Category: Political Thrillers
In The Wolf of Wall Street DiCaprio plays Belfort, a Long Island penny stockbroker who served 36 months in prison for defrauding investors in a massive 1990s securities scam that involved widespread corruption on Wall Street and in the corporate banking world, including shoe designer Steve Madden.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a biographical drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name. The screenplay was written by Terence Winter, and the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort, along with other cast members including Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey, among others. The Wolf of Wall Street marks a fifth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio, and a second with Winter after Boardwalk Empire.
Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) begins a low-level job at an established Wall Street firm. After being taken under the wing of company executive Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) and becoming a licensed stockbroker, he is retrenched due to the firm’s bankruptcy following Black Monday.
Belfort’s wife Teresa (Cristin Milioti) encourages him to take a job with a Long Island boiler room dealing in penny stocks. Belfort impresses his new boss with his aggressive pitching style, and earns a small fortune for the firm and himself. Belfort befriends Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), a salesman living in the same apartment complex, and they go into business together along with his accountant parents and several friends. To cloak the fact the firm is a pump and dump scam, Belfort gives it the respectable name of Stratton Oakmont, shortly after which FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) begins investigating the firm.
Belfort begins an affair with Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) resulting in his divorce from Teresa and a second marriage to Lapaglia, buying a mansion and a yacht that he names after her. They have a daughter, Skylar. At work, meanwhile, Belfort, Azoff and colleagues engage in non-stop debauchery and drug use.
Belfort makes $22 million after securing the IPO of Steve Madden Ltd. To hide his money, Belfort opens a Swiss bank account with a corrupt banker Jean-Jacques Saurel (Jean Dujardin) using friends with European passports to smuggle cash. It is opened in the name of Naomi’s aunt Emma (Joanna Lumley), a British citizen outside the reach of U.S. authorities.
Belfort’s father Max (Rob Reiner) and lawyer Manny (Jon Favreau) attempt to convince Belfort to step down from Stratton Oakmont and escape the large number of legal penalties. However, during his office farewell, Belfort changes his mind.
Belfort, Donnie and their wives are on a yacht trip to Italy when they learn that Emma has died so the money in the Swiss bank account is locked up. While Emma left the money to Belfort, he has to go to Switzerland the next day to sign for it. Over his grieving wife’s objections, Belfort sails to Monaco when a violent storm capsizes their yacht. After their rescue, the plane sent to take them to Geneva is destroyed by a seagull flying into the engine, exploding and killing three people. Witnessing this, Belfort considers it a sign from God and decides to sober up.
Two years later, Denham arrests Belfort during the filming of an infomercial after Saurel tells the FBI everything. With the evidence against him overwhelming, Belfort agrees to gather evidence on his colleagues in exchange for leniency.
Belfort expresses optimism about his sentencing to his wife, who promptly informs him she will file for divorce, demanding full custody of their two children. Belfort throws a violent tantrum, gets high, and crashes his car in his driveway during an attempt to abscond with a frightened Skylar. The next morning, Belfort wears a wire to work, silently slipping Donnie a note warning him not to say anything incriminating. The note finds its way to Agent Denham, who arrests Belfort for breaching his cooperation deal; the FBI then raids and shuts down Stratton Oakmont.
Despite the breach, Belfort receives a reduced sentence of 36 months in a minimum security federal prison in Nevada. After his release, Belfort makes a living hosting seminars on sales techniques in New Zealand.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Margot Robbie, Jon Favreau, Cristin Milioti, Matthew McConaughey
Screenplay by: Terence Winter
Production Design by: Bob Shaw
Cinematography by: Rodrigo Prieto
Film Editing by: Thelma Schoonmaker
Costume Design by: Sandy Powell
Set Decoration by: Ellen Christiansen
Music by: Howard Shore
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence.
Studio; Paramount Pictures
Release Date: November 15, 2013
Taglines: You can’t expose the world’s secrets without your exposing your own.
Following Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl), an early supporter and eventual colleague of Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), “The Fifth Estate” traces the heady, early days of WikiLeaks, culminating in the release of a series of controversial and history changing information leaks. The website’s overnight success brought instant fame to its principal architects and transformed the flow of information to news media and the world at large.
The Fifth Estate is a thriller film directed by Bill Condon, about the news-leaking website WikiLeaks. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as its editor-in-chief and founder Julian Assange, and Daniel Brühl as its former spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Stanley Tucci, and Laura Linney are featured in supporting roles.
The film’s screenplay was written by Josh Singer based in-part on Domscheit-Berg’s book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website (2011), as well as WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy (2011) by British journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding. The film’s name is a term used to describe the people who operate in the manner of journalists outside the normal constraints imposed on the mainstream media.
About the Story
The story opens in 2010, with the release of the Afghan War Logs. It then flashes back to 2007, where journalist Daniel Domscheit-Berg meets Australian computer hacker Julian Assange for the first time, at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin. Daniel’s interest in online activism has led him to Assange, with whom he has corresponded by email. They begin working together on WikiLeaks, a website devoted to releasing information being withheld from the public while retaining anonymity for its sources.
Their first major target is a private Swiss bank, Julius Baer, whose Cayman Islands branch has been engaged in illegal activities. Despite Baer’s filing of a lawsuit and obtaining an injunction, the judge dissolves the injunction, allowing Julian and Daniel to reclaim the domain name. As their confidence increases, the two push forward in publishing information over the next three years, including secrets on Scientology, revealing Sarah Palin’s email account, and the membership list of the British National Party.
At first Daniel enjoys changing the world, viewing WikiLeaks as a noble enterprise and Assange as a mentor. However, the relationship between the two becomes strained over time. Daniel loses his job and problems arise in his relationship, particularly concerning the BNP membership leak, which also revealed the addresses of the people involved, and caused several to lose their jobs.
Assange openly mocks Daniel’s concerns about these issues, implying his own life has been more troubling. Assange’s abrasive manner and actions, such as abandoning Daniel at his parents’ house after having accepted their dinner invitation, only deepen the strain further. Interspersed throughout the film are flashbacks hinting at Assange’s troubled childhood and involvement in a suspicious cult, and that Assange’s obsession with WikiLeaks has more to do with childhood trauma than wanting to improve the world. Daniel begins to fear that Assange may be closer to a con-man than a mentor.
He also notices that Assange constantly gives different stories about why his hair is white. Assange at first tells Daniel that WikiLeaks has hundreds of workers, but Daniel later finds out that Daniel and Assange are the only members. Most importantly to Daniel, Assange frequently claims that protecting sources is the website’s number one goal. However, Daniel begins to suspect that Assange only cares about protecting sources so people will come forward and that Assange does not actually care who gets hurt by the website, though Assange claims that the harm the website may cause is outweighed by good the leaks create. Daniel’s girlfriend tells him that she believes in his cause, but that it’s his job to prevent Assange from going too far.
The Fifth Estate
Directed by: Bill Condon
Starring: Peter Capaldi, Benedict Cumberbatch, Stanley Tucci, Carice van Houten, Laura Linney
Screenplay by: Daniel Domscheit-Berg, David Leigh
Production Design by: Mark Tildesley
Cinematography by: Tobias A. Schliessler
Film Editing by: Virginia Katz
Costume Design by: Shay Cunliffe
Set Decoration by: Véronique Melery, Lieven Baes
Music by: Carter Burwell
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence.
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Recounting the chaotic events that occurred in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, Parkland weaves together the perspectives of a handful of ordinary individuals suddenly thrust into extraordinary circumstances: the young doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital; Dallas’ chief of the Secret Service; an unwitting cameraman who captured what became the most watched and examined film in history; the FBI agents who nearly had the gunman within their grasp; the brother of Lee Harvey Oswald, left to deal with his shattered family; and JFK’s security team, witnesses to both the president’s death and Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s rise to power over a nation whose innocence was forever altered.
Parkland is an American historical drama film that recounts the chaotic events that occurred following John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The film is written and directed by Peter Landesman, produced by Playtone’s Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, and Bill Paxton with Exclusive Media’s Nigel and Matt Sinclair. The film is based on Vincent Bugliosi’s 2008 book Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Directed by: Peter Landesman
Starring: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, James Badge Dale, Marcia Gay Harden, Mark Duplass, Colin Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Ron Livingston
Screenplay by: Peter Landesman
Production Design by: Bruce Curtis
Cinematography by: Barry Ackroyd
Film Editing by: Markus Czyzewski, Leo Trombetta
Costume Design by: Kari Perkins
Art Direction by: Rodney Becker
Music by: James Newton Howard
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for bloody sequences of ER trauma procedures, some violent images and language, and smoking throughout.
Studio: Exclusive Media Group
Release Date: September 20, 2013
Taglines: They see your every move.
In the international suspense thriller Closed Circuit, a high-profile terrorism case unexpectedly binds together two ex-lovers (Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall) on the defense team – testing the limits of their loyalties and placing their lives in jeopardy.
One morning, a busy London market is decimated by an explosion. In the manhunt that follows, only one member of the suspected terrorist cell survives: Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), who is arrested and jailed. Preparations begin for what promises to be the trial of the century.
But there’s a hitch: the government will use classified evidence to prosecute Erdogan, evidence so secret that neither he nor his lawyers can be allowed to see it. Hence the need for the Attorney General (Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent) to appoint a Special Advocate, an additional government-approved defense lawyer (Claudia Simmons-Howe, played by Golden Globe Award nominee Rebecca Hall), one who has clearance to see classified evidence and who can argue for its full disclosure when the trial moves to “closed” session. The rules for the Special Advocate are clear: once the secret evidence is shared with her, Claudia will not be allowed to communicate even with the defendant or with other members of the defense team.
But just as the case is on the eve of going to trial, Erdogan’s lawyer dies suddenly, and a new defense attorney, Martin Rose (Eric Bana), quickly steps in. Martin is tenacious, driven, brilliant – and an ex-lover of Claudia’s. The two lawyers make an uncomfortable pact to keep their former affair hidden. But as Martin begins to piece the case together, the outlines of a sinister conspiracy emerge, one that will draw him and Claudia dangerously close again.
About the Production
Making Closed Circuit, a thriller rooted in the world of today, required knowledge and expertise not only about filmmaking but also about an idiosyncratic criminal justice system.
Working Title Films principals Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner had produced a number of successful contemporary thrillers, including The Interpreter. Since 9/11 in the U.S. and 7/7 in the U.K., Bevan found himself aware of how “the U.K.’s criminal justice system has changed enormously. This was something I had been discussing with my barrister friend Tim Owen, QC [Queen’s Counsel]. Over the years, he has worked on fascinating criminal cases and I had mentioned doing a dramatic film in that setting. It’s an arena not often explored on the big screen. Defence of the Realm, from 1986, was a film I had in mind as precursor because it is about a conspiracy inside the corridors of British power.
“I gravitated towards exploring what would happen today in a highest-priority terrorism case within the context of the British legal system. The ins and outs of its courts are actually quite cinematic; as Tim pointed out, not all legal work takes place in court. Deals get cut in offices ‘behind the scenes,’ and the outside world doesn’t really know about it.”
Bevan contacted another filmmaker well-known for acclaimed contemporary thrillers: Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things screenwriter Steve Knight. Bevan says, “I knew that Steve would be able to impart relatable characters into a compelling story while remaining in the realm of believability.”
The screenwriter was eager to collaborate with Working Title on the idea. After conferring with Bevan and Owen, Knight began to hone his original screenplay around a U.K. terrorism trial’s defendant’s legal representation — a barrister and a Special Advocate (SA).
Bevan remarks, “When the trial gets going, each is not allowed to know what the other one is doing; they’re ‘the defense team’ and yet they cannot coordinate efforts. The evolution of the SA has been significant for the legal system.”
Knight elaborates, “This was a change in the law for particularly sensitive, and usually terrorist-related, cases. In such cases, the defense barrister and the SA are not allowed to interact or even speak outside of court. This is to prevent secret evidence that the SA is given from being socially passed on to the defense barrister — whether accidental or not. The person being tried, the defendant, will never have all the facts in front of him.
“I thought that if the defense barrister and the SA were a man and a woman who had a personal history that wasn’t known to the world, this was ripe for a thriller treatment. There would be overlap among the legal profession, the workings of Parliament and of government forces, and human beings working at relationships.”
Knight clarifies, “Closed Circuit is a story of skullduggery and things gone wrong. I do feel that the British judicial system is in pretty good shape, but it needs to be examined every now and again. In writing this screenplay, I spoke to many people in the legal profession who care that it be just and right. I hope this comes across in our movie.
The screenwriter’s research included attending trials, during which he closely observed “people in pressure-cooker situations: someone facing 20 years in prison, for instance.”
Work on the script continued over a two-year period. In 2011, producer Chris Clark, who had started his career at Working Title, joined the project. Clark had been with the company back when the idea took shape, and “Tim Bevan mentioned that there was now a script and showed it to me. It had a very modern take on paranoia, as there is a lot of fear in society today including at the government level. I loved how, as the story progresses, the romance aspect complicates things in an unusual way. I thought Steve Knight had taken the original idea of a contemporary legal thriller and ran with it.”
Knight admits that he found “the world of the legal profession to be particularly fascinating to write about because it is enclosed; this is not only in that you have a set of buildings, the Inns of Court, but also archaic traditions and methods of dress.
“In writing scripts, especially London stories, I try to find paths that haven’t been trodden particularly heavily in movies before. Usually these are right under your nose, and as a writer you have to identify them and then try to tell the story.”
Clark adds, “What Steve is brilliant at in his scripts like Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises is taking you into different parts of London, parts we may think we know something about but which we don’t. He layers in complexities yet always makes the story entertaining.”
John Crowley was approached to direct. “We were very keen to work with John, and had developed projects with him in the past,” notes Bevan. “In the films he had directed, he was able to conjure up a lot of tension in unexpected moments. That’s what we were looking for a director to bring to Closed Circuit; we wanted the audience’s comfort to be challenged over the course of the movie, as a sense of unease seeps in and the heartbeat rate goes up.
“John is also well-known for his stage work, which shows his strength in eliciting subtlety from actors — something that was absolutely appropriate for our movie.”
Clark agreed: “I could see John directing our movie because of how he is able to tap into — and how he is able to get actors to tap into — psychological aspects of the characters. He always elicits truthful performances.”
“John has a European sensibility,” assesses Knight. “He and I spoke about structure, and I was able to make changes so the script worked better and it was ready for filming.”
Crowley remarks, “When I first heard about the project from Working Title, my ears pricked up. I’m a fan of Steve’s screenwriting. Thrillers are perhaps my favorite genre of film, and to do an intelligent web-of-conspiracy tale in a London setting felt like fresh territory. I wanted to try to make the film with degrees of authenticity in both location and story.
“I have always been curious about the law because it feels drenched in ritual and in a codified language. Of course, a lot of people in the legal world work hard to try and de-mystify it. Yet its structure remains a source of fascination.”
The director committed to the feature not least because he feels that “there are a lot of people who feel very strongly that there are dangers to having closed court hearings, and that these fly in the face of due process. If you cannot have revealed, in open court, the evidence that someone has against you and have it tested, are you suspending something which is central to a fair legal system?”
Directed by: John Crowley
Starring: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciårán Hinds, Riz Ahmed, Anne-Marie Duff, Kenneth Cranham, Denis Moschitto, Julia Stiles, Jim Broadbent
Screenplay by: Steven Knight
Production Design by: Jim Clay
Cinematography by: Adriano Goldman
Film Editing by: Lucia Zucchetti
Costume Design by: Natalie Ward
Art Direction by: Matthew Gray, Dominic Masters
Music by: Joby Talbot
MPAA Rating: R for language and brief violence.
Studio: Focus Features
Release Date: August 28, 2013
Taglines: It started like any other day.
In Columbia Pictures’ White House Down, Capitol Policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service of protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, when the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group. Now, with the nation’s government falling into chaos and time running out, it’s up to Cale to save his daughter, the president, and the country.
White House Down is n American political action film directed by Roland Emmerich about an assault on the White House by a paramilitary group and the Capitol Police Officer who tries to stop them. The film’s screenplay is by James Vanderbilt, and it stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, with Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Jason Clarke and Richard Jenkins in supporting roles. The film was released on June 28, 2013 and has since grossed more than $205 million worldwide White House Down is one of two films released in 2013 that deals with a terrorist attack on the White House, the other being Olympus Has Fallen.
About the Film
Columbia Pictures’ White House Down is the new action film from director Roland Emmerich, whose films, including Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and Anonymous, have taken in more than $3 billion worldwide. His latest film is an action movie on an epic scale starring the most recognizable home on the planet, which is very familiar territory for Emmerich. “Actually, that was the one thing holding me off – I wondered, ‘Can I really do the White House again?’” laughs the man who had aliens blow up the building in Independence Day and sent the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy through it in 2012. “Ultimately, I wanted to tell this story because it features strong characters and a very different and unusual narrative, combining action elements with those of a political thriller of worldwide significance.”
“Obviously, Roland likes to play with symbols and icons,” says producer Bradley J. Fischer. “If you look at the content of the films and the storytelling, his films are big event movies that unfold over a worldwide scale, but they’re also about breaking down ivory towers of one form or another. So, sure, he’s destroyed the White House before, but it’s never been the centerpiece of the film – both in the plot and in the underlying storytelling – the way it is here.”
“This is really a global story,” says producer Harald Kloser, who previously worked with Emmerich as a writer and producer on 10,000 BC and 2012, and composed the music on those films as well as Anonymous and The Day After Tomorrow. “If anybody takes over the White House, they’ll have access to the world’s largest weapons arsenal. A takeover of the White House would for sure trigger a global crisis with unimaginable consequences.”
The character at the center of White House Down is John Cale, an ex soldier and divorced father who’s trying to put his life back on solid footing – especially when it concerns his relationship with his daughter. The role is played by Channing Tatum. “Cale’s been trying to figure out his life for years, to get it together. He doesn’t really have the tools to put it all into place,” says Tatum. “But his heart is good – he’s always wanted to be his daughter’s hero. And now that he’s realizing that he can’t be that, due to mistakes he’s made, he thinks, ‘Well, she idolizes the president – if I can’t be her hero, maybe I can help protect the guy who is.’”
“At the start of the movie, he’s probably a better buddy than a father,” says Tatum. “He’s not a good role model or someone you want to go to for advice. But if the stuff hits the fan, he’s the guy you want – he’s been through a lot of it.”
“That’s part of the hero’s journey in this movie,” says Kloser. “He has to accomplish something on the outside – saving the world – and something on the inside. And the story on the inside is the emotional story with his daughter.”
Opposite Tatum, the filmmakers cast Jamie Foxx as President Sawyer. Fischer says that casting Jamie Foxx was part of the key to defining the tone of the film. “We were hoping to find the right actor to play the President – somebody who could play it in a way that was a little disarming,” says Fischer. “We were hoping to find an actor who could bring the gravitas of the presidency, but also a comedic element – not jokes, but funny, light moments that would cut the tension. In a way, Cale and Sawyer are a classic ‘buddy’ pairing. That’s why Jamie was perfect – he won an Oscar® for the way he can inhabit different characters. Not only that, but it turned out he has great chemistry with Channing – they played off of each other in a way that we all found incredibly satisfying to watch. With Channing and Jamie together, the movie is just so much fun.”
Foxx says that the 46th president of the United States is “a man who would do anything to protect America, but also a man who understands that in order to protect America in this day and age, you have to have an understanding of the enemies. If you don’t have that understanding, or a way to open a dialog, you’ll forever be at odds and something drastic will constantly keep happening.”
Emmerich says that Vanderbilt wrote the character of President Sawyer as an interesting counterpoint to Cale. “When President Sawyer gets elected, he wants to do so much – and then when he’s in the job, it’s not that easy. He has to spend an inordinate amount of time on the politics of the job,” says Emmerich. “Whereas Cale’s goal is to try to impress himself and his daughter, the president is holding himself up against greatness – he wants to do something truly presidential, something Lincolnesque. He wants to be remembered as a great president. So that is part of the fun of the movie: you have a former soldier battling it out intellectually with the commander in chief as they’re stuck together throughout the movie.”
Fischer came to the project along with his Mythology Entertainment partners, James Vanderbilt and Laeta Kalogridis, when Vanderbilt revealed to Fischer that he had written the project in secret. “James said, ‘I’ve been working on something. I don’t think it’s quite ready yet, but I want you to take a look at it.’ So I took a look at it and told him he was crazy, because it was fantastic. The script started making its way around town and before we knew it, we were getting unsolicited offers from studios. We decided to go with Sony, and within 48 hours, we were sitting with Roland Emmerich, the movie was greenlit, and we were off to the races.”
White House Down
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Jason Clarke, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, Rachelle Lefevre, Matt Craven
Production Design by: Kirk M. Petruccelli
Cinematography by: Anna Foerster
Film Editing by: Adam Wolfe
Costume Design by: Lisy Christl
Set Decoration by: Marie-Soleil Dénommé, Paul Hotte, David Laramy
Music by: Harald Kloser, Thomas Wanker
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image.
Studio: Sony – Columbia Pictures
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Taglines: Collette McVeigh – Mother, Daughter, Sister, Spy.
A conspiracy thriller set around an act of betrayal within a tight knit family, the story centers around single mother Collette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) — a Republican living in Belfast with her mother and hardliner IRA brothers. When she is arrested for her part in an aborted IRA bomb plot in London, an MI5 officer (Clive Owen) offers her a choice: lose everything and go to prison or return to Belfast to spy on her own family. With her son’s life in her hands, Collette chooses to place her trust in the MI5 and return home. When her brothers’ secret operation is ambushed, suspicions of an informant are raised and Collette finds both herself and her family in grave danger.
Directed by acclaimed filmmaker James Marsh Magnolia Pictures’ Shadow Dancer stars Andrea Riseborough, Aidan Gillen, Domhall Gleeson, Brid Breenan, David Wilmot, Martin McCann with Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen. Screenplay by Tom Bradby based on his novel.
About the Film
Adaptation: “That’s your cover story” (Mac)
Shadow Dancer is an intense thriller set in a very real conflict. Its dedication to the facts has furnished the film with powerful, convincing characters set against a compulsive and gripping reality.
From its beginnings as a book written by Tom Bradby during his time as a TV correspondent in Northern Ireland in the 1990s, there has been an honourable intention to dig deep into the heart of the plight. Remarked Bradby: “In a way, writing this book was an opportunity for me to inform people about some aspects of the conflict, like the world of running informers which you couldn’t put on the TV news at night. I built the portrait of the story as a way of telling what was really happening in this war and the real intensity that lay at the heart of it.”
Bradby used his contacts on both sides of the conflict to research the running of agents. “What interested me was the relationship between a male handler and a woman agent: he is effectively trying to keep this woman alive and she is effectively betraying everyone around her in order to try and protect her son, and therefore at some point they become the only point of reality to each other. I thought that was a really interesting idea to lie at the heart of a novel and then a film.”
It was fifteen years after the publication of his novel that Tom Bradby suggested that Chris Coen read Shadow Dancer. From the opening Coen was hooked. “I loved the story of Collette’s journey and the jeopardy she finds herself in when she goes back to Ireland after being given the impossible choice to spend 25 years in prison or become a spy in order to have the opportunity to be with her son and watch him grow up. Immediately I thought that it’s such a powerful thing – it pulls you right into the story. I knew I wanted to option the book.”
Bradby had always had an interest in writing for the screen and was confident about approaching the material for this purpose. “As a novelist I’ve always been used to being brutal with my own work so I took that into screenwriting because you need to be ruthless,” remarked the writer. “The male character [Mac], for example, is quite different from the character in the book who was much younger. For the first few drafts of the script I’d kept him as he was, before realising that it wasn’t working. The whole process of Collette putting her life in this guy’s hands works much better if he is older and a bit more mature, so I killed him off and started again.”
After two years of development, Chris Coen sent the script out to Oscar-winning director James Marsh (Man on Wire, Red Riding, Project Nim). “Every producer has a favourite hit list and James was at the top of mine.” However Marsh says that he picked it up with a heavy heart. “It was about Ireland and the Troubles and we are all glad to have got beyond that, but when I started reading it I realised there was a great premise in the story.”
Although intrigued, at this stage the script had a strong political direction and lots of epic set pieces and Marsh wanted to take it in a new direction. He phoned Coen and pitched his own version. “When he called and I heard his take I was immediately sold,” said Coen. “James pitched a real cinematic experience, one that transcended the politics in order to focus on the thriller aspect and the characters. It was just everything we needed to hear.” As a result the match was made and James came on board the project.
The redrafting started. “I liked the central story of Collette,” said Marsh, “so Tom and I got to work on the script and focussed very much on Collette’s predicament.” Tom Bradby was ecstatic to be collaborating with Marsh. “James is an incredibly insightful, intelligent director. Every time we focussed on a scene that he wasn’t quite happy with or that he thought could be better, the ideas he came up with were perfect and made me think I wish I’d thought of that!”
As the process of honing continued and the story pulled tighter around Collette and her experience, the tale started to take shape as something that felt emotionally driven and far more universal. “We can all try to understand what it’s like to betray our family and betray our own political conviction,” said Marsh, “so the fact that it is set in Northern Ireland at a certain time is a circumstance that allows these things to happen but it’s not really about politics.” This shift in focus attracted financiers. “We won people over because we made a concerted effort to keep the politics as the backdrop of the movie,” he added. BBC Films were the first to come on board, then the BFI (then UKFC) and by the time they stared shooting Paramount had come on board as the UK distributor.
Casting: “This isn’t who you are Collette” (Mac)
Casting Shadow Dancer was a joy. “I think James is just one of those directors that actors want to work with,” said Chris Coen. The integrity and passion with which Marsh works is very appealing to actors and actresses and can be seen in his commanding documentaries Man on Wire and Project Nim. Andrea Riseborough, who plays lead character Collette McVeigh, explains that documentary makers offer something fresh and honest: “They have a very good relationship with reality and so don’t always adhere to usual film protocol when telling the story emotionally and I found that really refreshing.”
With what was essentially an access-all-areas pass, James Marsh had to make his casting choices carefully. Of highest importance for him was authenticity and neither he nor casting director Nina Gold were nervous about stepping off the beaten track to find it. “The two protagonists in the film came later,” said Marsh, “but the first person I cast in fact was Bríd Brennan, who is the mother in the story. I felt this was a really solid way to build the family, around the mother.” The fact that Bríd Brennan grew up in West Belfast during the Troubles was significant to Marsh.
“A lot of our actors were Irish and that was important, firstly because it felt that they knew this world better than I did and I felt they could help me and guide me.” For Brennan the project was particularly resonant since it portrayed a period through which she had lived. “In West Belfast, it was near impossible to remain outside of that conflict,” she said. “I think that’s very well drawn in this story, which is a microcosm of what was happening over the decades there – the enormous pressure on a family and on individuals trying to live and survive.”
Brennan plays “Ma,” the matriarch of a family deeply involved in the conflict. Through her subtle and often silent performance she brings out the discord and contradiction that lies in the heart of a parent trying to raise her children in the midst of a conflict. As Andrea Riseborough commented, “Bríd is an extraordinary, extraordinary actress. Her eyes are pools and it’s almost impossible to hide anything behind them, which is ironic because a parent had to hide so much.”
Chris Coen and James Marsh’s attention was drawn to Andrea Riseborough after seeing her performance in Roland Joffé’s Brighton Rock, and they quickly realised that she was the perfect fit for the role of Collette. “I just feel she is one of the most exciting young actresses around,” said Marsh. “When we spoke I knew that she instantly understood the character of Collette.”
Once Riseborough came on board, she commenced the process of inhabiting the part of Collette. “Once you understand all the things she might have to sacrifice, you can start to instinctively feel what characteristics she might need to have,” remarked Riseborough. “I felt it was possible that she might have a real stillness and she had to be so very strong to survive what she did.” Through research she built a strong framework within which she was free to experiment. Said Marsh: “On any given shooting day, Andrea would often try things out, different reads of a character across a scene, and she would offer so much, so many different types of nuances. When I got to the cutting room I realised just how many options and choices she had given me and just how hard she had worked to create this character.”
Marsh approached Clive Owen very early on. “My first choice was always Clive Owen for Mac, right from the very first time I read the script.” Said Owen: “I read the script at a time that I wasn’t really going to work, but I felt I really had to do it because it was such a good piece of writing and I was also a fan of both James’ documentaries and the dramatic feature he had done. It was just one of those scripts that you read and feel I want to do this, I really like it.” Marsh was ecstatic. “Clive is a brilliant and iconic actor and this was an opportunity for him to really stretch himself, I think, in a role that was very much based on character as opposed to action.”
Clive interpreted the role of MI5 agent Mac in a subtle and caring way, which surprised Tom Bradby. Remarked the writer: “I had imagined Mac as a slightly more aggressive character and he decided to play it differently, which made it much more authoritative as a result.” Owen had found a way into the heart of the role and was able to bring out Mac’s internal conflict. Marsh added: “You start off in the film thinking you know him but then he develops a conscience. He is working for an organisation and is beginning to doubt the way they are doing things. He feels a responsibility to the girl that he’s got working for him and he is trapped in the middle and he’s not sure where to put himself.”
Domhnall Gleeson first met James Marsh at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. When he was offered the part of Connor, Collette’s warmer, gentler brother, he was particularly excited. “When I met James Marsh I knew I wanted to work with him. He gives such good notes and everything you’d expect from a great director, but you know also in the edit he’ll be really conscientious because he is used to taking stories from all different sides, so it’s nice to feel supported in that way.”
Aiden Gillen, who plays Collette’s hardliner brother Gerry, was attracted by the fresh take on the well-trodden subject matter. “It is about the relationships and not just about events that we’ve seen on the news for too long.” This freshness of approach infiltrated every level of the set and the actors were encouraged to explore, an opportunity that doesn’t necessarily come about too often. The experienced actor David Wilmot, who plays the IRA’s head of internal security, Kevin Mulgrew, spoke about how he noticed the unique atmosphere from the first moment he was called in. “At the audition James was very inventive so I immediately thought, this could be exciting.” Marsh’s original approach prepared Wilmot for what proved to be a stimulating experience. “The set seemed to have a flexibility to it which gave us the freedom to be very creative.”
Gillian Anderson was cast in the role of the unflinching MI5 agent Kate Fletcher, whose ultimate remit is to save lives within the conflict. However, in order to do this effectively she also has to sacrifice lives too. So that she could understand the mind-set of someone able to make such calculated decisions, Anderson researched the British perspective on Northern Ireland so she could “find a way to understand Kate’s decisions and get into her thinking and the mentality around her approach.” Anderson added: “I have played characters who are more scrupulous or who are on the side of a certain kind of justice before, but I found the idea of playing a very different agent whose decisions are very foreign to me incredibly interesting.”
In order to help the members of cast who were less familiar with the politics and the era, Marsh read the history of Ireland from William the Conqueror to the present day. “When the actors had questions I was able to answer them and give them political context when they needed it. Ireland is a place where history really matters and as people in Ireland know about history I felt it was my duty to understand that and to offer advice.”
This detailed level of research, dedication and creativity infused the film, lending a weight and profundity to the performances that may, in the hands of a different director, have been lost. “Some people give performances,” said Marsh. “I felt I was given them as gifts in this film. I think that the collaborative and creative atmosphere during the filming allowed people to feel that they could take risks and not be punished for them.”
Collaboration: “If you’re in, you’ll be in. And so am I. We do this together” (Mac)
James Marsh views his role as director as “a conduit for other people’s ideas as well as your own ideas.” He explains: “What I most enjoy about filmmaking is that collaboration of smart, committed people.” So choosing the people to work alongside him was a vital part of the process.
When Director of Photography Rob Hardy and Production Designer Jon Henson came on board, they flew to Copenhagen to meet with Marsh and went about ensuring that every part of the script serviced the heart of the story. “James wanted it to be a story about how it felt to be alive at the time, about the personal stakes,” said Rob Hardy. “We weren’t particularly talking in terms of the way the film was going to look – what we were interested in was how it felt for Collette.”
These discussions gave the trio an excellent foundation when they came to shoot. Said Hardy: “We all understood the heart of it and from that anything could happen. When you’ve got that foundation then every decision we make on set has already got a strong backing which is great for the actors as they can bring their own perspectives to something that is rock solid.”
A specific look and style began to emerge that was perfectly suited to the story. “We highlighted the juxtaposition between the thriller aspects and the domesticity of the story,” said Hardy. Costume Designer Lorna Marie Mugan used Collette’s clothes to further emphasize this idea. “She is a Republican,” said Mugan, “but she is also a mother so it was important to emphasise her feminine side with high heels and tight skirts.” In addition, Jon Henson explained how he chose locations that would make Collette “look vulnerable or exposed” as well as building sets that emphasized her loneliness.
Convention was not something that interested Henson. “I wanted to avoid the tried and tested world of MI5 activity and moved many scenes that were set in police stations and offices into less expected environments – for example hotel rooms. The all-important scene where Collette meets Mac for the first time really benefitted from its change of location as it put the audience as well as Collette in an interesting position.” As Hardy further explained: “Suddenly she’s in completely unfamiliar territory and no one knows what’s going to happen. There is a bed, a table and no other furniture, she knows she is being watched by cameras, so what is she going to do?”
Story and character was at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Remarked Henson: “Primarily we spent a lot of time trying not to overstate the design. I didn’t want it to be distracting in any way and as we began to see how strong Clive and Andrea’s performances were, this became more and more important to me.”
Location: “This is my home. I can’t leave” (Collette)
Shadow Dancer was shot in Dublin, which lent the film a distinctive setting. Jon Henson explains: “Mainly I wanted to avoid the classic red brick estates that we associate with Belfast and the Falls Road. Being in Dublin helped us avoid these overused locations. We found a great grey monotone estate which was how I always saw it.”
For Andrea Riseborough, shooting in Dublin was more of a challenge, as she had to retain her Belfast-centric mind-set. “It was wonderful being in Dublin and the crew were incredible. We had a wonderful time and a huge support network there but I was trying to imagine that I was in Belfast so had to shelter myself from Dublin in a way, and every moment I could I would go to Belfast on the train.”
Shadow Dancer is set in the 1990s, right at the end of the Troubles and the beginning of the peace process. As Hardy explains, “It was a tired world, a place where people were willing to move on and start anew so there is a lot of dealings with reflections and the characters looking out onto the world as it passes by. You sense that the idea of transition and that longing to move on and to move away from what’s going on and then you have other characters who are clutching on.” As a period, the 1990s were challenging to reconstruct. “It’s a very difficult period to deal with because the world hasn’t really changed that much,” said Jon Henson. “It’s very easy to feel the need to telegraph it with blatant visual signals so I had to work quite hard to avoid this. I really wanted the design to be as delicate as the performance.”
Costume Designer Lorna Marie Mugan explains they “took the best of the 1990s and tried to keep it true. The landscape was grey concrete and corrugated iron; we wanted to get away from that with some colour.” Collette, in her bright red coat, provides a complete contrast from the landscape around her; she is deliberately separate from it as though she is looking for something else. “What she wants is have a life and be safe”, remarked Andrea Riseborough. “There is this line where she says, this is my home, I can’t leave. It makes perfect sense; it’s her community, why should she leave? It’s not like she wants to escape in that sense, she just wants a full and happy, safe life.”
Finale: “Tell me the Truth and you’ll live” (Kevin Mulgrew)
James Marsh brought a level of integrity to the project. “Documentary makers are not interested in anything fake or phoney,” said Clive Owen. “They have spent their lives trying to capture the essence of something real, their sensibilities are very grounded and that’s always very exciting. James had that sensibility and I really appreciated that and felt that that was a huge strength.”
All the essential elements that combined to make Shadow Dancer – the seed of the idea, the cast and the director – were committed to finding a truth at the heart of the story, a truth that was a reality for the people living through the conflict. “It’s not about clearly drawn lines of good or bad or right or wrong, it’s about grappling with decisions,” said Clive Owen. “It was a very complicated time for Northern Ireland and I think one of the strengths of the film is that it addresses this, and addresses the fact that people became trapped in situations, just as my character does, and Collette and her family do. All the characters are wrestling with issues and decisions; there are no clear cut answers, as there never are in situations like this.”
Directed by: James Marsh
Starring: Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson
Screenplay by: Tom Bradby
Production Design by: Jon Henson
Cinematography by: Rob Hardy
Film Editing by: Jinx Godfrey
Costume Design by: Lorna Marie Mugan
Art Direction by: Aeveen Fleming
Music by: Dickon Hinchliffe
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent content.
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Release Date: April 25, 2013
Taglines: When our flag fall, our nation will rise.
A small group of heavily armed, meticulously trained extremists launch a daring daylight ambush on the White House, overrunning the building and taking President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his staff hostage inside an impenetrable underground presidential bunker. As a pitched battle rages on the White House lawn, former presidential security officer Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) joins the fray, and finds his way into the besieged building to do the job he has trained for all his life: to protect the president — at all costs.
Banning uses his extensive training and detailed knowledge of the presidential residence to become the eyes and ears of Acting President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) and his key advisors. With tension rising, the radicals begin executing hostages and threaten to kill more unless their outrageous demands are met, our national security team must relay on Banning to locate the president’s young son, who is being sought as the ultimate test of the president’s loyalty to his country, and rescue the president before the terrorists can unleash their ultimate, terrifying plan.
“We Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists”
“When executive producer Avi Lerner brought me the script, I knew immediately it was a great piece of material with unlimited potential,” says Fuqua, a director known for his unflinching treatment of gritty urban stories like Training Day, which earned Denzel Washington an Oscar® for Best Actor. ). “It is classic hero’s journey, right out of Joseph Campbell.”
“What struck me about the material was that it was something that I felt that could happen “The title put me in the mind of the Roman Empire and the idea of the myth. Mount Olympus is the traditional home of the Greek and Roman gods. It’s a symbol of limitless power. In our film the White House crumbles in an unthinkable manner. It had so much resonance for me. Rome, the great empire, becomes America, and its greatest monument collapses.”
As producer, Butler was just as eager to sign Fuqua to the project. “When we got this script, I immediately thought of Antoine,” he says. “Of all the great directors working today, I thought he was the one who would absolutely kill it. I love his movies from Training Day, which I think is one of the best movies ever made, to Tears of the Sun and Brooklyn’s Finest. He does gritty action and realism like nobody else.”
Butler’s character, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, becomes the only option for resolve after a group of North Korean commandoes takes control of the White House. Trapped without backup in the decimated building, Banning engages the terrorists in a game of cat-and-mouse with impossibly high stakes.
Taglines: You can’t escape the past.
The film, adapted from Neil Gordon’s novel of the same name, is centered on the story of Jim Grant (Robert Redford), a former Weather Underground activist wanted for murder who goes on the run when a young reporter (Shia LaBeouf) exposes his true identity. Sparking a nationwide manhunt, Grant sets off on a cross-country journey to clear his name.
Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is a public interest lawyer and single father raising his daughter in the tranquil suburbs of Albany, New York. Grant’s world is turned upside down,when a brash young reporter named Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) exposes his true identity as a former 1970s antiwar radical fugitive wanted for murder. After living for more than 30 years underground, Grant must now go on the run. With the FBI in hot pursuit, he sets off on a cross-country journey to track down the one person that can clear his name.
Shepard knows the significance of the national news story he has exposed and, for a journalist, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. Hell-bent on making a name for himself, he is willing to stop at nothing to capitalize on it. He digs deep into Grant’s past. Despite warnings from his editor and threats from the FBI, Shepard relentlessly tracks Grant across the country.
Script to Screen
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP can be seen as a cat and mouse game between two men — journalist Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) and fugitive Jim Grant (Robert Redford) — both attempting to expose the truth and, in the process, redefine their lives. While the film, which is set in the present day, recalls the history and aftermath of the radical antiwar protest movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s (and in particular one of its most violent manifestations, The Weather Underground), it remains a work of fiction. Indeed it was the dramatic potential of the story itself, even more so than the meticulously researched underpinnings of Neil Gordon’s 2003 novel, which first attracted Robert Redford to the project.
“I thought it was a good story and it gave you a chance to look inside of an event that is a piece of American history,” says Redford of the film, his first as both actor and director since his 2007 drama, Lions for Lambs. “It truly gets inside how people were living their lives thirty years later… underground and with a false identity.”
“For me it was a bit like Les Miserables, with the character Jean Valjean sentenced to nineteen years for a loaf of bread,” Redford explains. “He escaped from prison, built a false identity, had a daughter, had a good life, but the pain of that time was always going to haunt him,. So how do these people deal with that? Do they change? Do they not change? That was the interesting story to be told. It wasn’t so much about the antiwar movement itself, because that belongs to history.”
Working with fellow producers Bill Holderman, who previously collaborated with Redford on Lions for Lambs and his most recent directorial effort, The Conspirator (2010), and Nicolas Chartier (The Hurt Locker), the project was developed over the course of four years. Adapted by Lem Dobbs, who scripted Haywire and The Limey for Steven Soderbergh, the screenplay centers on Grant’s journey as he reconnects with the ghosts of his past — many still living underground — with the hope of ultimately exonerating himself from the murder charges he fled as a student linked to the radical fringe of the antiwar movement. All the while, Ben Shepard and the FBI pursue him, never more than a few steps behind his trail.
“This is about a group of people that were underground,” Redford explains. “They were very close, bonded by the styles of their time, the passions of their time, and now they’ve grown older and they’ve taken different paths. Some resent that they did it. Others have remorse. Some believed in it at the time, but feel they have to spend the rest of their lives paying for it. Others feel it was a just cause at the time and still is a cause for today. So there’s also all these multiple feelings and relationships — how they all interacted fascinated me.”
While Redford planned both the scenario and the production itself down to the finest detail, he also left considerable elements of the story open to the actors’ own interpretations. Indeed, as an actor himself, he encouraged each individual’s input.
“It was a skeletal script at the beginning that he was fleshing out through rehearsal,” explains Shia LaBeouf (Transformers; Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) of the collaboration between the director and his cast.
“I think it was like 80 pages when I first received it — and then he just started pumping life into it,” says LaBeouf. “He allowed twenty pages for the script to evolve. He was still comfortable enough to pull the green-light-trigger on it… And he had the confidence in himself and his team to be able to move forward.”
LaBeouf points to a scene shared with Brendan Gleeson (The Guard) by way of example, one in which his journalist prods Gleeson’s retired police chief for information at an Ann Arbor, Michigan diner. “That scene didn’t even really exist initially,” explains LaBeouf. “Then you bring in somebody like Gleeson and you start riffing a bit… Redford allows it to breathe, but it’s structured. It’s not just ad-libbed — it’s very structured as to what needs to be explained and why.”
“He acts as though he’s completely in control, but he allows his film to be as free as something that has no control or boundaries at all, which allows life to exist… which allows real moments to happen and he maintains structure,” says LaBeouf of Redford. “It’s really amazing what he does and he does it so easily, it seems. That’s the beauty of him.”
The Company You Keep
Directed by: Robert Redford
Starring: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Sam Elliott, Jacqueline Evancho
Screenplay by: Lem Dobbs, Neil Gordon
Production Design by: Laurence Bennett
Cinematography by: Adriano Goldman
Film Editing by: Mark Day
Costume Design by: Karen L. Matthews
Set Decoration by: Carol Lavallee
Music by: Cliff Martinez
MPAA Rating: R for language.
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: April 5, 2013