Tag: movie nostalgia
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a 1958 American drama film directed by Richard Brooks. It is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by Tennessee Williams adapted by Richard Brooks and James Poe. One of the top-ten box office hits of 1958, the film stars Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Burl Ives.
Late one night, a drunken Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman) is out trying to recapture his glory days of high school sports by leaping hurdles on a track field, dreaming about his moments as a youthful athlete. Unexpectedly, he falls and breaks his leg, leaving him dependent on a crutch. Brick, along with his wife, Maggie “the Cat” (Elizabeth Taylor), are seen the next day visiting his family’s estate in Mississippi, there to celebrate Big Daddy’s (Burl Ives) 65th birthday.
Depressed, Brick decides to spend his days drinking while resisting the affections of his wife, who taunts him about the inheritance of Big Daddy’s wealth. Numerous allusions are made to their tempestuous marriage – there are speculations as to why Maggie does not yet have children while Brick’s brother Gooper (Jack Carson) and his wife Mae (Madeleine Sherwood) have a whole clan, many of whom run around the “plantation” (as Big Daddy’s estate is called) unsupervised and singing obnoxiously.
Big Daddy and Big Mama (Judith Anderson) arrive home from the hospital via their private airplane and are greeted by Gooper and his wife, along with Maggie. Despite the efforts of Mae, Gooper and their kids to draw his attention to them, Big Daddy has eyes only for Maggie. The news is that Big Daddy is not dying from cancer. However, the doctor later meets privately with first Gooper and then Brick where he divulges that it is a deception. Big Daddy has inoperable cancer and will likely be dead within a year, and the truth is being kept from him. Maggie wants Brick to take an interest in his father’s wealth as well as health, but Brick stubbornly refuses.
Directed by: Richard Brooks
Starring: Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Burl Ives, Jack Carson, Judith Anderson
Screenplay by: Richard Brooks, James Poe
Cinematography by: William Daniels
Film Editing by: Ferris Webster
Studio: Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Release Date: September 20, 1958
While many movie theaters in small American towns closed in the 1950s, an equal number of a new kind of theater, which recognized the supremacy of the automobile in American life, opened up.
In the 1920s concerned parents had been anxious about the effects of automobiles and movies on their children’s morals; their grandchildren could now combine these menaces to their moral welfare at the drive-in.
The first drive-in movie theater opened in 1933, but they mushroomed in the decade after World War II. By 1956 there were 4,200 drive-ins, earning nearly a quarter of total box-office receipts.
They were promoted as “the answer to the family’s night out”; a way for married couples to avoid the expense of baby-sitters, but their real attraction was to the youth market, where teenagers could escape parental supervision.
The drive-in market encouraged a new kind of filmmaking, pioneered by Columbia producer Sam Katzman and American International Pictures (AlP). Discarding conventional formulas such as the Western, they geared their films solely for the teenage market, hooking a story on to any gimmick they could think of.
The success of Rock Around the Clock in 1956, and the cycle of rock ‘n’ roll movies that followed made it clear that “teenpics” could reap huge profits even. If they pointedly excluded an older audience. These mainstream productions spawned imitations, such as Teenage Crime Wave (1955) and Hot Rod Rumble (1957).
The other major “teenpic” genre was the horror film: low-budget “exploitation” movies (so-called because their ‘publicity budgets were higher than their production costs), with titles like I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) were pumped out to provide the material for the double and triple-bills at the drive-ins.
Teenagers liked double-bills for the simple reason that they lasted longer – especially when offered on “midnite matinees”. Few of these movies shared classical Hollywood’s concern with tightly constructed narrative.
Instead, their emphasis on spectacle implicitly recognized that the audience might have other things to do than just watch the film. By 1960 the established industry had learnt at least some of the lessons of exploitation producers, and were successfully producing material for the teenage market.
Related Link: Read more Popular Culture articles
The film opens with a sexually charged, flirtatious online chat between two people with the screen names Thonggrrrl14 and Lensman319. Lensman319 is a photographer who admits to “fantasizing” about Thonggrrrl14. Thonggrrrl14 entices Lensman319 to meet at a café to “hook up”. At the café, Thonggrrrl14 – Hayley Stark – meets Lensman319 – Jeff Kohlver. Hayley makes several references to her age (14 years old), yet succeeds in convincing Jeff to take her to his house. After showing her around, Hayley makes them both screwdrivers and asks him to take photographs. Before he can, Jeff gets dizzy, his vision blurs, and he falls to the floor unconscious.
When Jeff wakes, he is bound to a chair. Hayley explains she has been tracking him and drugged him because she knows he is a pedophile, child rapist, and murderer. Jeff denies these allegations, claiming he had innocent intentions. Hayley searches Jeff’s house for evidence of sexually deviant crimes. She finds Jeff’s gun and safe. In the safe, Hayley finds “sick” pictures and a photo of Donna Mauer, a local girl who had been kidnapped and remains missing. Jeff denies involvement in Mauer’s disappearance and succeeds in reaching his gun, but when he (still bound to the chair) attacks Hayley, she renders him unconscious by asphyxiating him with plastic wrap.
When Jeff wakes, he finds himself bound to a steel table with a plastic bag of ice on his genitals. Hayley explains she will castrate Jeff. To dissuade Hayley, Jeff uses threats, an attempt at a bribe, other negotiations, and in a final, desperate plea for sympathy, he tells her his own story of abuse.
Following the operation, Hayley leaves the kitchen, claiming to take a shower. Jeff struggles and frees himself. When he reluctantly checks the site of the operation, he realizes he is actually unharmed, and Hayley has elaborately faked his castration. He storms off in a rage to get Hayley in the bathroom, where the shower is running. Scalpel in hand, he attacks, only to find the shower empty. Hayley counterattacks him from behind, and as they struggle, Hayley incapacitates him with a stun gun.
Hayley poses as a police officer and asks Jeff’s ex-girlfriend, Janelle, to come immediately to Jeff’s house. Jeff regains consciousness to find that Hayley has bound his wrists and hoisted him to stand on a chair in his kitchen with a noose around his neck. Hayley makes Jeff an offer: if he commits suicide, she promises to erase the evidence of his crimes, but if he refuses, she promises to expose his secrets.
The conversation is interrupted when a neighbor knocks on the front door, selling Girl Scout cookies. Hayley tells the neighbor that she is Jeff’s niece; the neighbor leaves shortly afterwards. When Hayley returns, Jeff breaks free from his bindings and pursues her, eventually finding her on the roof of his house, where she has lured him. Hayley has brought her rope from the kitchen and fashioned it into a noose secured to the chimney. Hayley keeps Jeff at bay with his own gun.
Related Link: Read full production notes for Hard Candy
1. Mila Kunis – Max Payne
Because you can’t kill ghoulish bad guys in khaki, Mila Kunis brought out the leather when it was time to bring out the big guns.
2. Kate Beckinsale – Underworld Awakening
No, it’s not just because her movie is about to drop. It’s because her leather catsuit-corset combo fits her like a glove. Perhaps ironically, Kate’s hands are the only part of her body below the neck not covered in skin-tight leather.
3. Carrie Anne Moss – The Matrix
You don’t always have to show skin to be sexy in leather. You just need to be handy with a variety of weapons and spout new-age philosophy from time to time. And so we come to Trinity: Sometimes she saved us, sometimes she confused us, but mostly she just aroused us.
4. Kristanna Loken – Terminator: Rise of the Muchines
In the future, hot chicks will be clad entirely in red leather. And, apparently, they will want you dead.
5. Malin Akerman – Watchmen
Because wearing leather isn’t really about subtlety, we love the yellow on Malin Akerman.
In the summer before their freshman year in high school, Julie (Alexa Vega) has a slumber party with her best friends, Hannah, Yancy, and Farrah — and they end up having the adventure of their lives. In attempt to cast off their less-than-cool reputations once and for all, Julie and her friends enter into an all-night scavenger hunt against their “popular girl” rivals. Hijacking dad’s car, sneaking into clubs, evading Julie’s mother, and even a first kiss — anything is possible at Julie’s Sleepover.
Julie (Alexa Vega) has invited her best friends – Hannah (Mika Boorem), Farrah (Scout Taylor-Compton), and Yancy (Kallie Flynn Childress) – to come celebrate the last day of junior high, but what begins as just another sleepover turns into the adventure of their lives. Eager to cast off their less-than-cool reputations, the friends agree to a challenge from the “popular girls”: an all-night scavenger hunt.
With Julie’s father distracted by a home-improvement project downstairs, they sneak down the rose trellis, borrow Yancy’s electric car – well, her parents’ car – dodge Julie’s mother at a nightclub, steal a pair of boxer shorts from the cutest guy in town, go to their first high school dance, fall in love, and in the end, learn a little something about themselves.
Related Link: Read Full Production Notes for Sleepover Movie
Left alone in Paris whilst their parents are on holiday, Isabelle (Eva Green) and her brother Theo (Louis Garrel) invite Matthew (Michael Pitt), a young American student, to stay at their apartment. Here they make their own rules as they experiment with their emotions and sexuality while playing a series of increasingly demanding mind games.
Set against the turbulent political backdrop of France in the spring of 1968 when the voice of youth was reverberating around Europe, “The Dreamers” is a story of self-discovery as the three students test each other to see just how far they will go.
The Dreamers was helmed by Bernardo Bertolucci, whose film The Last Emperor swept the 1987 Academy Awards garnering nine Oscars including Best Director and Best Picture. It marks his third film shot in Paris, following The Conformists and the Oscar-nominated Last Tango in Paris. The screenplay, adapted for the screen from his original novel, is by English author and film critic Gilbert Adair.
The Dreamers strikes a personal chord for both Bertolucci and Adair, for although their paths never crossed, they were both living in Paris at the end of the 60s, experiencing the events against which the film is set. Their love of cinema took them to the birthplace of the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave), immersing them in a strong international cinema culture. “There was something magic in the 60s,” Bertolucci recalls, “in that we were … well, let’s use the word ‘dreaming’. We were fusing cinema, politics, music, jazz, rock ‘n roll, sex, philosophy.”
The film stars Michael Pitt, recently seen in the award-winning Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and with Sandra Bullock in Murder by Numbers, Eva Green in her feature film debut, and Louis Garrel, who previously appeared in Yolande Zauberman’s La Guerre in Paris.
Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, Eva Green, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Anna Chancellor, Robin Renucci, Valentin Merlet, Lola Peploe
Screenplay by: Gilbert Adair
Production Design by: Jean Rabasse
Cinematography by: Fabio Cianchetti
Film Editing by: Jacopo Quadri
Costume Design by: Louise Stjernsward
Art Direction by: Pierre Duboisberranger
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content and graphic nudity, language, drug use.
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release Date: February 6, 2004
Raleted Link: Read Full Production Notes for The Dreamers Movie
For the pivotal role of Amy Renfro, Coolidge and the producers turned to pop singer and reality television star Jessica Simpson. After wowing audiences as the leggy bombshell Daisy Duke in “Dukes of Hazzard”, Simpson was looking for the perfect follow-up project – and found it in “Employee of the Month”. “I knew that after playing Daisy Duke, the second film I did was going to be crucial,” admits Simpson. “People had already made their mind up about me as an actress, and I wanted to prove I had more to offer.”
While Amy Renfro is introduced as the kind of girl who only goes for Mr. Employee of the Month, the film eventually reveals a different side of her character – as well as a few other interesting surprises. Like Cook, Simpson hadn’t even finished the script before she called Lionsgate and committed to the project.
“This role lets Jessica stretch her wings a bit and show that she’s an intelligent actress who knows what she’s doing,” says Joe Simpson, Ms. Simpson’s father and manager, and one of the producers of “Employee of the Month”. “Amy is the opposite of a Daisy Duke. She’s not trying to be sexy. She’s just a regular girl who’s fun and lovable, and who has a couple of surprises up her sleeve.”
Apart from the intimate revelations featured on her reality television show, “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica,” Jessica Simpson had no experience playing opposite a love interest on camera. “I was a little bit nervous going into it, hoping that there would be some sort of chemistry and that I could make it believable for the audience,” admits Simpson. “But Dane made it easy. He made me comfortable, kept me laughing and kept my smile genuine. I really couldn’t ask for a better co-star.”
“Jessica’s just amazing,” avows Cook. “She’s grounded and sweet and her smile lights up a room. She’s incredibly real, and she has a natural vulnerability that comes through on screen.”
“I think Jessica is going to be a surprise in this,” observes Coolidge. “She takes direction better than a lot of actors. She has great chemistry with the guys. And there are some things she threw at me that really impressed me. She was great.”
Rounding out “Employee of the Month”s central love triangle is Dax Shepard in the role of Vince, the preening, ambitious head cashier who is also Zack’s nemesis. Known to audiences for his appearances in the television series “Punk’d,” and the film “Without a Paddle”, Shepard brings a priceless combination of swagger and insecurity to Vince. “I play the bad guy in this, which I’ve never been asked to do,” says Shepard. “I get to come in and be the guy who falls down a lot and acts like an idiot. It was really fun.”
“I can’t even say his name without giggling,” says Simpson of Shepard. “He’s a doll. He’s smart.He can make an entire room fall on the floor laughing. He’s the perfect Vince.”
Shepard often veered from the script and injected his own ad-libs during his scenes, a habit that might have spelled disaster in the hands of a less talented performer, but in this case yielded fantastic results. “His improv is incredible,” says Panay. “You can just roll camera and he just goes. And God only knows what you’re going to get out of him. We got gem after gem after gem from him on a daily basis.”
Related Link: Read the Full Production Notes for Employee of the Month
To bring McLoughlin’s and Jimeno’s story to the screen, Oliver Stone brought together an outstanding team of professionals. The director of photography is Seamus McGarvey, who filmed the Academy Award nominee for best picture, “The Hours.” Jan Roelfs, the production designer, is a two-time Academy Award nominee and previously worked with Stone on the epic “Alexander.” Editor David Brenner, who won the Oscar for his work on Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July,” marks his eighth collaboration with the director, joining with his longtime assistant and now fine lead editor in her own right, Julie Monroe. The costumes are designed by Michael Dennison. Composer Craig Armstrong, who has provided the music for such diverse films as “Moulin Rouge” and “Ray,” writes the score.
Although several of Stone’s movies feature operatic camerawork, “World Trade Center,” by comparison, is visually spare. “Seamus and I agreed early on to go more conservatively on this movie, to keep the moves simple, especially in the holes where the men are buried,” says Stone. “And to concentrate on the lighting. We wanted to keep the balance of realistic shadows, yet see into their eyes. Outside the holes, we sought the light as much as possible in the story of the wives and the Marine, to alleviate the dark. In the end, we played off the light and the dark, with variations, seeking to reverse the normal functions of both.”
With that in mind, McGarvey and Stone designed the camera work to convey the characters’ internal emotional journeys. “Oliver’s way of considering the lens is amazing. He is very, very precise with what the camera says and what the camera movement means,” says McGarvey. “He is never flagrant with the moves and he always captures great performances. Although we used a more naturalistic mode, there was a vibration throughout that is the director’s voice, the voice of an auteur and it created a unique quality. As in all his films, Oliver has identified with the protagonists and their dilemmas, their pain and their hope.”
To achieve that vision, McGarvey embarked on a testing process on the best ways to pick up emotion through shifts in light and focus. “On every film, you find something that offers a way of expressing emotion photographically. I asked Panavision, `I’m trying to focus in on a single plane, on an eye or a mouth, trying to explore the landscape of the face without a camera move. Have you anything like that? They told me, `We’ve got the perfect thing.’”
The perfect thing turned out to be a prototype of a lens invented by Steve Hylen, the designer at Panavision, which allowed McGarvey to control and train the lens on certain points of the face as the emotion of the scene dictated. “We used it sparingly, at fairly critical junctures, where we were on the protagonists’ faces and as we close in on an eye or a mouth, we can redirect the audience’s attention. It was incredibly subtle when we’re signaling a memory,” McGarvey says.
“I find that most scripts have a photographic heart and this one certainly had a very strong visual identity,” McGarvey concludes. “It’s spare, not highly stylized. Also, there are parts of the story that have a very subjective quality, in that you see it from the characters’ perspectives. Increasingly, as the story progresses, it becomes more transcendent. We devised ways of expressing that visually.”
The construction department began resurrecting the World Trade Center while the shooting crew filmed in New York, in order to have it ready by the time Stone returned to California. Devising the set was a challenge for production designer Jan Roelfs because the collapsed towers were very well documented in photographs and on television. While this offered a plethora of research material, it meant that everyone in the world had seen and remembered the original and no mistakes could be made. Moreover, Roelfs had to configure a construction that could accommodate the needs of the camera and lighting crews, as well as the creative requirements of Oliver Stone.
“I knew what Ground Zero looked like, but how to make it into a set that was shootable and affordable? That was one of the biggest challenges,” Roelfs says. “There was so much documentation of the Ground Zero site so that was very helpful, but, it spanned over 16 acres and that was too massive to build to scale. We started with models. As the set began to take shape, it was clear that there were certain iconic pieces that we would use as landmarks, stark pieces of the buildings that remained standing that were in many of the photographs. Then we had to build it and make it camera ready but also safe.”
Roelfs and his team constructed the set at the former home of Hughes Aircraft in Playa Vista. They began with Styrofoam reinforced with a urethane coating to make it strong but supple. Then, the art department was able to augment the Styrofoam beams with pieces of twisted metal procured from area scrap metal dealers. By the end of construction, the set contained 200 tons of scrap metal and 900 individual sculpted pieces and spanned about an acre, 1/16th of the original rubble field.
One of Roelfs’s ingenious moves was driven by necessity: because Stone’s artistic vision demanded that the set be lit and shot from below and above, the massive set could not be built on the ground; it had to be perched on some structure. Instead of building an elaborate base, he decided to rent a large quantity of shipping containers and built the set on top of them. “Because we were in Playa Vista, we had easy access to the port of Long Beach, which is the biggest container harbor in America,” Roelfs recalls.
The combination of containers, wood and steel struts, and platforms not only provided a level, sturdy plane for a giant crane, dolly tracks and other assorted camera necessities, it also created a labyrinth of tunnels and walkways beneath the shooting area. This offered shortcuts across the set and places to stow gear and, importantly, it enabled Chief Lighting Technician Randy J. Woodside to light it.
“We shot much of Ground Zero at night, because that’s when Will was rescued. That first night, after the Towers collapsed, there wasn’t much light; the site was mostly lit from the ground and some emergency equipment. We had to light a movie set, but essentially, it was the same concept: the set was lit from low angles and we had one large backlight from behind to provide shards of light,” Woodside says.
Woodside, like all the cast and crew, says that when he first saw the sets, “I was at a loss – they really impacted me emotionally, more than I expected, more than any other movie I’ve ever done. It was hard to direct my crew where to go on the set – we just had north, south, east, and west as reference points. I can only imagine what the rescuers when through when they were combing the real place, looking for survivors.”
When designing this set, Roelfs queried McLoughlin, Jimeno, Strauss and McGee, but because they saw this hole from different vantagepoints, they all had slightly different recollections of how it looked and felt.
“Listening to all the rescue workers stories, we got a pretty good idea of it spatially. The problem was that they took shifts and changed positions every twenty minutes, so nobody had a clear picture,” says Roelfs. “Between them all, and talking to Will and John, we pieced together the way they were positioned.”
Roelfs notes that he took his cues in the structure and design of the set from the way McLoughlin and Jimeno were positioned in the collapse. “When John realized the tower was collapsing, he ordered his guys to make a run for the service elevator – he thought that was the strongest spot,” says Roelfs. “He was miraculously correct; it stayed intact. After the tower came down, somehow John ended up lower and Dominick and Will ended up higher. So, we built that: a three-story elevator shaft set on wheels and a track, so that Oliver could position it and the camera as it suited him. The set had two floors, to show Dominick and Will above John. Pieces of debris hung in on a semi-circle track from the ceiling and we could lower or raise them.”
Roelfs’s Ground Zero and hole sets passed the ultimate litmus test: In January, Stone brought John McLoughlin, Will Jimeno, Scott Strauss, Paddy McGee, John Busching, Scott Fox, Tommy Asher, many of the cops and firemen who helped rescue McLoughlin and Jimeno and all of their families to Los Angeles for four to six weeks. They served as technical advisors and, in some cases, recreated what they did on the pile and in the hole, playing themselves.
Roelfs’s sets were so realistic that it gave them pause. Upon arrival to Los Angeles, McLoughlin, Jimeno, Strauss, McGee and Asher came directly to the Ground Zero set, on the first night the crew filmed there. In all, over 50 real-life PAPD, NYPD, and FDNY members who were at Ground Zero came to Los Angeles to appear in the film. In the end, all the prominent police and fireman extras in the film would be played by these real-life heroes.
September 11, 2001 was an unusually warm day in New York. Will Jimeno, an officer with the Port Authority Police Department, was tempted to take a personal day to enjoy his hobby of bow hunting, but ultimately decided that he would go to work. Sergeant John McLoughlin, a respected veteran of the PAPD, had been up for hours – a requirement of his daily, 1½-hour trek to the city. They and their colleagues made their way to midtown Manhattan, just like they did any other day. Only this wasn’t any other day.
A team of PAPD first responders drove from mid-town Manhattan to the World Trade Center. Five men, including McLoughlin and Jimeno, went into the buildings themselves and were trapped when the towers collapsed. Miraculously, McLoughlin and Jimeno survived, but were buried and pinned beneath slabs of concrete and twisted metal, 20 feet below the rubble field.
Though they couldn’t see each other, each could hear that the other had survived, and for the next 12 hours, McLoughlin and Jimeno kept each other alive – talking about their families, their lives on the force, their hopes, their disappointments. Their story is told in the new motion picture from Oliver Stone, “World Trade Center.”
The film also follows their wives (Donna McLoughlin in Goshen, New York, and Allison Jimeno in Clifton, New Jersey), children, and parents who suffered in their own confined circle of hell, with no messages from or information about their loved ones. The film also chronicles the improbable search by a determined accountant and ex-Marine from Connecticut, Dave Karnes, who found the two officers that night, and then the dozens of firemen, policemen, and paramedics who rescued them over the next grueling 12 hours.
Filming Locations in New York City
Overseeing the production was Don Lee, a veteran producer and native New Yorker who witnessed 9/11 firsthand. “I live downtown and was on my way to jury duty when I saw the second plane hit,” Lee remembers. “The story of these two men appealed to me because it was about New Yorkers helping New Yorkers – two regular guys who went in and almost lost their lives trying to save people.”
According to Lee, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey gave unprecedented support to the production. With the filmmakers’ commitment to authenticity a top priority, the Port Authority’s cooperation proved invaluable. Not only did they allow the company to film at the Port Authority bus terminal for three weekends – a first for the Authority – but the agency served as advisers to the prop and wardrobe departments on the appropriate gear. “The PAPD made it possible for us to go directly to their vendors so that everything was authentic,” says propmaster Daniel Boxer. In addition to authentic emergency uniforms, the production was able to purchase 75 FDNY radios, six dozen Scott Air Paks, three dozen PAPD gunbelts, a stock room full of police department batons, plastic replicas of period-correct Smith & Wessons pistols, handcuffs modified for movie use, and ca. 2001 signage and graphics.
One of the first “sets” within the Port Authority was in the cops’ real locker rooms in the basement. In fact, it was in this room where Jimeno, Rodrigues, Pezzulo, and their colleagues gathered every day, before and after work, and talked and razzed each other, a scene Stone recreated in the movie. A portion of the locker room was dressed for the “period” – no iPods, different cell phones, newspapers with appropriate headlines – and otherwise rearranged to accommodate cameras, lights, gear and personnel. However, the perimeter remained untouched, and on the beaten lockers hung memorialized “legacy” photos of the officers who lost their lives on 9/11.
“It was a very moving experience to shoot down in those lockers,” says Jay Hernandez. “I saw Dominick’s locker; his picture was up on it like a shrine and it brought back a lot of the emotions that I experienced on that day.”
“You have to be on top of everything going on around you to be a police officer,” says Peña, who spent time with PAPD officers as he prepared for the role. “Those guys are intense. I remember, we were walking through the bus terminal, and they picked one guy out of the crowd – looked like just another guy to me. They asked him what he was doing and he said, `I’m sorry, man – I’ve been hustling.’ Just tells the cop everything! It doesn’t show up in any arrest statistics, but that cop stopped a lot of crime right there. It was really helpful to see firsthand what those guys do.”
A smart, charming teenage girl, Hayley probably shouldn’t be going to a local coffee shop to meet Jeff, a 30-something fashion photographer she met on the Internet. But before she knows it, she’s mixing drinks at Jeff’s place and stripping for an impromptu photo shoot.
It’s Jeff’s lucky night. But Hayley isn’t as innocent as she looks, and the night takes a turn when she begins to impose a hard-hitting investigation on Jeff in an attempt to reveal his possibly scandalous past. Hard Candy is an edge-of-your-seat psychotic thriller.
Hayley’s a smart, charming teenage girl — but even smart girls make mistakes. She’s hooking up in a coffee shop with Jeff, a guy she’s met on the Internet. And even though he’s a cute, smooth high-end fashion photographer in his early 30s, Hayley shouldn’t be suggesting that the two of them go back to his house — alone. When they get there, Hayley quickly finds some vodka and starts mixing screwdrivers. She even suggests a photo shoot and strips off some clothing. Everything is going well for Jeff… until his vision blurs and fades, and he passes out.
It turns out Hayley has spiked Jeff’s screwdriver, and when he revives, he’s tied down with Hayley searching through his place. She doesn’t think it’ll take too long to get a confession that she’s not the first teenage girl Jeff’s brought home and, more importantly, that her prisoner knows what happened to Donna Mauer, another girl who disappeared from Jeff’s favorite coffee shop. And if he’s unwilling to confess, well, she has another plan –She uses an icepack as a homemade anesthetic… She starts shaving an incision site… She’s learned a lot from the internet — including this little surgical procedure she’s dying to try…
A cat-and-mouse psychotic thriller as incisive as it is stylish, Hard Candy delivers a provocative take on the revenge drama while jangling the nerves at every turn. Directed by innovative music video and commercials director David Slade and written by accomplished playwright Brian Nelson, Hard Candy plunges us into an unstable universe where we cannot readily identify the “good guy” in the tense confrontation between a 14-year-old girl and the 32- year-old man she suspects of pedophilia and murder.
Rather, the film introduces us to two intelligent, strong-willed individuals who are engaged in a battle of wits – a battle in which it is unclear who is telling the truth. Adding fuel to the film’s fire are the powerhouse performances of its two stars, the young Canadian actress Ellen Page and acclaimed stage and screen actor Patrick Wilson (Angels in America).
As the adolescent avenger Hayley Stark, Page invests her 14-year-old character with all the passion, certitude and coltish charm of the age, while Wilson’s subtle interpretation of photographer Jeff Kohlver draws us to his character even as his behavior remains open to speculation. Making his feature debut, director Slade makes deft use of color, sound, texture, intimate close-ups and editing to ratchet up tension and illuminate character, making Hard Candy a thriller that stimulates the emotions and the senses alike.
The initial inspiration for Hard Candy was a spate of real-life attacks that took place in Japan. Producer David Higgins read about the cases, in which schoolgirls turned the tables on older men trolling the Internet for underage dates. After one girl established an online relationship with a man, she and her friends would ambush him at a pre-arranged rendezvous.
Higgins began mulling over the dramatic possibilities inherent in the story. “It opened an interesting and different perspective on who was the predator and who was the prey,” the producer recalls. “Then I thought: what if it was just one girl going after Internet predators? I’d never seen a movie about a 14-year-old vigilante do-gooder.”
Higgins imagined a minimalist setting for the story, with two characters confronting one another in a strictly defined space. Such a film would be a psychological study as well as a thriller, and the creation of multidimensional individuals was uppermost in Higgins’s mind when he approached playwright Brian Nelson about writing the screenplay.
Explains Higgins, “It’s nice to have the concept, but it’s the execution that matters — and that’s why I wanted to work with a playwright. I needed somebody who could write character, and not just plot. With two people in a room, there are no car chases and nothing to fall back on except character. I’d read one of Brian’s plays, and knew he’d be perfect.”
A leading figure in Los Angeles theatre, Nelson is a co-founder of the David Henry Hwang Writers Institute and an award-winning stage director. Nelson’s plays are largely driven by character, and he recognized that the movie Higgins outlined to him demanded the same approach. “The heart of this piece would be in the duel between two opponents who only seem mismatched at first,” affirms Nelson. “The opportunity to write a two-character duel in the vein of Misery, Sleuth, and Oleanna was too interesting to pass up. And coming from theatre, where there are always more talented actresses than there are roles, how could I resist the chance to create a unique heroine like Hayley?”
Nelson and Higgins spent two months fleshing out the story to their mutual satisfaction, after which Nelson began work on the screenplay. From the characters’ first meeting in a coffee shop called Nighthawks, the story sets up an atmosphere of erotic tension as 32-year-old Jeff and 14-year-old Hayley trade suggestive banter. As a photographer whose work regularly brings him in contact with beautiful teenage girls, Jeff seems to know just the right things to say to Haley, who is by turns bold and awkward as she tries on the role of sexual sophisticate. It is only later that it becomes clear that both Hayley and Jeff have arrived at Nighthawks with hidden agendas.
As the drama unfolds, they continue to play their cards close to their vests. In creating evenly matched characters, Nelson drew upon his own experience as a chess player. “It’s hard to find people to play chess with, so I got used to playing both sides of the board,” the writer explains. “Asking yourself the best move you can make against yourself is, I think, invaluable training for writing two characters who are both at the top of their game, who are involved in a life-or-death duel.”
Nelson’s experience teaching theatre at high school and college levels helped inform his conception of whip-smart 14-year-old Hayley. Says Nelson, “Most of my theatre students are female, most of them are brilliant, and most of them are wrestling with a world that is fundamentally unfair. I wanted to make Hayley as bright and funny and inventive as my best students have always been.”
Related Link: Read full production notes for Hard Candy