Tagline: One Loft…and a secret that will change their lives forever!
Karl Urban (Star Trek Into Darkness) and James Marsden (2 Guns) star in the tense psychological thriller The Loft, the story of five married guys who conspire to secretly share a penthouse loft in the city–a place where they can carry out hidden affairs and indulge in their deepest fantasies. But the fantasy becomes a nightmare when they discover the dead body of an unknown woman in the loft, and they realize one of the group must be involved. Paranoia seizes them as everyone begins to suspect one another. Friendships are tested, loyalties are questioned and marriages crumble as the group is consumed by fear, suspicion and murder in this relentless thriller.
This is a mystery-thriller aimed at an adult audience. The five male stars, primarily Karl Urban and James Marsden, are the focus, with the women in the film in a secondary role. Sex, violence, constant language, and adult themes make the film not for kids.
About the Production
Five unhappily married men, one secret loft, two beautiful blondes: what could possibly go wrong? The bloody answer to that question proved irresistible to moviegoers in Belgium, who flocked to the 2008 Dutch-language film in record numbers, making Loft the biggest box-office hit in the nation’s history. After directing the original version, Erik Van Looy realized the erotic thriller would translate beautifully for a worldwide audience.
“The team at Woestijnvis who produced Loft felt that Bart De Pauw’s fantastic screenplay deserved to be discovered across the whole world,” explains Van Looy. “The Loft is not an art-house film. We all wanted it to reach a broad global audience and the only way to achieve this was through an American remake.”
For the R-rated U.S. remake, Van Looy had no desire to tinker with the tightly-plotted storyline. As in the original, The Loft follows the story of five married men who share a penthouse loft in the city as a clandestine love nest. But when they discover a beautiful dead woman in the apartment, the husbands’ scheme implodes, leaving in its wake crumbled marriages, broken friendships and a police investigation that will end in a murder charge for one of them.
When Wesley Strick came on to write the English-language adaptation, the director had only one directive. “My instruction to the screenwriter was: ‘Remain true to the original!'” the director recalls.
Van Looy is hardly the first to remake his own movie. Alfred Hitchcock directed two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much. More recently Michael Haneke followed his German-language Funny Games with an English-language adaptation. Even Cecil B. DeMille shot The Ten Commandments twice.
“Every movie I’ve directed leaves me with the feeling that it could have been done better,” says Van Looy. “After making the original Loft, I felt like it could have been sharper and the camera movements even snappier. With the remake, I knew exactly what I was aiming for, so I really feel like The Loft is an upgrade of the original movie.”
In assembling the English-language cast for The Loft, Van Looy put together an entirely new ensemble, with one exception: Matthias Schoenaerts. Before the fast-rising Belgian actor appeared alongside Marion Cotilliard in Rust and Bone, in the Oscar-nominated Bullhead or the English-language thriller The Drop, he played hothead Filip Willems in the original Loft film.
Schoenaerts speaks fondly of his volatile, cocaine-snorting character. “Filip’s the youngest, most impulsive member of the group,” he says. “He had a troubled childhood, so he’s got anger issues. Filip’s like this little piece of dynamite, ready to go off at any minute.”
The fact that Schoenaerts already knew his character inside and out was a big advantage, according to Van Looy. “He went at it with his usual energy from the first day.”
Schoenaerts’ on-set intensity inspired visceral performances from the other actors as well, says the director. “American actors have a tendency to analyze and talk a lot about their characters, which is understandable at the beginning, because acting puts you in a vulnerable position. But once you’re on set, the attitude has to become: ‘Let’s get going! Just play the part and we’ll see what happens.’ And that’s Matthias’ style. When the other actors saw Matthias really go for it, they got very focused.”
New Zealand actor Karl Urban jumped at the chance to play Vincent Stevens, who sets the story in motion by handing out keys to a luxury apartment to his four friends for secret trysts. “None of these characters is what they appear to be,” Urban says. “Each one has his own dark side, and to me, as an actor, that was really interesting because it adds another dimension.”
The Loft gave Urban an opportunity to shift gears from the many successful action movies he’s appeared in, including Star Trek into Darkness, Riddick, Priest, Dredd and The Bourne Supremacy. “As an actor I like to do something different from what I’ve just done,” he explains. “The character of Vincent appealed to me because he’s not running around with a gun. He doesn’t have some kind of gigantic, epic dilemma. Instead, the movie touches on marriages and infidelity and friendship and ambition and weaves it all into this very rich kind of tapestry.”
Wentworth Miller plays the low-key Luke Seacord. “He’s a complex character and I enjoyed finding the shades of grey in Luke,” says Miller, a Princeton University graduate who starred in the hit TV series “Prison Break.” “The Loft is about five people who think they know each other but come to discover that they may not know each other that well after all. Nobody in this movie is entirely black or white, but for my character in particular, I had to walk a very fine line.”
Miller especially appreciated the film’s careful and clever plotting. “The script is constructed like an intricate puzzle,” he says. “When I first read the screenplay, I didn’t see the end coming at all.”
While all the men in The Loft have flaws, James Marsden sees his character, psychologist Chris Vanowen, as the closest thing to a hero. “I think Chris is the most morally grounded person of the five,” says Marsden. “He’s the conscience of the movie and struggles with infidelity more than anyone else. If there’s any big decision that has to be made, the other guys look to Chris to make the right choice.”
Marsden welcomed the chance to make a movie that uses a time-honored approach to suspense in a thoroughly contemporary setting. “I feel like there’s a very Hitchcockian element to The Loft and I don’t know think Hollywood is making those types of movies anymore,” he says. “They’re mostly either big giant comic book movies or little independent films, so it’s nice to be part of a movie like The Loft. It’s a classic thriller.”
Keeping track of the film’s deceptions and multiple flashbacks required intense concentration on set, Marsden muses: “What clues are we putting out there? What does my character know, or not know? What is he faking, what is he doing for real? How are we manipulating the audience with the timeline?”
Marsden observes that the taut structure of The Loft requires each actor to serve the story. “The plot is the star.”
For Eric Stonestreet, the role of philandering Marty Landry offered a departure from his role as Cameron Tucker in the Emmy-winning sitcom “Modern Family.” “In The Loft, people make mistakes on top of mistakes on top of mistakes that keep spinning out of control,” Stonestreet says. “As an audience member I love watching movies where you just know it’s not going to turn out well.”
Stonestreet figures the film’s infidelity theme will resonate with moviegoers. “I think there will be a lot of conversations between girlfriends and boyfriends and husbands and wives after they have seen this movie,” he says. “Every woman is going to ask the man: Would you accept a key? Would you do that to your friends?”
Stonestreet provided plenty of comic relief during filming, according to cast mate Miller. “When you work with material as intense as The Loft, you want to counterbalance that with humor, and Eric’s a riot,” Miller says. “He always had a joke to tell or a magic trick to show. He’s the first to be sarcastic and silly, and if there were moments that felt awkward or overacted, he’d be the first to point it out. In between takes, it was nice to be able to laugh.”
Australian actress Rachael Taylor embraced her role as Chris’ mistress Ann with a full appreciation of the film’s complicated adult themes. “The French playwright Jean Anouilh has a great quote: ‘There is love of course. And then there’s life, its enemy.’ The script articulates relationships in a very modern, realistic way. American men are often asked to suppress their sexual appetites and I thought that was an interesting idea for a movie to explore.”
Taylor, who previously portrayed an intelligence analyst in Michael Bay’s 2007 Transformer blockbuster, says “In The Loft, I play a prostitute hired to seduce the Chris character. But in the end, we fall in love with each other. That’s probably the most complex relationship theme in the film.”
The actress says she had no problem generating chemistry with Marsden. “I have the biggest crush in the world on James Marsden,” she says. “James has so much natural charisma and as an actor, he’s incredibly generous.”
Isabel Lucas, the Swiss-Australian actress who portrayed Greek goddess Athena in 2011’s Immortals, plays Sarah Deakins in The Loft. “The film is a picture of how desire and secrecy can spiral out of control and go to a very dark place,” she says. “All the universal themes are there: betrayal and infidelity, jealousy, control and love, lust, passion.”
In Sarah’s introductory scene, she approaches Vincent at a bar during a real-estate convention, brings him to the rooftop pool and instructs the man she’s just met to remove all his clothes. “Sarah’s very spirited,” Lucas explains. “I think it’s very daring of her to make advances on a married man. Sarah doesn’t have any manipulative intention: She’s just drawn to Vincent and it happens that he’s married.”
Lucas spent much of her time playing dead with fake blood smeared across her wrists. “For a lot of scenes we shot in the loft, I’d be lying in this bloody bed listening to the guys doing scenes, yet I’m not really involved. That was an interesting experience.”
A Hollywood Look
To capture the rain-soaked sense of dread permeating The Loft, Van Looys recruited director of photography Nicolas Karakatsanis. “Nicolas’ nickname is ‘The Prince of Darkness’ but for The Loft, he turned on the light, so to speak,” says Van Looys.
Best known in the U.S. for shooting Oscar-nominated thriller Bullhead, Karakatsanis insisted on starting with a blank slate when it came to the film’s cinematography. “Nicolas made The Loft on one condition: that he didn’t have to see the original film,” recalls Van Looy. “Therefore, the original and the remake look very different.”
In keeping with his desire to reach a wide audience, Van Looy had a specific look in mind. “I told Nicolas that The Loft had to look like a glossy American film. He’s a great visual master, and what makes Nicolas even greater is that, like Roger Deakins, for example, who shoots a James Bond picture like Skyfall, then turns around and does something like No Country for Old Men, Nicolas can genuinely change styles. His cinematography is generally darker in films like Small Gods, Lost Persons Area and of course Bullhead, but Nicolas has also shot many commercials. He knew how to make The Loft look very American and glossy, but with a sharp edge.”
Nex Orleans Noir
Architecture plays a key role in The Loft, since so much of the story unfolds in and around a high-rise apartment building. The filmmakers scouted locations in Miami and Atlanta before deciding to shoot exteriors in New Orleans, paired with four weeks of interiors filmed in Belgium.
New Orleans offered tax incentives and other benefits that made it attractive financially. However, The Loft required a setting with modern architecture, which is hard to find in one of America’s oldest cities. “The majority of films shot there take place in the French Quarter but we found the only high-rise in New Orleans that was suitable for our film. It wasn’t easy getting the residents’ permission to film there. We fought for that building.”
Teaming with crew members who had worked on the HBO series “Treme.” Van Looy deliberately chose locations lacking the signature Louisiana look. “The city is not mentioned by name and New Orleans will not be instantly recognizable,” says Van Looys. “However, if you look closely that you can see the dome of the Superdome in the distance at the beginning of the film.”
The Ultimate Bachelor Pad
The starkly beautiful penthouse condo where much of the film’s drama unfolds has its own character arc within the film’s tightly plotted storyline. What starts out as a fantasy hideaway for five adulterous men quickly turns into a nightmarish prison where one life has ended and others are on the verge of being destroyed.
While the outside of an imposing skyscraper was being filmed in New Orleans to serve as the loft’s exterior, production designer Maia Javan (House of Sand and Fog, The Banger Sisters) oversaw the creation of the apartment’s interior on a Belgian soundstage. “The challenge was to capture the slick, thriller-like modern feeling of the original Loft and reimagine it for an American city,” Javan says.
The look of the loft reflects architect Vincent’s masculine aesthetic. “We imagined it as the ultimate bachelor pad,” says Javan. “It’s a man’s space with all these hard surfaces but devoid of personal items because no one actually lives there. The idea was that it should look like a space designed by Vincent, who designed the entire building.”
For the loft’s expansive window views of the city skyline filmmakers recruited Rosco Digital Imaging to make a massive backdrop featuring photo-realistic vistas. “The Rosco team flew to New Orleans and shot the view out the window of the building we used as the loft exterior,” she explains. “Then they transformed that into a huge photographic background that we had printed in Holland and trucked over to the soundstage in Belgium.”
Collaborating with art director Kurt Loyens, who designed the look of the original Loft film, Javan structured an open floor plan that makes it impossible for the men to escape seeing the grisly crime scene from any point in the apartment. “We created the loft space so that when you walked into the front door of the loft, your eye would go straight to the dead girl on the bed.”
The scene of the crime stands in sharp contrast to the dark decor that dominates the rest of the loft, “We had the white sheets on the bed so as the characters entered, that’s the first thing they noticed,” says the production designer. “And that when characters are talking about their actions, they just can’t get away from the dead girl and the blood.”
To break up the open space and add visual interest to the set, the filmmakers added a number of contemporary architectural elements. “We had stainless steel rods that went floor to ceiling and used a lot of translucent objects and varying ceiling heights,” says Javan.
The loft’s muted color palette further reinforces a sense of claustrophobic dread, the designer says. “We wanted the loft to be like a relentless presence. It’s like this space will not let these characters go until they come to some kind of conclusion. As the flashbacks unfold, the men get even more entangled in a web they can’t escape.”
Music with a Hitchcock Edge
Composer John Frizzell, whose credits include Texas Chainsaw 3D and the TV series “The Following,” provided the music underscoring The Loft’s wicked twists and turns. “In my films I like music to be a prominent, driving force,” says Van Looy. “Bernard Herrmann’s music always had a significant presence in Alfred Hitchcock’s movies. The assignment for John was to produce an exciting score in the style of Bernard Herrmann.”
One sequence in particular gained transformative power through Frizzell’s propulsive orchestrations. “There’s a nine-minute scene at a charity ball where everything basically comes together in this huge flashback,” says Van Looy. “In the original film it didn’t really work until we added music to pull all these fragments together.”
For the remake, Frizzell similarly created his own piece of music to unify the montage. “It’s sometimes said that the audience shouldn’t really notice the music in a movie, but to me that’s nonsense,” says Van Looy. “I think the audience should hear the music.”
A Classic Thriller
Although the story of The Loft was born and bred in Europe, Van Looy is confident it will feel right at home in American theaters. “Bart De Pauw wrote the screenplay in an attic in town of Lier outside of Antwerp, but I’ve always felt like this story would work even better in an American context,” says Van Looy. “Not because more adultery is committed in the United States- or because there are more lofts here-but simply because we are used to seeing thrillers in a Hollywood context.”
Eric Stonestreet expects audiences to have the same kind of reaction he had upon reading The Loft script for the first time. “I was in the middle of shooting ‘Modern Family’ and my girlfriend says, ‘You have to read this’ but she wouldn’t tell me anything about the story. Usually when I watch a movie, I sit there thinking ‘I’ve got this figured out.’ With The Loft, you don’t know what’s going to happen next and that’s something I think audiences will really respond to.”
Directed by: Erik Van Looy
Starring: Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, Isabel Lucas, Rachael Taylor, Rhona Mitra, Valerie Cruz, Margarita Levieva, Kali Rocha, Elaine Cassidy
Screenplay by: Bart De Pauw, Wesley Strick
Production Design by: Maia Javan
Cinematography by: Nicolas Karakatsanis
Film Editing by: Eddie Hamilton
Costume Design by: Liz Staub
Set Decoration by: Cynthia Anne Slagter, Andy Van Cauwenbergh
Music by: John Frizzell
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, bloody violence, language and some drug use.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date: January 30, 2015