cycle is something that is really reflected in this. Can you talk a little bit about that in the movie and what that means?

Phil Allocco: Yeah, I mean, and I don’t even know, I mean, I guess, yeah, breaking that cycle. And I think it’s kind of a cautionary tale about toxic masculinity in these neighborhoods, where there’s a lot of posturing and violence and egos and peer pressures and things that …

Phil Allocco: These men, they don’t own anything. So the only thing they have is their pride and their ego and whatever they’re trying to strive, and I think that’s … All these people struggling to succeed, I think as part of why these things keep happening in these neighborhoods, there’s kind of a ignorance that’s perpetuated and doesn’t seem to go away. And I think you see the mistakes being repeated right in the story. Yeah, I mean, whether it’s broken or not, I guess it’ll be up to the viewer.

Ayla Ruby: It’s a little open. I won’t spoil anything, but that last scene with the pencil and everything, it’s a little open-ended.

Phil Allocco: Yeah, yeah. I mean, maybe it’s broken, right? I like to think so, but who knows.

On Luke Evans’ character Adam

Ayla Ruby: Well, speaking of, can we talk about Adam because he’s a very interesting character. Can you talk about what went into him?

Phil Allocco: Yeah. I think his background of wanting to meet his son, I think that’s such a noble thing for that character. And it seems so innocent, “All I want to do is see who that kid is. I don’t want to hurt anyone.” But he is going back into that neighborhood. He is pushing his way past Donna’s boundaries. He’s being aggressive, even when he doesn’t realize he is. And he’s creating consequences that he doesn’t see coming.

Phil Allocco: And I think that whole saying, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” I think it’s a lot of Adam’s arc for me, because it seems so innocent what he’s doing, but he’s set the whole thing in motion.

Ayla Ruby: Yeah, absolutely.

Phil Allocco: But it seems so innocent to go, “Well, I just want to see my kid. I don’t even want him to know me, I just want to see him.” But as we all know, every action has consequences and leads to other things. And now the other people are confronted to do things because of that.

(L-R)Alex Pettyfer and Rory Culkin in Phil Allocco's 5LBS OF PRESSURE
(L-R) Alex Pettyfer and Rory Culkin in Phil Allocco’s 5Lbs of Pressure. Image courtesy of Lionsgate.

On casting Rory Culkin, Rudy Pankow, and Stephanie Leonidas

Ayla Ruby: And there are a lot of consequences and a lot of things that happen as a result of that. I have to ask a little bit more about casting. So you have Rory Culkin, you have Stephanie Leonidas. Can you talk about, after you had had Luke, how did they come on-board?

Phil Allocco: Well, Rory [Culkin], I saw Lords of Chaos that he starred in, and I just loved him in it. And it’s such a … Anyone who saw the film, that’s a very unlikable character, to say the least. But he brought so much empathy to that character that made you watch that film and really … I think it’s a great film because of his performance. And I just thought, “Oh my God, I would love to have him for Mike.” He is an amazing actor, I was just blown away.

Phil Allocco: And luckily he responded to it and wanted to do the film, and we got along great. It was like your perfect idea of what you’re hoping it would be. And then getting Alex [Pettyfer] for Leff that was so lucky for us. And Rudy Pankow for Jimmy. We had so many meetings for him to understand Jimmy before he would even take on the role. It shows so much of the integrity he puts into his acting. He’s a terrific, talented actor. And Stephanie [Leonidas], she actually auditioned for Lori at first, and I then wanted to see her do Donna and I loved … She has that scene with Luke, which I just love her performance. She was just so raw and her so real, and she’s great.

On what motivates Donna in 5Lbs of Pressure

Phil Allocco: We had a lot of talks about what motivates Donna in each of these scenes. And there’s obviously anger and there’s a lot of things going on towards Luke or Adam. And I love that we kept coming back to the fear she has for her son because she’s created a story for him, worried about knowing that his father murdered someone. What would that do to the psyche of her son? What does that make him think about himself? And a mother’s fear of that secret ever coming out that Adam has no idea about what he’s stomping right into. So I love how she brought that.

Phil Allocco: There’s a lot that in the cast that we all talk about and you hope it makes it onto the screen. It’s beyond the script, there’s a lot of … And I watch it and I feel like they brought so much to those characters that it’s not just in the dialogue or in the scene, they’re carrying all of this with them, which I think brings the character to life.

Ayla Ruby: I think you definitely feel that. And I think it definitely comes out with their performances. I’m glad you mentioned Donna because I just … I’m a mom, so I felt that in my bones. I totally get that.

Phil Allocco: Yeah. That’s so great to hear.

Still 10- (L-R) Rudy Pankow and Stephanie Leonidas in Phil Allocco's 5LBS OF PRESSURE (Lionsgate)
(L-R) Rudy Pankow and Stephanie Leonidas in Phil Allocco’s 5Lbs of Pressure. Image courtesy of Lionsgate.

On if his songwriting and musical background influences his filmmaking

Ayla Ruby: So we talked about your guitars a little bit, and you have a musical background. Does that influence your writing, your directing at all, because is it at the same part of the brain or is it different?

Phil Allocco: I think, for me, I think all creativity comes from whatever part of your brain. When you’re writing songs, the best songs come like … You feel like you’ve tuned in somewhere and you are an antennae and it came to you.

Phil Allocco: And I feel like writing is like that. You try to get yourself in a zone and then you feel like you’re watching the movie when you write, when it’s going well. And you don’t even know where it’s coming from, you just feel like, “Wow, I didn’t do that.” I feel like if I write, it’s crap, it has to come from this other … It feels like it comes from another place. That’s what it feels like. And I think with songs, I think any songwriter will say the same thing when they’re in that zone or whatever you call it, it just feels like it comes to you, rather than you are producing it. Do you know what I mean?

Phil Allocco: So I feel like in that way, it feels like it’s all the same part of the brain. I think being a musician, when I started in film, I think it allowed … I think a lot of musicians become editors or are very good at editing because, maybe it’s the pace of it or it’s something, whatever your brain works. And I think that’s really helpful in the pacing of a film and putting it together. And being an editor really helps you as a director because you know how you’re pacing and putting things together and you could see how you’re going to put it together. So I think music has really helped in that way, timing and all of that.

On what he wants people to know about 5Lbs of Pressure

Ayla Ruby: Well, that makes a lot of sense. And I think we’re just at time, but is there anything you want people to know about the film, anything you want them to take away?

Phil Allocco: I hope they like it and I hope they have a good experience. And I hope people are able to walk away maybe thinking a little bit about it. When you watch a film and you can’t help but think about it afterwards, that’s what you hope to have that kind of impact on someone.

Ayla Ruby: Well, thank you. This was awesome. I really loved talking to you.

Phil Allocco: It was great talking to you. Thank you so much for the really insightful questions and taking the time to watch the film. I really appreciate it.

5Lbs of Pressure will be in theaters, on digital, and on demand on March 8, 2024. 

Check out the movie’s trailer to learn more. Are you excited about 5Lbs of Pressure? Let us know by connecting with us on X @MoviesWeTexted.

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