Writer, actor and director Paul du Toit’s latest play The Unlikely Secret Agent is based on Ronnie Kasril’s award-winning book and will enjoy its world premiere on June 9 at The Drama Factory in Somerset West.

The play tells a true story of bravery and hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, with du Toit stepping into the shoes of Ronnie Kasril, with Erika Marais, winner of an Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival, in the role of Eleanor, Kasril’s wife. The cast also includes Ntlanhla Morgan Kutu, making his professional theatre debut, Gideon Lombard (Kyknet’s Suidooster Treknet and on stage Stressed to Kill,  Orpheus in Africa) and Sanda Shandu, multi-talented actor and TV star (Netflix’s “The Kissing Booth” and SA’s “Skemerdans”).

“I am thrilled that  the dramatic story of a young woman’s courageous battle with the South African security police in the 1960’s, is  coming to the stage.” Says Ronnie Kasrils. “This is a brilliant script about what led a single mother to join Umkhonto we Sizwe, and how she managed to defeat her interrogators. Erika Marais has captured Eleanor, my girlfriend at the time, quite brilliantly. You will question yourself – could you have stood up against apartheid as this slender young woman did. “

Du Toit is really excited about their youth day performance. Audience members can sponsor tickets for underprivileged audiences. If anyone want to get involved, please contact the drama factory. www.dramafactory.co.za

It will be staged at The Drama Factory in Somerset-West from 10-20 JUNE 2021.

Paul du Toit and Erika Marais

Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with Paul Du Toit

The Unlikely Secret Agent is described as a story of bravery and hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds… tell me more about this?

It is first and foremost a love story. Two young lovers heady with the flush of romance and filled with the brave spirit of youth. Decide to act on what they believe to be right. They become politically active. They feel the rush of being freedom fighters.

1963, South Africa. The country is on a knife edge.  Political protest, sabotage and violence has engulfed the country. Government forces of the Apartheid regime, under Hendrik Verwoerd, brutally suppress resistance. Under the State of Emergency, the feared Special Branch of the police arrest anyone suspected of being involved in underground activities.

The plot focuses on Eleanor, an unassuming, young single mother who is arrested in Griggs Bookstore where she works in Durban and taken for questioning. The police are on the hunt for her lover, the notorious “terrorist”, Red Ronnie Kasrils.  There is no point in her resisting, the police “know everything”. But do they really? Eleanor is keeping a secret. She is a clandestine agent for the Underground ANC. But she must protect her comrades and Ronnie. She makes the daring decision to fake a nervous breakdown in order to be transferred to a psychiatric institution. From there, she begins to plot her escape.

You mentioned that this is one of those South African stories that simply must be told.

This is one of those South African stories that simply must be told. A story of sacrifice from someone who, though she would never consider herself one, is nothing short of a national hero. A story that reminds us of just how much these heroes were prepared to risk fighting oppression in our country.

I’ve always had a keen interest in History, especially South African history, but this was a story I had never heard before. Bravery and tenacity in the face of frightening odds. And all these virtues found in the most unlikely person: a young white middle clerk clerk from a bookstore. Tambo Mbeki put it perfectly when he said: “This little, ordinary woman with the heart of a lioness confirms the truth that our freedom was not free” 

How relevant is the story in the world we live today?

We do not fully know just how much we owe some of our previous generation. How difficult it must be for those of them who are still with us to see us squander that freedom they earned us.

What do you think makes a person heroic?

Humility. Something Eleanor epitomises. In my eyes she is nothing short of a national hero, but she never wanted ant accolades.

How challenging was the writing of the play?

It started of a s a one woman play, but I found it more interesting to have her interrogators on stage with her. And then suddenly I had four actors who could play all the other characters in the story!

The fact that this play is based on real events did mean that I was restricted as to what I could allow my characters to do. Luckily I had Ronnie and is book to inspire me and provide motivation for my characters. But there did come a time where I had to not so much leave the facts behind but use them as a foundation and let my imagination take over. I had to take certain liberties with events and characters for dramatic effect. The truth however always remained paramount.

I of course, couldn’t put the whole book into the play. I had to choose which events best illustrated the qualities of Eleanor I wanted to bring across to the audience

The other challenge was how to cram three years, events that played off over thousands of kilometers as well as a myriad of characters in to one and a half hours?

Did you work closely with Kasril during the writing of the play?

Ronnie was verry supportive. We had many Zoom meetings where we peppered him with questions. He was incredibly generous with his answers. And, of  course, he gave us permission and the freedom to adapt his book. It was very encouraging the get his feedback of every draft. I had to know if he thought the script rang true.

Did you write the play with the prospect of directing it?

It was never a certainty, but always a possibility given Covid budgets! I am an actor first and foremost, so it was natural, that while I wrote, I had a picture in my head of how I saw it playing out on a stage.

You are also stepping into the shoes of Kasril? Was this a daunting task? 

Very much so. From the point of view of playing such a well-known personality and also having to wear the writer’s hat, actors’s hat and director’s hat at the same time. But given the financial restrictions in our industry this is fairly commonplace. We are used to compromise. The festival circuit prepared me for this. We are very used to playing in a barn, with no lights or sound equipment and ten minutes to move your set in before the audience arrives!

What has really helped me is the assistance my cast has given me in term of providing an outside eye. This as been a very democratic process. Each actor’s input matters and is given full consideration. There is very little hierarchy. I think Eleanor would have liked that.

How do you personally relate to Kasril and his story?

The biggest question I ask myself is: Had it been me, at that time, in that situation, would I have had he courage to follow my convictions? Would I have been prepared to sacrifice my liberty so that others could have theirs?

Did you writing the play inform your decisions as director and actor?

My ideas and decisions as an actor, director and writer evolved as one. What I am lucky to get from my company is their critique. The more ideas get thrown into the mix the bigger the magic! Though the final decision does rest with me I like the think of myself as a director in the mould of the benign dictator!

You have cast Erika Marais as Kasril’s wife, who also steps in as producer… tell me about this

Erika Marais was the driving force behind the project. I think after winning the Ovation award at the National Arts Festival she was looking for a new project. She had read the book some years previously, but it was then that she approaches me to adapt it into a one woman play for her to perform. I

As I said earlier, I tried to write the one woman play, but no cigar. Now thw producer has four extra salaries to pay! Sorry Erika!

Marais confided that her research into Eleanor’s character found her sharing coffee, cake and memories with Kasrils last year: “We had already been chatting for months on the phone, zoom and e-mail. But meeting with him in person and having him share Eleanor’s inner life with me is proving to be invaluable in my preparation to portray Eleanor truthfully and to do justice to her character.”

How do you see the future of theatre in South Africa after the devastating blow of the pandemic?

I am very hopeful. I think the lockdown especially has made people long for contact and to be moved by others and to be amazed by our fellow human beings. What better place than in a theatre.

Will the play travel elsewhere after its run at THE DRAMA FACTORY?

There has been really interesting foreign interest from Hong Kong and London, but I would really like to play this in South Africa to audiences who can most relate. 

Tell me about your future plans?  

I will be play Satan in a film From the Ashes. We’ve shot most of in in Ireland already. The movie is scheduled to shoot in the US later this year and also features South African actress Jean Nelson.

I will be exploring the industry in Canada with my wife and kids who are based there now, and will always be drawn to South African stories.

Spirit Untamed is the next chapter in DreamWorks Animation’s beloved franchise that began with the 2002 with the Oscar-nominated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and includes an Emmy-winning TV series.

An epic adventure about a headstrong girl longing for a place to belong who discovers a kindred spirit when her life intersects with a wild horse, Spirit Untamed is the next chapter in the beloved story.

Wild buckskin mustang stallion Spirit were introduced to audiences in 2002, they were captivated by the film’s stunning visuals and its powerful narrative. DreamWorks knew that there would be more to explore with Spirit’s story, and in 2017, audiences were reintroduced to Spirit in Netflix’s TV series Spirit Riding Free. President of DreamWorks Animation Margie Cohn thought it was the perfect opportunity to reach young female audiences.

Margie Cohn

“This audience was starved for stories of friendship and bravery where girls could be smart, and where they could do the right thing and that’s how they triumphed. It was also abundantly clear that girls and horses have this eternal relationship where a horse isn’t just a pet, but a best friend. The story of Lucky and Spirit is an inspiring one that shows that with your best friend by your side, you can be unstoppable.”

The TV show debuted to critical and commercial acclaim, winning a Daytime Emmy Award in 2019 and garnering a large and growing fanbase. Audiences loved the story of Lucky and Spirit and the friendships that Lucky forms with her two best friends, Pru and Abigail. So, the idea to continue the franchise with a new original feature film presented the studio with the perfect opportunity to explore those relationships more thoroughly, while adding layers of fun, thrills and emotional depth. Spirit Untamed was born.

“There were a several ideas about what the movie could be, but I was always interested in the film being centered on the origination story of Lucky and Spirit,” says producer Karen Foster. “I also thought it was important to incorporate a father-daughter conflict right off the bat, because it would create more of an emotional arc for, not only the characters, but the story in its entirety.”

Spirit Untamed' Review: Horse Girls Unite - The New York Times
Aury Wallington

When it came to the script, Aury Wallington, the creator of Netflix’s Spirit Riding Free, was a natural choice. “Aury wrote the film’s first draft, which served as a great foundation for the film,” Foster says. “As the story artists were developing the various scenes, Kristin Hahn came on board to help us deepen the emotional story and strengthen the structure of the film, while Aury continued to ensure that the script and the dialogue stayed within the universe of the Spirit franchise.”

Wallington tapped into her deep knowledge of the Spirit world to draft a great adventure tale. She felt a strong connection to the Spirit characters and was excited to help continue their stories. “I’m thrilled to have had a part in bringing the magic of Spirit back to the big screen, where its message of friendship and empowerment can reach a new generation,” Wallington says.

Aury Wallington (Screenplay by) is the creator, showrunner and executive producer of Spirit Riding Free, which ran for 52 episodes on Netflix. Her other writing credits include Gravity Falls, Heroes, Veronica Mars, Sex and the City, and the Nickelodeon movie Jinxed. She is currently developing shows for Disney+ and HBO Max.

After graduating from USC Film School, Kristin Hahn (Screenplay by) co-directed, wrote and produced the documentary feature, Anthem. Hahn also co-wrote the companion book, Anthem: An American Road Story, and In Search of Grace–is an exploration of religious/spiritual practices in America as a layperson’s guide to comparative religion. Following the publication of Grace, Hahn formed Plan B Entertainment with Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, where she originated and supervised a large slate of pictures, including A Mighty Heart (dir. Michael Winterbottom), The Time Traveler’s Wife (dir. Robert Schwentke) for which Hahn served as co-producer, and the Academy Award-winning The Departed (dir. Martin Scorsese), for which Hahn served as executive producer.  Most recently, Hahn adapted the Jerry Spinelli novel, Stargirl for Disney+, which she also produced under her Hahnscape Entertainment banner alongside Gotham Entertainment. Hahn also adapted the New York Times best-selling novel, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, which she also produced and which stars Danielle MacDonald and Aniston.

Kristin Hahn

“This is a story that comes from an existing cast of characters and a preexisting world and tone,” director Elaine Bogan says. “The biggest monsters were already tackled. We already knew what the tone was; we knew the characters and their personalities. Our biggest job was taking them from one end of a character arc to another. Something that I was excited to explore thematically was the idea of embracing change as an opportunity to grow and become a stronger person.”

“When I first signed on to the project, I was nervous that because I knew so much about horses—their personalities, their demeanor and facial expressions—my knowledge would dampen the creativity of the crew when we got to animation,” Bogan says. “I was conscious not to think with the mindset of, ‘Oh, a horse would never do that.’ I didn’t want that voice to take over what was meant to be an entertaining, fun, inventive and creative project. So, aside from being wildly creative, Ennio brought his outside-the-box approach and his wonderful personal perspectives to the film. He was the non-horse voice to bring that creativity and invention into the horse world, which helped me to not get locked into that voice in my head.”

Elaine Bogan

After receiving her bachelors in classical animation at Sheridan College, Elaine Bogan (Director) found her home in story, which has translated into a challenging and successful career. Bogan has been a story artist with DreamWorks Animation since 2005 on a wide range of feature films and television series, and began directing for the studio in 2011. Bogan became DreamWorks Television’s first female director while working on the series Dragons: Riders of Berk. Her debut episode was nominated for a 2014 Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Directing in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production. She went on to direct episodes of the Emmy-nominated Trollhunters and 3Below, both part of Guillermo del Toro’s Tales of Arcadia trilogy. 

Co-director Ennio Torresan, Jr. and Bogan have similar storytelling sensibilities, they also come from different artistic backgrounds and would be able to bring their unique strengths to the table.

Torresan, Jr., as it turns out, was looking for his next project and had a strong connection to the franchise. “I was looking for a project that I could be involved in from the beginning—developing the characters, the world they live in, what they want and why we care about them,” Torresan, Jr. says.

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Ennio Torresan, Jr. (Co-Director) has won many international awards, including a win at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, for his short film El Macho, which was produced in 1993. Torresan has more than 25 years of experience in animation as a director and as a storyboard artist in many studio productions in Hollywood. Before working at DreamWorks Animation, he worked for HBO Animation from 1996 to 1998 as a director and storyboard artist and designer. He then joined the SpongeBob SquarePants crew as a storyboard director and writer for the first season of the show. He also worked for Disney from 1999 to 2001 on the series Teacher’s Pet, which garnered a Daytime Emmy win. In 2003, Torresan started working for DreamWorks Animation as a story artist for many major animated feature films, including the beloved MadagascarMadagascar Escape 2 AfricaMadagascar 3: Europe’s Most WantedMegamindKung Fu PandaKung Fu Panda 2 and Bee Movie. While at DreamWorks, Torresan headed the story department for the film Turbo, also released in 2013 and afterward, he continued to act as head of story in the animated feature film The Boss Baby, released in March 2017.  Torresan was also the head of story of Everest, an animated feature film released in 2019. He received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 1986 before moving to the United States.

Ennio Torresan, Jr.

The production process of the film was thrown for a loop during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the crew was able to stay positive while working away from the office. “There were no egos to get in the way of creating something beautiful together, and I think that’s a producer’s dream,” Foster says. “But in terms of working from home, we all just figured it out along the way as we went. At one point, Ennio’s internet went down, so he Facetimed me and I held up the phone to my computer as we watched animation dailies and he gave notes. We made it work and we were scrappy, in the best way possible.”

Spirit Riding Free' Comes to Netflix May 5th - AFA: Animation For Adults |  Animation News, Reviews, Articles, Podcasts and More

A Crash Course on Horses: Unique Anatomies and Personalities

It can be difficult to explain to a person who doesn’t work with horses why the connection between humans and horses is so unique, so it was important to Bogan that the film portrayed the horses and the interactions between Spirit and Lucky accurately.

“Horses are such strong and powerful animals, but there can be such a fragility to them,” Bogan says. “They’re defenseless, especially in the environments that they’re living in now. They rely on us to protect them. While I’ve never had an experience with a horse in the wild, I can relate to Lucky’s protectiveness over Spirit.”

Horses are known for being one of the most difficult animals to draw and animate, so Bogan and Torresan, Jr. took their crew on a “field trip” to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

“Before we even got to animation, we wanted the story crew to be exposed to seeing horses’ demeanors, body languages and how they move around in real life,” Bogan says. “And you can only truly experience that by seeing it up close. We met with horse trainers who know a lot about the movements, mechanics and body language, but we also had anatomy lectures with Dr. Stuart Sumida, a biology professor at California State Univesity, San Bernardino. Dr. Sumida knows every animal on the planet, down to the bone, and he gave a lecture series where people could drop in and listen to him talk about the anatomy and history of horse mechanics. It not only helped the animation team, but he also got into behavioral details, which helped the story artists in creating these horses as individual characters.”

Following these lessons, it became more seamless for the crew to create unique characteristics for the horses, and they even designed one of the horses in Spirit’s herd to be based off Bogan’s real-life horse, Ziggy Stardust.

At first, Bogan was wary about allowing her work life to cross over into her personal time with horses. “I was scared worlds would collide,” Bogan says. “My time spent with the quiet nature of horses is one of the only things keeping me sane in the chaos of Los Angeles.”

“Our story’s very theme is ‘Being Fearless.’ Because I was so deeply passionate about connecting with these animals, I pursued it with nothing but my voice, determination, patience, a goal, and—although sometimes it was fake—my confidence. Turns out, those are the exact things that came in handy starting out as a female director in a room full of horses that are seemingly much bigger, louder and stronger. Learning to communicate, bond with, and steer a beast you’ve never experienced before can be terrifying, but with dedication, the journey and reward are nothing but incredible. Merging those two worlds that I was so wary of colliding turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.”

 “Fearless” The Theme’s Meaningful Message

One of the creative ideas that Bogan wanted to incorporate into the film was for the characters to have different iterations of a theme song within the score, and Amie Doherty latched onto the idea. What started as a casual meeting between director and composer quickly turned into what would be the film’s theme song: “Fearless.”

Amie Doherty

“I came onto this project quite early, and ‘Fearless’ was the first thing I worked on,” Doherty says. “Elaine and the filmmakers and I had a long conversation where they told me all their thoughts about what the song should be and described it as a lullaby that Milagro sings to Lucky as a baby. So, I went straight to my piano after we spoke, feeling super inspired by their love for these characters, and within about an hour I had written ‘Fearless,’ and brought it back to the filmmakers, who loved it. Originally, I had intended to just write the melody, and that a lyricist would later come on board, so I just wrote, what I thought at the time were, placeholder lyrics. But everyone loved them and that’s the song you hear in the movie now. The first song I ever wrote! It’s written like a poem with empowering messages about strength, courage, following your heart and being adventurous. I purposefully stayed away from anything superficial with the lyrics because the song was always meant to be purely about a mother passing along her strength to her daughter. I loved how the filmmakers portrayed the female characters as independent, brave and, well, fearless, and I wanted the song to reflect that message.”

Bogan adds: “We wanted ‘Fearless’ to represent the path in which Lucky comes to find herself. After our initial meeting with Amie, we told her not to worry about the lyrics for now, she could just start with developing the sounds. But then she brought us this demo that just blew us away. The music and lyrics were both beautiful, and the way that ‘Fearless’ is in the final film is the exact way that Amie presented it to us in her first pass.”

The creator of Hamilton and the director of Crazy Rich Asians invite you to a cinematic event, where the streets are made of music and little dreams become big, fusing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s kinetic music and lyrics with director Jon M. Chu’s lively and authentic eye for storytelling to capture a world very much of its place, but universal in its experience.

“I started writing this show when I was 19-years-old, and I just turned 41, says Lin-Manuel Miranda. “Even when I was 19, this show was bigger than it had any right to be. It was bigger than was possible for me to mount in college; it was bigger than we could mount in the basement of the drama book shop. Finally, with this movie, Jon has brought it to the biggest canvas possible. To imagine 500 people dancing to your music in the middle of Highbridge Park pool… for me, every day was a dream come true.”  

Pulitzer Prize, Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award-winning songwriter, actor and director Lin-Manuel Miranda is the creator and original star of Broadway’s Tony-winning “Hamilton”and “In the Heights.” Additional Broadway: “Freestyle Love Supreme” (Co-Founder, Guest Star), “Bring It On: The Musical”(co-composer/co-lyricist) and “West Side Story”(2009 revival, Spanish translations). Lin-Manuel Miranda, and The Miranda Family, are active supporters of initiatives that increase people of color’s representation throughout the arts and government, assure access to women’s reproductive health and promote resilience in Puerto Rico. TV/Film credits include:Hamilton, His Dark Materials, Fosse/Verdon, Saturday Night Live, Sesame Street, Moana and Mary Poppins Returns.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

“The whole thing is a love letter to this incredible neighborhood. It’s a first chapter in so many stories—American stories start here”

Lin-Manuel Miranda is effusive when he talks about Washington Heights, the neighborhood that is his home—up in the northernmost part of Manhattan, beginning at 155th Street and stretching for nearly 40 blocks. But perhaps he is even more exuberant discussing the musical play-turned-film inspired by that community, “In the Heights.”

Miranda explains, “It’s always been an immigrant community. Now, it’s a Latinx neighborhood; it was Dominican when I was growing up in the ‘80s. Before that, it was Irish, it was Italian, it was Jewish. It’s always the first chapter in so many stories, and that’s what makes it universal. And being first-generation kids, we always wonder, what would it have been like if our parents had stayed? Those really personal questions—what does ‘home’ even mean? And every character in this is answering it in a different way. For some, home is somewhere else, and for others, home is the block that they’re on. That’s worth singing about and worth celebrating in a movie of this size.”

Lights up on Washington Heights… The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop, where a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies this vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is the likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he imagines, hopes and sings about a better life.

Director Jon M. Chu directed In The Heights from a screenplay by Quiara Alegría Hudes, based on the multiple-Tony-winning musical stage play, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, book by Quiara Alegría Hudes and concept by Miranda.

Chu grew up far from New York City in California but felt a personal connection to the story as a first-gen American as well. “I knew what it felt like to be an immigrant kid,” he offers, “and to watch the community that grew out of that and to decide: what do you choose to carry forward as an American now living here and calling this place home?

Jon M. Chu

“This past year has been hard for everybody, we had to deal with a lot,” Chu continues. “And the only people we could turn to were each other. That’s the spirit of this movie—that’s what Lin and Quiara created so many years ago and that I’ve been lucky enough to be invited in to. It’s what you felt on the streets of Washington Heights every day before the pandemic. I got to learn day-by-day, listening and discovering every word, every line and what they meant in the musical. Along the way, I could not have anticipated the amount of stuff that I would learn about simply being a human being.”

Jon M. Chu notes, “Some of the initial discussions, when we pitched this, were about ‘In the Heights’ being a ‘street musical,’ in air quotes. Eventually, we would describe it as a ‘dream musical.’ When I first met with the cast, everyone shared their wistful dreams you have as a kid. “This piece is actually about people with walls not big enough to contain their hearts,” he closes. “They deserve a cinematic experience as big as you can get. Everyone is fighting their own challenges in this, flying their dreams as banners, and we get to witness that.”

Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda Team Up for New Animated Movie  Vivo | TheaterMania
Screenwriter and producer Quiara Alegría Hudes with Lin-Manuel Miranda

Also a resident of Washington Heights, screenwriter and producer Quiara Alegría Hudes—who also wrote the book for the original musical—says, “I’m like my parents were. They came from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia—I came from Philly to New York. There’s a line in the movie, ‘We’re a people on the move.’ For me, it’s about the heart, integrity and intentionality behind the life you live. Now, I have new neighbors here, and I’m getting to know a new barrio in Washington Heights. Some of that heart is the same—check on your neighbor, the old lady who lives on the corner, as you’re walking by. Does she need groceries or a coffee? That’s the little, humble seeds that become these big numbers onscreen. That’s the heart behind it, these little interactions that together weave a really wide fabric. That to me is home—the intentionality you bring with you wherever you are.”

Quiara Alegría Hudes

Quiara Alegría Hudes (Writer / Producer)  is the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Water By the Spoonful” and the author of a new memoir, My Broken Language. With collaborator Lin-Manuel Miranda, she wrote the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “In the Heights.” Her notable essays include “High Tide of Heartbreak” in American Theatre magazine and “Corey Couldn’t Take It Anymore” in The Cut. In opposition of the carceral state, Hudes and her cousin founded Emancipated Stories, a platform where people behind bars can share one page of their life story with the world. As a barrio feminist and joyous mischief maker, Quiara y su hermana created the Latinx Casting Manifesto. A passionate wife and mom, Hudes is a native of West Philly, U.S.A., and now lives with her family in Washington Heights, NY.

“Returning to ‘In the Heights’ was thrilling as an opportunity,” offers Quiara Alegría Hudes, “because the play is set on the block, so the stage is the block. But Usnavi… his body is in the Heights, but half of his heart is in the Dominican Republic—the camera can go there in a way that the stage couldn’t. It gave me the chance to go into their dreams. We could also go to other places in the community. It was a big, beautiful playground in which to have fun. I wanted to take this as a way for people who already know and love the musical to discover new things in it. Keep the heart and soul and add to it, and go to new and surprising places, so you can have an even deeper experience if you are already familiar with it… and a wonderful, exciting experience if you are new to it.”

Ultimately, In the Heights is a musical portrait of a community full of lively numbers as diverse as its cast. The story weaves together an ensemble of characters during one particular summer of seismic change in all of their lives, with much of the action taking place at one intersection central to the neighborhood. The songs and dances cover a variety of styles—from hip-hop to Latin to pop and musical theater—and this provides ample opportunity to explore the varied influences of the distinct Latin cultures that merge and continue to populate and represent Washington Heights.

It’s the timing in the piece that stands out to producer Scott Sanders: “One of the things that people discover about ‘In the Heights’ is that the immigrant experience is absolutely relatable. I think, overall, the world is migrant in a way that it’s never been before, and the experience of having an immigrant community within a community is global. I also think it’s being thought about in new ways—diversity, representation, inclusion. And so, the idea that this movie can come in and help us look at what that experience is about and process it in a positive, humanistic way, gives a wonderful grounding to this film, for audiences domestically and internationally. Hopefully, even though this is a little microcosm in upper Manhattan in New York, people will see more commonalities than differences. Nothing better than music and dance to be the common glue to bring all of that, and us, together.”

Principal photography took place on location in the titular neighborhood, and producer Anthony Bregman found the blending of subject and place to be inseparable. He remembers, “Shooting ‘In the Heights’ in the actual Heights was key to us, because the stories being told in the screenplay are intrinsic to the community. The streets were busy all day and at night until the wee hours. Music was coming out of boomboxes on corners, the windows of apartments, radios in cars, underscored with car and motorcycle engines revving. It really felt like what’s said in the movie, that the streets are alive with music. That hum, that energy pervaded the production and the performances. It seemed to make everyone come alive, but also rooted them to this place in realistic and romantic ways.”

While In the Heights may come from a variety of deeply personal places for the filmmakers, producer Mara Jacobs observes that its strength comes from its universality. No matter where the audience hails from, “I think that anyone watching the movie can say, ‘That’s Washington Heights. I may not know it, but that’s also my neighborhood.’”

Referring to the shift of the film’s release date from summer 2020 to summer 2021, she continues, “If we had done this movie several years ago, or released last year, it would have been a different movie that carried a different meaning than it does today. The timing is right for now.”

Stage Musical To Feature Film: “¿Qué quiere decir Sueñito?”

Lin-Manuel Miranda completed his first draft of the stage musical “In The Heights” during his sophomore year at Wesleyan University, where it was performed as part of the school’s Second Stage. There, the 80-minute one-act played for a mere three days, but the potential for a grander production was evident from the start. Even now, after a wildly successful Broadway run and film adaptation, Miranda is amazed that it all started when he was still that young. Having recently seen a stage production of the work, he muses, “I went to see something a child wrote—a child version of me.”

It wasn’t until later, when Miranda and his team were building towards an off-Broadway run, that playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes joined the project. Hudes had recently moved to New York and a reading of a play she had written about the Latino community in Philadelphia had attracted the attention of producer Jill Furman, who arranged a meeting between Hudes and Miranda.

Hudes points to this first meeting with Miranda as not only a turning point for the project, but also for her life. “I think when we had our first meal together, the things that we had in common were how much the family stories that we held meant to us—they fueled us, gave us joy, purpose—even when we were asking big questions about identity: are we Puerto Rican enough? are we American enough? We both had really strong cores, which was clear from that meal together. That’s the stuff that true friendship is built on.”

Their collaboration would later earn them both Tony Awards, numerous world tours and legions of fans. After a stint off-Broadway, where it collected nine Drama Desk nominations with two wins (including Miranda’s Most Promising Male Performer), “In the Heights” opened in the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway on March 9, 2008. It ran for nearly 1,200 performances and racked up 13 Tony nominations, earning four—Best Musical, Original Score, Choreography and Orchestrations. The accolades did not end there, as the Original Cast Recording won the production a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album and the Pulitzer Prize committee named the show a finalist for its accolade for drama.

Later, while “In the Heights” was winding its 10-year path from Broadway stage to motion picture screen, Miranda transformed the theatrical landscape with “Hamilton,” which found itself at the center of zeitgeist discussions about culture and representation, presenting the story of the founding and shaping of America as a whip-smart, hip-hop musical epic forged by immigrants. Miranda and the show were steeped in awards, among them a Pulitzer Prize in Drama, 11 Tonys (out of a record-tying 16 nominations) and a special Kennedy Center Honors (for Miranda, Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler and Alex Lacamoire) for their collaborative achievement in “Hamilton” and its continued artistic impact.

Jon M. Chu on diversity in Hollywood and new movie 'In the Heights' - CNN  Style

By the time the film “In the Heights” landed Chu as director, translating the show from stage to screen had already been at the forefront of filmmaker discussion. Hudes boils it down: “On the stage, ‘In the Heights’ runs two-and-a-half hours. There are many lead characters, and if we tried to get all that onscreen, the movie would be too long and lack focus. For me, it wasn’t about cutting, it was about focusing.”

Hard choices were made, like saying goodbye to a handful of numbers and the character Camilla Rosario (Nina’s mother and Kevin’s wife) from the original production. After that decision, “it was important to me to still have a traditional married couple in the piece, so I decided that couple would now be Daniela and Carla, and they own the salon together,” Hudes supplies. This allowed her to pay tribute to the impact queer individuals have had on communities like Washington Heights and, at the same time, shine some light on an oft-omitted group in media. “I didn’t know any queer women from the culture on stage and screen that were iconic for me… but I did in the community, big time. And so, it’s really nice to introduce Daniela and Carla as a couple now.”

Some characters’ stories were also enlarged and given more resonance for an audience in 2021. Nina’s reticence to return to Stanford is no longer fueled only by financial concerns, and Sonny is now facing immigration issues. “The amount of heat and intensity surrounding people like Sonny feels different now,” Hudes notes. “I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to fold a more immediate immigrant story into his character.”

Miranda adds: “When you hear Sonny say, ‘racism latent to blatant,’ it’s more true now than it was in 2008.” He continues, “Quiara has written an incredible screenplay. I’ve always thought the themes of ‘In the Heights’ are home, community and how America is made better by the people who come here to start new chapters in their lives. All of that is even more important now than when I first wrote the show.”

For Miranda and Hudes, the most exciting element in the journey from stage to screen was bringing on Jon M. Chu as director. His passion for directing music and dance onscreen is in abundance in his films and his “League of Extraordinary Dancers” project. His critically and commercially successful adaptation of the bestselling novel “Crazy Rich Asians” was colorful and dynamic, and changed the perception in Hollywood of how a blockbuster is supposed to look.

Chu likewise felt the adaptation process was one of plumbing greater depths: “People kept asking me, ‘How will you make it cinematic? How will you blow it up? What will you do to make it big?’ In fact, we went inside. We went internal to blow it up, because internally, there’s no small story. In your mind, your dreams and your hopes are bigger than any journey to the moon, any adventure to some deserted island. To show what people in Washington Heights dream about and imagine themselves as is as exciting as anything else. I credit Quiara and Lin with allowing us to find the cinematic voice of the piece. Not a lot of people would understand that translation. I’m sure it was scary at times, breaking it and re-breaking it, trying to find the right fit. But, without such an amazing partnership, we wouldn’t have been able to present it in film.”

Hudes assures any anxious fans of the show that no matter how it may have evolved for the screen, its essence remains the same: “‘In the Heights’ is a piece about joy. That has never changed.”

In The Heights', Lin-Manuel Miranda Movie Musical, To Open Summer 2021 –  Deadline

Building A Community

Filmmakers were determined to assemble the right ensemble and, with the studio signing on to their policy of “best actor regardless of name recognition,” authenticity in the part became the goal of casting.

Recalling the many months spent during the process, Chu remembers, “I think there was a lot of trust that had to be built up from the very beginning, when we first met the performers in auditions. We knew each of them had something very special in their chemistry and in their own story of how they became an actor, a singer or dancer. When you put them in a soup together and they are very, very different from each other, you get to see how complementary—or contradictory—they are with each other.”

In the Heights (2021) - IMDb

Hudes joined Chu and Miranda in the painstaking process, pushing to make the onscreen community as diverse as the one just out of frame. While going through dance auditions, she remembers saying, “If we only cast a dance corps with teenagers and performers up to their mid-30s, it won’t be reflective of the neighborhood. We need to have elderly dancers doing it in their style. That will reflect how it happens on the streets.”

Casting sessions were held in Los Angeles and New York, but also in Washington Heights and surrounding neighborhoods as well, and the reaction they got from local residents proved inspiring. Miranda and Hudes often personally attended the sessions, even calls for extras, which created a buzz throughout the community. “It was so exciting,” Hudes relates. “We were onstage and someone yelled out, ‘We’re gonna make you proud, Lin!’ It was really beautiful!”

In the Heights stars Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born, Broadway’s “Hamilton”), Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island), singer/songwriter Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera (TV’s “Vida”), Olga Merediz (Broadway’s “In the Heights”), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Broadway’s “Rent”), Gregory Diaz IV (Broadway’s “Matilda the Musical”), Stephanie Beatriz (TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Dascha Polanco (TV’s “Orange Is the New Black”) and Jimmy Smits (the “Star Wars” films).

Celebrating the return to live theatre in South Africa, Marcel Puig’s extraordinary play, Kiss of the Spider Woman, directed by the multi-award winning Sylvaine Strike, is on at The Baxter Golden Arrow Studio in January 2022.

“While we now exist in a time where confinement and lockdown are a part of our everyday vocabulary, we also live in a world where it is crucial to re-examine and expand our limited understanding of gender politics,” says Strike. “The choice to stage this seminal play in today’s revolutionary climate seems obvious and necessary.”

Originally written in Spanish in 1972 by Puig, translated into English by Allan Baker, Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Forty-five years since it was first penned, Kiss of the Spider Woman weaves an alluring exploration of sexual and societal norms, examining the power of escapism through the imagination and magnifying the web that it is woven between identity and sexuality.

It has captured the attention of audiences for its romantic drama, political outcry and postmodern style portrayed through its two characters, Molina and Valentin. It was adapted for the stage in 1983. The 1985 film version of the play, starring William Hurt and Raul Julia,  also received widespread critical acclaim.

The plot follows two cellmates who pass their time in a prison, by remembering and reinventing classics of the silver screen. What at first seems to be a simple and straightforward – if not casual – story of two people who appear to be opposites (the romantic and the revolutionary), instead reveals a story of political intrigue and double-crossing. Starting out as a contest between two opposite personalities, it soon expands into a choice between two completely different attitudes to life. The choice is not sexual, although for a long time it seems so. It is between freedom and slavery.

Photograph by Oscar ‘O Ryan

Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with the director and cast

In recent years at The Baxter, Strike has directed hugely acclaimed productions such as Endgame, Curse of the Starving Class, Tartuffe, Tobacco and The Miser. In 2019 she was awarded the prestigious Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) by the French Government and is a former Standard Bank Young Artist for Drama winner and Featured Artist of the National Arts Festival.

Mbulelo Grootboom, Wessel Pretorius and Sylvaine Strike during rehearsals

Strike directs a stellar in Kiss Of The Spider Woman with Mbulelo Grootboom (Rainbow Scars, Iagos Last Dance, Hamlet) as Valentin and Wessel Pretorius (Ont, Die Ontelbare 48, Balbesit) as Molina, in this journey of self-awareness, intrigue, romance, revolution, love and betrayal, with lighting design by Mannie Manim, set and costume design by Wolf Britz and music by Brendan Jury.

How do you see Marcel Puig’s classic Kiss of the Spider Woman in a South African context?

Sylvaine Strike: Being a classic (for all the reasons this play has come to be one) Kiss of the Spider Woman is universally relevant, perhaps now more than ever. South African audiences will draw their own parallels to it. The mere fact that a black heterosexual male shares a prison cell with a white male who identifies as female, escalates the focus on the complexities we hold as South Africans in terms of race and gender politics. Originally written to take place in a prison in Beunos Aires Argentina, I have made a point of not setting this production in any specific context, be it geographic or political, as I believe the liminal space offers more to the imagination and audiences can invest in this story, knowing that it could be unfolding anywhere in the world.

Wessel Pretorius: Kiss was written during a time of political upheaval in Argentina (1970’s). South Africa’s political and social situation was also reaching a boiling point around this time. Sylvaine (Strike, our director) and Wolf Britz (our designer) decided to keep the era 70’s/80’s without pinpointing the setting – to keep it both universal but relatable to our country. I think the semiotics of me and Mbubelo’s skins, our accents and sense of humour is also quite telling without spelling it out. Then there is the added element of having a traditionally masculine figure next to a queer body and the negotiations around that which is currently a very relevant and important topic. 

Mbulelo Grootboom: The play is so relevant in South Africa because of the issue of ‘othering’ or ‘otherness’. Minority groups such as the LGBTQ+ community and the discrimination they continue to face is something we need to continue to address.

Wessel Pretorius and Sylvaine Strike during rehearsals

What do you think makes Kiss of the Spider Woman such a powerful play?

 Sylvaine Strike: Its timeless relevance as a piece about human nature and the need for connection.

Wessel Pretorius: In its essence it is a meditation on human connection and how much we need it. Two vastly opposing characters are forced to share a cell and manage, through sheer need for contact, to bridge their differences. 

Mbulelo Grootboom: The themes of the play remain relevant because the issues raised are still those faced in South Africa.

It also carries a theme that most people can easily identify with, finding ways to escape what imprisons us. Your views on this?

Sylvaine Strike: In the recent context of our own experience of lockdown and confinement, we have become acutely aware of the measures humans can go to in order to escape a mental and physical imprisonment. This is a timeless theme of course, but I believe we understand it better now.

Wessel Pretorius: What is uncovered throughout is the idea that for both characters life outside is also a prison. Valentin finds his escape from reality through politics, philosophy and a cause. Molina finds his through aesthetics and film. They employ the exact same mediums of escape inside the prison. 

Mbulelo Grootboom: People crave escapism because life can often become too much. The hardships faced by many causes us to feel the need to break free from what might be holding us back.

Photograph by Oscar ‘O Ryan

Do you think Valentin and Molina can survive without each other?

Sylvaine Strike: In the world beyond the prison, Valentin and Molina’s paths would never have crossed. They are destined to meet in a space from which they cannot escape, forcing them to understand one another and even like each other despite being opposite personalities with entirely different belief systems.  They will survive without each other yes, but they are forever altered.

Mbulelo Grootboom: Valentin is a conundrum, an enigma, a contradiction – but aren’t we all? He is a political prisoner who believes in Marxism but tends to fall for classy, sophisticated woman. They need each other to survive and at the end of the day they need the human comfort. I relate to him because he puts up walls to cover his soft and sensitive nature.

Wessel Pretorius: I find it incredibly liberating to play Molina. They are deeply emotional but use storytelling and romanticization to protect themselves – something all performers can relate to. Sylvaine has also added many layers to the character that has made it thrilling to try and get inside their skin.  Molina, like myself, loves movies, romance, drama and all things pretty. They would sacrifice anything for the people they love. I would also take a bullet for someone I’ve decided to love. But I also believe, growing up gay (certainly for particular generations) can cause an innate sense of isolation and loneliness that Molina definitely battles with. 

I think Molina’s emotional survival depends on Valentin, yes. But Molina has fended for themselves since childhood and has had to grow a thick skin. This is a time before pronouns and nuanced rhetoric in regards to gender politics. It is through Valentin that the audience also gets to ask questions and develop empathy for something they might not understand. What develops between them is a bond and a friendship that carries them both through their sentence. 

Photograph by Oscar ‘O Ryan

What do you hope audiences will get from watching Kiss of the Spider Woman?

Sylvaine Strike: I hope they are highly entertained, rejoice in the return of live theatre, relish in discovering Valentin and Molina and delight in witnessing their complexity unfold into an unlikely friendship. I am certain that no one can watch this play and remain unmoved by the lesson we are taught from it:  that our differences, our othering, mean very little when we realise, we need one another.

Do you think South African theatre will be the same after the pandemic that has crippled many theatres?

Sylvaine Strike: Theatre has and will survive, always. It is an ancient and necessary essential service for the soul.

Wessel Pretorius: I’ve learned two things about theater during this pandemic. Theater practitioners in South Africa are very very resilient and audiences miss and crave theater when it suddenly not available. Much like the themes of Kiss, theater is basically the most direct and immediate way we can connect with other beings and their stories. 

Mbulelo Grootboom: I don’t think that South African theatre will be the same. Artists will find a creative and innovative ways to make sense of the pandemic. It happened after 1994 and it will happen again. Theatre will evolve to become more resilient and make sense of the uncertainty.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It reveals a chilling story of terror, murder and unknown evil that marks the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense.

It shocked even experienced real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and was one of the most sensational cases from their files, which began with a fight for the soul of a young boy, then took them beyond anything they’d ever seen before.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It was produced by James Wan and Peter Safran, who have collaborated on all the Conjuring Universe films, directed by Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) from a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (The Conjuring 2), story by James Wan & David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, based on characters created by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes. It is is the seventh film in the Conjuring Universe, the largest horror franchise in history, which has grossed more than $1.8 billion worldwide.  It includes the first two Conjuring films, as well as Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation, The Nun, and Annabelle Comes Home

The name James Wan is synonymous with The Conjuring.

Wan is the creative force behind the entire Universe, developing stories, overseeing spinoffs and directing the core Conjuring films to date. Although Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, who portray real-world clairvoyant and demonologist Lorraine and Ed Warren, have been previously directed by Gary Dauberman in Annabelle Comes Home, this is the first full feature as the Warrens where Wan is not in the captain’s seat.      

Patrick Wilson and James Wan

Through his Atomic Monster shingle, Wan has mentored other directors early in their feature filmmaking careers, including his longtime cinematographer John Leonetti (Annabelle), David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, and subsequently Annabelle: Creation), Corin Hardy (The Nun), Gary Dauberman (Annabelle Comes Home) and Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona). It made sense there would be someone in this roster of talent that Wan could tap to take the reins of the core segment of the franchise.

“I had just worked with Michael Chaves,” Wan says, “and I really liked the guy a lot. I saw him grow as a filmmaker over the course of his first feature and felt his creativity, energy and mindset were exactly what ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ needed.”

“Chaves is an accomplished and smart filmmaker,” Safran concurs. “He really understands horror. There was never anybody other than Chaves for this.”

When Chaves got the initial call to do the third “Conjuring,” he wasn’t expecting it, but he was fully ready to jump on board.

“It was a dream come true,” Chaves, characteristically upbeat, admits. “I’m a big fan of the ‘Conjuring’ films. James is the modern master of horror, so to take the reins on this world he created is both exciting and daunting. There’s a huge responsibility not just to James, but to the fans, to the franchise, and to the characters he created. That was not lost on me.”

Chaves contends one of the reasons Wan may have tapped him to direct this latest “Conjuring” installment is because of their shared love for David Fincher’s classic psychological crime thriller Se7en. Chaves and Wan talked about that film on the set of La Llorona, and it served as a reference point in the evolution of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. It was a big influence in my look book,” Chaves reveals, “as I made this film.”

Director Michael Chaves

As far back as production on The Conjuring 2, conversations were had about what the next case file would be for Ed and Lorraine to tackle onscreen.

Wan knew he didn’t want the next installment to be another haunted house movie, constraining his supernatural superheroes to the same four walls of storytelling that had been covered already in the first two films.

“I remember saying to Patrick and Vera on the set of ‘Conjuring 2,’” Wan explains, “that I wanted to explore the world where Ed and Lorraine helped police solve crimes. I wanted the third movie to feel different.”

In order to achieve that goal, Wan, Safran and screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick turned to one of the Warrens’ most famous case files. Ripped from the headlines, the notorious The Devil Made Me Do It case centers on the first U.S. murder trial where demonic possession was used as a legal defense.

The Conjuring” team felt this was the perfect opportunity for Ed and Lorraine to push their skills to the limit, to risk their lives to prove the innocence of the accused and the existence of evil forces. This story would be the most chilling and shocking yet for the Warrens.

“For everyone involved,” Chaves says, “This was the darkest story the Warrens were involved in. They put everything on the line for the accused, Arne Johnson.”

The Devil Made Me Do It also gave the filmmakers the perfect platform from which to send Ed and Lorraine out and into the world at large. It was a great opportunity for them to engage the police and investigate the sinister reasons that led to a horrific crime.

“In ‘The Conjuring,’ the deliverance from evil was confined to a single space within four walls,” Farmiga describes. “In ‘The Conjuring 2,’ we got Ed and Lorraine an airplane ticket, and we sent them abroad. But again, their mission was confined within the walls of a home. Now, for ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,’ they leave the confines of the haunted house and go to the most depraved and scary places.”

What really sets this ‘Conjuring’ apart and makes it so exciting,’ Chaves says, “is that you have all of the scares and the terror that you would expect from a ‘Conjuring’ film, but it is set against this incredible mystery that is tied into what the ‘Conjuring’ universe is all about.”

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It faced two main challenges in development: how to keep the “Conjuring” Universe original and fresh and how to balance reality with drama.

“We wanted to keep the elements of the previous films that people love,” says screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, who also worked on the story with Wan, “but you don’t want to give them the exact same thing all over again.”

Screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick

David Leslie Johnson-Mcgoldrick (Screenplay and Story By) developed an early interest in storytelling and began writing plays in the second grade. He later became interested in film and, at age 19, wrote his first screenplay. He attended The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Photography and Cinema. He began his career in film as a production assistant on Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, which was shot on location in Johnson’s hometown of Mansfield, Ohio, at the historic Mansfield Reformatory, where Johnson’s great-grandfather had been a prison guard. Johnson spent the next five years as Darabont’s assistant, using the opportunity to hone his craft as a screenwriter. His first produced credit was the 2009 thriller Orphan and later wrote Red Riding Hood (2011) and Wrath of the Titans (2012), the latter with collaborators Greg Berlanti and Dan Mazeau.  He also reunited with mentor Frank Darabont to write for AMC’s The Walking Dead and TNT’s noir crime drama miniseries, Mob City (2013).  He has also teamed with director James Wan on The Conjuring 2 and Aquaman” He currently has several feature projects in development, including Aquaman 2.  He also served as producer on the upcoming films Til Death, and Orphan: First Kill, a prequel to 2009’s Orphan, for which he also co-wrote the story.

Wan knew before they started that he wanted this new “Conjuring” to be a mystery with Lorraine’s clairvoyant abilities front and center.

Inspired by films like John Carpenter’s “Eyes of Laura Mars,” and David Cronenberg’s “The Dead Zone,” they were looking for a case where Lorraine could shine as a psychic detective, where her gifts would be integral to the story in a way that hadn’t been seen before, using her psychic visions as plot points rather than scare points.

It’s a known fact that the real Lorraine Warren consulted with police on numerous cases. Wan and Johnson-McGoldrick considered those cases but couldn’t land on one they wanted to adapt.

What happened to Arne Johnson in the aftermath of David Glatzel’s final exorcism, however, appeared to be a great springboard for a new story.

There was a little-known element of the case where the Glatzels felt that somebody out there had placed a curse on them. No one was ever able to get to the bottom of that suspicion, and it seemed like the perfect real-life angle in a case file from which to launch an investigation. But the fact that the Glatzels’ concerns were never resolved meant the plot would need construction. Although the “Conjuring” films have always taken some dramatic license in order to advance the narrative, this one was different. Wan and Johnson-McGoldrick needed to come up with an idea that was both exciting and authentic.

“We decided to interweave reality with a sort of composite story,” Johnson-McGoldrick explains, “that takes numerous, real-life occurrences that took place in different situations and combines them into one story. We go into a more fictional place in Act II where we’re solving the mystery, but we’re still pulling from the actual interactions that Lorraine had with the police.”

Once that was decided, the next thing to do was figure out how to start things off. The Devil Made Me Do It case, also known as the Brookfield Demon Murder case, has two distinct parts: the torment and possession of David Glatzel, which has been the focus of most interest in the past and for which Ed and Lorraine Warren were called to intervene, and the subsequent torment and possession of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who challenged David’s demon during his last exorcism while being admonished by Ed not to address it directly.

Ruairi O’Connor as Arne Cheyenne Johnson

How to shift the focus from David to Arne was the prerequisite, but a relatively easy one to satisfy. “We decided to start with what would normally be the conclusion of a ‘Conjuring’ movie,” Johnson-McGoldrick tells, “the haunted house version of this story has already taken place offscreen. We can get straight to the exorcism because we’ve seen this movie before, and that allows us to start Arne’s story right away. We go very quickly to the inciting incident, which is the moment when Arne challenged the demon.”

In order to tell Arne’s tale convincingly, Johnson-McGoldrick embarked on a multi-pronged path of research. The Devil Made Me Do It case was national news. It was a sensational case that everyone was talking about at the time. Johnson-McGoldrick was able to source old Newsweek and Time magazine articles as well as local and regional newspapers that were reporting on the case every day. Those local papers became even more important when Johnson-McGoldrick discovered that the original court transcripts had been lost or destroyed, because they revealed who was in the courtroom and what witness testimony was given throughout the trial. Armed with a pretty clear understanding of the case, Johnson-McGoldrick decided it was time to go to the source.

‘I interviewed Arne Johnson and also Debbie Glatzel,” Johnson-McGoldrick divulges. “The two came out together. It’s always better that way. On the one hand, you are getting the event, finding out what happened, but you’re also starting to get a feel for who these people are. That’s important, because when you have to fictionalize certain elements to make a movie, you still want to replicate what if felt like for them.”               

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return to star as Lorraine and Ed Warren. Shifting the power dynamic in the relationship between Ed and Lorraine was something the creative team wanted to do to change things up and another component Johnson-McGoldrick had to figure out. There had to be a way to accomplish this from outside the marriage.

In the haunted house, Ed and Lorraine have always been the authority. They’ve been called in to help because of their expertise. They are not out in the world having to prove themselves to people. In The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, it’s different, because Ed and Lorraine now have to try and convince non-religious skeptics in the courts and the police to help them in order to help Arne. They manage to win over Arne’s defense attorney by taking her to the Artifact room. Detective Sergeant Clay is another matter, however.

“Detective Clay is a composite character,” Johnson-McGoldrick acknowledges. “He’s not a real person, but he represents the police with whom the real Lorraine Warren consulted. We’ve taken elements from other cases and brought them together in him. He’s a skeptic to whom she has to prove herself. That was something the real Lorraine encountered regularly.”

Michael Chaves Interview: The Conjuring 3 | Screen Rant

From a storytelling perspective, the filmmakers have always gone to great lengths to make sure the characters of Ed and Lorraine are in touch with their humanity. In the ten years that have passed in the storyline from “The Conjuring” to “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” Ed and Lorraine are as fierce and unwavering as ever, but they are also more vulnerable to illness and injury. Their love has deepened and so has their concern for each other’s well-being, which is tender and relatable.

“It all comes down to that relationship between Ed and Lorraine,” explains Safran. “One of the great accolades we received early on was from the real Lorraine Warren, who felt we had beautifully captured what existed between her and Ed. We’ve always kept that in mind as we develop these stories. We would want Ed and Lorraine to be proud of what we’re doing.”

In summary, Chaves hopes audiences will enjoy another thrilling “Conjuring” experience, remarking, “I know they’re going to be scared but I hope they’ll be surprised, too—the great thing about these films is that you get something of the familiar, with Ed and Lorraine’s relationship and the fact that they step right into the danger, but also that they evolve with every story.  I’m very excited to see how audiences respond.”

The character of Cruella de Vil captivated audiences with her exuberance, camp sensibilities and quick wit since she was first seen on the pages of Dodie Smith’s book in the 1950, and makes a welcome return in Disney’s Cruella, an origin story, revealing the fascinating tale of how gifted, non-conforming young girl evolved into the stylishly villainous Cruella de Vil.

“Cruella De Vil is arguably the most iconic of the Disney villains because she is so deliciously evil.  She is extravagant, fashionable, verbose, manipulating, conniving, and quite clearly a little bit mad, all qualities in a character that you love to hate.  She is sort of Disney’s Hannibal Lecter, says producer Andrew Gunn who produced a number of earlier Disney hits including Race to Witch Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and Freaky Friday (2003).

“What we wanted to explore, he continues, “was why was she the way she was, what made her become Cruella De Vil.  We tackled this like an origin story of a supervillain in a comic book; who was she as a child, where did she come from, etc.  All that audiences really knew about Cruella was that she wanted to make a coat out of dalmatians, so early on we decided that in order to give them something new we would need to upend their expectations.”

Having enjoyed tremendous success with its “Sleeping Beauty” live-action prequels that focused on the fairy tale’s antagonist Maleficent, Disney was eager to explore origin stories of other malevolent characters from its library of animated classics. Along with Maleficent, one of its most memorable and intriguing villains was the coat-happy, dog-napping Cruella De Vil, who was first voiced by Betty Lou Gerson in the animated original and then brought to larger-than-life, live-action magnificence by Glenn Close. But none of these versions presented any backstory to the character, except for her having once been a schoolmate of the dalmatians mistress, Anita Darling.

Disney's Cruella Release Date, Cast And Plot - What We Know So Far

Ultimately, thanks to the contributions of number of creative minds, a plotline was constructed that revealed how an inventive child, Estella, became the revenge-bent Cruella with the majority of the action taking place in 1970’s London, a time of disruption in the music and fashion worlds due to the emerging punk movement. We see her metamorphosis from a scrappy Dickensian-like orphan into a rebellious, resourceful, bold and ingenious anti-hero. Along the way, she learns who she really is and to be true to herself.

Cruella has all of my favorite things in life: fashion, dogs and revenge,” says producer Kristin Burr. She recalls, “Early on, we decided to set the movie in ‘70s London.  It was so exciting because it was our first live-action character based on animation that we were setting in the real world.  (As opposed to fairytale land.) It was such an opportunity to push the envelope. London was the center of fashion and anarchy at the time.  What a nice parallel to Cruella!”

The studio’s first and only choice to portray the title character was Emma Stone.

“I met with the folks at Disney. They were playing around with the idea of an origins story of Cruella de Vil and wanted to know if I would be interested. There was a lot to figure out and to see if it made sense to tell a story about her. But the character’s so much fun and so intoxicating, they had an interest in finding what that story could be,” says Stone.

“When Emma called me and asked if I would consider producing this film, I was instantly interested.  I thought,” says producer Marc Platt, “this is a fantastic marriage of actress to character. I can think of no other actress who could define the journey from Estella to Cruella as specifically and vividly as Emma Stone, who brings so much fun, so much edge, so much deliciousness, and yet so much truthfulness to that character.”

Emma Stone's Red Dress in Disney's Cruella Trailer | Emma Stone Plays  Cruella de Vil, an Aspiring Fashion Designer With Punk-Rock Costumes |  POPSUGAR Fashion Photo 2

“For the role of Cruella, Emma Stone has a wonderful ability to play a nasty, selfish character (as she did in “The Favourite”) and have an audience root for her,” says Gunn.  ” She can go from evil to heartbreaking in a matter of seconds.  She is an actor that audiences want to come out on top at the end of the film.  She has impeccable comic timing and truly inhabits the characters she creates, making each one distinct and memorable.  We knew that she would create something riveting and timeless with Cruella.”

Says Stone, “It’s fun to see the origins of Cruella, and we’ve had fun exploring what makes a villain.  How people can be affected by the events that have happened in their lives, or how they can choose to kind of crumble underneath the weight of something, or rise up above it and maybe, not always, take it to the best or most “moralistic” place. It is all of those things, but in this kind of fun, Disney, over-the-top, you know, crazy way, that also happens to be full of great ‘70s punk music.”

Obsessed with the Punk movement of the late 1970’s, Gunn feels that the character of Cruella is representative of the rage of the youth culture at the time and a great opportunity to show how difficult it would have been to be a woman and a genius in a society that didn’t necessarily respect either. He believes that seeing young Cruella breaking the bonds of society and pushing back against its limitations feels particularly current. 

Emma Stone responde a las comparaciones de películas de Cruella y Joker -  La Neta Neta

Stone was especially delighted by the challenge of playing two sides of a character.

She says, “It’s been fantastic. How much of Cruella is in Estella, and how much of Estella is in Cruella?  “I think it interesting to think about whether Cruella is part of her, or the real her, or whether it’s some of the tragic events that shape her life, and shape Cruella.  I think part of what the story is saying is, every human being has all of it within us, and we can access all these different parts, but different events do happen to us that can bring certain things out.  I think It’s a series of events that have happened to her, and some of it is just kind of deep in there, and she’s accepting it rather than fighting it.”

“I loved this dance between the humor and the drama, and Emma (Stone) has such good instincts on both the comedic level and where to land the drama. And I can’t think of anybody that can do it better. She’s like our generation’s Lucille Ball where she can do both. it’s this unbelievable delight as a director that there’s really nothing you can’t do with her. It was just a joy all the time,” says director Craig Gillespie.

To play the character most responsible for Estella becoming Cruella, the filmmakers chose two-time Academy Award-winner Emma Thompson, whose role as The Baroness is just the latest addition to a career made up of memorable characters in superior films, from “Howard’s End” to “The Remains of the Day” to “In The Name of the Father” to “Sense and Sensibility” to “Saving Mr. Banks,” to name just a few.

Emma Thompson News on Twitter: "Dame Emma Thompson as the Baroness in  Cruella, 2021… "

Says Thompson, “The Baroness is the reason for Cruella unfortunately.  And that’s very sad but it’s a wonderful idea to see why someone becomes what they’ve become. She’s the figure behind this extraordinary house of fashion and so when Estella sees her, she’s overwhelmed and dazzled by her, but it doesn’t take long before she understands quite who she’s dealing with. The Baroness sees that Estella’s got talent and then just takes it and uses it.”

She continues, “It’s very different to other characters I’ve played that have been living in the real world and who wear a lot of normal stuff.   She’s not.  She’s one of these people who I’ve never been, for whom the outward show is everything – there is nothing else.  The Baroness is someone who wouldn’t be seen dead in a pair of old boots or a sweat pant.  She’s put everything into this display.  So, it’s fascinating to play.”

Says Gunn, “Emma Thompson brought a timeless elegance and a sense of class to The Baroness.  She also found a measured, calm, “ice in her veins” sense of evil to her character.  I feel like she is sort of what would happen if you rolled Coco Chanel and Vladamir Putin together into one.  Like every great villain, Emma is the hero of her own story.  She feels completely justified in all the actions she takes.  She would never accept the point of view that she is the bad guy and Emma Thompson has a way at times of making us understand why she is doing what she is doing.’

The Screenwriters

Brought to life on the big screen in Disney’s 1961 animated and in Disney’s 1996 live action remake and its 2000 sequel, Disney’s Cruella is is directed by Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya), with screenplay by Dana Fox (Couple’s Retreat) and Tony McNamara (The Favourite), story by Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada) and Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks) & Steve Zissis (The Front Runner) based upon the novel The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.

Dana Fox (Screenplay) graduated from Stanford University with a degree in English and Art History and went on to get her MFA in film and television producing from USC Film School’s Peter Stark Producing Program. She is a television and film writer, producer, showrunner, and director. Best known for her feature films What Happens in Vegas, Couples Retreat, How to Be Single, and Isn’t It Romantic (which she co-wrote with Katie Silberman), Fox also created and served as showrunner on the Fox comedy series Ben and Kate, and made her directing debut on an episode of the Fox series New Girl. Fox most recently wrote Lost City of D, and is currently the co-creator, showrunner and executive producer of the Apple TV+ series Home Before Dark.

Tony Mcnamara (Screenplay) is the creator, showrunner, and executive producer of The Great on Hulu, McNamara wrote the critically acclaimed film The Favourite.

The Write Draft will turn your copy into exciting and thrilling narrative, into words and images that jump off the page and characters that resonate.

If you have completed the draft of a screenplay, stageplay, or manuscript for a novel, it is vital to find out whether your story works. It could mean the end of all your hard work and your career as a writer if you hand poorly written and undeveloped projects over to producers, directors, publishers, or potential investors.

The script editor is mainly an emotional archaeologist who will unearth the missing pieces of the puzzle. The editing process will be a collaborative process between the writer and editor.

The Write Draft mediates between the writer’s creative desires, the impulses, and the commercial imperatives of the marketplace, and edits / polishes a complete draft.

The editor will explore the tone, genre, style, structure, character, plot, action and dialogue of the draft and provide the writer with a different perspective on his story, as well as reminding the Scriptwriter of the production company’s requirements, and the market for the production company’s project.

Read more about the Polishing and Editing Of Screenplays

The Write Craft is the first step in skillfully creating the first draft of your story.

Once you have built a solid foundation for your story with The Write Foundation, it is time to action. 

If you have already completed a draft and are working on a rewrite, The Write Craft can also help you to solve problem areas in your screenplay. 

As a writer, you will constantly ‘show don’t tell’ and must grasp visual dynamics that are important tools in writing your story, know who you are writing about and crawl under the skin of your characters, master the essence of dramatic structure, control your story creatively, outine and format your story.

In The Write Craft course there are twelve units that each have self-tasks that you must research and complete in your own time, as well as tasks to submit to your coach to make sure that you are on the right track – during this process, your coach is there to help you understand the material and solve problems.

You will also write your first draft with guidance from your coach.

The Write Craft takes you through the process of writing your first draft:

  • Being a WRITER – To get your story off the page and to the big screen, small screen, or stage, you need to see the bigger picture. One of the most important issues that an aspirant screenwriter must come to terms with, and fully master, is the difference between the writing process and the development process.
  • The Craft of VISUAL NARRATIVE – Grasping visual dynamics is an important tool in writing a screenplay for film or television, but is equally important for any writer who would like to perfect the art of visual narrative.
  • Creating CHARACTERS – We will give you tips on writing characters for the screen, explore 21 elements that define characters.
  • STRUCTURING your story – Structure is discipline, it is the starting point in the process of writing.
  • PLOTTING your story – You will explore four different plots to structure your story, the relationship between plot and subplots and 14 structural points /structural signposts that will help you to write a solid story outline.
  • OUTLINING your story – The function of your story outline is to write what happens in your story from opening to ending, identifying the story events (scenes) of the most important events in your protagonist’s life.
  • FORMATTING – Readers — interns, assistants, story analysts, professional readers – producers, managers, actors and agents — know what it’s like to open a script that is properly formatted
  • Writing the FIRST PAGE – Now it is time to write your screenplay. There is a moment in the development process that separates an idea from a screenplay. It starts with the letter F. FADE IN
  • Writing ACT ONE: Set-Up – The setup has five pivotal moments: The opening, ordinary world, inciting incident (catalytic event), dilemma and first major turning point (first choice) 
  • Writing the ACT TWO: Confrontation – The middle section is the confrontation between these opposing forces and forces the protagonist to deal with the new situation they have entered as a result of the first choice made.
  • Writing ACT THREE: Resolution – The purpose of the resolution is to solve the story problem and to confirm the theme of the story.
  • What happens after THE END? You will look at the secret to standing out as a screenwriter, finding your authentic voice as a screenwriter, and how to market yourself.    

For the full agenda and registration details, send us an email

Copyright © The Writing Studio 1998 – 2021 / All Rights Reserved

The Write Foundation is the first step in the write direction, laying a solid foundation for a Perfect Story and securing development funding.

During the last 22 years The Writing Studio has shaped the successful careers of many of South Africa’s leading filmmakers and storytellers and is now honing the skills of future writers in the art and craft of storytelling.

The Write Journey offers 3 courses:

  • The Write Foundation is the first step in the write direction, laying a solid foundation for a story that will secure development funding.
  • Once the foundation is set, The Write Craft takes writers through the process of building the first draft (or rewrite).
  • Working closely with our script editor, The Write Draft explores the editing and refinement of the finished draft, getting the screenplay / novel ready for the marketplace.

The Write Foundation focuses on aspects that relate to the marketability of your story, ticking off all the boxes that producers and investors look for. It is not just about learning how to write but learning to write and market yourself in a way that is attractive to managers, producers, and studios.

With funding organisations such as the NFVF (National Film and Video Foundation) it is essential for writers to deliver an MTP/research document that summarises the foundation of the story you are writing.

If you have built a solid foundation for your story, it will also make it easier for you to write the First Draft of your story.  If you have already completed a draft and are working on a rewrite, The Write Foundation can also help you to solve problem areas in your draft. 

Without a solid foundation for the screenplay/ novel, writers will deliver an underdeveloped and flawed draft that is dull and lifeless.

The Write Foundation explores and develops the building blocks to build your story.

  • Who are you as a storyteller and storymaker? If you want to be a writer, there are some basics you must know from the outset, before start thinking about writing your masterwork.
  • What is the IDEA for your story? A great story begins with a great idea. Before you can put one word to paper, you must know what you want to write.
  • What GENRE will you set your story in? What type of story do you want to write, and who you are writing for?
  • What is the PREMISE of your Story? The hardest thing about writing is knowing what to write.
  • What is the CONCEPT of your Story? It is time to take the seed of an idea and dramatise it, to define who and what the story is about and articulate it.
  • What is the THEME of your Story? All great writing is about something. You need to know what the intention, objective or controlling idea – theme – of your story is.
  • What is the TITLE of your Story? A dull, confusing, or pretentious title will put people off.
  • Who are the CHARACTERS in your Story? Focus on the people who live your story and identify and create your characters: Protagonists, Heroes and Anti Heroes; Antagonists and Villains; and supporting and function characters.
  • How to write CHARACTER BIOGRAPHIES. A biography of the character is the reader’s introduction to the character and is articulated by the physical, visual, and behavioral attributes the writer ascribes to any given character.
  • How to write a TREATMENT and SYNOPSIS. Treatments help the writer acquire an overview of the story, the synopsis is a brief summary of the story.
  • Take OWNERSHIP of your writing. The Top Sheet will write to protect your intellectual property and have enough information to warrant the funding of the development of your story, and give those interested to develop your project a crisp, clear overview of what your story is about.

For the full agenda and registration details, send us an email

Copyright © The Writing Studio 1998 – 2021 / All Rights Reserved

Written, directed, and edited by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection is the first film from Lesotho, made by a Mosotho filmmaker.

“I hope the audience will walk into this film with no preconceived ideas. Specifically, as an African filmmaker who set out to explore new forms of cinema,” says Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese is a self-taught filmmaker and visual artist from Lesotho, based in Berlin.

“I wanted to develop a new cinematic language. I was heavily inspired by Brechtian Theatre, which recognised the ability of Naturalistic theatre to have great social influence, but at the expense of its capacity to arouse aesthetic pleasure.”

An alumnus of the Berlinale Talents, Focus Features Africa First, Realness African screenwriting Residency and Cinefondation’s L’Atelier, his film ‘Mother I am Suffocating. This is My Last Film About You’ was selected for Final Cut in Venice 2018, where it won six awards. This Is Not A Burial It’s A Resurrection premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, where it won the Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking. It has gone on to win 26 international awards.

The visually striking drama, set in the mountains of Lesotho, opens with an 80-year-old widow named Mantoa (Mary Twala), grieving the loss of her son. Winding up her earthly affairs, she makes arrangements for her burial, and prepares to die. Determined to die and be laid to rest with her family, her plans are interrupted when she discovers that the village and its cemetery will be forcibly resettled to make way for a dam reservoir. Refusing to let the dead be desecrated, she finds a new will to live and ignites a collective spirit of defiance within her community. In the final dramatic moments of her life, Mantoa’s legend is forged and made eternal.

“I am hopeful that ‘Resurrection’ will provoke rational self-reflection, just as Brecht’s Epic Theatre encouraged a critical view of the action on the stage. I hope that each person who engages with the film will allow their own ideas around it to permeate and take on their own form.” Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese

This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection is the first narrative feature film ever made by a Mosotho director. The film was shot on location in the remote mountains of Lesotho, where running water and electricity are a scarcity. Equipment, vehicles, crew and other resources were brought into the country from South Africa. The tiny crew of just fifteen people endured extreme weather conditions while shooting in areas with no road access. Equipment and cast were often transported on horseback and on mules. Apart from the leads, the cast is made up almost entirely of actual residents from the village where photography took place.

Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese talks about This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection

This is a personal story for you. Can you tell us about your development process?

When I was a child, my family was evicted from our home. My grandmother’s village is undergoing forced resettlement right now. My experience of displacement has significantly impacted who I am and how I see the world. I was fortunate to be incubated at the Realness African Screenwriter’s Residency early on in my development process. There I became part of a cinematic family who are rooted in Africa and I was able to make sense of all these ideas and feelings that I was giving birth to. As someone who has mostly had to learn and create in isolation, Realness provided a loving and nurturing home to me and my musings. It was also
where I met my producers, Cait and Elias, who are the founders of this initiative. They both believed in me from the beginning and their passion was the driving force behind ‘Resurrection’.

When you envisioned ‘Resurrection’ in your head, before any shooting began, how did it look?

For me, it was always an observation about life and death. The initial whisperings of ‘Resurrection’ spawned from this parable that I wrote about a mute prophet who could not speak his prophecies. He had rhema and logos about the soulless march of time and death, but when he opened his mouth, hail and frogs would flood from it and it was too sickening to behold or withstand.

In a way, this illustrated how I feel as a creator who struggles to communicate his ideas in a way that is accessible to others. With ‘Resurrection’ I felt as though I had an entire ocean of ideas. They were vast and massive. I am pleased to say that we managed to realise some of them in our film.

The subject matter has more significance and urgency today. Did your journey as a writer and filmmaker shift or evolve over the years, in the way you engaged with the material?

I think it evolved. With a team around me, I was able to refine what I wanted to create. The concept of life, death and the cycle of time has always been something that has preoccupied my mind. I am obsessed with the human condition. To me, the most poetic landscape is the human and our constant battle to reconcile with our carnal selves. The foundation of what I wanted to explore was always within me, but how I chose to explore it was continually distilled.

This is a tough film, thematically and technically since you were shooting in remote locations. And you are depicting stories of actions against indigenous people. How did you work through these risks and challenges?

It was a very rough, unforgiving landscape we shot in and yet so beautiful. The weather drastically changed constantly, one minute it was sunny and hot and the next we were drenched by torrents of rain and it was dark and cold. We had to wrestle with the gods of nature not just to shoot, but also to get to the next location. It worked in our favour somehow; we kept shooting throughout the storms and we managed to use the footage from this in the film. When the rain stopped, we had to then deal with slippery hills covered in deep mud.

Mary, our lead actress, who was 80 years old, had to be carried back and forth up a long hill by crew members and men from the village. At particularly remote locations, we had to send her on horseback. There were no proper roads and when it rained, our vehicles would often get stuck or break down completely. I was incredibly grateful for the talented and passionate zealots around me. We really went to war together.

Cait Pansegrouw, the film’s producer, lives up to her nickname ‘Sheela” (as in Ma Anand Sheela that I learnt about through the documentary series ‘Wild Wild Country’); she is really a cult leader. She kept everyone focused. She is not just a producer, she is also creative. I come from the school of underground cinema. It is very rare to have producer who not only understands but also appreciates that kind of cinema.

The cinematographer, Pierre de Villiers, was ready and primed to work under extreme conditions that allowed little to no freedom. In a way, the ideal conditions conspired in our favour. Gods are frequently seen in such places.

How did you work with your actors filming those scenes, getting them into that head space and providing them the right kind of on-set atmosphere?

One thing I kept stressing was they shouldn’t act. A few of the leads came from a South African television background, so they had preconceived ideas about their characters and had picked up some habits that of course got them to where they are now in their careers, but that I wanted to strip away for this film. I talked with them about not doing anything. On my set they are objects, not characters. As for the rest of the local cast, they were not professionals, they had never been on camera, and this was beautiful part because they came as they were. We were shooting in their village. We were their guests. Of course, it took a bit of work to get them in front of the camera and make them comfortable. I would talk to them in the context of their actual village and their way of life, not necessarily about the role that they were fulfilling on screen.

What informs your choice of camera and technology, and what techniques do you do to bring out the beauty in your imagery?

I come on set or to the page as a novice, an amateur. I have allowed myself to dream and not filter anything. I have come to understand that ideas have a life of their own, all I have to do is to free them from myself. Technique and language are thingsto be used but not necessarily embraced. Of course, this comes with years of making bad art.

As far as the camera and composition, Pierre, my DP, and I had synchronised love and passion for beauty. He has a very particular way of seeing light. I called him ‘the god of the sun’. I also trusted him with the choice of camera we should use, which was the Sony Venice. It served us best in low light conditions since we did not have much lighting gear. We had to make do with the little we had in no-man’s land.

Can you talk about your process as creative collaborators with producer Cait Pansegrouw and the team?

My previous film ‘Mother, I am suffocating. This is my last film about you’ is an essay film. I had a small local crew that had no clue what I was doing, but who provided extra hands on the day so that I could execute what I wanted. In that way I felt safe because they couldn’t question anything or doubt me. With ‘Resurrection’ I had to work with a professional crew. It was beautiful to get out of my comfort zone and get to talk back and forth about ideas and have everyone on one page.

We had the whole village community of Ha Dinizulu behind us, willing to ‘go places’ with us. I am forever grateful for the work that they put into the film. Cait is a force of nature. She has an iron fist covered in velvet glove. She knows when to say things with a smile and when to say things with a snarl, to keep us sailing to our true north, always. She comes from a film school background and yet she is not pigeonholed by structure or technique or know-how. She believes in art. Among other neurodivergent impediments I am battling dyslexia, and it can be hard for me to communicate clearly.

Cait and I were synchronized from the start. We were both very clear about what kind of work we wanted to make. Pierre de Villiers, my cinematographer, a beautiful, creative human being, had an iron will to go all the way, always. It was inspiring. At times I think I was confusing, my thoughts always seem flawless and complete in my head, but when I actually say things out loud, they can sound incoherent. The crew were patient and respected my thought process. It was amazing to work with my long-time friend and sometime assistant, Pheku (known as ‘Keeper’). His generosity and loyalty cannot be bought, and the same goes for Phillip Letela. My Basotho brothers. I am used to working in isolation.

Having conquered the garden, Peter Rabbit sets his sights on a larger world and his biggest adventure yet in Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. Picking up from the hit first film, director/co-writer/producer Will Gluck returns for a new story that takes Peter far beyond the garden to the streets of the big city, where he’ll discover what kind of hero he wants to be.

“What makes the Peter Rabbit movies resonate with family audiences is that while they are delightfully funny and entertaining, they don’t shy away from exploring relatable and weighty emotional issues,” says executive producer Doug Belgrad. “In this movie, Peter is forced to confront whether he is ‘good’ and discover his own true nature. Simultaneously, he also has to grapple with the existential threat posed by the prospective arrival of Bea and Thomas’ human baby.”

Everybody knows Peter as the mischievous rabbit – some might even call him “naughty” – but that’s not necessarily how Peter thinks of himself.

“It’s who you are versus who people think you are,” says Gluck, who co-wrote the screenplay with Patrick Burleigh. “Just because people see you in a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean that’s who you are. Peter, Bea, and Thomas go through that journey in the movie.”

“I love these characters,” says Gluck. “Peter makes a lot of mistakes, but always plows on – he always thinks he knows best. That’s what makes him a fun character to watch – it’s always fun to see someone who drives forward without any worry about what the repercussions are. And yet, at the very end, he learns something about it. It’s such a rich world with so many stories to explore.”

“They may be rabbits, but they are just like us,” says producer Zareh Nalbandian, who joins Gluck as a producer and oversees the animation process at Animal Logic. “They’re a family. They have the same conflicts and challenges, and goals and aspirations as humans do.”

Nalbandian says that a sequel had to bring to the screen a story that would reach beyond the first film.

“It had to be bigger, more daring, and a story that justified making a sequel,” Nalbandian explains. “We wanted to take our beloved characters on new adventures, but also bring to life other compelling characters from Beatrix Potter’s world. Importantly, we wanted to get our story out of the garden.”

In the first film, Thomas McGregor and Peter Rabbit wage a no-vegetables-barred battle for control of the garden at McGregor Manor before Bea’s influence gives them the chance to see the other’s point of view.

Gluck says that the new film picks up the relationships from there. “Bea has turned her beautiful paintings into a book, which McGregor is publishing, printing and happily selling in their toy store, and there’s a fragile truce between McGregor and Peter,” he says.

“McGregor has given up his fight against keeping the rabbits out of the garden. They can come and go, as long as they leave McGregor’s prized tomatoes alone,” notes producer Jodi Hildebrand. “Peter is trying to behave himself, to be a leader and keep everyone else away from the tomatoes. McGregor has accepted Peter into his life and into his home. Everything’s pretty even keeled.”

For now, that is. Because the outside world is about to tread its fancy city shoes into their bucolic world.

“Because of the book, there’s interest from a publisher to capitalize on a book series,” continues Gluck. With that, the makeshift family of humans and rabbits heads for the big city of Gloucester, home to the publishing house of Nigel Basil-Jones.

Sorties-Cinema - Pierre Lapin 2 : Panique en ville : découvrez la première  bande annonce

Charming and debonair, Basil-Jones is charmed by the book, but might be misreading who Peter is at heart – and that misconception spins Peter into a web of self-doubt. “Nigel thinks Peter is a bad rabbit, and Peter thinks that even Bea and Thomas see him as mischievous – so Peter figures he must be,” explains Gluck. “Peter has reached that time in one’s life when we’re all told what we are by so many people that we have two options; we can embrace what people think we are, or we can fight against it. Peter decides to embrace it, which leads to his meeting some new characters who aren’t necessarily of the highest moral character.”

In expanding Potter’s stories for the screen, the filmmakers worked closely with Potter’s publishers at Penguin and Frederick Warne & Co Limited (an imprint of Penguin Random House Children’s), which have published her tales for more than 100 years. “We were very proud of how we adapted and updated Beatrix Potter’s classic story in the first film,” says Hildebrand. “On the sequel, working alongside the caretakers of Beatrix Potter’s work at Frederick Warne & Co., it was very important for us to ensure we were capturing the nature of the stories that are the reason for their enduring readership.”

Francesca Dow, MD for Penguin Random House Children’s, said, “We are hugely excited about Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway from Will Gluck and Sony Pictures. The first film proved an immediate and resounding hit with audiences around the world and allowed families to connect with Peter in an entirely new way. This new adventure will celebrate the fun and mischief that Peter Rabbit has always been synonymous with, in a larger-than-life way and we anticipate that families will enjoy it as much as the first movie.  Frederick Warne & Co., part of Penguin Random House Children’s, is proud to be the home of Peter Rabbit and the publisher of Beatrix Potter’s tales. We hope that the movie will inspire families to continue to rediscover and read the adventures of Peter Rabbit and his friends.”

Movies - Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway : discover the first trailer

Bringing that legacy to the screen is co-writer/producer/director Will Gluck. Belgrad says Gluck has a deep love and understanding of the material that comes through in the films.

“Will has a deep affinity for the characters that Potter created. He may be a little bit Peter Rabbit himself… clever, funny, and always with a plan, which made him the perfect filmmaker to tackle the material a second time to entertain family audiences in the same funny, spirited, heartfelt way as the first movie.”

Nalbandian adds, “We wanted to have an inventive spirit, to create an adventure that people haven’t seen before, while staying true to her vision, and I feel like this movie does that so well.”

Hildebrand notes that the stories are timeless and heartwarming, but also unsentimental – they often touch on the harder aspects of life. (After all, in The Tale of Peter Rabbit, it’s revealed that Peter’s own father was put into a pie by old Mr. McGregor, and Peter nearly suffers the same fate.) “Having children of my own and reading Beatrix Potter’s stories with them, she didn’t pull punches,” says Hildebrand. “Her stories have a serious undertone, and we’ve tried to mirror this in making sure we are not speaking down to an audience – challenging kids and giving them role models in Peter, Bea, and Thomas, to learn something from and see themselves in.”

The core creative team from the first film – including director of photography Peter Menzies Jr., Production Designer Roger Ford, Costume Designer Lizzy Gardiner, VFX Supervisor Will Reichelt, music supervisor Wende Crowley, and composer Dominic Lewis – returned for the second film. But where the first film took root in the garden, the sequel spreads it branches to the big city.

As with the first film, the sequel would shoot primarily in Australia, so finding locations to stand in for the city of Gloucester began by looking in Sydney’s historical regions, such as The Rocks and other areas with English architectural heritage.

The animation and visual effects team was led, as for the first film, by Animal Logic, one of the world’s leading animation companies and contributors to many Oscar winning and nominated films.

Producer Zareh Nalbandian, also CEO and Co-Founder of Animal Logic, says: “In the first film, I think we found how to create the CG characters and integrate the visual effects in a very funny and an emotional way. In taking them out into the bigger world in this film, it started to get really complicated, in terms of the VFX, the animation, and for the actors interacting with it all. It heightened the fun of the movie, but in terms of the animators and the crew, it created a lot more complexity.”

For visual effects supervisor Will Reichelt, the fun of stepping back into the Peter Rabbit world was the increase in scope, and hence in challenges for him and his team.

“Working on a live action film with animated characters is easier in some ways on a sequel, because a lot of the processes for integrating the characters into the live-action plates is similar, but the increased scope of the sequel, with more complicated set ups and action took the complexity to another level,” Reichelt explains.

For inspiration, the animators looked at reference that went far beyond the genre. “We looked at a few different references for Barnabas, including movie mob guys like Tony Soprano,” Reichelt notes. “We looked at characters that have a very stoic nature, but who are quite seductive as well. We didn’t want to make him a cartoonish caricature bad guy.”

For director Will Gluck, the opportunity to develop better and better iterations of the animation and VFX allowed the team to greatly refine the overall production.

“We had such an incredible opportunity to change things, much to the animators’ excitement and chagrin,” he says. “I always say it’s like making two movies: you make the first one when you shoot it and the second in the VFX. It gives the whole team an opportunity to explore the limits of our creativity and vision.”

Co-writer-director Will Gluck

Will Gluck is a filmmaker with a uniquely authentic voice and an aim to create projects that reflect popular culture and captivate audiences. Gluck has made a name for himself as a great comedic filmmaker who brings heart and a down-to-earth quality to all his endeavors.

Gluck most recently directed Peter Rabbit, which grossed over $350 million worldwide. He made his feature directorial debut with 2009’s darkly funny Fired Up. This was followed by Easy A (2010), a modern-day re-imagining of Annie, which he directed and co-wrote, Friends with Benefits (2011) for Sony Pictures. Through his Olive Bridge Entertainment banner, Gluck is produced the 2020 DGA-winner “Encore!” for Disney+, the dramedy series “Woke” for Hulu, an adult animated comedy for Netflix, “Sneakerheads” for Complex, as well as numerous other projects in development for traditional and streaming television. Past credits include Golden Globe nominee Michael J. Fox’s television comeback for NBC, family sitcom “The McCarthys” for CBS, and the Annie-nominated animated series “Moonbeam City” for Comedy Central. 

Screenwriter Patrick Burleigh

After getting his masters at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, Burleigh began his career as a playwright. His plays have been seen at Atlantic Theater Company, Naked Angels, New York Stage & Film, The Blank, and The Skylight.  He was a 2017 Humanitas Foundation playwriting fellow. 

He worked on the upcoming Marvel Studios film The Eternals with director Chloe Zhao. Prior to that, Burleigh was tapped to reboot the Power Rangers feature film franchise for Hasbro and Paramount. He was one of four writers in the Marvel Writers Program, out of which Marvel hired him to do extensive production writing on Ant-Man and the Wasp. Burleigh also adapted Nicholas Griffin’s book Ping-Pong Diplomacy for Archer Gray with Will Gluck to direct. He has written feature screenplays for Sony Pictures, Dreamworks Animation, and Fox/Disney, among others.

Burleigh also writes personal essays and non-fiction. His 2019 New York magazine piece about his family’s rare genetic mutation received widespread attention and was reported on by NPR, the BBC and other news outlets around the world. 

Crafting a catchy title for your story is essential. A dull, confusing, or pretentious title will put people off.

It is important to use a title that is intriguing and memorable. A title that expresses something about your story or theme.

If you do not have a title when you are working on a story, it is acceptable to write ‘Working Title’ and the date of the project.

Explanatory Titles

A title that tells you what the story is about.

The Great Escape – Imprisoned during World War II in a German POW camp, a group of Allied soldiers are intent on breaking out, not only to escape, but also to draw Nazi forces away from battle to search for fugitives.

Names Of Famous People

Titles like Bonnie and Clyde, Gandhi, Lawrence of Arabia and Robin Hood tell us exactly who the story is about. These stories have historic relevance that empower the title – note how clear the concepts are.

Robin Hood (2010) – After the death of Richard the Lion-Hearted, a skilled archer named Robin Longstride travels to Nottingham, where villagers suffer under a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation. He meets and falls in love with a spirited widow, Marion, although she is sceptical of his motives. Hoping to win her heart and save the village, Robin gathers a band of warriors to fight corruption in Nottingham, little knowing they will soon be fighting to save England itself.

Here’s a different the concept of a re-imagining of the same story.

Robin Hood (2018) – A war-hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown in a thrilling action-adventure packed with gritty battlefield exploits, mind-blowing fight choreography, and a timeless romance.

Titles from Premise

The basic premise of titles like Shakespeare in Love, and The Day the Earth Stood Still clearly evokes a story with characters and action.

Shakespeare in Love – It depicts a fictional relationship between William Shakespeare and a young woman who poses as a man in order to star in one of the writer’s plays. Suffering from writer’s block, Shakespeare needs a new muse. He soon finds inspiration in the form of a beautiful female aristocrat, but her daring determination to act in his play puts their already forbidden relationship on even more dangerous ground.

The day the earth stood still – An alien lands and tells the people of Earth that they must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets.

A dog’s journey – In this sequel to A Dog’s Purpose, a dog finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he meets. The devoted dog is reincarnated into the life of a troubled teenager.

A dog’s way home – A dog embarks on an epic 400-mile journey home after she is separated from her beloved human.

Types Of Protagonist

If you look at titles like Spartacus, and The Graduate we have a clear essence of character, of who the story is about. 

Spartacus – In The TV Series our hero is a Thracian gladiator who, along with the Gauls Crixus, Gannicus and Castus, alongside the Nubian Oenomaus, is one of the escaped slave leaders in the Third Servile War, a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic.

The Graduate – Benjamin Braddock has just finished college and, back at his parents’ house, he’s trying to avoid the one question everyone keeps asking: What does he want to do with his life? An unexpected diversion crops up when he is seduced by Mrs. Robinson, a bored housewife and friend of his parents.

Aquaman – The origin story of half-surface dweller, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry takes him on the journey of his lifetime.

A Situation

The titles of On The Waterfront, Friday the 13th, Star Wars and gives us a clear sense of a situation unfolding in a specific place or a specific time.

On The Waterfront – Dockworker Terry Malloy had been an up-and-coming boxer until powerful local mob boss Johnny Friendly persuaded him to throw a fight. When a longshoreman is murdered before he can testify about Friendly’s control of the Hoboken waterfront, Terry teams up with the dead man’s sister Edie and the streetwise priest Father Barry to testify himself, against the advice of Friendly’s lawyer, Terry’s older brother Charley.

Mysterious Titles

Titles that might not tell us much about the story but will make sense at the end of the story, or not.

The Matrix questions: What is the Matrix?

Neo believes that Morpheus, an elusive figure considered to be the most dangerous man alive, can answer his question — What is the Matrix? Neo is contacted by Trinity, a beautiful stranger who leads him into an underworld where he meets Morpheus. They fight a brutal battle for their lives against a cadre of viciously intelligent secret agents. It is a truth that could cost Neo something more precious than his life.

At the end of the film we understand how the Matrix works and the logic of its complex world.

The Green Mile questions: Where is the green mile?

Paul Edgecomb walked the mile with a variety of cons. He had never encountered someone like John Coffey, a massive black man convicted of brutally killing a pair of young sisters. Coffey had the size and strength to kill anyone, but not the demeanour. Beyond his simple, naive nature and a deathly fear of the dark, Coffey seemed to possess a prodigious, supernatural gift. Paul began to question whether Coffey was truly guilty of murdering the two girls.

At the end of The Green Mile we understand that it is the final mile leading to death row.

Neutral Titles

Titles like Amadeus and Chinatown don’t give much away about the story and don’t really sell.

Amadeus – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a remarkably talented young Viennese composer who unwittingly finds a fierce rival in the disciplined and determined Antonio Salieri. Resenting Mozart for both his hedonistic lifestyle and his undeniable talent, the highly religious Salieri is gradually consumed by his jealousy and becomes obsessed with Mozart’s downfall, leading to a devious scheme that has dire consequences for both men.

Chinatown –When Los Angeles private eye J.J. “Jake” Gittes is hired by Evelyn Mulwray to investigate her husband’s activities, he believes it’s a routine infidelity case. Jake’s investigation soon becomes anything but routine when he meets the real Mrs. Mulwray and realizes he was hired by an imposter. Mr. Mulwray’s sudden death sets Gittes on a tangled trail of corruption, deceit and sinister family secrets as Evelyn’s father (John Huston) becomes a suspect in the case.

Suggestive Titles

These titles tell you what kind of feelings the story deals with, titles like Raging Bull, Run Lola Run and Apocalypse Now.

Raging Bull – The story of a middleweight boxer as he rises through ranks to earn his first shot at the middleweight crown. He falls in love with a gorgeous girl from the Bronx. The inability to express his feelings enters the ring and eventually takes over his life. He eventually is sent into a downward spiral that costs him everything.

Run Lola Run –Two-bit Berlin criminal Manni delivers some smuggled loot for his boss, Ronnie, but accidentally leaves the 100,000-mark payment in a subway car. Given 20 minutes to come up with the money, he calls his girlfriend, Lola, who sprints through the streets of the city to try to beg the money out of her bank manager father and get to Manni before he does something desperate.

Apocalypse Now  – In Vietnam in 1970, Captain Willard takes a perilous and increasingly hallucinatory journey upriver to find and terminate Colonel Kurtz, a once-promising officer who has reportedly gone completely mad. In the company of a Navy patrol boat filled with street-smart kids, a surfing-obsessed Air Cavalry officer, and a crazed freelance photographer, Willard travels further and further into the heart of darkness.

Literary Titles

These titles are usually derived from quotations, like Once Upon A Time in the West, The 6th Day, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Once Upon a Time in the West – There’s a single piece of land around Flagstone with water on it, and rail baron Morton aims to have it, knowing the new railroad will have to stop there. He sends his henchman Frank to scare the land’s owner, McBain, but Frank kills him instead and pins it on a known bandit, Cheyenne. Meanwhile, a mysterious gunslinger with a score to settle and McBain’s new wife, Jill, arrive in town.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – When Randle Patrick McMurphy gets transferred for evaluation from a prison farm to a mental institution, he assumes it will be a less restrictive environment. But the martinet Nurse Ratched runs the psychiatric ward with an iron fist, keeping her patients cowed through abuse, medication and sessions of electroconvulsive therapy. The battle of wills between the rebellious McMurphy and the inflexible Ratched soon affects all the ward’s patients.

Loaded Phrases From Popular Culture

These titles are familiar and say something about the story, titles like Enemy of the State, Internal Affairs, Unlawful Entry and Basic Instinct.

Enemy of the State – Corrupt National Security Agency official Thomas Reynolds has a congressman assassinated to assure the passage of expansive new surveillance legislation. When a videotape of the murder ends up in the hands of Robert Clayton Dean , a labor lawyer and dedicated family man, he is framed for murder. With the help of ex-intelligence agent Edward “Brill” Lyle, Dean attempts to throw Reynolds off his trail and prove his innocence.

Writing Titles forms part of The Write Journey Course

Copyright © The Writing Studio

An aging matriarch aims to bring together her fractured, dysfunctional family over Eid-al-Fitr to break the news about her new romance in Barakat, South Africa’s first Muslim film in Afrikaaps.

Barakat started as a comedy and ended up being about grief,” says director Amy Jephta, who wrote the screenplay with Ephraim Gordon. They made their debut at the 2017 kykNET Silwerskerm Festival in Camps Bay, with their short film ‘Soldier’, for which they won the awards for best screenplay and best short film.

“At first sight, we appeared to want to tell a light-hearted story about a family of feuding brothers brought together to sabotage their mother’s love life,” says Jephta. “What the film actually wanted to be about, is how we deal with the loss of one of our own – in this case, a father and patriarch. The story became about a family grappling with a legacy that has left an empty seat at their table. For me, it is about how we honour familial, collective memory even as life moves on.”

“That difficulty, of ‘moving on’ from the death of a loved one, is a universal theme that speaks to our humanity anywhere in the world. Perhaps that’s why the story we gravitated toward telling was to explore and unpack that grief. But sometimes, pain manifests in absurdity or comedy. And for the Davids family, healing exists at the intersection of conflict, tradition, culture, and food. A family forced to confront absence is the heart and the compass here. It is the story we are actually telling.”

The film tells the story of Ayesha Davids (Vinette Ebrahim), a widow who has to preserve the peace between her four sons (played by Joey Rasdien, Mortimer Williams, Keeno-Lee Hector and Danny Ross) after they all still struggle to come to terms with the death of their father, two years after the fact. Zunaid, Zaid, Yaseen and Nur, who return to the family home to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr or Labarang as it’s known in Cape Town, marking the end of the month of Ramadaan, have never really dealt with their father’s death and the void he has left behind. Each son’s unprocessed pain manifests in how they are constantly fighting with each other, making their mother extremely sad as she tries to move on with her own life.

Barakat has started to make ripples internationally and has won a number of awards at international festivals, including: Best Narrative Feature at The Reel Sisters of The Diaspora Festival (Brooklyn, New York); Best Editing and Best Production at the Motion Pictures International Film Fest 2020 (Touring film festival held in Salt Lake City in 2020); and the Mary Austin Award Excellence in Directing, Best Ensemble Cast, Best International Feature, Best Supporting Actor Runner Up, and Best Original Score at Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema (Idyllwild, California).

Q & A with Amy Jephta and Ephraim Gordon

What was the inspiration behind Barakat?

Barakat first originated with a conversation about depictions of ‘us’ onscreen.

US: black, middle-class South Africans and our families, our histories, our language, and our lived realities. It started as a conversation about the danger of singular narratives about our experience. Questions about why we are so often portrayed as violent, poor, living in squalor, forced to deal with danger and drug addiction, crime, and gang life, as a natural extension of our existence.

What of the beauty of our communities and our people? What of our rich diversity of language – the snap and dynamism of the language we call Afrikaaps, a cocktail of English, Dutch, Arabic, Malay, and Afrikaans? What of our suburbs on the Cape Flats, the landscapes of palm trees and wide streets, the peculiar and specific mix of Cape Dutch architecture and 80s kitsch? What of our families – (mostly) functional, ordinary, concerned with normal preoccupations like relationships, marriages, careers, and petty conflicts?

Can a story about us be simple?

Barakat' celebrates life and culture in the Cape Flats, wins US award

How did you go about changing this narrative?

It was important for us as filmmakers to produce a piece that reflected the lived reality of this subsection of black South Africa in an authentic and honest way. For those who know the world, it was key to show an authentic representation of ‘our’ life on the Cape Flats with a distinctive voice, style, and tone. To portray something recognizable while simultaneously showing ourselves depicted in a fresh way. For those who don’t know the world, we wanted to show something new about the traditions and culture of a Cape Muslim family. While the story itself is simple, this film presents a significant shift in the portrayal of black South African lives onscreen. It was of high priority to show a diverse, varied depiction of minority communities in South Africa.

What of the film’s authenticity?

Authenticity is Everything. Barakat was shot completely on location in Athlone, Gatesville, and surrounding Cape Flats areas, depicting a side of Cape Town – and specifically the Cape Flats – rarely seen in South African films. The film features the local community as well as one of the local mosques.

It was important that the Davids family be middle-class and strongly traditional, a narrative departure from the usual stories set on South Africa’s Cape Flats.

The production team worked closely with the local community and cultural advisors to capture the authenticity of Cape Muslim vernacular in the language, the details of religious ceremonies such as the breaking of the fast and the Crescent Observation ceremony on the last night of Ramadan, and the textures of Cape Muslim life in the production design and costuming. This in service of presenting a Muslim family grounded in their beliefs and faith, to illustrate the warmth and generosity of this community.

Though religion itself is not an overt theme, the symbols and rituals of Islam play a strong role in the film. From the food on the family table, to Aisha and Abdu’s wedding photograph, to Aisha’s prayer mat and Quran and the various trinkets, decor and objects we see in the film – all of these are invested with meaning and a heritage particular to the Cape Muslim community. A depiction we feel is an accurate representation of US.

Our Cultural Advisors were Abduragman Adams, Yazeed Kamaldien, Khalil Kathrada, Moeniel Jacobs, Ayesha Khatieb, Jawaahier Petersen, the Crescent Observer’s Society, Imam Yusuf Pandy and Farouk Valley Omar, all people who hail from a cross sector of the local community, were advisors who helped to ensure that the screenplay is respectful of the cultural and religious nuances of the story.

Barakat | Movie info, Hector, Couple photos

What is your primary goal with Barakat?

It was important to both of us to depict the Cape Muslim community in a positive light. The Cape is a melting pot of cultures, with an exciting diversity in our communities, and we wanted to show people that regardless of faith, they can watch the film and proudly say ‘this is us’. It was important to us that everyone on screen sounded authentic and spoke ‘Afrikaaps’ the way we know it from our homes and amongst our friends. The script is peppered with those phrases and words that are unique to our culture. We wanted to portray the richness of what it means to be from the Flats, but seen through a different lens.

Amy Jephta is a screenwriter and playwright from Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town. She has three feature film credits to her name including South Africa’s official 2018 Golden Globes submission, Ellen: The
Ellen Pakkies Story (Rotterdam International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival, Toronto Black Film Festival, and others). As a playwright, her work has been directed by Danny Boyle for the Royal Court and played at The Bush theatre, Theatre 503 and the Jermyn Street Theatre in London and the Riksteatern in Sweden.
She has held fellowships at the Orchard Project Episodic Lab (New York), the AfroVibes Festival (Amsterdam) and the Edinburgh International Festival. In 2019, Amy developed an hour-long original drama pilot as part of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Impact program. The Park is currently attached to be produced by Imagine Entertainment. Other recent work includes thrilleraction series, Trackers, for M-Net and CINEMAX/HBO and Catch Me A Killer, an action-drama series pilot for eOne. Amy has previously been named as one of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Top Young South Africans, is the 2017 recipient of the national Eugene Marais Prize for Drama, the 2019 recipient of one of South Africa’s highest art accolades, the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Theatre and the 2020 recipient of the Baumi Prize for script development (presented by Pandora Film and the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Germany). She now focuses on producing for film and television as the creative director of Nagvlug Films. Amy is represented by CAA and 3Arts Entertainment.

Amy Jephta and Ephraim Gordon recently won the award for Best Narrative at the 23rd Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Festival in the US for their movie Barakat. They've also just wrapped production for their drama series Skemerdans. Picture: Supplied
Ephraim Gordon and Amy Jephta

Ephraim Gordon graduated from the University of Cape Town with a degree in Theatre, and as a young actor has been nominated for various theatre and television awards across South Africa. Ephraim has worked as a storyliner for local television and is currently on the development and production teams for two new South African series projects for the M-Net group. Behind the camera, he has worked as a casting director on Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story and has assisted and advised on critically acclaimed South African films like Number 37 and Noem My Skollie. Ephraim has to date directed over 120 episodes on kykNET’s daily soap, Suidooster, where he initially trained as a television director. He has since directed Sara Se Geheim S3, a local 13-episode series in its final season.

In 2017, Ephraim was the producer of the award winning short-film Soldaat that won Best Short and Best Script at the Silwerskermfees in Cape Town. In 2019, Ephraim was a producer on two made for TV films (Rage and Somerkersfees) for M-Net and SHOWMAX. He is currently Head of Development at Nagvlug Films.

The diabolical twisted thriller Spiral marks a new chapter in the book of Saw and originated from the mind of stand-up and comic actor Chris Rock, a “massive fan” of horror films in general and the Saw series in particular.

The slasher horror franchise Saw was created by James Wan and Leigh Whannell in 2004 and satisfied the appetite of ardent fans with nine feature films and additional media.

Inspired by the way the franchise blended a variety of popular genres, Rock wanted to create something entirely new and came on board to the franchise as star and executive producer of Spiral, putting his encyclopedic knowledge of the franchise to good use: to pay homage to what’s come before and take it in a new direction.

“My idea was to take that up a notch this time, and to chart a new path forward,” says Rock. We keep everything that defines a Saw movie, but we also delve deeper into the psychological and suspense thriller elements that have always been there, beneath the surface – we’ve got the traps, we’ve got the gore, but we’ve also got a story and characters that will keep people guessing. That’s why I really don’t look at Spiral as the next Saw film. We’re actually starting over and heading in an entirely different direction with this movie.”

Rock’s conceptual idea for the film involved him portraying a detective from the world of Saw – a cop who is fully aware of the serial killer from his city’s past but considers it history – who becomes embroiled in a bizarre murder investigation where the killings seem eerily reminiscent of Jigsaw’s notorious handiwork.

A criminal mastermind unleashes a twisted form of justice in Spiral. Working in the shadow of his father, an esteemed police veteran (Samuel L. Jackson), brash Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) and his rookie partner (Max Minghella) take charge of a grisly investigation into murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game.

Bringing Spiral To The Big Screen

In a curious twist of fate, the journey to bring Spiral to the screen began during one of the most joyful occasions imaginable: a wedding. Michael Burns, the vice chairman of Lionsgate, was attending a friend’s nuptials in Brazil and found himself seated next to Rock. The comedian leaned over to Burns during the ceremony and revealed how much he enjoyed the Saw films and that he would love to appear in a fresh chapter that takes the series in a bold new direction.

After the wedding, Burns reached out to longtime Saw producers Mark Burg and Oren Koules, who have produced the entire franchise of films, and said they should contact Rock to arrange a meeting about a possible new film set in the world of Saw.

“So we called Chris, and a few weeks later Oren and I met with him to discuss his ideas for a new chapter,” says Burg. “And about a year later we were on a set together shooting Spiral.”            

“The first idea I had was, what if I was a cop who woke up in a trap, or had one hand chained to a pipe and a saw in the other,” Rock recalls. “That spurred all of our conversations, and as we talked, everybody got excited about what this movie could be.”

Although Rock was eager to offer his own original story ideas, one thing he left entirely up to the seasoned filmmaking team was the infamous traps that are so much a part of the franchise’s history.

Producers Mark Burg and Oren Koules

“I told Mark Burg that I didn’t want to have anything to do with the traps,” Rock says. “In fact, I didn’t even want to see them until I got to the set. Mark and his team know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to artfully killing people on screen, so I told them, ‘I’ll handle my part of the detective story, and you guys handle all the gore, because you do it better than anyone.’”

This was not a problem for Burg and Koules.

“It’s always fun to come up with gruesome new traps and creepy new storylines, and then figure out how they connect to the existing world we’ve created,” says Burg. “The good news was that Chris had some really great ideas and a solid vision for Spiral.”

Koules admits when he and Burg first began working on the original Saw back in 2004 they couldn’t have imagined they would be adding to the legacy more than 17 years later. “We were happy just to make one truly amazing movie that people around the world loved,” says Koules “That’s all we were hoping to do back when it all started.”

And the filmmaking team was fully on board with turning the page for a new chapter in the Saw legacy. “Our devoted audience wants films that are bigger, better and scarier,” adds Spiral executive producer Daniel Jason Heffner, “so that’s what we’ve delivered with Spiral.”

Koules says that’s due in large part to everything Rock has brought to the film. “Chris is great in this movie and shows so much range. Audiences will see a side of him here that they’ve never seen before. He’ll cause you to laugh sporadically, but make no mistake: Spiral is dark, disturbing, and extremely brutal.”

Rock expects horror fans will love the ride that Spiral takes them on. “It’s a genuine roller coaster that works on all of your senses,” he says. “It has drama, cop action, a touch of comedy, and a ton of extreme horror. Basically, it’s got everything you could want, including some amazing traps. I mean, those traps are what separate Saw from all other series.”

Crafting a Ghoulish Twist

To flesh out Rock’s concept for Spiral, the producers tapped screenwriting duo Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger.

Screenwriters Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger

Experts in the genre, the pair had previously penned the script for Jigsaw, as well as horror hits like Piranha 3D and Sorority Row.

“As soon as we got the call from Mark and Oren saying Chris Rock wanted to make Spiral, Pete and I started brainstorming what the story could be about, and then we spoke to Chris to get his take on it,” says Stolberg. “Pete and I have been writing horror for the past 20 years, so we bonded with Chris over our shared passion for the genre.”

Dreaming up elaborately gory murder methods like the ones depicted in Spiral is a skill that comes naturally to Stolberg and his writing partner, who enjoy coming up with creative ways to kill one another.

“For instance, we’ll go on a cruise with our wives and families, and I’ll be sitting on the deck thinking what might happen if I took the ship’s anchor and tied it around Pete and threw it over the side,” Stolberg laughs. “It’s a great way to spend your free time!”

Stolberg splashed onto the scene writing the Nickelodeon series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and Passion of the Ark, which, after a seven-studio bidding war, was eventually developed into Evan Almighty. Stolberg soon made a name for himself in horror, co-writing films such as Piranha 3D, Jigsaw, Sorority Row, and the CW Halloween special “Kappa Kappa Die.” He is currently writing the feature Teddy and the Guardians of the Night, to be produced by Dwayne Johnson, and the upcoming Queen for a Day, about a week in the life of Prince.

Pete Goldfinger penned Jigsaw for Lionsgate, which was released in 2017. He also wrote the horror films Piranha 3D and Sorority Row as well as the 2020 CW Halloween special “Kappa Kappa Die.”

Stolberg says one of the most challenging aspects of writing Spiral was the speed at which the project developed.

“When Chris came to Lionsgate and said he wanted to make Spiral, he had a very small window of opportunity to actually shoot it before he went off to do another project, so we had to really buckle down and come up with ideas quickly. But when you’re working under pressure like that, you often come up with the most exciting concepts because you’re just throwing everything you can think of into the mix.”

In addition to the ghastly traps and macabre storylines, the Saw films are famous for their shocking twist endings, and Spiral continues in that vein.

“The trickiest part of the writing process on Spiral was honing the plot down to figure out what the big twist would be, because there’s always an amazing twist in the world of Saw,” Stolberg says.

“The crazy thing is that the entire audience knows a twist is coming, so writing the script is almost like doing a magic trick. You have to figure out a way to fool the audience into forgetting that there’s going to be a twist coming if you really want to surprise them. Crafting that twist was definitely the most challenging part of writing Spiral.”

The Vision of Darren Lynn Bousman: A Connoisseur of Terror

Interview: Darren Lynn Bousman Discusses His Involvement in New Documentary  THE HORROR CROWD, Immersive Experiences, and Directing SPIRAL: FROM THE  BOOK OF SAW - Daily Dead

To direct Spiral, the producers brought back filmmaker Darren Lynn Bousman, who had previously helmed three of the most popular and successful movies in the franchise – Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006) and Saw IV (2007) – making him the first horror director to have his first three major Hollywood features open at the top of the box office.

“This is the fifth movie I’ve produced with Darren, so I have quite a bit of experience working with him,” says Heffner. “He’s been a part of our team since the early days, and he’s matured as an artist considerably since Saw II. He’s gone from being a young man in his 20s to a 40-something father of two, and he brings stability to a project like this because he knows how it all originated. And of course, he understands exactly what audiences love about the world of Saw.”

Bousman was born and raised in Overland Park, Kansas, where he was heavily involved in the theater community. He majored in theater and film at Kansas University and during his sophomore year he left KU to attend Full Sail University in Florida, a film school near Orlando. It was there that Bousman began writing and directing short horror films. Shortly thereafter he moved to Los Angeles, where he began his career directing music videos and commercials. During this time, he was introduced to Twisted Pictures producers Gregg Hoffman, Mark Burg and Oren Koules, who had read Bousman’s script The Desperate. They hired him to direct Saw II, which was hugely successful and helped launch the continuing franchise. After three Saw films Bousman went on to direct and produce his “passion project” Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008), based on the original stage play he directed in 2002.

Bousman didn’t expect to return to the franchise after finishing Saw IV, but watching new filmmakers add their own mark to the Saw legacy had an unanticipated effect on him.

“I got jealous!” he says. “I thought, that should be me doing it! And, of course, I got stopped frequently by fans who wanted to talk about the series. The interesting thing about those fan interactions is that it wasn’t the traps, or the twists, or the blood and gore they asked me about. Instead, they wanted to know about the backstories and the characters. That’s what really affected people, which tells you something. So when the opportunity arose to come back and direct a brand-new chapter in a completely different way, I was all in.”

Exclusive: Spiral's Darren Lynn Bousman on Return to Saw & Working With  Chris Rock
Darren Lynn Bousman with Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Rock during the filming of Spiral.

The director believes the Saw franchise remains beloved by fans because each film respects the audience’s intelligence.

“The writing goes through a very intense and rigorous process,” he says. “We know what the fans want, and we know what they think we’re going to give them, so we’re constantly trying to fake them out and stay one step ahead. It’s like a game we play with them, and the only question is if they’re going to outsmart us or if we’re going to outsmart them once again.”

Reflecting on his long history with the franchise, Bousman points out an interesting parallel between Spiral and the very first Saw film he directed a decade and a half ago.

“When I initially signed on to make Saw II, I told the producers that I wanted to do something different than what Saw did, because I didn’t want to copy James Wan’s movie. I was happy to pay homage to it, but I really wanted to do my own thing with the sequel. And a similar thing happened when I agreed to direct Spiral. I decided it was time to do something completely different again. Everything is new this time, from the way I shot it, to the way I approached the actors, to the way we’ve designed the traps.”

Bousman acknowledges that returning to helm Spiral feels like an unexpected gift in his life. “Not very long ago, I never would have thought I’d be back to direct a brand-new chapter in the book of Saw, so there were plenty of moments during production when I looked around at all the familiar faces and I couldn’t believe it was happening. It had been 15 years since we last worked together and there I was, back again. It’s like I came full circle… or maybe a spiral is a better description.”

Springing the Traps

For many longtime Saw fans, the diabolically gruesome traps are the true stars of the series. Each movie features an assortment of elaborately designed murder-machines that would make the Marquis de Sade wince in horror, and Spiral includes some of the grisliest devices in the entire franchise.

“Traps are the signature element of the Saw films, and they’ve really evolved over the years,” says Heffner. “At first they were things that could conceivably be built in a garage out of items found in a junkyard. But they grew more complex because our audience wanted them to be bigger and better. So when we started conceiving the traps for Spiral, we made a conscious decision to go back to the basics and come up with ideas that could be built by an individual out of things that were lying around in a workshop.”

Bousman felt it was time to update the look and feel of the traps for this fresh reimagining. “The killer in Spiral is brand new, so I wanted to take a different approach to the way the traps function,” he says. “Jigsaw was an experienced engineer with an ability to create intricate mechanisms, so my idea in Spiral was to think about how a less-experienced killer might approach building traps. What would that look like on screen?”

Creating traps that could conceivably exist in the real world is a goal Bousman set for himself on Spiral.

“One of the things that’s important to me is making sure all the traps work the way we show them to. I never want to take creative liberties when it comes to depicting them. If it doesn’t do what we say it does, I don’t want to shoot it.”

Production designer Tony Cowley, who also worked on Jigsaw, helped translate Bousman’s trap concepts into workable versions that could function effectively on screen.

“The best job you can have on a film like Spiral is to be part of the art department, because it’s all about visualizing the traps, and the sets, and the creepy mechanical designs,” Cowley says.            

Eager to give horror fans what they crave, Bousman promises a plethora of grotesque gadgets in Spiral that will haunt the audience’s nightmares for years to come.

Updating the Visual Language of Saw

To give Spiral the distinctive visual flair that Bousman envisioned, the producers sought to find a cinematographer whose eye could transform tableaux of horror into strikingly artistic compositions. Once again, the decision was made to think outside the box and look for someone not normally associated with the genre. Typically, when Heffner meets with potential crew members for the first time, the interview process is brief and to the point. That was not the case with 28-year-old director of photography Jordan Oram.

The "E" Project - Jordan Oram, Director of Photography - SHIFTER
Jordan Oram

A newcomer to the franchise, Oram spent time during preproduction researching previous movies in the series to learn the visual language of Saw. To capture the disturbing look Bousman was after, the DP shot the film digitally using a monochromatic color palette emphasizing rotting greens and mustard yellows, and occasionally relied on old-school moviemaking techniques like applying Vaseline to the lens in order to achieve a dreamlike image.

Having directed Saw II when he was still in his 20s, Bousman felt an understandable connection with his under-30 DP. “Jordan brought a sense of youth to Spiral, which feels funny to say because I still remember being the young guy on set when I directed my first Saw movie. Back then I was just out of film school, and now I’m the old dude among all of these young talented kids. But that’s what I wanted on this movie, someone who is hungry and talented and keeps up with all the cool new camera toys. And that describes Jordan to a T.”

Love Sarah is a life-affirming and celebratory story about three generations of women brought together by fate and must save a dirty, dusty bakery bakery from shutting down in the cultural diverse Notting Hill.

Love Sarah is a heartfelt inter-generational film which explores the theme of small family run businesses and the magic that happens when friends and family come together” said Benjamin Cowley, CEO of Gravel Road Distribution Group. “I’m sure that South African audiences are going to love this film that is filled with the perfect ingredients for excellent cinema viewing, not to mention plenty of delicious baking throughout” he added.

“I have always been wanting to make a film about three very different, very headstrong women and all the three leads have been inspired by women of my family or women I have come across over the years who I admire, says London based director Eliza Schroeder who was born in Germany, surrounded by a large family.

Eliza Schroeder with Celia Imrie

Coming from a large close knit creative family and three sisters with whom she has close connections, Schroeder believes that Love Sarah speaks volumes in terms of what she deeply desired to bring to the big screen.

Determined to fulfill her late mother’s dream of opening a bakery in charming Notting Hill, 19-year-old Clarissa (Shannon Tarbet) enlists the help of her mother’s best friend Isabella (Shelley Conn) and her eccentric estranged grandmother Mimi (Celia Imrie) in Love Sarah. These three generations of women will need to overcome grief, doubts and differences to honor the memory of their beloved Sarah while embarking on a journey to establish a London bakery filled with love, hope and colorful pastries from all over the world.

“I have just always been inspired by women and the power they can have together when they join forces. Coming from a close knit family myself I have always been extremely lucky to have such close bonds with my sisters and the women in my family in general. It has empowered me and I have learned a great deal from these women around me, particularly my beloved mum. I cherish this deeply and am carrying this in my heart so wanted to bring some of these feelings  / bonds onto the screen.”

It is a very personal film for Schroeder, who lost her own mother a few years ago, and wanted to treat death in a dignified way not making it dark and constraining but let it bring hope and life.

“The whole theme of loss suddenly became very important for me and I wanted to deal with it in a dignified way, inspiring audiences to see that there can be light at the end of the tunnel and that it’s sometimes wonderful to re-join forces with dear ones you might have fallen out with / not been in touch with for a while.”

The three generational film also appealed to her as she could bring forth different strengths, personalities and aspirations of women at different phases in their lives.

“I think as we grow older, we do become wiser and have a different view on life but sometimes we can also learn from the younger ones and they can often be wiser than we are. I wanted to show that joining forces and listening to each other, no matter the age, can sometimes help a great deal.”

Being an avid baker and having grown up in Germany with a mixed Jewish-German family, married to a French man and living in post Brexit London gave Schroeder the inspiration to portray a culturally diverse London in its glory brought together by the country’s love for baking quite rightly symbolised by The Great British Bakeoff.

Rupert Penry-Jones

“Notting Hill which has been my home for 11 years became the backdrop of the film as I have always been inspired by this neighbourhood, where people from all walks of life live together next to each another.”

“The idea of the bakery was always Eliza’s vision – she loves her local community in Notting Hill and the cafe culture of the lifestyle there. People have really affinities to their local coffee shops/bakeries,” says screenwriter Jake Brunger, who grew up in Nottingham and is a graduate of the Royal Court Theatre Supergroup and was selected as part of the Old Vic Theater New Voices, work closely with Eliza Schroeder during the making of the film.

“We had regular meetings and catch ups about the script, although this was in a pre-Covid world before Zooms so I used to trek halfway across London to see her every few weeks! This film had always been Eliza’s passion project – she came up with the story-line and characters herself – so it was very important to me to serve her vision.”

Brunger got onboard as screenwriter when producer Rajita Shah saw a play he’d written that dealt with some similar themes to Love Sarah.

Screenwriter Jake Brunger

“I’d never even vaguely dipped my toe in the screen world before, so was very excited to get started!” says Brunger, who was selected for the 2016/17 BBC TV Drama Writers’ Programme and was named as one of the upcoming writers-to-watch on the BBC’s 2017 New Talent Hotlist.

“I come from a theatre background (predominantly musical theatre, where I also write lyrics) and Love Sarah is my first film, so even in practical terms I had to adapt to a new way of formatting the script. Screenwriters use a program called Final Draft, so getting used to that took a while, but once you’ve got the hang of it it’s pretty easy to navigate. As for writing the screenplay itself, it’s just something that you have to work out the best method for you – it’s a bit like learning to ride a bike, you fall off but get back on again!”

“Theatre is very much where I come from, but I’m absolutely loving writing films at the moment, mainly because films are such a huge part of people’s lives. When you’ve had a bad or tiring day at work and just want to kick back with something easy and entertaining; those are the kind of films I want to write. But I love writing musicals, and hope to always switch between the two. Or – touch wood – write a movie musical!”

Brunger wrote the screenplay because he also wanted to explore the effect of grief on those most closely affected by it: in this case a mother, daughter, best friend and former lover.

“My longing to explore so-called ‘grief stories’ on screen comes from a very personal place for me after 2 of my family members passed on. When people die with regrets and unsettled scores – things they wish they’d said but left too late – there is never a chance to rectify those wrongs and I wanted to write a film where that regret was explored centre stage, as well as being the spur to change your life and truly make something of yourself.”

“I’m very interested in grief and the way we behave after a bereavement – it makes us reevaluate our lives and who we are, and makes some of us do wild, new things and change the course of our life. We all suffer bereavement at some point in our lives so in that way I hope the film is very universal, and also quite inspiring too. “

The multi-generational aspect of Loving Sarah also appealed to Brunger.

“I think that comes from being a child and sitting down to watch films with not just my parents but my grandparents too. Life is multi-generational; we come across people of all ages all the time, so film should definitely reflect that. I was also very keen for there to be a positive storyline about romance between the two elder characters – after all, people in their 60s date too!”

He does not regard himself as a baker.

I’m not a baker unfortunately, although I can make a cake if pushed! I recently made Nigella Lawson’s Guinness cake, which is absolutely delicious – I can thoroughly recommend it, and it’s very easy too! The idea of the bakery was always Eliza’s vision – she loves her local community in Notting Hill and the cafe culture of the lifestyle there. People have really affinities to their local coffee shops/bakeries. I often write in coffee shops and seeing the various characters who pop in and out – people are just endlessly fascinating. 

Rupert Penry-Jones, Shelley Conn, Celia Imrie and Shannon Tarbet

Those Who Wish Me Dead draws its evocative title from the collision course of challenging themes about our very humanity that converge against the backdrop of nature at its most volatile: a raging fire.

“We have a survival story, a coming-of-age story, and the story of a woman seeking redemption for a tragedy in her past, all woven into one,” says director/co-writer/producer Taylor Sheridan, who tackled the varying elements, figuratively and literally, from page to screen.

When the film’s star, Angelina Jolie, read Sheridan’s screenplay she says it was the combination of these intriguing components infused in the writing that drew her to the role of troubled smokejumper Hannah.  “This is a thriller with fascinating characters embarking on a dangerous adventure across unusual terrain, with the added unique situation of placing them inside a massive wildfire.”

Sheridan, who penned the script from a previous adaptation by the author, Michael Koryta, and writer Charles Leavitt, states, “One of the things that made me so excited about directing this is that I found playing in Hannah’s world—and reinventing the world in adapting it for the screen—to be a lot of fun.  I began to look forward to escaping further into this world.”

Director/co-writer/producer Taylor Sheridan

The multi-hyphenate has been lauded for telling stories that feature intense action in the middle of the American wilderness while also beautifully combining pacing, tension, character development and action sequences.  

Jolie adds, “I think very few filmmakers today tell a beautiful, meaningful story with such grit and wild abandon, humor and action as Taylor.  Because he directs and writes, you come out with great characters, story, and soul.  He has a genuine signature.”

Producer Aaron L. Gilbert says, “Taylor has a unique ability to craft rich characters and vibrant landscapes bringing the story to life in the most thrilling way, and we at BRON couldn’t be more excited to share this film with the world.”

Sheridan’s entry point as a director on the project actually came only after he began to adapt the material.  “Somewhere along the line, there was a shift and I started writing it for me to direct.  When you tend to direct the material that you write, this ultimately happens.”

The story in the film veers from the book in many ways, a common occurrence in adaptations for the screen. 

“There are different stories to be told,” says Sheridan.  You obviously want to be true to the book’s spirit, yet books are written to be read and imagined, while screenplays are written to be filmed.” 

Known for a straightforward, authentic approach with films like Hell or High Water and Wind River, he adds that, for him, “It’s more about what the audience is going to see.  I begin to write specific shots, implementing the visuals I’ll use, the sounds that I’ll use, the tempo and the pace of the scenes.”

Koryta says, “When I heard Taylor Sheridan was going to direct, I was ecstatic because I’d seen ‘Hell or High Water’ and the ‘Sicario’ films.  Then ‘Wind River’ came along, and I walked out of a screening thinking he was the perfect guy for the project.  I think we share a story sensibility, and he absolutely understands the world of the movie.  He’s been on the ranches and in the mountains.  He’s snowmobiled outside of the Beartooth Mountains, where the story was created.  It’s really rare to find a director who knows the world of your work that well.  I think he’s one of the greats and he was the perfect fit for the material.”

Once his blueprint was in place, Sheridan shares, “I sent Angie the script and asked if she wanted to do it.  When you think of her essence and talent, depth of character, physical ability, and someone I would believe in Hannah’s role, Angie certainly fits all of those bills.”

“I was drawn to the strong female characters, but It really doesn’t matter that Hannah is female; it’s not about the fact that she’s a strong woman or a woman at all,” says Jolie. “I like roles like that, and I liked that it also connects to the people of service to America, telling their story.”

The film initially sets up two separate stories—Hannah’s, which introduces her not only as an elite type of firefighter, a smokejumper, but one who clearly bears wounds from her past that have not yet healed; and Connor’s, a young boy whose world turns upside down in an instant when his father recognizes they’re about to be in grave danger, and hits the road with a confused Connor in tow.

Those Who Wish Me Dead is ultimately a story of survival, wherein our protagonists must find the strength to literally rise from the ashes around them,” Gilbert observes. “The resilience of our characters in the face of hardship should resonate with audiences, who themselves have had to persevere through an unprecedented year of challenges.” 

The story takes place primarily in the imposing wilds of the Montana forest—truly another critical character within the story as it offers its own range of emotions, from a calm sense of comfort to utter rage—with New Mexico standing in for big sky country.

Sheridan relates, “I’m fascinated with that line where the rule of law gives way to the laws of nature, when by necessity the rules we’ve made up to control ourselves are removed.  I felt that this was an exciting way to approach a thriller, blending  each of these characters’ stories together and turning them on their ear by setting them in the middle of a fire was, as a filmmaker, really exciting, and I believe it was for the actors as well.  As much as I can ever make the world feel like a character, I want to do that.  I think the more we spend our lives inside cities, the less connected we become to our planet, so any opportunity I have to make our planet one of the stars, I want to do so.”

Jolie tackles the role of a smokejumper

In describing her character, Jolie offers “Hannah is somebody who has experienced a real tragedy, and she feels responsible.  When we meet her in the story, she is having nightmares, she suffers from PTSD.  She’s somebody who puts on a brave front and acts cool, but inside she’s a broken person who carries a great deal of guilt.”

Whether that guilt is warranted or not.  Sheridan says, “Smokejumpers do exactly what their job sounds like: they jump out of planes and get into these roadless areas behind fires and either set back burns or cut breaks and try to control and shift and move the fire into a place where it can go out.  It’s an incredibly dangerous job and one that involves a lot of courage.

“When the least dangerous thing you do is jump out of a plane on your way to work,” he continues, “it takes a certain type of person that’s really eager to push themselves and find out what they’re made of, and Hannah fits into that category; she is willing to risk her life.”

Often thought of as the “special forces” of firefighting, smokejumpers are elite, specially trained wildland firefighters who provide an initial attack response on remote wildland fires.  They are inserted at the site of the fire by parachute and, in addition to performing the initial attack on wildfires, they often provide leadership for extended attacks on wildland fires.

Sheridan says, “The kind of person who would take that job is the kind of person that has that selfless quality to them.  You hear about firefighters in the city who rush into a burning building to save someone’s pet because of their devotion to others, to mission and purpose; Hannah certainly has that calling, and that calling can come with some demons that you have to face, because if your job is one of life and death, you’re probably going to know people who have succumbed to that, who didn’t come back, and you’re gonna have to figure out how to deal with that.”

In sharing her character’s backstory, Jolie says, “Hannah is an adrenaline junkie.  I think anybody that does this job has to be, or you wouldn’t jump out of a plane and into a fire.  I am drawn to characters who have been through something and are broken and then find their way forward and overcome it.  As an artist, it’s very healing to play people like that because you see that if you can do that in character, you can do that in life, it feels good, and you hope the audience gets that same feeling and that same reminder that we can all stand back up.”

Hannah’s work is very physical, and Sheridan knew that Jolie, as his lead, would be up to the task.  “Angie was game, she did it all, she did a lot of her own stunts.  It’s sort of a requirement of the way that I film because I try to place the audience as a voyeur right in the middle of the action.  If it’s not the actor, they’re going to see that, so it requires a real physical commitment.”

“I was happy to toughen up and get dirty and sweaty, to do things I’ve never done and feel very capable.  Taylor taught me how to chop wood and start a fire.  Now he needs to teach me how to ride a horse,” Jolie jests.

The Villains

With wildfires and the devastation they cause around the world so frequently in the news in recent years, one might presume that fire is cast as a villain in Those Who Wish Me Dead.  Not so, says Sheridan.  “Fire doesn’t have an opinion.  Fire doesn’t have a purpose, except to burn.  It’s difficult to attribute the qualities of a villain to fire when a villain wants to hurt; a fire just is.”  

Ultimately, the result of fire, anywhere it happens, is a rebirth, a metaphor for this story in many different ways.  “Fire was a great catalyst for our climax and our resolution.  It certainly is used with evil intent—or villainous properties—by those who start it, but then, as it must, it takes on a life of its own.”

The true villains of the story are Patrick and Jack, hired hitmen who will stop at nothing—truly nothing—to accomplish what they’ve been sent to do.  Nicholas Hoult plays Patrick, the younger of the two who takes his lead, without hesitation, from Jack.

Building The World Of The Story

When it comes to world-building, production designer Neil Spisak is an integral part of Sheridan’s team, having collaborated with him on “Wind River” and “Yellowstone.”  For “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” Sheridan shares, “Neil had to build a giant forest with a creek that runs into a pool off of a waterfall in a desert located 10 miles from Albuquerque International Airport, which is its own challenge.  Then he had to build a fire tower—three of them, actually.  One that we could place in the desert overlooking our fake forest, another in the forest and then a third one that we could put on a stage so that we could film the interior.

“So Neil had tremendous tasks,” continues Sheridan.  “Like me, he’s someone who really likes to put everything in the lens and not rely on computer graphics or visual effects.  The world has to look real.”

Those Who Wish Me Dead Trailer (2021)

To that end, Spisak and special effects supervisor Dan Holt worked together to build a contained forest of trees to double for that were plumbed with propane.  “We had 186 real trees that the greens department planted,” explains Holt.  “Each one was rigged for fire up the trunk, so we had propane sources on these trees, but we fireproofed all the canopies so they would not catch fire and burn the whole set down.  We also had additional 40 metal trunks to give us high, wide fire in the background.  They didn’t resemble a tree, didn’t read on camera, but gave us the higher fire sources.  We did many tech scouts and had a lot of safety meetings on how to achieve this.  We ended up burning it in sections, probably 20, 25 trees on fire each time.”

Because fire, smoke, and ash behave somewhat randomly in the natural world and take on a life of their own, forming unexpected little tornadoes of fire that naturally occur in the wild, their job was to capture that and then relay that into the final product.

“The funny thing was once we built our simulated forest in the desert in New Mexico, it wasn’t long before birds started nesting in our staged forest trees, squirrels began running around in our fake forest, and we also found snakes, mice, and these things,” Sheridan recalls.  “At first we thought it was great, and then we realized we were going to be setting this all on fire, so for about five days we had to shoo animals so that there was nothing left in our fake forest to die.  But it was astonishing that in the middle of the desert we had all these animals that arrived, inexplicably, across the desert to go live in our forest.”

The action was captured by director of photography Ben Richardson and his team.  Sheridan, who has worked with him on previous films, says, “Ben and I see the world the same way.  We are attracted to the same aesthetic.  So, the conversation becomes about how you enhance and capture the elements and give them the mood and the energy that you hope the audience will have when they see the film.  For example, we wanted the fire to feel alive and threatening and dominate everything around it.  That involved creating an aesthetic that allowed it to really come to life and not just blow out the landscape, which meant various filters and exposure rates.”

To achieve the filmmaker’s desired scope and sense of realism, the creative team knew they had to emulate the nature of fire as it would be in the wild.  “Not to take anything away from people who rely heavily on visual effects; I just try to do everything I possibly can in-camera, practically,” the director says.  “I was asked how we would recreate the wildfire, and said, ‘Well, I’m going to go out in the desert, and we’re going to build a 300-acre forest, and then I’m gonna set it on fire.’  And that’s what we did.”

Jason Chen, the film’s visual effects supervisor, and Sheridan had many conversations about what would be accomplished with visual effects, and instead of approaching it from a CG standpoint, determined the best way would be to do everything in-camera, and have the visual effects team enhance what was captured, adding to but not replacing the real thing.

Sheridan observes, “One of the interesting things about trying to duplicate fire in a computer graphic is that all computer graphics are dictated, ultimately, by some mathematical equation, meaning there’s a rhythm to it.  In nature, fire doesn’t follow any of those things, which is why it’s so difficult to recreate it in a visual effect—it follows no pattern.  Whatever we supplemented with visual effects had to have enough practical fire in-camera so that the computer followed its random quality.”

The Writers

TAYLOR SHERIDAN (Director/Screenplay by/Producer) is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and the creator, writer, director and executive producer of the record-breaking Paramount Network series Yellowstone, a frontier family drama set on the largest contiguous ranch in the U.S., recently wrapping filming Season 4 of the hit show.Sheridan is currently developing a Yellowstone prequel series titled “Y:1883,” as well as two original television shows for Paramount Network: Lioness and Mayor of Kingstown, which follows a family of power brokers between the police, criminals, inmates, prison guards and politicians, in a city completely dependent on prisons and the prisoners they contain. Sheridan previously made his debut as a writer/director with his critically acclaimed Wind River, the conclusion to his modern frontier trilogy. He previously wrote Hell Or High Water and Sicario.

Koryta details murder, a panther and a dangerous woman - CNN.com
Michael Koryta

MICHAEL KORYTA (Screenplay by/Book by) is the New York Times bestselling author of 16 novels. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages, awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He has worked as a private investigator and newspaper reporter. Koryta’s first novel, the Edgar Award-nominated Tonight I Said Goodbye, was accepted for publication when he was 20 years old. He wrote his first two published novels before graduating from college and was published in 10 languages before he fulfilled the “intensive writing requirement” classes required for his diploma.

CHARLES LEAVITT (Screenplay by) previously collaborated with producer Paula Weinstein when he wrote the screenplay for the acclaimed drama Blood Diamond. His other film credits include The Mighty, K-Pax, The Express, and Warcraft. Leavitt is currently working on an HBO movie for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Pearl Street Films, centering on the global water crisis.

Charles Leavitt

Wrath Of Man reunites filmmaker Guy Ritchie and star Jason Statham once again, though there’s no question this script is thematically darker and far less blackly comic than any of their previous collaborations. Together, their early films redefined the action movie genre. Now, for the first time in more than 15 years, they team up for an explosive revenge thriller.

With their gleefully fast-paced, anarchic 1990s hits Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, groundbreaking filmmaker Guy Ritchie and imminently watchable star Jason Statham took cinema by storm. Those acclaimed films established Ritchie as a relentlessly inventive director with a singular approach and announced Statham as a charismatic leading man who could easily command the screen while cracking skulls and cracking wise. Although the duo continued to work together over the years, after 2005’s Revolver, their busy big-screen careers diverged—until now.

“I’ve always been very keen on Jason Statham as an actor—in fact, I was the first person to use Jason Statham as an actor in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I always thought that he should be a movie star, and I’m very happy to see he has become one. He’s been on his journey, I’ve been on mine. But it felt like we should reunite, and I thought this would be the perfect story for Jason and me to be reunited on. It’s not funny, this film. It’s serious. It’s very aggressive. We deal with the themes of vengeance, family, the sins of the father being visited onto the son.”

As it happens, the star needed little in the way of convincing.

“It was as simple as calling him up and giving him a two-minute pitch on what that film was,” Ritchie says.

“Neither of us overthought it. We liked the premise. We were both available at that moment in time. Many films are really about the convenience of finding two people that want to make the same movie at the same time. I feel as though this film really does what it says on the tin—which is Jason Statham in As it happens, the star needed little in the way of convincing. “It was as simple as calling him up and giving him a two-minute pitch on what that film was,” Ritchie says. “Neither of us overthought it. We liked the premise. We were both available at that moment in time. Many films are really about the convenience of finding two people that want to make the same movie at the same time. I feel as though this film really does what it says on the tin—which is Jason Statham in an intelligent genre movie about revenge.”

After a deadly ambush on one of its armored cars, Los Angeles-based Fortico Securities hires a mysterious new employee, Patrick Hill (Statham), who becomes known simply as “H.” As he learns the ropes from partner Bullet (Holt McCallany), H initially appears to be a quiet, keep-your-head down type simply there to do a job and earn a living. But when he and Bullet become the targets of an attempted robbery, H’s formidable skills are revealed. Not only is he an expert marksman who’s equally adept at hand-to-hand combat, but H is also fearless, ruthless and lethal. In truth, H is an undercover crime boss desperately searching for a way to avenge the murder of his beloved son. His quest takes an expected turn when a cadre of ex-military men, led by the clever, calculating Jackson (Jeffrey Donovan), plots a once-in-a-lifetime heist that will bring them a windfall of millions. What they fail to realize is that the high-stakes job will also set them on a violent collision course with the wrathful H.

Statham sparked to the drama of the story, the mystery surrounding his character and the way the narrative slowly reveals H’s true motivations.

“It gets very dramatic because of the stakes at hand,” says Statham. “H is forced to play people a certain way to figure out who they really are, but in the end, someone is going to pay a price.”

Given the intense nature of the subject matter, Ritchie and Statham agreed that the violence meted out on screen should be gritty and visceral. The approach was something of a departure for the filmmaker but one that ultimately served the story.

“Guy wanted to keep this very real and not have me do cool and slick movements,” explains Statham. “His way of achieving that is with an on-the-day type of organic approach, where you get into the space and figure out what the character is going to do in the specific situation he is in as the tension builds… I believe it helps create the sense of realism we are after. It’s very hard for a director to provide that nowadays, unless you are so confident that you know exactly what you want to capture through the lenses of the camera; but Guy does.”

The rapport that Ritchie and Statham had established in their earliest days of working together served them well, as they shared the same perspectives on both the character of H and the film itself.

Despite having not worked together for well over a decade, they easily fell back into a productive creative rhythm. “We have both come a long way since we started working together over 20 years ago,” Statham says.

“What you really want to do in a situation like this is see if anything has changed, but the truth is that it hasn’t. I fell in love with this profession thanks to a lottery ticket that Guy handed me called Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”

“We wanted to make something that was credible and plausible as we could make it,” Ritchie says. “For example, the stunts in this film are not well-rehearsed. We wanted to keep it visceral and realistic in terms of how the action unfolded and how people really fight and not turn it into a balletic, over-choreographed fantasy of how people fight.”

Guy Ritchie és Jason Statham újra együtt | Wrath of Man előzetes

Before principal photography got underway, Ritchie assembled the entire cast for a live run-through of the entire film—a method he’s dubbed the “Black Box.”

Rather than gather around a table and read through the script, Ritchie prefers a more kinetic approach to getting a sense of how the production will take shape. With only limited sets and props, the actors literally perform the entire film in front of the cameras in the span of about eight hours, creating a kind of rough draft of every scene.

“What we try to do is create a roadmap that is not too definitive,” Ritchie says. “I try with the actors on the day to improve the dialogue or the plot as much as we can. In my experience, that usually improves by about 15%. It makes it more challenging on the actor because the actor has to start to learn those new lines quickly. It keeps them on their toes, and it can be unnerving.”

That ear for language is something that distinguishes Ritchie from so many of his contemporaries. Although the filmmaker has worked in numerous genres over the years, making films from low-budget indies to blockbuster studio fare, one of the throughlines that connects all his projects is the witty banter among his characters.

Ritchie’s penchant for listening to the dialogue even as he’s evaluating the performances continues once cameras are rolling.

Indeed, his films constantly evolve before the camera. Anything the filmmaker can do to improve the way the characters look, the way they move, the way they speak, the environment around them—even the story itself—he will do. But that approach demands that the cast and crew remain flexible and have both the confidence and the agility to adapt to any new demands they might face.

As for working with Statham himself, Ritchie says his on-set dynamic with the actor has remained unchanged—their partnership is one based on true camaraderie and friendship developed over the decades. In fact, they’re already at work on their next project together, a spy project for Miramax that will include some of the Wrath Of Man actors.

“Jason and I have had the same relationship for the 22 years we’ve known each other,” Ritchie says. “Don’t think Jason and I have been angry with one another. I don’t think we’ve ever said a cross word to one another. He’s one of my best mates. There’s a lot Jason’s managed to juggle in his life very skillfully and with great wisdom. I really respect him as an actor and as a human being.”

Adds Statham: “If all I did for the rest of my career is work for Guy Ritchie, I would be a very happy man.”

Based on the French film Le convoyeur, Wrath Of Man, The film is directed by Guy Ritchie from a screenplay by Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies and Guy Ritchie.

Statham and Ritchie have just wrapped on their most recent collaboration the spy thriller Five Eyes. Ritchie is then set to write and direct Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare for Paramount Pictures.

South African film director Michael Matthews is conquering cyberspace with Love and Monsters, a mind-blowing apocalyptic adventure.

The film has won over diverse audiences and has been lauded as ‘a throwback to the Amblin-era fantasy adventure films’ and as having ‘surprising emotional depth’ by other film critics, confirming that Matthews has hit a home run with his brilliant directorial vision. The film has garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects.

Born in Durban, Matthews studied filmmaking at City Varsity in Cape Town, before co-founding the Be Phat Motel Film Company with writer/producer Sean Drummond. He went on to make his directorial debut with Five Fingers For Marseilles, a contemporary South African Western that premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival to high acclaim, winning five African Movie Academy Awards, including Best Film, Best Film in an African Language and Best First Feature Film by a Director. It was also a New York Times Critics Pick and attained worldwide distribution, setting Matthews on the path to directing his second feature, Love and Monsters – and his first Oscar nomination.

Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with Michael Matthews about Love and Monsters and being a filmmaker.

You must be on top of the world as a South African filmmaker with Love and Monsters conquering cyberspace with its Netflix release.

It’s been really awesome to finally get the film out there and have the world see it. And the response has been even more positive than I expected.

Why do you think Love and Monsters has been such an instant success?

It has the recipe for a fun adventure. A charming and charismatic main character, humour, a unique monster world and a lot of heart. I think its positive outlook and optimism are also something people want to see at the moment.

How did you get involved with the project?

After Five Fingers for Marseilles, I got agents and managers in the US and then read a lot of scripts. I especially loved this one, and connected with the producers and executives at Paramount, even though it was a really big jump in scale from my first film. To ‘win’ the job as director I did a very elaborate visual presentation of my vision for the film, which got me on as director.

What was it about the screenplay that attracted you to tackle it as director?

I love early Spielberg films like Indiana Jones, Goonies, ET and especially Jurassic Park. There was a feeling I got from the script that aligned with those same sensibilities. A guy and his dog on an real adventure through a monster world, who grows up through the film through these beautiful relationships he finds along the way.

Was it an easy process from page to screen?

It was a lot of work to just get to the point where the film was greenlit and happening. About 8 months of back and forth, planning, budget cuts and script work. The shoot itself was very ambitious with the resources we had, even though it seems like a big budget, but I loved it. Building the sets, creating the creatures, bringing the character to life with Dylan O’Brien, it was awesome even though it was very challenging.

Michael Matthews with Dylan O’Brien during the filming of Love and Monsters.

What inspired you during the shooting of Love and Monsters?

My love for films like Jurassic Park and Back to the Future. While on set I’d often listen to music from my favorite films grow up, and just get really excited that I’m making that type of film. The collaboration with Dylan was also really rewarding, because he’s truly talented. We’d laugh a lot and came up with great ideas in the moment, and we really got each other through the hard times.

Love and Monsters has an awesome visual sensibility. Tell me about how your vision was translated.

My main focus was for the film to feel tangible in terms of the adventure and monsters. Although I wanted it to have life and vibrancy, I didn’t want it to feel fake. I don’t want to make artificial sets of forests etc, I wanted to make sure the adventure felt like we were moving through real places, and Joel Dawson was swimming in a real river, or rolling around in real muddy swamps. You can feel that difference.

It was the same natural approach to the cinematography and lighting. Similarly with the monsters, I wanted to make sure it looked like you could touch them, and the’d be slimy, with bits of sand and leaves on their ‘skin’.

As well as making sure the monsters were well integrated into their environments, like the frog in the algae, slimy swimming pool, or how the centipede creature comes up out of the ground. This world is now their habitat and it should feel like that. Our world is now a mutated creature ecosystem with nests, eggs sacks, webs and hives.

Your equally superb Five Fingers For Marseilles has also enjoyed much attention internationally?

Yes it did very well in festivals and was released worldwide. It’s a more mature and serious film, so had a different audience. People really responded to the originality and tone of it, as well as the deeper relevance, with the subject matter it explores.

With films like Love and Monsters and Godzilla vs Kong, it emphasises an important function of filmmaking: escapism!  Although it provides load of escapism and first-rate entertainment it has humanity at its core, poignantly and relevantly reflecting our human condition, particular with the world gripped in the fear of a pandemic.

Definitely. with bigger entertainment films I feel like the themes you deal with need to be very human and globally relatable.

In L&M there’s a message about facing your fears, and learning about yourself by doing that. Following ‘love’ even if it takes you out of you comfort zone, will open the world up and you will learn and experience more. Following fear, you will not grow, or have a positive effect on the world and those around you.

That would be the connection to the pandemic for me; the world is very focused on fear, specifically through the media, and that won’t lead to anything good.

Personally I also really like how Joel is never an alpha type male. He never sees himself as the big hero, even when he is one at the end. He’s sensitive, passionate, insecure and open hearted, and not your typical adventure hero, and I think it’s really important to have different personalities for youth to admire.

Have you always wanted to be filmmaker? Where do you think it started for you?

My dad loved movies and talking about them, so a big inspiration definitely started there. Jurrasic Park was a huge turning point when I was 10 years old, of being just blown away by a film and a world brought to life. I also had an indiana Jones hat and whip around the same age and would swing from trees with it. The first CD I bought was a John Williams (Composer: Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones) score compilation, that I’d run around to and imagine I was in a movie.

What do you enjoy about being a filmmaker?

Creating things that don’t exist in a new way. All the film making elements excite me, working with actors, wardrobe, set design, story-boarding, cinematography, sound design, score, VFX. The craft of creating a film world, whilst being emotionally connected to all the beats of the story journey.

How do you see the state of filmmaking in South Africa at present?

There’s a lot of potential to create and find an audience with the new streaming platforms, but also just with YouTube and free to view online platforms. You can make something digitally and put it out there for people to see, which can create a lot of opportunity.

There are great new and up and coming filmmaker voices in SA. There are extremely talented crew and facilities. But there are a lot of challenges in trying to grow the industry.

Counties like South Korea, France and Australia have strong local paying audiences that fuel their industries. It’s very difficult to do the same thing in SA. So budgets have to be very low for specifically local films, which makes it difficult to sustain as a career, although some people have managed to find the balance.

Finding ways to partner with other countries, and find bigger audiences seems like the best way to continue growing local films.

Whist still servicing big international productions to boost industry and keep crews working and paid. As well as continuing to make the very low budget SA films as opportunities to find and empower new local voices.

Michael Matthews with Jessica Henwick and Dylan O’Brien during the filming of Love and Monsters.

With most films being released in cinemas and on a digital platform, it seems a great bonus for filmmakers.

I think the TV series space is where there is so much more opportunity now. The world is consuming so much more content than ever, because of the different streaming channels. And a lot of it is really good. There’s opportunity for more unique and specific cultures, stories and points of view that didn’t really exist a few years ago.

What tips you would give writers to write a screenplay that will grab the attention of producers?

Of course you must have a great understanding of screenwriting principles and structure. Don’t pretend you do if you don’t. You can break the rules and be as different as you want, as long as you actually understand the rules.

Then I’d say that you should be as honest with yourself as you can, with answering these following questions. Think deeply about the answers, and if they aren’t strong enough then you must make the script better:

  • Do you truly connect and care about the main character’s journey through the film?
  • Are the core ideas, hook, premise in the script really new or different?
  • Similarly if you saw a trailer for the film, would you be very excited to see it?
  • What does the script ultimately say about the world or human nature in the decisions the main character makes in the climax of the film.
  • Is that statement/conversation relevant and important?
  • Is that statement/conversation really pushed and tested on the main character?

What’s next for you?

I’m not sure yet. I have a handful of films I’m working on, some big studio movies, and others that are smaller. I really like genre entertainment, so I’m sure I’ll be staying in monster, sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, outer space, pre-historic, comic book, nostalgic type worlds.

In the wake of the 2016 Presidential election in the United States, scriptwriter Tom O’Connor was very curious about the history of Russian American espionage. “I started reading history books,” says O’Connor. “Oleg Penkovsky is a legendary source that the Americans had in the Soviet Union. One line of one book said Oleg Penkovsky’s contact was a British civilian called Greville Wynne. At that point, my screenwriter cap popped on.”

Piecing the story together from various sources, O’Connor wrote the draft on spec and sent it out to production companies. It landed on the desk of 42’s Ben Pugh, who immediately knew he wanted 42 to produce The Courier.

“I wanted to make a movie like this for a long time,” says Pugh. “I love that period. I loved the idea of an everyday guy in the centre of that world with all these thrilling elements and this massive global political backdrop while it’s about him and his family, and he ends up trying to save the world.

Producers Ben Pugh and Adam Ackland

SunnyMarch producer Adam Ackland was excited to be working on an espionage tale. “We were not looking to make a spy thriller,” Ackland says. “We just happened to find a great story in that genre featuring good characters, gravitas, and humanity.

“There’s a long history of successful great Cold War thrillers, the difference here is that rather than being about inscrutable people with inscrutable motives it has a clear emotional heart, and it’s essentially about a relationship between two men who did something extraordinary,” says Ben Browning, President of Production and Acquisitions at FilmNation.

Ben Browning

The Courier tells the true-life story of an unassuming British businessman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. At the behest of the UK’s MI-6 and a CIA operative (Rachel Brosnahan), he forms a covert, dangerous partnership with Soviet officer Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) in an effort to provide crucial intelligence needed to prevent a nuclear confrontation and defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Crafting the Screenplay

Los Angeles based Tom O’Connor’s screenwriting career began with his spec script The Hitman’s Bodyguard, which was made into the hit 2017 film. A former advertising writer, O’Connor’s The Courier, which began as a spec script, marks Tom’s first credit as a producer.

During his research for the screenplay, O’Connor found out as much as he could about Wynne and Penkovsky. Their relationship is mentioned in several books but only in fragments. “There’s enough to understand the basics,” states O’Connor. “A lot of the events were and remain classified, and so sometimes, finding out what exactly happened was a challenge because there is active misinformation being put out by both sides. People don’t necessarily want everything on-the-record.”

Screenwriter Tom O’Connor

Also, Wynne had written an autobiography in 1967 titled, The Man From Moscow: The Story of Wynne and Penkovsky. However, O’Connor was aware that the reliability of this book had been questioned: “I read a few people who did a point-by-point discrediting of the things that Wynne claimed happened arguing that they couldn’t possibly be real.”

When O’Connor was writing the screenplay, he had an idea of whom he would cast to play Wynne; “Benedict was always the dream. During the writing process, I was trying hard not to get my hopes up. I didn’t want to get fixated on Benedict because I thought he would never do it.”

“Benedict Cumberbatch has a great history of playing indelible tortured geniuses,” says FilmNation’s Browning on the actor nominated for a Best Lead Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game.

“But in The Courier, playing Wynne, he starts off as an everyman who then gets dragged into the spy game. That allows Benedict to bring a lot of different shades to this character.”

From Page To Screen

When Pugh sent the script to director Dominic Cooke, who had been Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the Royal Court Theatre 2006-2009, and directed On Chesil Beach, Cooke responded favorably.

“The script jumped out at me,” says Cooke. “It was such a well-written and gripping piece about a brilliant story that I didn’t know much about.”

As he read the script, Cooke imagined Cumberbatch playing Wynne. They had worked together several times in the theatre and BBC TV’s The Hollow Crown, based on Shakespeare’s history plays, in which Cumberbatch played Richard III.

Benedict Cumberbatch with director Dominic Cooke during filming of The Courier

Pugh says, “When Dominic came on board he did a little pass of the script with Tom and then it went straight to Benedict.”

“Cooke came to meet me about the part and the project. Obviously, I was very keen to work with him again,” says Cumberbatch, who was fascinated by Wynne. “I was intrigued by the arc the character went on. As our discussions continued, I said I’d love to augment the process by helping to produce it with SunnyMarch alongside my producing partner Adam Ackland.”

Cumberbatch was also attracted to Wynne’s personality. Reading the script, he says he was hooked by Wynne’s “sense of humour, his doggedness, and his unexpected strength. This idea that he was a salesman selling a version of himself.”

“This guy goes on an extraordinary journey,” continues Cumberbatch. “From being an ordinary businessman, one who is quite severely dyslexic, almost to the point of illiteracy, to being a conduit for the West to get the most important bit of secret information during the Cold War and The Cuban Missile Crisis.”

The British actor has always been intrigued by tales of espionage. Cumberbatch adds; “Spies are interesting meat and drink for actors because there’s always mask play and role play and the shifts are very sudden and quick.”

Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) and GrevilleWynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) in The Courier

The search to find the actor to play Penkovsky started soon after Cooke and Cumberbatch joined the project. World-renowned casting agent Nina Gold was employed, and they went to Moscow in their search to find someone who could bring the requisite gravitas to the role’.

“Because there’s a lot of Russian dialogue I wanted to have a Russian speaker in the role. We went to Moscow and looked at a bunch of amazing actors,” says Cooke. “I’d seen Merab Ninidze in MCMAFIA and thought he was sensational in it. Of course, he’s Georgian, but he had lived in Russia, so he understood the world of it.”

Once cast, Ninidze immersed himself into learning as much about the culture, attitudes and style of the period as possible.

“I started re-watching Soviet films made during that time. I grew up with these movies and they contain a lot of information about Soviet society from the time: how people behaved, what their ideals were, and what they believed.”

Ninidze felt that he could understand the mindset of Penkovsky by studying his family history. “He had to hide parts of his past because he was related to a man who was the enemy of the Communists,” says Ninidze. “He had to carry this on his back.”

“I have always enjoyed the Korean Gangster film genre ever since I first became aware of them,” says Vanquish director George Gallo. “These films have a cool, bouncy and deliciously dark vibe and most importantly, a great sense of humor.”

George Gallo

“Like High Noon, Bad Day at Black Rock, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and even Midnight Run, the story happens in a compressed amount of time. It’s a fun way to spin a story. The key was to take something that could be familiar and do it in a way that made it seem fresh. I’m very happy with the result and I think the movie is a fun and compelling ride.”

“I also love stories that have highly flawed main characters who during the course of the tale get a chance to redeem themselves. My attraction to Vanquish was that I could make a film that I hadn’t really done before and infuse my love of these genres into my film,” says Gallo, who co-wrote the screenplay with Sam Bartlett.

In Vanquish Morgan Freeman plays a retired police commissioner, who has been dirty his whole career, and blackmails his caretaker Victoria (Ruby Rose) by kidnapping her daughter and forcing her into her old job — doing five very dangerous pick ups in one night. Crushed by the betrayal from the only man she ever trusted, Victoria fights her way through a sea of drug dealers and underworld thugs on a mission to save her daughter. As the night goes on, Victoria is confronted by her past and people who Damon has been protecting her from that all want her dead. Once she’s pushed to the very edge, she finds a kernel of redemption in Damon’s agenda.

“We got to make an exciting action thriller with a great director, amazing cast and a super hardworking crew that really stepped during an uncertain time due to COVID 19 and all that came with it. Oh yeah…And we also shot through a few hurricanes,” says Nate Adams – Producer and 2nd Unit Director.

“Shooting through August and September and being the first “bigger” movie back, brought us a lot of attention and we really all had to work together in order to keep everyone on set safe and healthy during the shoot. Which came with some issues from both mother nature and COVID. With COVID, we had a false positive that shut the production down for 2 days. And with the hurricanes, we had three, only one was bad enough where we sent the cast and crew to Jackson (or home) in order to be as safe as possible. Despite the difficulties presented, it was great to see everyone in all of the departments step up and go the extra mile to make sure we could deliver an incredible film.”

Nate Adams

“Morgan Freeman, Ruby Rose and the rest of the cast were incredibly easy to work with. And despite the constant testing and social distancing, everyone really had a great time on set. This film was a great experience with many lessons learned and seemingly insurmountable obstacles overcome.”

“It was July 2020 and I was headed out my backyard in Covid crazy L.A. for the first time,” says producer David E Ornston.

David E Ornston

“I was getting on a plane and headed to Mississippi. I was making a movie during the worst pandemic the world had ever seen. When the screen actors guild rep visited our set in early September, he said we were the biggest film currently shooting in the US.”

“Making a film is/should be a family like experience. We are all working together to create something great. We stand side by side, solve problems in close quarters, deal with issues and triumphs over amazing lunches, have BBQ’s, go out for drinks and have a wrap party. The only one of those things that actually happened was making a great film. Everything else was wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart.”

Maya the Bee is a classic character; now over 100 years old, her adventures take place in nature and convey positive stories full of hope, friendship and tolerance.

On her first journey to film, Maya the Bee – First Flight was all about discovery, growth and finding her place in the world; Maya the Bee – The Honey Games touched on trust, teamwork and persistence. Her latest adventure is Maya the Bee – The Golden Orb some new themes are in focus that still allow Maya and her character to shine.

After the immense success of the first two theatrical features and the very accomplished collaboration with Studio B Animation in Australia, the whole team was convinced to get together again for the third installment of this beloved franchise. With millions of visitors worldwide to date, the creative teams in Australia and Germany put their heads together and created a new adventure for Maya – as always centered on Maya’s core values of friendship and helping others.

Her new adventure is a classic road movie where Maya, and her best friend, Willy, leave Poppy Meadow. Going on another adventure is strictly forbidden by the Queen, so by disobeying her, Maya needs to be sure that this is an important task: delivering the Orb to Greenleaf is that mission. Being Maya she cannot resist helping another bug in trouble, and when the truth behind the Orb is discovered, it all falls into place.

Maya the Bee is based on a German children’s novel, which was published in 1912, and successfully translated into many languages, enjoyed by children all over the world.

The sharing of this iconic German story is rather unique. The book was followed by the international success of the TV series “Maya the Bee” from 1975 – and with the new edition of “Maya the Bee” in 3D CGI, the popular bee returned to TV screens in 2013 with a new look and feel – in 2014 the first feature film celebrated its cinema premiere and has to date been sold in over 170 countries.

The first Maya movie, Maya the Bee – First Flight, was not only a great economic success; it proved that the continuation and further development of Maya, has been successful. Thus, the strategy has been accomplished to produce Maya not only for an existing audience but also for a new one. That is also realized in the fact that Maya the Bee is now travelling to places she had never visited before and captivating audiences around the world.

In 2018 the second animated feature film Maya the Bee – The Honey Games followed: Maya the Bee’s second cinema adventure is the most successful German animated film after international box office in 2018. And, with a new second season of the TV series released and the third theatrical feature Maya the Bee – The Golden Orb right here – the success story can continue.

Maya’s emotional journeys are embedded in a world of comedy, fun and high energy excitement

To tell this new adventure of Maya and for making the third film, it was vital to develop a narrative which continues Maya’s journey of self-discovery with a reflection of the themes and challenges children will experience in their own lives and interactions, and to witness scenes of Maya overcoming her adversities in a positive, intelligent way.

Maya the Bee – First Flight explored concepts of prejudice between the bees and the hornets playing out as Maya discovered her personal identity and her role in the meadow. In Maya the Bee – The Honey Games she ventures beyond the meadow, to a new hive, where her positive and optimistic views of the world are challenged by some bullies and a rival that bends the rules to serve her own needs; a world view she has never encountered before. Her third venture, Maya the Bee – The Golden Orb is a journey of self-discovery Maya’s world expands even further, pulling the rug of familiarity from under her feet as she journeys to a completely new land, with only her faithful best friend Willy, and the enormously popular Arnie and Barney at her side.

In keeping with the tone of the Maya franchise, these emotional journeys are embedded in a world of comedy, fun and high energy excitement, with many physical gags courtesy of the ants, but also from the supporting characters arcs through the film. So, yes, – there is still a lot to tell about Maya the Bee!

The Australian Creative Team

Fin Edquist enjoys alternating between the light and dark - IF Magazine

Screenwriter Fin Edquist, who crafted Maya the Bee, its sequel The Honey Games, and the latest installment, The Golden Orb, has worked as a director of commercials and directed a number of award winning short films and music videos. He wrote and directed the psychological thriller Bad Girl and wrote several animated features including 100% Wolf, and Blinky Bill. He is also the co-creator of the hit TV series The Secret Daughter and has script-produced both live action and animated TV series, including Wolf TV, Rescue: Special Ops and Tashi.

Director Noel Cleary is a director, story artist and character animator with extensive experience in film and TV series work. He is very passionate about all aspects of his profession and strives to produce emotive, compelling stories and characters. Amongst other projects he was Co-Director for Blinky Bill – The Movie and Episodic Director for TV series Tashi for 26 of the series’ episodes.

Before Cleary worked as character animator and story artist for The Legend of the Guardians for Animal Logic and in story on BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs and on the short film The Polar Bears. He spent many years working for Walt Disney Studios in Sydney as supervising animator on 12 films and several TV series. He directed Maya the Bee – The Honey Games (2018).

Noel Cleary - Beyazperde.com

Co director Alexs Stadermann is an accomplished feature film and television Director. He spent many years working for Walt Disney Studios in Sydney. During his years at Disney, Alexs was the Unit Director for Bambi II and Tarzan II, Award winning Supervising Animator on Lion King 1½ and Senior Character Animator /SFX Supervisor on many other Disney titles.

Following his years at Disney, Stadermann directed two seasons of the animated comedy show Planet Sketch for Aardman Animations (known for Wallace and Gromit). He later joined Zack Snyder on Legend of the Guardians as Head of Story, part of the director’s unit at Animal Logic. Alexs then moved to Flying Bark Productions to direct The Woodlies,. Following this, he was the ideal choice to direct Maya the Bee Movie, Flying Bark’s first ever 3D animated feature film.

Since wrapping production on Maya, Alexs has taken on the role of Creative Director for Flying Bark, overseeing development on all feature film, television and digital media projects. Alexs was also the Co-Director on the animated feature film The Blinky Bill Movie and Maya the Bee – The Honey Games. He directed on Flying Bark’s latest production, 100% Wolf.

The Studios

Studio 100 Media

Studio 100 Media is an international production and distribution company within the children’s and family entertainment sector. Based in Munich, Germany, the company is a 100 percent subsidiary of Belgian firm Studio 100 NV and was founded in 2007.

Studio 100 Media owns an extensive library of established children’s classics. Amongst the well-known brands of Studio 100 Media are Maya the Bee, Heidi, Vic the Viking, Nils Holgersson and Blinky Bill. The company develops and acquires new content, engages in co-production and co-financing activities and is also responsible for the international distribution of its own and third party rights.

As a producer of animated children’s feature films Studio 100 Media’s first project was the 3-D Australian-German co-production Maya the Bee – The Movie in 2014. Currently in production or pre-production are Princess Emmy – The Movie and Vic the Viking – The Movie.

With the incorporation of Studio 100 Film, a subsidiary of Studio 100 Media, the company has expanded its business areas to the worldwide distribution of feature films – Studio 100’s own productions as well as selected third party films. An own animation studio was founded in 2018: Studio Isar Animation.

The CGI animation studio with workstations for up to 40 artists, Studio Isar Animation is responsible for CGI work such as modelling, texturing, shading, lighting, FX, compositing and rendering for Studio 100 Media’s film productions. As a first project, Studio Isar Animation took over the CGI works for the Maya the Bee – The Golden Orb.

Studio 100 Media’s business model is the perfect vertical and horizontal integration of its IP’s. In marketing its license rights the company pursues a global strategy within sectors ranging from Content Distribution, Licensing and Home Entertainment through to Theatrical Movies, Stage Shows and Theme Parks.

Studio B Animation

Studio B Animation is a production company set up to specialize in family
entertainment. Studio B projects have a strong emphasis on using CGI animation to tell family-oriented stories, by procuring well-known titles that resonate with young audiences and iconic characters that children know well.

The founder of Studio B Animation, Brian Rosen, has a long track record in family films beginning 1980 with the well-known comic strip character Fatty Finn. He also produced the much loved classics FernGully: The Last Rainforest in 1992 and James and the Giant Peach in 1996. Maya
the Bee – The Honey Games was Studio B Animation’s first feature film, followed by Maya the Bee – The Golden Orb and currently in production is Mia and me – The Hero of Centopia.

Flying Bark Productions

Flying Bark Productions is a prolific independent producer on the international stage with a successful legacy of creating iconic animated children’s entertainment since

Operating as a full-service production facility for independent feature films and series as well as providing animation services for global clients.

Recently Flying Bark has produced some of Australia’s well-performing original family films and series, including Maya the Bee Movies and the Blinky Bill CGI adaptations as well as animating on the hit-series Rise of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon.

Flying Bark has recently delivered Indie-Australian film, 100% Wolf – adapted from Jane Lyon’s book with the same name – and the spin-off series is a co-production with Australian broadcaster, ABC, and Germany’s SUPER RTL.

Flying Bark is part of the well renowned, Belgian owned Studio 100 Group, which is one of the largest independent family entertainment companies in Europe. As a global group, the company enjoys great success with its international distribution of television and feature films, licensing and merchandising campaigns and theme parks across Europe.

What does it feel like… to feel for the first time? What happens when our innermost nature, after being long suppressed, is finally unleashed? Those are some of the provocative themes explored, within the context of a space epic, in Voyagers.

“It’s about human nature in a vacuum—who we are at our core,” says writer-director Neil Burger about Voyagers, an original story, conceived, developed and written by Burger.

“It’s about a group of extraordinary young people waking up to sensual desires, to freedom, to power, and the thrilling euphoria that goes with that experience.” He handpicked the talented group of rising stars who appear in the film: “I began looking for the young actors who could embody the unusual personalities that find themselves on the ship, who reflected the essential conflict of human nature, and who would wrestle with these powerful impulses.”

Says Tye Sheridan, who stars as Christopher: “Within the context of this big space adventure, the story is really about human nature. Neil has created a world that’s visually striking while providing an opportunity to really dig in and put a magnifying glass to each of the characters.”

The story’s multi-generational mission in search of a new home descends into madness, as the crew reverts to its most primal state, not knowing if the real threat they face is what’s outside the ship or who they’re becoming inside it. It’s a bold, experiential, and genre-defining motion picture event about living beyond the edge, and the delicate balance between control and chaos, subservience and dominance, numb versus switched-on, and order versus rebellion.

With the future of the human race at stake, a group of young men and women, bred for intelligence and obedience, embark on an expedition to colonize a distant planet. But when they uncover disturbing secrets about the mission, they defy their training and begin to explore their most primitive natures. As life on the ship descends into chaos, they’re consumed by fear, lust, and the insatiable hunger for power.

The film stars Tye Sheridan (The X-Men franchise), Lily-Rose Depp (The King), Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk), Chanté Adams (Roxanne, Roxanne), Isaac Hempstead Wright (“Game of Thrones”), Viveik Kalra (Blinded by the Light), Archie Madekwe (Midsommar), Quintessa Swindell (“Trinkets”), Madison Hu (“Bizaardvark”), and Colin Farrell (The Gentlemen).

The journey began with two images that came to Neil Burger

“The first was a group of young people sitting around inside a spaceship. They were disheveled, zoned out, and looking like predators resting after a hunt. I don’t know where that image came from. But the second one implied a story: That same group of people chasing another crew member down the narrow corridor of the ship, pursuing him like an animal.”

“I wondered, what’s all that about? But I also thought there was something interesting and meaningful there, and I began to craft the story and the particular world.”

Burger wrote Voyagers before his films Limitless (2011) and Divergent (2014). “I thought, “Well, maybe this is sort of past its expiration date.” But when I did do “Divergent” I must say working with a huge group of young people was really one of the greatest pleasures, and one of the things I’m most proud of in that movie is that cast. 

“So once “Voyagers” started coming around again and it was like, “Uh, somebody wants to make this,” I got excited about it again. What’s interesting about a genre movie like this is that you actually can go right at the themes we were talking about. I mean, you can really ask those questions outright, which in a way, in other stories, you can’t quite do. The theme sort of emanates. But here we’re going right at it. I really welcomed the freedom to be able to go right at those thematic questions.”

Neil Burger

The movie asks the moral question, why should we be good? If we’re all going to die in the end anyway, what does it matter whether we’re “good” or not? Zac and some of the crew have decided it doesn’t matter at all. They want to do what they want, when they want, no matter the cost to anyone else. Others try to maintain a sense of order, of right and wrong. Burger says “It all raises questions about how a society can function– about selfishness and self-sacrifice. That’s the foundation of the conflict.”

Burger did extensive research on long distance space exploration and also on human behavior, studying confinement, aggression, tribalism, and violence. As he shaped the ideas into the movie, he saw the ship as a metaphor for our world, the human race like the ship’s crew, hurtling through space, not exactly sure why we’re here or where we’re going, but having to make a meaningful life regardless.

Burger had met Basil Iwanyk of Thunder Road Films some years ago and thought he would be the perfect producer to help him bring his vision to the screen. Burger also brought on G. Mac Brown who he’d worked with before, along with executive producers Stuart Ford and Greg Shapiro of AGC Studios, who financed the film’s production budget.

They all worked together to meticulously cast a diverse and enormously talented group of rising stars, as well as leading industry craftspeople to usher Burger’s exacting vision to life. These include cinematographer Enrique Chediak, ASC (Bumblebee, Deepwater Horizon, 127 Hours), production designer Scott Chambliss (Godzilla: King of Monsters, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, Star Trek: Into Darkness), Burger’s longtime editor Naomi Geraghty (The Upside, Limitless, Hotel Rwanda), and costume designer Bojana Nikitovic (Extraction, Papillon).

Burger’s vision for the film was for everything to be based in reality. “Voyagers isn’t a fantasy,” he points out. “The spacecraft is purely utilitarian and functional and based on actual proposals within NASA and other organizations studying space travel outside our solar system.”

Burger and his team’s extensive research included a visit to SpaceX, which inspired the strippeddown environment of the film’s spacecraft. “The story is about human nature in a vacuum, and the ship is a sterile environment where the young crew almost seem like laboratory rats. We watch to see how they behave under these conditions, how they quickly descend into savagery. And we wonder, is this who we are at our core?”

Burger wanted to create a primal style of fighting unique to people who have never felt aggression or been exposed to violence via films, television, or videogames. He studied research film of monkeys and apes battling and worked with renowned stunt coordinator Jordi Casares (Jack Ryan) to design a brutal fighting method. Burger wanted these violent encounters to seem similarly natural and unchoreographed.

Casares also oversaw the coordination of the airlock sequence, and Humanitas featured removable ceiling pieces to accommodate the stunt players on wires and cables.

Burger had very specific ideas about how the crew should behave. “They’ve grown up with very little cultural input. They have no real models for behavior and little to do on the ship except eat, work and sleep. In a way they are pure humans—all nature, no nurture. I always thought of them as horses that have never been let out of the stall. They just stand there. I needed the actors to be still, quiet, but it was a challenge to bring 30 young actors to a standstill and I knew I would need some assistance wrangling them.” Billy Budd (Edge of Tomorrow, Captain America: The First Avenger), one of the entertainment industry’s top military advisors, stepped up to coach the 30 actors portraying the Humanitas crew members, on the comportment and body language appropriate to their wildly varying
emotional states when on The Blue or off of it..”

Inspired by true events, Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah explores the betrayal of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in late-1960s Chicago, at the hands of FBI informant William O’Neal.

The project originated with King and his writing partner, Will Berson, who co-wrote the screenplay, and Kenny Lucas & Keith Lucas, who co-wrote the story with Berson & King. King, who has a long relationship with filmmaker Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), pitched the film to Coogler and Charles D. King (Just Mercy, Fences), who are producing the film with Shaka King.

Filmmakers were committed to avoiding the traditional biopic, opting instead to go with a man looking for his own version of the American Dream as their entry point into the compelling narrative.

Shaka King explains, “William O’Neal is complex. Intelligent, able to spot and exploit opportunities presented, he’d make a great captain of industry. But those possibilities aren’t afforded him as a young Black man in Chicago in 1968. And that doesn’t sit right with him. In the pursuit of more he finds himself at a crossroads: he can align himself with ‘people power,’ which is what Fred and the Panthers are selling, or the ‘power’ that we’ve come to understand as power in America, represented by the FBI. His decision entangles him in a web of his own deception.”

King refrains from viewing the character as a victim. In the eyes of the filmmaker, O’Neal is trying to capitalize on the few opportunities presented to him. He has the power of persuasion and is capable of manipulating others, just as he is manipulated to an ever-increasing degree by the FBI. There is a rush he gets from being in a position of power. His cons involve impersonating authority—a cop, an agent—and leveraging the trust of his marks to get what he’s after. Compared with Hampton’s beyond-his-years maturity, O’Neal’s mischievousness smacks of immaturity.

Although the film was to be inspired by true events, decisions were made to live within the reality of the subject matter with adaptations where necessary.

  • Jameelah Nasheed unpacks the importance of balanced storytelling in historical films, like Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah. Read more

Arrested for impersonating an FBI agent and driving a stolen car across state lines, William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) is given an ultimatum by his FBI interrogator: face a possible seven years in jail, or betray the trust of his community by becoming a counterintelligence operative and infiltrating the Illinois Black Panther Party to keep tabs on their charismatic leader, Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). O’Neal—intelligent, good-looking—is a man on a mission to survive in a system that has rendered him powerless. Now, in a police station sitting across the table from FBI Special Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons), he is asked to make the first of many bad choices. Inside the Illinois Chapter of the BPP, Hampton’s political prowess has been growing just as he’s falling in love with fellow revolutionary Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback); the relationship profoundly affects them both, galvanizing Johnson’s activism and tempering Hampton’s polemics with humanism. O’Neal finds his situation growing more complex the deeper he goes and the closer he gets to Hampton. He is inexorably drawn to the lifestyle and influence Agent Mitchell possesses, while his thoughts have begun to align with the Panthers’ messaging, increasingly experiencing first-hand the societal inequalities they are butting against.    

Growing up, filmmaker Shaka King was familiar with the horrific way Fred Hampton died, but he knew little about the way he lived and nothing about the man within Hampton’s circle whose selfish actions helped cut short his promising life—one defined by the very words that would long outlive him.

In fact, when King first read Hampton’s speeches, he was astounded at the wit, depth and vision of his words and ideas, and how relevant his message remains.

Shaka King says, “I think, for a lot of Black men, Fred Hampton is a real hero because of just how undaunted, unafraid and unstoppable he was, yet people always seem centered on the tragic way he died, not at all focused on the heroic way he lived. I wanted to change that.”

In the early gestation of the project, the filmmaking duo of brothers Kenny and Keith Lucas approached King and asked him to join as writer and director of a nascent project on Hampton. The trio, along with actor/producer/writer (and friend) Jermaine Fowler, had stayed in communication periodically to continue their collaboration, but things didn’t really gather momentum until 2016. King announced that that was the year their efforts would coalesce, and he began what he calls “a deep dive, educating myself about the story and the history,” resulting in an outline that gradually grew in length.

Kenny and Keith Lucas

Amidst early progress, Fowler advised King that several Hampton projects were also in development, one with producer/writer Will Berson, whom Fowler also knew. Fowler asked if King would like to read Berson’s script? King’s curiosity got the better of him and, liking some of the elements in the screenplay that he read, he met with Berson, who came onboard, agreeing to the marriage of their two projects.

Throughout the development journey, King’s view on the project remained unchanged: “The initial spark for me wasn’t to tackle this as a straightforward biopic. The Lucas Bros had said, ‘Hey, make this movie about Fred Hampton and William O’Neal, inside the world of COINTELPRO.’ I thought this undercover thriller was a great concept for the movie, and I became incredibly drawn to the character of Hampton the deeper I went. We all gravitated to Fred so much because of his way with words. He was clever, he was witty, he was funny.”

In addition to highlighting Hampton’s verbal prowess, the group was also looking to frame the film in light of the activist’s even more resonant causes. Berson observes, “I think one of the things that is so obvious to me about Chairman Fred is the way he resembles Barack Obama a generation before Obama, but more left, more progressive, a revolutionary. He was a brilliant orator with an incredible mind. He studied pre-law and was a community organizer in Chicago. There’s this heart-wrenching ‘what if’ to his story.”

Keith Lucas recalls that he and brother Kenny “first heard about Fred Hampton when we were taking an African-American studies course together. Before that, we hadn’t known anything about him or his story—it’s not really taught where we’re from. We read his story and it just blew us away. And no one was really talking about what an injustice it was. It’s one of those stories that once you read about it…”

“You never forget it, it sticks with you,” Kenny Lucas picks up. “Once we got into the entertainment industry, like our second or third year, when we started to get a flow of how the industry works, we were like, ‘We gotta get this thing made.’ It was shocking to us that it had not been made since his death.”

“But not that shocking,” Keith adds, “because it’s a really tough story in light of the subject matter. Because of who he is and who he was and how controversial his death was. We realized it was going to be an uphill battle. But, we stayed passionate about trying to figure out a way to tell his story.”

Thankfully, King shared their passion, and felt he knew others who would as well. 

Ryan Coogler to Write and Direct 'Black Panther' Sequel — World of Reel
Ryan Coogler

King had met Ryan Coogler when both brought films to the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Dinners and discussion there spawned a friendship that continued to develop over the years. Beyond Coogler’s sterling and record-setting track record, King valued a certain aspect of his skillset that would become invaluable as the project moved forward. King made the call.

King explains, “Among many other valuable things, Ryan was critical in assuring Fred Hampton, Jr. and Akua Njeri [formerly Deborah Johnson] trust the enterprise with Fred’s legacy. On the narrative side of things, he’s the man who made me write 13, 14 drafts—do you know how many times I cursed him in my mind?!” he laughs. “But really, he’s a magical person, for a million reasons. This movie had a slim chance of getting made without his involvement. Utilizing his expertise at crafting elevated large-scale movies to bring this powerful story to the masses felt like destiny.”  

In fact, it was. Coogler’s aunts and uncles were members of the Black Panther Party. His grandmother’s house was on the block of the Panthers’ first documented community action: installing a stop sign at an intersection where Black children were frequently being run over in traffic.

At the time of King’s reaching out, Coogler and business partner/spouse Zinzi Coogler had been discussing expansion of their producing slate, specifically projects, he says, “that on the surface felt like genre pieces, commercial pieces, but underneath, had a little more to them. So that audiences might feel like they got something they might not experience otherwise while being involved with a compelling, entertaining story.”

Coogler continues, “Hampton had a unique talent for making complex ideas communicable in simple context. He seemed to have a tremendous talent for meeting people at their level, and being able to find common ground without sacrificing people’s individuality. He obviously had an impact on Black people, but also on people who were on the lower rungs of the social class and who were overlooked. He had the foresight to advocate for things and raise issues that are still incredibly relevant over a half of a century after his assassination: self-determination, health care, police violence, systemic racism, economic and social justice. And he was an incredible thinker, speaker and teacher. This project was just the kind of film we were looking to foster.”

Macro's Charles D. King on the Progress of Diversity in Hollywood - Variety
Charles D. King

Prior to the project, filmmaker Charles D. King had already worked with Shaka King and Ryan Coogler, helping to form Blackout for Human Rights—a collective of artists and activists throwing light on social injustice and police brutality in their communities. The opportunity to help tell the story of Fred Hampton, a revolutionary who worked to build the Rainbow Coalition and uplift his community in 1960s Chicago, deeply resonated with the King and aligned with the mission of his media company MACRO. King knew his participation was never in question.  

The producer explains, “This project was an alliance of excellence, and we wanted to be involved on that basis. The other big factor was acknowledging the importance of the story, and the determination to tell it in the right way. There will be generations that will learn more about the Black Panther Party for the first time from this movie, although there have been other great movies that touched on the Black Panthers. But this includes a focus on Chairman Fred Hampton, and the impact he’s had on communities—we had to make sure we got it right to honor the legacy of the family.”

Shaka King with LaKeith Stanfield during filming

LaKeith Stanfield, who stars in the difficult role of the film’s “Judas,” states, “Fred’s journey has never stopped. I’m so grateful to the family for giving us the tools to be able to help bring this story to everybody on a global sense, and Shaka and everyone that put this together. As a result, we have the opportunity to work on this courageous project. I want to see more things like this—more pieces that can move people, projects and material that can help me, and others, grow.”

Ryan Coogler says, “I think this was the film Shaka was born to make, to be honest…and I don’t say that lightly because it’s not an obvious thing. I’m very familiar with Shaka’s work and he’s more known for being a comedic director—the guys who approached in the first place, the Lucas Bros, are also comedians. I think that’s relative. People who have a talent in that genre tend to have keen observation and razor-sharp insight into humanity and social systems. The film brings up things that are still bothering us, things that need to be addressed. Putting this in Shaka’s hands made sense in a way you couldn’t put your finger on—kismet. Even down to the fact that every actor Shaka wanted, we were able to get. No one passed, or wasn’t available, down the line. From the start, it was incredibly unique and special.”

“Chairman Fred Hampton had the power, the way with words and the integrity to stitch together different communities, in spite of whatever problems these groups had with each other,” says Daniel Kaluuya, who plays the titular Black Messiah. “Talking to people in Chicago, I heard that he had the gift to de-escalate gang warfare—to bring whites from Appalachia and Chicago, Latinx and Blacks together for a common community purpose. Think about that and how invaluable he would be today. To get to walk in his shoes…it’s just such an honor.”

Daniel Kaluuya

Kaluuya adds, “When it comes to the Black Panthers, I think there is a disconnect between the perception and the truth. Chairman Fred Hampton was murdered before people could realize that he was the root of a lot of impact. There are a lot of strategies that have been applied, particularly with socialist organizations, because of Chairman Fred Hampton’s words, philosophies and ideas. By branding him and the Panthers as a militant terrorist group, you’re disassociating him from the good generated by their community programs, as well as misrepresenting and antagonizing what the Party actually stood for. People only remember those—they remember the images and rhetoric used by government agencies to terrify and bring about their demise.”

Stanfield sees a more philosophical bent to the Panthers’ targeting: “I think when something sits on a foundation/government that isn’t sturdy, people who question that foundation are seen as dangerous. I think that’s why Hampton and the Panthers were so feared. They knew they were on some f*&ked shit, and Chairman Fred told them to their faces, ‘No, we’re not gonna stand for this. We’re standing up for what we believe in.’ That’s real, and I got nothing but love and respect for it.”

“I see him as a man carrying a heavy load,” Kaluuya winds up, “who put his life on the line for his people. Channeling his perspective, outlook, idea and spirit was an ongoing source of inspiration that’s going to stay with me.”

Charles D. King asserts, “This kind of story is relatable to young kids today, the ones that were galvanized in the summer of 2020, the coalition of communities—Black, Brown, White—everybody together, standing up for race relations. This tells them that we’ve had greatness and excellence; we’ve had fighters and revolutionaries doing it long before us in intelligent and thoughtful ways. You, too, can have a voice and play a part in change.”

Ryan Coogler comments, “If people turn off a movie and hop on their computers or buy a book and think, then we win. We also win if people are able to stand a little bit taller after seeing a film. It was rare to see a Black person in a position of leadership in cinema. And when you did see them, it was very often in an enterprise based on a destructive product. But it’s powerful to see. And it’s better now. This story is not make-believe. Our people did this.”

Coogler concludes, “I was thinking about the reasons the Panthers were formed, what they were actively doing—trying to feed poor people, to build a medical center that could take care of people, to get the police off people’s backs—and watching everything that was going on during post-production on this film. I could not sleep. All that shit Chairman Fred was fighting for, that he was calling out…it’s still coming to a head and it’s still biting us in the ass. I just thought—if he were still alive, how would this country be different?”

Shaka King says, “It isn’t so much that these things are more relevant today, as much as they have never not been relevant, which I think is really the takeaway from 2020. I think the parallels are crazy in relation to the Panthers and their directive on educating people: in order to join the Panthers, you had to take six weeks of political education. This pandemic is claiming far more Black and Brown people than non-Black—the Panthers started free medical clinics around the country, a free ambulance service. You have the Panther’s focus on putting an end to state-sponsored brutality—you have the murder of George Floyd and the rebellions that followed.

“I truly believe,” King finishes, “there’s a reason why we don’t learn about Fred Hampton’s assassination in school. That would mean we as a country would have to start acknowledging what the government did to Hampton, along with its quelling of other voices of Civil Rights and revolution…then we would have to acknowledge the government’s part in instigating genocide and suffering, from the Native Americans to slavery. And the list goes on. Chairman Fred’s murder does not exist in a vacuum. To start with the truth of that would be a slippery slope for this country—a reckoning of its past wrongs. But I think, especially now, that that is the only way we start to move forward. The time is way overdue.” 

With Nomadland, director Chloé Zhao and actor-producer Frances McDormand create an astounding portrait of a woman who has lost a husband and in fact her whole former life and finds herself in the nomad community, and “evolves – in the wilderness, in rocks, trees, stars, a hurricane, this is where she finds her independence,” as Zhao says.

In 2017, producers Frances McDormand and Peter Spears, who produced Nomadland alongside Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey and Chloé Zhao, optioned  the rights to the non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Centuryby Brooklyn-based writer Jessica Bruder.

“To research the book,” says Bruder. “I immersed myself in the daily lives of the people I wrote about, spending weeks in a tent, then months in a van. Experience is a great teacher. I went from knowing very little about nomads to marveling at the creativity, resilience and generosity I’d encountered on the road, often from people who’d faced tremendous challenges in their lives.”

The book is a work of investigative journalism,” says director-producer Zhao, who crafted the screenplay for Nomadland and edited the film.

The book is a work of investigative journalism,” says director-producer Zhao, who crafted the screenplay for Nomadland and edited the film.

Nomadland book author Jessica Bruder. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios

When McDormand saw Zhao’s film The Rider at the Toronto International Film Festival and she knew that she had found the perfect director for Noamdland.

“Not having preconceived ideas of the characters, the director or not having heard much about The Rider made McDormand feel like the movie was a personal discovery for her.  “As a producer, I was drawn to a female director that had used the classically male/Western genre tropes to tell a more universal story of triumph over adversity and the will to survive and adjust one’s dreams,” she says.

When McDormand and Spears gave Zhao Bruder’s book to read, she was actually in the process of building a van. “Just because of the amount of time I slept in my Subaru making my first two films, but I wasn’t really aware of the extent to which people gathered together and followed this life. Fran and Peter gave me the book, I read it and I thought, ‘Wow, I really didn’t know about this.’”

Director/Writer Chloé Zhao at the Telluride from Los Angeles Drive-In Premiere of NOMADLAND. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios

Zha, who lives in California and adores her two dogs and three chickens, was raised in Beijing, China,  and also in Brighton, England.  After moving to the US, she studied Politics at Mt Holyoke College and Film Production at NYU.  As a writer, director and producer, her first feature Songs My Brothers Taught Me premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2015.

“On Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” says producer Mollye Asher, “we went into it with a treatment instead of a script and Chloé would write scenes daily. On Nomadland, she worked the way she did on The Rider where there was a screenplay, but she would rewrite or adjust scenes, sometimes daily, based on what she was discovering as we were shooting.”

Nomadland stars real nomads Bob Wells, Linda May, and Swankie as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.

“I was a homeless bum living in a van. It was a very, very bad time in my life. And then, a strange thing happened: as I solved all the problems and came to all the solutions: I fell in love with the road, with the freedom,” says Wells, who now commands a huge following with his YouTube videos and his book How To Live In a Car, Van or RV.

Bob Wells

“I had done everything society said: get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house… and I was never happy.  And here I’d done exactly the opposite of what society had told me, and for the first time I was happy.  And that made me question everything.”

“One of things I needed to do,” adds Wells, “was not just tell people how to go out and live in the desert or in the national forests. I needed to build a community. That was a commonality: people wanted to find other people.  I’d get a lot of emails asking, ‘How do I find someone?  I don’t want to just go out there and be all alone!’ Community was so important.”

He continues, “Look at the mountain men from the turn of the 19th century. They were fur trappers, they loved nature, they loved being alone, they loved exploring.  And yet they always came together once a year for a great big blow-out. So, I started the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in 2011. The first year we had 45 people. Last year, we had eight to ten thousand, minimum. Hard to count that many people in the desert.”

Lina May and Swankie with Frances Frances McDormand

As Zhao immersed herself in the project, she thought about what kind of film she wanted to make.

She decided to extend her customary method of working and at the same time to challenge it. “I’ve done one type of film before,” says Zhao, “and I know what I’ve learned to be somewhat good at it, and I didn’t want to let go of that, I wanted to keep building on that. At the same time, I was curious about what else could I do that hasn’t been done very often.”

“Fran came to me just as a producer, and from the very first day she asked me if she should even be a part of the project as an actress,” continues Zhao.

“The thing is, I felt that this wouldn’t be an easy sell to the audience. With The Rider, it was cowboys, it was a ‘western.’ But this is harder – there’s an ageism in this country, a prejudice against stories about older people and people on the periphery of society. So, I thought if Fran agrees we could bring attention to this seamlessly. So, from the beginning it was always for me a pragmatic decision. But at the same time, it was the creative challenge I was curious about.”

“I think almost immediately it became exciting for Frances to think about how to make this different sort of movie,” says Spears, “with this kind of filmmaker.”

“As Fern, I ‘worked’ alongside the actual workforce at an Amazon fulfillment center, a sugar beet harvesting plant, in the cafeteria of a tourist attraction and as a camp host in a National Park,” says McDormand.

“In most cases, I was not recognized as anyone other than another worker.  Of course, I did not really work the hours that are required at these jobs.  But we did try to give the impression of real work and its consequences:  the physical challenges and discomfort for an older person but also the joy of working and living in nature as a camp host and the feeling of purpose and the income available from all these jobs.”

Zhao worked closely with McDormand. “Fran and I spent a lot of time together before we hit the road and I got to know so much about her. Fran is not the kind of actress that likes to just talk forever about the character. She likes physically doing things, she likes tangible things. So, we really hit it off in that sense,” says Zhao.

“Chloé immerses herself in her subjects’ life-narratives and looks for ‘the hook’ that gives her the dramatic arc for a film,” says McDormand. “Our process on Nomadland was a challenge for both of us because we were imposing the hybrid of non-professionals from the nomad community and David Strathairn and I as professionals acting our roles.  However, Chloé and Josh, our DP, spent time with David and I and our families in the small town we live. Chloé kept notes of our lives, our interaction with each other as friends and developed her idea of Fern and Dave from that.”

Zhao and McDormand worked together on building out Fern’s nomadic home on wheels, a Ford Econoline van that McDormand named Vanguard.

“We were thinking: how would Fern structure the living space?” says Zhao. “When you live in that small a space, what you take with you says a lot about who you are, more than when you live in a house.”

Director/Writer Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand at the Telluride from Los Angeles Drive-In Premiere of NOMADLAND. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios

“In collaborating with Chloé about the character of Fern,” says McDormand, “we talked a lot about how we were going to bring things from my life into Fern’s life, and a lot of that had to do with my background, but also just everyday activities. I suggested crafts, because it’s a way to spend your time when you’re on the road and it’s a way to make practical things that you need, things for bartering on the road. I brought along my bag of potholder loops, the loom and the hook—I probably made about 75 potholders that I gave to different people on the road and to members of our company. And they were props.”

“Another thing that I offered to the story from my life is a set of dishes in a pattern called Autumn Leaf,” says McDormand.

“When I graduated from college, my father collected a whole set of the dishes from different yard sales and gave it to me as my college graduation gift. I thought that was something I could bring to the story that gave it more personal depth. And I brought my silverware, which I think is pretty nifty.”

Says Zhao, “Because we wanted to incorporate non-actors into the film and have them be themselves in the moment, then Fran had to somehow be herself in the moment as well, because she couldn’t know what they were going to do. That’s why the film has so much of her in the character.”

“I think there’s been this promise made to the baby boomer generation,” says Spears, “that if they just did X, Y, and Z, it would all work out by the time they got to retirement age. Clearly that didn’t happen and isn’t happening. The safety net has ripped, and many people are now falling through it. As Bob Wells says, it’s like the Titanic’s going down.

“And yet,” continues Spears, “this situation dovetails with the tradition of rugged American individualism. Many of these people who are finding themselves forced into this sort of life are discovering an independence and a new sense of themselves. Beholden to only themselves for the first time in their lives. I think it’s inspiring—complicated, of course, in the way that so much in America is so layered and complicated right now.”

“These are people who are redefining the American dream,” says Asher. “It’s interesting because I think that in all of Chloé’s films, she’s grappling with this idea of the American dream, and seeing it from a fresh perspective—the perspective of an artist born and raised in a completely different culture.”

“The power of fiction filmmaking is what affected me so much and inspired me to make movies,” says Zhao, “and these days I think we’re in danger of forgetting what that power is. I didn’t want to just focus on someone who used the road as a means to an end in order to make a social commentary about how bad American capitalism is: that’s not interesting to me. I’d rather see a documentary on that by someone else. What I wanted to do was to enter this world, and to explore a unique American identity: the true nomad. That’s the ground on which I want to meet the audience—meet and, hopefully, connect, one viewer at a time.”

Director/Writer Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand on the set of NOMADLAND. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

“Chloé is using the cinema to touch upon the lives of real people who are completely overlooked—old people, homeless people,” says Richards. “It’s about exploring life from a certain perspective that doesn’t feel purely observational. There’s a poetry to it.”

Linda May describes her life on the road: “The people I met on the road were people I never would have mixed with because of our careers, lifestyles, and locations. Our paths were so different but when we crossed, we had such camaraderie, support, and caring for one another—immediately. A friendship that would have taken years to develop happened so quickly because of our common bond of living a nomad lifestyle.” 

“Some call it a ‘trip’ or an ‘adventure’. I do not,” sums up Swankie. “It is just living my best life to the fullest and pushing myself.  Originally, my goal in life was to be an important part of the lives of my children and grandchildren. That did not seem to be working out in a healthy way for me or for them—It was actually disheartening and depressing.  I had to redirect my energies to living a healthier lifestyle. For me, that was to become a nomad. I am not adventuring or sightseeing or taking trips and returning to a home area. I have no home base. I have been a Nomad now for over a decade and I am not tired of it.  Everything I own is with me. I do not have to go back anywhere to fetch anything. Being a Nomad is a choice, not a circumstance.”

Helmed by award-winning Australian commercial filmmaker Simon McQuoid, the explosive Mortal Kombat brings to life the intense action of the blockbuster video game franchise in all its brutal glory, pitting the all-time, fan-favorite champions against one another in the ultimate, no-holds-barred, gory battle that pushes them to their very limits. 

In Mortal Kombat, the visceral, high-octane global phenomenon is catapulted to the screen in an action adventure that finds Earthrealm turning to a team of untried warriors as it faces a decisive battle against enemies from Outworld.  The hero’s journey begins when Cole Young learns of his true destiny: to join a group of chosen warriors and prepare for a match far more deadly than the MMA bouts he’s used to.  In fact, the very fate of Earth is in their hands.

Simon McQuoid

Director/producer Simon McQuoid states, “Our goal in bringing this story to the screen was to respect the material and service the true fans, but also create a thrilling experience for moviegoers who might not know the games.  We wanted to give everyone a really fun, unrelenting ride, and let film audiences get to know these incredibly cool characters and the powerful energy of this IP.  Hopefully we’ve remained authentic and, at the same time, have been able to elevate the MK DNA in a big, cinematic way that hasn’t been done in a very long while.”

In bringing the games to life, McQuoid and the writers sought an easy entrée into the world for the uninitiated and created MMA fighter Cole Young as a vehicle for discovery so that, whether a viewer is familiar with Mortal Kombat or not, they can see the world through his eyes as someone who is experiencing it for the first time.

Writers Oren Uziel and Greg Russo developed the story that Russo and Dave Callaham then scripted. 

Russo recalls, “Respect for the canon was the mission statement I had from the very beginning.”  As a longtime fan who ranks in the top 50 among gamers in the world and top 15 in the U.S. on the Xbox platform, that was a given for Russo, who, on a visit to his mother’s home around the time he began crafting the story, found old drawings and stories about the Mortal Kombat game that he made when he was 12 years old.  “I dug them out and showed my wife, and she was like, ‘Wow!’

Greg Russo is currently writing “Saints Row,” which is based on the video game by Deep Silver Volition, with F. Gary Gray set to direct. He is also writing “Death Note 2” at Netflix, the sequel to the hit film. He has numerous scripts in development, including “Resident Evil,” “Space Invaders,” “Robotech,” “Heatseekers” and “It Takes a Thief.”

Russo says that idea for Cole’s storyline came from his own life.  “When I began working on this project, my wife and I were in the process of having our first child.  I was dealing with a lot of those questions about what it means to be a father, wondering if I would be a good dad, that sort of thing.  And I channeled all of those fears and emotions into creating the character of Cole Young.”

“Video games were always an outlet for me growing up,” he continues.  “Mortal Kombat was one of the games I latched onto the most.  I would spend countless hours at the arcade after school playing with my friends, and I had all the home console versions.  My love for this property was fostered at a very young age.  I feel this was always meant to be.”

McQuoid adds, “The fans invest a lot of time and money and attention into the games and are invested in the characters.  They know if back to front and they love it, and the writers made sure to respect that while also considering a new audience.  That’s one of the reasons I loved the script—it had heart and soul and humanity underscoring the intense action and adventure.  Every character is fighting for what matters to them.”

Part of staying true to the property would, of course, require the filmmakers to lean into its unabashed brutality, knowing at its core it’s about two worlds at war, carried out in a solely hand-to-hand manner.  “It’s a key element of Mortal Kombat,” McQuoid confirms, “but the great thing about these characters is, once you know them and their motivations, the fighting is as meaningful as it is unapologetic; you pick your favorites and you care about what happens to them.”

The film “Mortal Kombat” includes numerous canon favorites like Scorpion and Sub-Zero, the extensive lore, the iconic costumes and catchphrases, signature moves leading to gory fatalities, and the fully realized realms.

James Wan, who produced the film with Todd Garner, McQuoid and E. Bennett Walsh, explains, “It’s been over 25 years since the first feature film came out, and fans have been pretty vocal asking for another big screen entry.  As a fan myself of the games and movies, I, too, wanted to see another theatrical version of this, and felt it was time again to revisit this IP that has been kept relevant in the game world but not as much in the feature world.

“From the get-go,” he continues, “Todd Garner, my Atomic Monster team and I were gun-ho about creating an updated version with today’s filmmaking technology, whilst being respectful to the fantasy tone, violent action and gore of the game that fans have come to love.  We wanted to bring these vivid characters and stories back to the big screen in a modern, exciting way for a whole new generation who may not be as familiar with the films as we were growing up.”

Wan and Garner discussed early on how to approach a fresh take on the material with a distinct nod to its history, satisfying fans but also hopefully gaining new ones.  Garner says the key to that was “making sure we got the story right.  We didn’t want to remake the 1995 movie, we didn’t want to short-change the fans, but we needed an epic storyline that, even if you have never played the game, you could still become immersed in it.”

“Simon had a strong vision for the world and the characters from the original material,” says Wan, a master at world-building.  “Even though this is his first feature, he’s spent years in the commercial world telling visual stories, and he worked closely with the writers to design the world in the film.”

Garner adds, “When I came upon Simon’s work, not only was it visually exciting, but he really could tell a story in 30 seconds.  One of the reasons why we were eager to work with him was because he really wanted to take this inclusive, grounded, more realistic approach to the epic adventure.”

Filming on Mortal Kombat took place in and around Adelaide, the coastal capital of South Australia, where McQuoid assembled a gifted lineup of creatives, including director of photography Germain McMicking, production designer Naaman Marshall and costume designer Cappi Ireland.  “I had a very specific vision and taste, so once you get people the caliber of Naaman, Germain and Cappi on board sharing that vision, that’s half my job done,” McQuoid states.  “I loved watching these brilliant people work, it was a joy to me.”

Marshall offers, “When I met Simon, we hit it off right away, and I remember telling him I don’t play video games or follow Mortal Kombat, but what I try to do is create authentic sets, keeping them grounded in reality, and evolve from that.  That’s my approach, so if you’re looking for a gamer I might not be your guy.  And he just looked at me and said, ‘That’s a good answer.’  And from there we just set off on designing the film.

“We had such a good time working together, in the sense that Simon was always open to ideas and I’m not afraid to give ‘em,” Marshall laughs.  “It really is a pleasure to work with somebody who knows what he wants but knows when something else is a better or more interesting idea.  And we both wanted to embrace the history of Mortal Kombat and simply evolve it with a contemporary look and feel.”     

Of the final result, McQuoid says he hopes audiences sit back and enjoy the ride.  “It’s brutal, it’s action-packed, it’s full of really intense fights and a ton of Easter eggs for the hardcore superfans.  If you’ve never known about Mortal Kombat, you can totally enjoy these characters—Kano is hilarious, Sub-Zero is ruthless, Jax is magnificent, Sonya is a powerhouse, and Cole will serve as you guide to this crazy, incredible, massively exciting universe.”

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Creatures, Werewolves, Vampires and Zombies

CLOVERFIELD – 2008 monster film directed by Matt Reeves, produced by J.J. Abrams, and written by Drew Goddard. The film stars Michael Stahl-David, Odette Yustman, T.J. Miller, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan, and Mike Vogel. The film uses a found footage motif to follow five young New York City residents fleeing from a massive monster and various other smaller creatures that attack the city while they are having a farewell party. The film served as the first installment of the Cloverfield franchise, followed by 10 Cloverfield Lane in 2016 and The Cloverfield Paradox in 2018.

  • THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX  – 2018 American science fiction horror directed by Julius Onah and written by Oren Uziel, from a story by Uziel and Doug Jung, and produced by J. J. Abrams’s Bad Robot Productions. It is the third installment in the Cloverfield franchise, following Cloverfield (2008) and 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016). The film stars Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, and Zhang Ziyi, and follows an international group of astronauts aboard a space station who, after using a particle accelerator to try to solve Earth’s energy crisis, must find a way home when the planet seemingly vanishes.

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS – A mysterious meteor shower blinds most of the inhabitants of Earth – but worse is to come. As the population stumbles about,the triffids – giant carnivorous plants – begin to herd them for use as food. The survivors, led by a few who retained their sight, must try to find a safe place from the monsters. A BBC drama made in 2009. It is a loose adaptation of John Wyndham’s 1951 novel of the same title.

DONNIE DARKO – 2001 American science fiction psychological thriller written and directed by Richard Kelly and produced by Flower Films. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Stu Stone, Daveigh Chase, and James Duval. Set in October 1988, the film follows Donnie Darko, a troubled teenager who narrowly escapes a bizarre accident and has visions of Frank, a mysterious figure in a rabbit costume who informs him that the world will end in 28 days. Frank begins to manipulate Donnie to commit several crimes.

KING KONG – 2005 epic monster adventure co-written, produced, and directed by Peter Jackson. A second remake of the 1933 film of the same title, the film stars Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, and Andy Serkis as the title character, through motion capture. Set in 1933, it follows the story of an ambitious filmmaker who coerces his cast and hired ship crew to travel to the mysterious Skull Island. There, they encounter prehistoric creatures living on the island as well as a legendary giant gorilla known as Kong, whom they capture and take to New York City.  * Includes 2-disc Production diaries

MONSTER TRUCKS – 2016 monster action comedy  directed by Chris Wedge, in his live-action directorial debut, and written by Derek Connolly, from a story by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger and Matthew Robinson. The film stars Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Amy Ryan, Rob Lowe, Danny Glover, Barry Pepper and Holt McCallany, and follows a high schooler who finds an escaped monster living in his truck.

PANDORUM – Astronauts Payton (Dennis Quaid) and Bower (Ben Foster) awake in a hypersleep chamber with no memory of who they are or what their mission might be. While Payton stays behind to monitor the radio transmitter, Bower ventures out of the chamber into the seemingly abandoned spaceship. The men quickly realize that they are not alone and that the fate of mankind hinges on what they do next. 2009 British-German science fiction horror film, with elements of Lovecraftian horror and survival adventure. The film was directed by Christian Alvart and produced by Robert Kulzer, Jeremy Bolt and Paul W. S. Anderson. Travis Milloy wrote the screenplay from a story by Milloy and Alvart. It stars Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster.

THE SHAPE OF WATER – 2017 fantasy film directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. It stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer. Set in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1962, the story follows a mute cleaner at a high-security government laboratory who falls in love with a captured humanoid amphibian creature.

SUPER 8 – 2011 monster thriller film written and directed by J. J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg. The film stars Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, and Kyle Chandler and tells the story of a group of young teenagers who are filming their own Super 8 movie when a train derails, releasing a dangerous presence into their town.

TELL-TALE – 2009 science fiction-horror drama inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s 1843 short story “The Tell-Tale Heart”. It is directed by Michael Cuesta and stars Josh Lucas, Lena Headey, and Brian Cox and is produced by Tony Scott and Ridley Scott. A man’s recently transplanted heart leads him on a frantic search to find the donor’s killer before a similar fate befalls him.

THE THING – 1982 American science fiction horror directed by John Carpenter and written by Bill Lancaster. Based on the 1938 John W. Campbell Jr. novella Who Goes There?, it tells the story of a group of American researchers in Antarctica who encounter the eponymous “Thing”, a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form that assimilates, then imitates other organisms. The group is overcome by paranoia and conflict as they learn that they can no longer trust each other and that any one of them could be the Thing. The film stars Kurt Russell as the team’s helicopter pilot, R.J. MacReady, and features A. Wilford Brimley, T. K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, and Thomas G. Waites in supporting roles.

  • THE THING – 2011 science fiction horror directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., written by Eric Heisserer, and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Eric Christian Olsen. It is a direct prequel to the 1982 film of the same name by John Carpenter, which was an adaptation of the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell. It tells the story of a team of Norwegian and American scientists who discover a parasitic alien buried deep in the ice of Antarctica, realizing too late that it is still alive.

Zombies – The Living Dead

THE CRAZIES – Anarchy reigns when an unknown toxin turns the peaceful citizens of Ogden Marsh into bloodthirsty lunatics. In an effort to contain the spread of the infection, authorities blockade the town and use deadly force to keep anyone from getting in or out. Now trapped among killers, Sheriff Dutten (Timothy Olyphant) and his wife (Radha Mitchell) and two companions must band together to find a way out before madness and death overtake them. 2010 American science fiction horror directed by Breck Eisner from a screenplay from Scott Kosar and Ray Wright. The film is a remake of the 1973 film of the same name and stars Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson and Danielle Panabaker. George A. Romero, who wrote and directed the original, served as an executive producer. It is about a fictional Iowa town that becomes afflicted by a biological agent that turns those infected into violent killers.

DEAD & BURIED – A sheriff (James Farentino) and his wife (Melody Anderson) realize the town coroner (Jack Albertson) has been creating an army of rural zombies. 1981 American slasher film directed by Gary Sherman, starring Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, and James Farentino. It is Albertson’s final live-action film role before his death six months after the film’s release. The film focuses on a small town wherein a few tourists are murdered, but their corpses begin to reanimate. With a screenplay written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES -In the 19th century, a mysterious plague turns the English countryside into a war zone. No one is safe as the dead come back to life to terrorize the land. Fate leads Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), a master of martial arts and weaponry, to join forces with Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), a handsome but arrogant gentleman. Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy, but respects his skills as a zombie killer. Casting aside their personal differences, they unite on the blood-soaked battlefield to save their country. 2016 action comedy horror film based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which parodies the 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The film is directed by Burr Steers, who wrote the adapted screenplay, and stars Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Charles Dance, and Lena Headey. The film follows the general plot of Austen’s original novel, with elements of zombie, horror and post-apocalyptic fiction incorporated.

WARM BODIES – 2013 paranormal romantic zombie comedy film written and directed by Jonathan Levine and based on Isaac Marion’s novel of the same name, which in turn is inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.[7] The film stars Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton, and John Malkovich. The film focuses on the development of the relationship between Julie (Palmer), a young woman, and “R” (Hoult), a zombie, and how their eventual romance develops, causing R to slowly return to human form. The film is noted for displaying human characteristics in zombie characters, and for being told from a zombie’s perspective.


ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER – While still a boy, Abraham Lincoln loses his mother to a vampire’s bite. He vows revenge, but fails in the attempt, narrowly escaping with his life. He is rescued by Henry (Dominic Cooper), a charismatic vampire hunter who instructs Abe in the fine art of dispatching bloodsuckers. Abe (Benjamin Walker) continues his fight against the undead well into adulthood and his presidency, making a last stand against the ultimate vampire foe (Rufus Sewell) on the eve of the Civil War’s defining battle. 2012 dark fantasy action horror film directed by Timur Bekmambetov, based on the 2010 mashup novel of the same name. The novel’s author, Seth Grahame-Smith, wrote the screenplay and served as an executive producer. Benjamin Walker stars as the title character with supporting roles by Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, and Marton Csokas.

BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA’S GUEST (also known as just Dracula’s Guest) A man (Wesley A. Ramsey) races across Europe to rescue his lover (Kelsey McCann) from evil Dracula (Andrew Bryniarski).  2008 film that was written and directed by Michael Feifer.

BYZANTIUM – Mayhem follows when two female vampires (Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan), on the run from a kindred group, take refuge at a seaside British community.  2012 vampire film directed by Neil Jordan, starring Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan. The story concerns a mother-daughter vampire duo who move into a rundown hotel while hiding out from other vampires.

DRACULA 2000 (also known internationally as Dracula 2001) Long ago, Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) imprisoned the infamous Count Dracula (Gerard Butler) within a vault inside Carfax Abbey. In the present day, Van Helsing relies on Dracula’s immortal blood to remain alive. But then thieves breaks into the vault and steal the vampire’s coffin, thinking it contains something valuable. Liberated from his prison, Dracula seizes the opportunity to escape, but Van Helsing sets out to banish him to the crypt once again. A 2000 American gothic horror film co-written and directed by Patrick Lussier and produced by Joel Soisson and Wes Craven (executive producer).

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE – 1994 American gothic horror film directed by Neil Jordan, based on Anne Rice’s 1976 novel of the same name, and starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. The film focuses on Lestat (Cruise) and Louis (Pitt), beginning with Louis’s transformation into a vampire by Lestat in 1791. The film chronicles their time together, and their turning of ten-year-old Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) into a vampire. The narrative is framed by a present-day interview, in which Louis tells his story to a San Francisco reporter. The supporting cast features Christian Slater, Antonio Banderas, and Stephen Rea.

THE THOMPSONS – On the run from the law, the vampire family the Hamiltons (now known as the Thompsons) heads to England to find an ancient vampire clan known as the Stuarts. Unbeknownst to the Hamiltons, the Stuarts have motives of their own. An independent 2012 horror film directed by the Butcher Brothers (Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores) and produced by Rob Weston and Travis Stevens. It is a sequel to the Butcher Brothers previous film The Hamiltons.


THE HOWLING – 1981 horror film directed by Joe Dante and starring Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, and Robert Picardo. Based on the novel of the same name by Gary Brandner, the film follows a television newswoman sent to a remote mountain resort after a near-fatal incident with a serial killer, unaware that the resort’s residents are werewolves. In Los Angeles, television journalist Karen White (Dee Wallace) is traumatized in the course of aiding the police in their arrest of a serial murderer. Her doctor recommends that she attend an isolated psychiatric retreat led by Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee). But while Karen is undergoing therapy, her colleague Chris (Dennis Dugan), investigates the bizarre circumstances surrounding her shock. When his work leads him to suspect the supernatural, he begins to fear for Karen’s life.

SKINWALKERS – A mother and her 12-year-old son become the victims of two groups of werewolves, who believe that the approaching red moon may change the boy into a powerful enemy or a great leader of their pack. 2006 horror-action film. Directed by James Isaac, it stars Jason Behr, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, and Tom Jackson.

THE WOLFMAN – 2010 horror directed by Joe Johnston. A remake of the 1941 film of the same name, it stars Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving. In the film, an American actor is bitten and cursed by a werewolf after returning to his ancestral homeland in search of his missing brother.

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90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN – Don Piper is involved in a horrific car crash, pronounced dead at the scene and covered by a tarp. Ninety minutes later, having been brought to a hospital, he returns to life and claims to have seen Heaven and visited with deceased relatives while there.a 2015 Christian drama directed by Michael Polish and starring Hayden Christensen, Kate Bosworth, Dwight Yoakam, Michael W. Smith, and Michael Harding. It is based on the bestselling novel by the same name.

ALL SAINTS is a 2017 American Christian drama film directed by Steve Gomer and written by Steve Armour. The film stars John Corbett, Cara Buono, Myles Moore, Nelson Lee, Barry Corbin, David Keith, Angela Fox, Chonda Pierce and Gregory Alan Williams, and follows a small-town Tennessee preacher who attempts to save his struggling church. Based on a true story, a salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock of a tiny Episcopal (Anglican) church in Smyrna, Tennessee is ordered to shut it down. He attempts to save the church, as well as a group of refugees from Karen State, Myanmar, in Southeast Asia.

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE is a 2018 American Christian biographical drama directed by the Erwin Brothers and written by Alex Cramer, Jon Erwin, and Brent McCorkle, based on the story behind the group MercyMe’s song of the same name, the best-selling Christian single of all time. The film stars J. Michael Finley as Bart Millard, the lead singer who wrote the song about his relationship with his father (Dennis Quaid). Madeline Carroll, Trace Adkins, Priscilla Shirer, and Cloris Leachman also star.

I STILL BELIEVE A 2020 American Christian romantic drama directed by the Erwin Brothers and starring KJ Apa, Britt Robertson, Shania Twain, Melissa Roxburgh, and Gary Sinise. It is based on the life of American contemporary Christian music singer-songwriter Jeremy Camp and his first wife, Melissa Lynn Henning-Camp, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly before they married. Camp’s song “I Still Believe” is the film’s namesake.

LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT is an American drama film about the temptation of Christ, directed and written by Rodrigo García. As he wanders in the desert, Jesus Christ (Ewan McGregor) tangles with Satan (also McGregor) for the souls of a nomad (Ciarán Hinds) and his family.

LETTERS FROM MOTHER TERESA Mother Teresa (Juliet Stevenson), recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is considered one of the greatest humanitarians of modern times. Her selfless commitment changed hearts, lives and inspired millions throughout the world. The film is told through personal letters she wrote over the last forty years of her life and reveal a troubled and vulnerable woman who grew to feel an isolation and an abandonment by God. The story is told from the point of view of a Vatican priest (Max von Sydow) charged with the task of investigating acts and events following her death. He recounts her life’s work, her political oppression, her religious zeal, and her unbreakable spirit. A 2014 biographical drama film directed and written by William Riead. The film stars Juliet Stevenson, Max von Sydow, Rutger Hauer and Priya Darshini.

MARY MAGDALENE – In the year AD 30, free-spirited Mary Magdalene flees the marriage her family has arranged for her, finding refuge and a sense of purpose in a radical new movement led by Jesus. The sole woman among his band of disciples, Mary defies the prejudices of a patriarchal society as she undergoes a profound spiritual awakening and finds herself at the center of an Earth-shaking historical moment.A 2018 biblical drama film about the woman of the same name, written by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett and directed by Garth Davis. It stars Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Tahar Rahim.

MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN is a 2016 American Christian drama directed by Patricia Riggen and written by Randy Brown. It is based on Miracles from Heaven by Christy Beam, which recounts the true story of her young daughter who had a near-death experience and was later cured of an incurable disease. The film stars Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson, John Carroll Lynch, Eugenio Derbez, and Queen Latifah.

RISEN – Roman military tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) remains set in his ways after serving 25 years in the army. He arrives at a crossroad when he’s tasked to investigate the mystery of what happened to Jesus (Cliff Curtis) following the Crucifixion. Accompanied by trusted aide Lucius (Tom Felton), his quest to disprove rumors of a risen Messiah makes him question his own beliefs and spirituality. As his journey takes him to places never dreamed of, Clavius discovers the truth that he’s been seeking. A 2016 biblical drama film directed by Kevin Reynolds and written by Reynolds and Paul Aiello. The film stars Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Peter Firth, and Cliff Curtis, and details a Roman soldier’s search for Yeshua’s body following his resurrection.

THE STAR A small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day, he finds the courage to break free, embarking on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a lovable sheep who has lost her flock, and Dave, a dove who has lofty aspirations. Along with three camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become accidental heroes in the greatest story ever told — the first Christmas. A 2017 computer-animated Christian film directed by Timothy Reckart. Inspired by the Nativity of Jesus, the film’s screenplay was written by Carlos Kotkin and Simon Moore.

THE YOUNG MESSIAH is a 2016 biblical drama film directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh and co-written by Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh and Nowrasteh, based on the novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice. The film stars Adam Greaves-Neal, Sean Bean, David Bradley, Lee Boardman, Jonathan Bailey, and David Burke. The film revolves around a fictional interpretation of a seven-year-old Jesus, who tries to discover the truth about his life when he returns to Nazareth from Egypt.

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BLEED FOR THIS is a 2016 biographical sports film written and directed by Ben Younger and based on the life of former world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza. Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza (Miles Teller), a local Providence boxer, shoots to stardom after winning two world title fights. After a near-fatal car accident leaves him with a broken neck, he is told he may never walk again. Against all odds and doctor’s orders, renowned trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) agrees to help Vinny return to the ring just a year after the accident for what could be the last fight of his life. Based on a true story.

THE FIGHTER For Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), boxing is a family affair. His tough-as-nails mother is his manager. His half-brother, Dicky (Christian Bale), once a promising boxer himself, is his very unreliable trainer. Despite Micky’s hard work, he is losing and, when the latest fight nearly kills him, he follows his girlfriend’s advice and splits from the family. Then Micky becomes a contender for the world title and he — and his family — earns a shot at redemption. 2010 biographical sports drama film directed by David O. Russell, inspired by the 1995 documentary that features the Eklund-Ward family, titled High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell.

FIGHTING – Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) barely makes a living selling counterfeit goods on the streets of New York. But he has a natural talent for street fighting, which con-man Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard) wants to put to good use. Forming an uneasy alliance with Boarden, Shawn becomes top dog in the bare-knuckle-brawl circuit, taking down pro boxers, martial artists and ultimate fighters one by one. Shawn wants out of this dark world, but he faces the fight of his life to get there. 2009 sports action drama directed by Dito Montiel.

FORD V FERRARI – A 2019 American sports drama directed by James Mangold and written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller. The film stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale, with Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone, and Ray McKinnon in supporting roles.The plot follows a determined team of American and British engineers and designers, led by automotive designer Carroll Shelby and his British driver, Ken Miles, who are dispatched by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca with the mission of building the Ford GT40, a new racing car with the potential to finally defeat the perennially dominant Italian racing team Scuderia Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France.

I, TONYA is a 2017 biographical sports black comedy directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Steven Rogers. It follows the life of figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. The film states that it is based on “contradictory” and “true” interviews with Harding and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, suggesting they are unreliable narrators. It features darkly comedic interviews with the characters in mockumentary-style, set in the modern day, and breaks the fourth wall. Margot Robbie (who also co-produced) stars as Harding, Sebastian Stan as Gillooly, and Allison Janney as Harding’s mother LaVona Golden. Julianne Nicholson, Caitlin Carver, Paul Walter Hauser, and Bobby Cannavale also star. Loosely based on actual events, the film depicts Harding as a victim, reframing the narrative around her implication in the crime as well as other criticism of her actions

MC FARLAND USA – Track coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) is a newcomer to a predominantly Latino high-school in California’s Central Valley. Coach White and his new students find that they have much to learn about one another, but things begin to change when White realizes the boys’ exceptional running ability. More than just physical prowess drives the teens to succeed; their strong family ties, incredible work ethic and commitment to their team all play a factor in forging these novice runners into champions. 2015 sports drama film directed by Niki Caro, produced by Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray, written by Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois and Grant Thompson

RACE – Young Jesse Owens (Stephan James) becomes a track and field sensation while attending the Ohio State University in the early 1930s. With guidance from coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), Owens gains national recognition for breaking numerous records. After heated debates, the United States decides not to boycott the Olympics in Nazi Germany. Overcoming racism at home and abroad, Owens seizes the opportunity to show Berlin and the the world that he’s the fastest man alive. 2016 biographical sports drama about African-American athlete Jesse Owens, who won a record-breaking four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Directed by Stephen Hopkins and written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse.

REAL STEEL – Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) used to be a prizefighter but lost his chance to win a title when heavy, towering robots took over the boxing ring. Now working as a small-time promoter, Charlie pieces together scrap metal into low-end fighters, barely earning enough to make it from one underground venue to the next. After hitting rock bottom, Charlie reluctantly teams with his estranged son, Max (Dakota Goyo), to build and train a championship robot for a last shot at redemption. 2011 American science-fiction sports drama starring Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo.

RUSH – James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two extremely skilled Formula One racers, have an intense rivalry with each other. However, it is their enmity that pushes them to their limits. 2013 biographical sports film centred on the Hunt–Lauda rivalry between two Formula One drivers, the British James Hunt and the Austrian Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula 1 motor-racing season. It was written by Peter Morgan, directed by Ron Howard and starred Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Lauda.

SOUTHPAW – Billy “The Great” Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), the reigning junior middleweight boxing champion, has an impressive career, a loving wife and daughter, and a lavish lifestyle. However, when tragedy strikes, Billy hits rock bottom, losing his family, his house and his manager. He soon finds an unlikely savior in Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker), a former fighter who trains the city’s toughest amateur boxers. With his future on the line, Hope fights to reclaim the trust of those he loves the most. 2015 American sports drama directed by Antoine Fuqua.

SPEED RACER – The plot revolves around Speed Racer, an 18-year-old automobile racer who follows his apparently deceased brother’s career. His choice to remain loyal to his family and their company Racer Motors causes difficulties after he refuses a contract offered by E.P. Arnold Royalton, the owner of Royalton Industries. 2008 sports action comedy written, co-produced and directed by the Wachowskis and based on the 1960s anime and manga series of the same name. Starring Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Roger Allam, Benno Fürmann, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rain and Richard Roundtree

WARRIOR – 2011 American sports drama directed by Gavin O’Connor and written by O’Connor, Cliff Dorfman, and Anthony Tambakis. It stars Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as two estranged brothers whose entrance into a mixed martial arts tournament makes them come to terms with their lives and each other, and Nick Nolte as their alcoholic father; Jennifer Morrison and Frank Grillo also star.

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CHANGELING – 2008 mystery crime drama film directed, produced, and scored by Clint Eastwood and written by J. Michael Straczynski, that explores child endangerment, female disempowerment, political corruption, mistreatment of mental health patients, and the repercussions of violence. The script was based on real-life events, specifically the 1928 Wineville Chicken Coop murders in Mira Loma, California. The film stars Angelina Jolie as a woman united with a boy who she realizes is not her missing son. When she tries to demonstrate this to the police and city authorities, she is vilified as delusional, labeled as an unfit mother, and confined to a psychiatric ward.

CHILD 44 – In 1950s Soviet Russia, secret police agent Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) loses everything when he refuses to denounce his wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace) as a traitor. Finding themselves exiled to a grim provincial outpost, Leo and Raisa join forces with Gen. Mikhail Nesterov (Gary Oldman) to capture a serial killer who preys on young boys. They soon find that their investigation threatens a system-wide cover-up enforced by Vasili (Joel Kinnaman), Leo’s psychopathic rival. 2015 mystery thriller film directed by Daniel Espinosa, written by Richard Price, and based on Tom Rob Smith’s 2008 novel of the same name. The film stars an ensemble cast featuring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, Jason Clarke, and Vincent Cassel.

DARK PLACES – A woman (Charlize Theron) confronts traumatic, childhood memories of the murder of her mother and two sisters when she investigates the possibility that her brother (Corey Stoll) is innocent of the crime. 2015 neo-noir mystery directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner. The screenplay, by Paquet-Brenner, is based on Gillian Flynn’s 2009 novel of the same name. It stars Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult, and Chloë Grace Moretz.

THE DA VINCI CODE – A 2006 mystery thriller film directed by Ron Howard, written by Akiva Goldsman, and based on Dan Brown’s 2003 best-selling novel of the same name. The first in the Robert Langdon film series, the film stars Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Sir Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Jürgen Prochnow, Jean Reno and Paul Bettany. In the film, Robert Langdon, a professor of religious symbology from Harvard University, is the prime suspect in the grisly and unusual murder of Louvre curator Jacques Saunière. On the body, the police find a disconcerting cipher and start an investigation. Langdon escapes with the assistance of police cryptologist Sophie Neveu, and they begin a quest for the legendary Holy Grail. A noted British Grail historian, Sir Leigh Teabing, tells them that the actual Holy Grail is explicitly encoded in Leonardo da Vinci’s wall painting, The Last Supper. Also searching for the Grail is a secret cabal within Opus Dei, an actual prelature of the Holy See, who wish to keep the true Grail a secret to prevent the destruction of Christianity.

  • ANGELS & DEMONS – When Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon discovers the resurgence of an ancient brotherhood known as the Illuminati, he flies to Rome to warn the Vatican, the Illuminati’s most hated enemy. Joining forces with beautiful Italian scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), Langdon follows a centuries-old trail of ancient symbols in the hope of preventing the Illuminati’s deadly plot against the Roman Catholic Church from coming to fruition. 2009 mystery thriller film directed by Ron Howard and written by Akiva Goldsman and David Koepp, based on Dan Brown’s 2000 novel of the same title. It is the sequel to the 2006 film The Da Vinci Code, also directed by Howard, and the second installment in the Robert Langdon film series.
  • INFERNO – Famous symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) follows a trail of clues tied to Dante, the great medieval poet. When Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), a doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories. Together, they race across Europe and against the clock to stop a madman (Ben Foster) from unleashing a virus that could wipe out half of the world’s population. 2016 action mystery thriller directed by Ron Howard and written by David Koepp, loosely based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Dan Brown. The film is the sequel to The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009), and is the third and final installment in the Robert Langdon film series. It stars Tom Hanks, reprising his role as Robert Langdon, alongside Felicity Jones as Dr. Sienna Brooks, Omar Sy, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ben Foster, and Irrfan Khan.

KNIVES OUT – a 2019 mystery film written and directed by Rian Johnson, and produced by Johnson and Ram Bergman. It follows a master detective investigating the death of the patriarch of a wealthy, dysfunctional family. The film features an ensemble cast including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer.

LOST RIVER– A single mother is swept into a dark underworld while her son discovers an underwater town. 2014 fantasy mystery drama film written, co-produced, and directed by Ryan Gosling, in his feature directorial debut. The film stars Christina Hendricks, Saoirse Ronan, Iain De Caestecker, Matt Smith, Ben Mendelsohn, Barbara Steele, and Eva Mendes in her final film role.

MR. HOLMES – 2015 mystery film directed by Bill Condon, based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, and featuring the character Sherlock Holmes. The film stars Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes, Laura Linney as his housekeeper Mrs. Munro and Milo Parker as her son Roger. Set primarily during his retirement in Sussex, the film follows a 93-year-old Holmes who struggles to recall the details of his final case because his mind is slowly deteriorating.

MY COUSIN RACHEL Philip is a young Englishman who finds his cousin Ambrose dead after traveling to Florence, Italy. He vows revenge against Ambrose’s missing wife Rachel, blaming her for his untimely demise. When Philip meets Rachel for the first time, his mood suddenly changes as he finds himself falling for her seductive charm and beauty. As his obsession for her grows, Rachel now hatches a scheme to win back her late husband’s estate from the unsuspecting Philip. A 2017 romantic drama written and directed by Roger Michell, based upon the 1951 novel My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier. It stars Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger, and Pierfrancesco Favino.

PASSENGERS – Therapist Claire Summers (Anne Hathaway) receives an assignment by her mentor to counsel the five survivors of a plane crash. She feels particularly drawn to Eric (Patrick Wilson), the most-secretive of the group. Against her judgment, she becomes romantically involved with him, just as the other survivors mysteriously start to disappear. Believing that Eric knows more than he is telling, she vows to find the truth, no matter the outcome. 2008 romantic mystery thriller directed by Rodrigo García, written by Ronnie Christensen, and starring Anne Hathaway and Patrick Wilson.

REGRESSION – A detective (Ethan Hawke) and a psychoanalyst (David Thewlis) uncover evidence of a satanic cult while investigating the rape of a traumatized teen (Emma Watson).  2015 psychological thriller horror mystery film directed and written by Alejandro Amenábar. The film stars Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson, with David Thewlis, Lothaire Bluteau, Dale Dickey, David Dencik, Peter MacNeill, Devon Bostick, and Aaron Ashmore in supporting roles.

SEARCHING – 2018 mystery thriller film directed by Aneesh Chaganty in his feature debut and written by Chaganty and Sev Ohanian. Set entirely on computer screens and smartphones, the film follows a father (John Cho) trying to find his missing 16-year-old daughter (Michelle La) with the help of a police detective (Debra Messing).

SHERLOCK HOLMES – 2009 period mystery action film based on the character of the same name created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The film was directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey, and Dan Lin. The screenplay, by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg, was developed from a story by Wigram and Johnson. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law portray Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, respectively. In 1890, eccentric detective Holmes and his companion Watson are hired by a secret society to foil a mysticist’s plot to gain control of Britain by seemingly supernatural means. Rachel McAdams stars as their former adversary Irene Adler and Mark Strong portrays villain Lord Henry Blackwood.

  • SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS  is a 2011 period action mystery directed by Guy Ritchie.  It is the sequel to the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, and features the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The film’s screenplay was written by Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law reprise their roles as Holmes and Watson, alongside Noomi Rapace as Simza, Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes, Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty. Rachel McAdams reprised her role as Irene Adler in a cameo appearance. Although the film follows an original premise, it incorporates elements of Conan Doyle’s short stories “The Final Problem” (1893) and “The Adventure of the Empty House” (1903).[4] In the film, Holmes and Watson travel across Europe with a Romani adventuress to foil an intricate plot by their cunning nemesis, Professor Moriarty, to instigate a war.

SIGNSis a 2002 American science fiction mystery thriller written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and produced by Shyamalan, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy and Sam Mercer. A joint collective effort to commit to the film’s production was made by Blinding Edge Pictures and The Kennedy/Marshall Company. It was commercially distributed by Touchstone Pictures theatrically, and by Touchstone Home Entertainment in home media format. Its story focuses on a former Episcopal priest named Graham Hess, played by Mel Gibson, who discovers a series of crop circles in his cornfield. Hess slowly discovers that the phenomenon is a result of extraterrestrial life. It also stars Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin. Signs explores the themes of faith, kinship, and extraterrestrials.

SOLACE – 2015 American mystery thriller film directed by Afonso Poyart and starring Anthony Hopkins, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Abbie Cornish. The film is about a psychic doctor, John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins), who works with FBI special agent Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in search of serial killer Charles Ambrose (Colin Farrell).

THE USUAL SUSPECTS – 1995 neo-noir mystery thriller film directed by Bryan Singer and written by Christopher McQuarrie. It stars Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite, and Kevin Spacey. The plot follows the interrogation of Roger “Verbal” Kint, a small-time con man, who is one of only two survivors of a massacre and fire on a ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles. Through flashback and narration, Kint tells an interrogator a convoluted story of events that led him and his criminal companions to the boat, and of a mysterious crime lord—known as Keyser Söze—who controlled them. The film was shot on a $6 million budget and began as a title taken from a column in Spy magazine called The Usual Suspects, after one of Claude Rains’ most memorable lines in the classic film Casablanca, and Singer thought that it would make a good title for a film.

WINTER’S BONE is a 2010 American mystery drama directed by Debra Granik. It was adapted by Granik and Anne Rosellini from the 2006 novel of the same name by Daniel Woodrell. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as a teenage girl in the rural Ozarks of Missouri who, to protect her family from eviction, must locate her missing father. The film explores the interrelated themes of close and distant family ties, the power and speed of gossip, self-sufficiency, poverty, and patriarchy as they are influenced by the pervasive underworld of illegal meth labs.

THE WORDS – When shallow wannabe-writer Rory (Bradley Cooper) finds an old manuscript tucked away in a bag, he decides to pass the work off as his own. The book, called “The Window Tears,” brings Rory great acclaim, until the real author (Jeremy Irons) shows up and threatens to destroy Rory’s reputation. Cut to Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid), a writer whose popular novel “The Words” seems to mirror Rory’s story, leading to speculation that the tome is Hammond’s thinly veiled autobiography. 2012 American mystery romantic drama film, written and directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal in their directorial debut. It stars Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Jeremy Irons, Ben Barnes, Dennis Quaid, and Nora Arnezeder.

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THE ACCOUNTANT – The storyline follows Christian Wolff, a certified public accountant with high-functioning autism who makes his living uncooking the books of criminal and terrorist organizations around the world that are experiencing internal embezzlement. 2016 action-thriller directed by Gavin O’Connor, written by Bill Dubuque and starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor, and John Lithgow.

8MM – 1999 thriller directed by Joel Schumacher and written by Andrew Kevin Walker. The film stars Nicolas Cage as a private investigator who delves into the world of snuff films. Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare, and Anthony Heald appear in supporting roles.

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE – In 1969, seven shady strangers meet in a deserted hotel with a dark past. As time goes by, their secrets come out and they soon find themselves in a fix.  2018 neo-noir thriller film written, produced and directed by Drew Goddard. The film stars Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman and Chris Hemsworth.

BEYOND THE REACH – In the Mojave Desert, a naked and unarmed hunting guide (Jeremy Irvine) runs from a wealthy hunter (Michael Douglas) who wants to ensure his silence in the death of an old man. 2014 thriller directed by Jean-Baptiste Léonetti and written by Stephen Susco. It is based on the 1972 novel Deathwatch by Robb White

BLINDNESS – When an epidemic of a disease known as the “white sickness” appears in her city, the wife (Julianne Moore) of a doctor is one of the few individuals left who still has sight. Sent to a government asylum along with her now-blind husband (Mark Ruffalo), she sees conditions deteriorate until civilization itself is in jeopardy, prompting her break-out of the asylum to lead a small group to freedom. 2008 thriller about a society that suffers an epidemic of blindness. The film is an adaptation of the 1995 novel of the same name by the Portuguese author José Saramago. The film was written by Don McKellar and directed by Fernando Meirelles,

BLOOD – Sibling detectives (Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham) investigate the fatal stabbing of a 12-year-old girl. 2012 thriller directed by Nick Murphy and written by Bill Gallagher. The plot is about two brothers who are policemen and charts the moral collapse of a police family.

THE BOX – A 2009 American psychological thriller based on the 1970 short story “Button, Button” by Richard Matheson, which was previously adapted into an episode of the 1980s iteration of The Twilight Zone. The film was written and directed by Richard Kelly and stars Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a couple who receive a box from a mysterious man (played by Frank Langella) who offers them one million dollars if they press the button sealed within the dome on top of the box, but tells them that, once the button has been pushed, someone they do not know will die.

BOY WONDER – As he grows up, Sean begins a double life as a crime fighter to avenge his murdered mother.  2010 vigilante psychological thriller film written and directed by Michael Morrissey and stars Caleb Steinmeyer, Zulay Henao, Bill Sage, Tracy Middendorf, Daniel Stewart Sherman, Chuck Cooper, and James Russo.

BRAKE – A federal agent (Stephen Dorff) is taken captive by terrorists who want to know the location of the U.S. president’s secret bunker. 2012 thriller directed by Gabe Torres

BROTHERHOOD – 2010 thriller directed by Will Canon and co-written by Doug Simon and Canon. The film is about a fraternity initiation that goes horribly wrong and stars Jon Foster, Trevor Morgan, Arlen Escarpeta and Lou Taylor Pucci.

CATCH HELL – While on location in Louisiana, an actor (Ryan Phillippe) is kidnapped by two men who are connected to his past and have a twisted fate in store for him.  A 2014 thriller written and directed by Ryan Phillippe.

CHLOE – Catherine and David Stewart (Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson) are a well-to-do couple living in a posh area of Toronto, but all is not well in paradise. Catherine suspects that David, a music professor, is cheating on her with his students. She hires a prostitute named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to meet David and see if he gives in to temptation, but events spin out of control when Chloe spills the details of her torrid encounters. 2009 erotic thriller directed by Atom Egoyan, a remake of the 2003 French film Nathalie…. It stars Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, and Amanda Seyfried in the title role.

CRIMSON RIVERS (French: Les Rivières pourpres) Two criminal investigations. The same day. Two detectives are assigned two very peculiar cases. An action thriller set in against the breathtaking backdrop of the French Alps, “The Crimson Rivers” stars Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel in a gripping who-dunnit involving a series of grisly murders, a child’s death twenty years earlier, and the secret history of a small town.  is a 2000 French psychological thriller Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, is based on the novel Blood Red Rivers by Jean-Christophe Grangé.

THE CRYING GAME – The film follows Fergus (Rea), a member of the IRA, who has a brief but meaningful encounter with a British soldier, Jody (Whitaker), who is being held prisoner by the group. Fergus later develops an unexpected romantic relationship with Jody’s lover, Dil (Davidson), whom Fergus promised Jody he would take care of. Fergus is forced to decide between what he wants and what his nature dictates he must do. 1992 thriller written and directed by Neil Jordan, produced by Stephen Woolley, and starring Stephen Rea, Miranda Richardson, Jaye Davidson, Adrian Dunbar, Ralph Brown and Forest Whitaker. The film explores themes of race, gender, nationality, and sexuality against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

THE DA VINCI CODE – A 2006 mystery thriller film directed by Ron Howard, written by Akiva Goldsman, and based on Dan Brown’s 2003 best-selling novel of the same name. The first in the Robert Langdon film series, the film stars Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Sir Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Jürgen Prochnow, Jean Reno and Paul Bettany. In the film, Robert Langdon, a professor of religious symbology from Harvard University, is the prime suspect in the grisly and unusual murder of Louvre curator Jacques Saunière. On the body, the police find a disconcerting cipher and start an investigation. Langdon escapes with the assistance of police cryptologist Sophie Neveu, and they begin a quest for the legendary Holy Grail. A noted British Grail historian, Sir Leigh Teabing, tells them that the actual Holy Grail is explicitly encoded in Leonardo da Vinci’s wall painting, The Last Supper. Also searching for the Grail is a secret cabal within Opus Dei, an actual prelature of the Holy See, who wish to keep the true Grail a secret to prevent the destruction of Christianity.

  • ANGELS & DEMONS – When Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon discovers the resurgence of an ancient brotherhood known as the Illuminati, he flies to Rome to warn the Vatican, the Illuminati’s most hated enemy. Joining forces with beautiful Italian scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), Langdon follows a centuries-old trail of ancient symbols in the hope of preventing the Illuminati’s deadly plot against the Roman Catholic Church from coming to fruition. 2009 mystery thriller film directed by Ron Howard and written by Akiva Goldsman and David Koepp, based on Dan Brown’s 2000 novel of the same title. It is the sequel to the 2006 film The Da Vinci Code, also directed by Howard, and the second installment in the Robert Langdon film series.
  • INFERNO – Famous symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) follows a trail of clues tied to Dante, the great medieval poet. When Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), a doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories. Together, they race across Europe and against the clock to stop a madman (Ben Foster) from unleashing a virus that could wipe out half of the world’s population. 2016 action mystery thriller directed by Ron Howard and written by David Koepp, loosely based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Dan Brown. The film is the sequel to The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009), and is the third and final installment in the Robert Langdon film series. It stars Tom Hanks, reprising his role as Robert Langdon, alongside Felicity Jones as Dr. Sienna Brooks, Omar Sy, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ben Foster, and Irrfan Khan.

DEAD AGAIN  – In 1949 composer Roman Strauss is executed for the murder of his wife. In 1990s Los Angeles, a detective finds out that, a mute amnesiac woman, under hypnosis, is somehow linked to the Strauss murder. A 1991 neo-noir romantic thriller film directed by Kenneth Branagh and written by Scott Frank. It stars Branagh and Emma Thompson, with Andy García, Derek Jacobi, Wayne Knight, and Robin Williams appearing in supporting roles.

DECEPTION – As a corporate auditor who works in a number of different offices, Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor) wanders without an anchor among New York’s power brokers. A chance meeting with charismatic lawyer Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman) leads to Jonathan’s introduction to The List, an underground sex club. Jonathan begins an affair with a woman known only as S (Michelle Williams), who introduces Jonathan to a world of treachery and murder.  2007 erotic thriller film directed by Marcel Langenegger and written by Mark Bomback. It stars Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor, and Michelle Williams.

DELIVERANCE – Four city-dwelling friends (Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox) decide to get away from their jobs, wives and kids for a week of canoeing in rural Georgia. When the men arrive, they are not welcomed by the backwoods locals, who stalk the vacationers and savagely attack them in the woods. Reeling from the ambush, the friends attempt to return home but are surrounded by dangerous rapids and pursued by a madman. Soon, their canoe trip turns into a fight for survival. 1972 thriller directed by John Boorman, and starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox, with the latter two making their feature film debuts. The screenplay was adapted by James Dickey from his 1970 novel of the same name. The film was a critical and box office success, earning three Academy Award nominations and five Golden Globe Award nominations. Widely acclaimed as a landmark picture, the film is noted for a music scene near the beginning, with one of the city men playing “Dueling Banjos” on guitar with a banjo-picking country boy, and for its notorious rape scene. In 2008, Deliverance was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

DESIERTO – 2015 Mexican-French thriller co-written and directed by Jonás Cuarón. The film stars Gael García Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. When their truck suddenly breaks down, a migrant named Moises leads 13 others on a trek through the harsh terrain along the U.S.-Mexico border. Inconvenience soon turns into horror as the sounds of gunfire shatter the tranquil desert landscape. Desperate and on the run, the survivors find themselves in a fight for their lives against a psychotic sniper and his vicious hunting dog. Moises must now use his wits and instincts to kill the relentless predator before he claims more victims.

DONNIE DARKO – 2001 science fiction psychological thriller film written and directed by Richard Kelly and produced by Flower Films. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Stu Stone, Daveigh Chase, and James Duval. Set in October 1988, the film follows Donnie Darko, a troubled teenager who narrowly escapes a bizarre accident and has visions of Frank, a mysterious figure in a rabbit costume who informs him that the world will end in 28 days. Frank begins to manipulate Donnie to commit several crimes.

DON’T BREATHE – Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex and Money are three Detroit thieves who get their kicks by breaking into the houses of wealthy people. Money gets word about a blind veteran who won a major cash settlement following the death of his only child. Figuring he’s an easy target, the trio invades the man’s secluded home in an abandoned neighborhood. Finding themselves trapped inside, the young intruders must fight for their lives after making a shocking discovery about their supposedly helpless victim.  2016 horror-thriller film produced and directed by Fede Álvarez, co-produced by Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, and co-written by Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues. The film stars Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, and Stephen Lang, and focuses on three friends who get trapped inside a blind man’s house while breaking into it.

ELLE A successful and ruthless video game company CEO attempts to track down the man who had assaulted her in her home. Soon, she is thrown into a massive cat-and-mouse chase with no end in sight. A 2016 thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by David Birke, based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Djian. The film stars Isabelle Huppert.

END OF WATCH – Longtime LAPD partners and friends, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) patrol one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Though they may bend the rules, their honor and dedication to the job are unquestioned. Taylor and Zavala always have each other’s back, even if Taylor’s surreptitious filming of their daily activities for a college course is a bit ill-advised. All hell breaks loose for the officers when they run afoul of a vicious Mexican cartel. 2012 action thriller film written and directed by David Ayer. The film focuses on their day-to-day police work, their dealings with a certain group of gang members, their friendship with each other, and their personal relationships.

ESCAPEE – Abby (Christine Evangelista) becomes the target of a mentally disturbed man (Dominic Purcell) after he sees her at a mental hospital. 2011 Directed by Campion Murphy. Slasher, Thriller.

THE FINEST HOURS – 2016 action thriller film directed by Craig Gillespie and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. The screenplay, written by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver, and Paul Tamasy, is based on The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. The film stars Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, John Ortiz, and Eric Bana, and chronicles the historic 1952 United States Coast Guard rescue of the crew of SS Pendleton, after the ship split apart during a nor’easter off the New England coast

FROZEN – 2010 American thriller written and directed by Adam Green and starring Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore and Kevin Zegers. It tells the story of three college students spending a weekend snowboarding and skiing. They become stuck in a chairlift while climbing Mount Holliston when the ski resort closes while they are still the on the chairlift. This forces the stranded survivors to make life-or-death choices, in order to avoid staying put and freezing to death.

THE GIFT – A 2015 psychological thriller written, co-produced, and directed by Joel Edgerton in his feature directorial debut, and co-produced by Jason Blum and Rebecca Yeldham. The film stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as a couple intimidated by a figure from Bateman’s past played by Edgerton.

GRAND PIANO –  2013 English-language Spanish thriller directed by Eugenio Mira and starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack. The film is about a once-promising pianist returning for a comeback performance, only to be the target of a sniper who will kill him if he plays one wrong note.

GRETA – 2018 psychological thriller -directed by Neil Jordan and written by Ray Wright and Jordan. The film stars Isabelle Huppert, Chloë Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore and Stephen Rea, and follows a young woman as she befriends a lonely widow who becomes disturbingly obsessed with her.

THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE – 1992 psychological thriller directed by Curtis Hanson, and starring Annabella Sciorra, Rebecca De Mornay, Matt McCoy, Ernie Hudson, and Julianne Moore. Its plot follows the pregnant wife of a Seattle obstetrician who kills himself after he is accused of sexual misconduct by his patients. The shock leads the wife to miscarry, after which she poses as a nanny for one of her husband’s accusers, and slowly begins to infiltrate the family.

THE HAPPENING  (See SIXTH SENSE) 2008 psychological science-fiction thriller written, co-produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, and Betty Buckley. An Indian-American production, the film follows a group of four as they try to escape an inexplicable natural disaster.

HOURS A new father (Paul Walker) must remain behind and try to keep his prematurely born daughter alive after Hurricane Katrina knocks out the power in their New Orleans hospital. A 2013 thriller film directed and written by Eric Heisserer.

HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET – 2012 psychological thriller directed by Mark Tonderai that stars Jennifer Lawrence. The film’s plot revolves around a teenage girl, Elissa, who along with her newly divorced mother Sarah, moves to a new neighborhood only to discover that the house at the end of the street was the site of a gruesome double murder committed by a girl named Carrie-Anne who disappeared without a trace. Elissa then starts a relationship with Carrie-Anne’s brother, Ryan, who lives in the same house.

JACK REACHER – One morning in an ordinary town, five people are shot dead in a seemingly random attack. All evidence points to a single suspect: an ex-military sniper who is quickly brought into custody. The man’s interrogation yields one statement: Get Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise). Reacher, an enigmatic ex-Army investigator, believes the authorities have the right man but agrees to help the sniper’s defense attorney (Rosamund Pike). However, the more Reacher delves into the case, the less clear-cut it appears. 2012 action thriller film written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, based on Lee Child’s 2005 novel One Shot. The film stars Tom Cruise as the title character, with Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo, Richard Jenkins, Jai Courtney, Werner Herzog, and Robert Duvall also starring.

JASON BOURNE – It’s been 10 years since Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) walked away from the agency that trained him to become a deadly weapon. Hoping to draw him out of the shadows, CIA director Robert Dewey assigns hacker and counterinsurgency expert Heather Lee to find him. Lee suspects that former operative Nicky Parsons is also looking for him. As she begins tracking the duo, Bourne finds himself back in action battling a sinister network that utilizes terror and technology to maintain unchecked power. 2016 American action-thriller directed by Paul Greengrass and written by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse. It is the fifth installment of the Bourne film series and a direct sequel to The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). Matt Damon reprises his role as the main character, former CIA assassin Jason Bourne.

JAWS – 1975 American thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name. In the film, a man-eating great white shark attacks beachgoers at a summer resort town, prompting police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) to hunt it with the help of a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter (Robert Shaw).

JOKER – 2019 American psychological thriller directed and produced by Todd Phillips, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver. The film, based on DC Comics characters, stars Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker and provides an alternative origin story for the character. Set in 1981, it follows Arthur Fleck, a failed clown and stand-up comedian whose descent into insanity and nihilism inspires a violent counter-cultural revolution against the wealthy in a decaying Gotham City. Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, and Marc Maron appear in supporting roles.

THE KINGDOM – Charged with the most important assignment of his career, federal agent Ron Fleury (Jamie Foxx) has one week to assemble a team, infiltrate and destroy a terrorist cell based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Culture shock and opposition from local law enforcement combine to hinder his progress and that of his elite team (Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman), but a sympathetic Saudi police captain becomes an unexpected comrade-in-arms. 2007 action thriller film directed by Peter Berg and starring Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, and Jennifer Garner. The film is set in Saudi Arabia, and is based on the incident of 1996 bombing of the Khobar housing complex , also on the 2004 Khobar massacre and the two 2003 bombings of four compounds in Riyadh.

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT – Mari and her friend look forward to a holiday at the remote Collingwood lakehouse, but instead an escaped convict (Garret Dillahunt) and his crew kidnap them and later leave them for dead. Mari makes her way back home, where her parents, John (Tony Goldwyn) and Emma (Monica Potter), have unwittingly offered shelter to the thugs. When John and Emma find out what happened to their daughter, they decide to make the strangers rue the day they harmed Mari. 2009 revenge horror-thriller directed by Dennis Iliadis and written by Carl Ellsworth and Adam Alleca. It is a remake of the 1972 film of the same name, and stars Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Garret Dillahunt, Spencer Treat Clark, Martha MacIsaac, and Sara Paxton.

LIMITLESS – 2011 American science fiction thriller directed by Neil Burger and written by Leslie Dixon. Based on the 2001 novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, the film stars Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro, Andrew Howard, and Anna Friel. The film follows Edward Morra, a struggling writer who is introduced to a nootropic drug called NZT-48, which gives him the ability to fully utilize his brain and vastly improve his lifestyle.

MAD DOGS – British psychological thriller television series (2011), written and created by Cris Cole, The series stars John Simm, Marc Warren, Max Beesley, and Philip Glenister as four long-time and middle-aged friends getting together in a villa in Majorca to celebrate the early retirement of their friend Alvo (Ben Chaplin). After Alvo is murdered, the group find themselves caught up in the world of crime and police corruption.

MURDER OF A CAT – When someone murders his beloved cat, Clinton (Kranz), an adult child, demands justice. Taking it upon himself to solve the case, he teams up with an unlikely ally, Greta (Reed), and the two set out to find the culprit lurking in their small suburban town. But as Clinton searches for the truth, he begins to uncover a conspiracy that goes far deeper than he anticipated. 2014 American independent thriller comedy film directed by Gillian Greene and starring Fran Kranz, Nikki Reed, J.K. Simmons, and Blythe Danner.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS – 2017 mystery thriller film directed by Kenneth Branagh with a screenplay by Michael Green, based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie. The film stars Branagh as Hercule Poirot, with Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley in supporting roles. The plot follows Poirot, a world-renowned detective, as he investigates a murder on the luxury Orient Express train service in the 1930s.

NIGHTCRAWLER – Los Angeles denizen Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) survives by scavenging and petty theft. He stumbles into a new career as a cameraman and — armed with a camcorder and police scanner — begins nocturnal forays across the city in search of shocking and grisly crimes. When he catches the eye of a shopworn news director (Rene Russo) who welcomes the chance to raise her station’s ratings, Louis goes to increasingly greater lengths to catch the “money shot.”  2014 American neo-noir thriller film written and directed by Dan Gilroy. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis “Lou” Bloom, a stringer who records violent events late at night in Los Angeles and sells the footage to a local television news station. Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, and Bill Paxton also star. A common theme in the film is the symbiotic relationship between unethical journalism and consumer demand. 2014 neo-noir thriller written and directed by Dan Gilroy. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis “Lou” Bloom, a stringer who records violent events late at night in Los Angeles and sells the footage to a local television news station. Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, and Bill Paxton also star. A common theme in the film is the symbiotic relationship between unethical journalism and consumer demand.

THE ONE I LOVE – A couple (Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss) whose marriage is crumbling have a surreal experience during a weekend getaway at a house recommended by their therapist (Ted Danson). 2014 fantasy thriller film directed by Charlie McDowell and written by Justin Lader, the film stars Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss.

PASSENGERS – Therapist Claire Summers (Anne Hathaway) receives an assignment by her mentor to counsel the five survivors of a plane crash. She feels particularly drawn to Eric (Patrick Wilson), the most-secretive of the group. Against her judgment, she becomes romantically involved with him, just as the other survivors mysteriously start to disappear. Believing that Eric knows more than he is telling, she vows to find the truth, no matter the outcome. 2008 romantic mystery thriller directed by Rodrigo García, written by Ronnie Christensen, and starring Anne Hathaway and Patrick Wilson.

PATRIOTS DAY – 2016 action thriller about the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 and the subsequent terrorist manhunt. Directed by Peter Berg and written by Berg, Matt Cook, and Joshua Zetumer, the film is based on the book Boston Strong by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. It stars Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J. K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, and Alex Wolff.

THE PERFECT HOST – A crook on the run cons his way into a dinner party whose host is anything but ordinary. Black comedy/psychological thriller. stars David Hyde Pierce and Clayne Crawford. 2010 American black comedy/psychological thriller written and directed by Nick Tomnay, a remake of Tomnay’s short film The Host (2001).

PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER – a 2006 period psychological thriller directed by Tom Tykwer and starring Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, and Dustin Hoffman. Tykwer, with Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil, also composed the music. The screenplay, by Tykwer, Andrew Birkin and Bernd Eichinger, is based on Patrick Süskind’s 1985 novel Perfume. Set in 18th century France, the film tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Whishaw), an olfactory genius, and his homicidal quest for the perfect scent.

PHONE BOOTH – A phone call can change your life, but for one man it can also end it. Set entirely within and around the confines of a New York City phone booth. “Phone Booth” follows a slick media consultant (Colin Farrell) who is trapped after being told by a caller — a serial killer with a sniper rifle — that he’ll be shot dead if he hangs up. 2002 neo-noir thriller film directed by Joel Schumacher, produced by David Zucker and Gil Netter, written by Larry Cohen and starring Colin Farrell, Forest Whitaker, Katie Holmes, Radha Mitchell, and Kiefer Sutherland. In the film, a mysterious hidden sniper calls a phone booth, and when a young publicist inside answers the phone, he quickly finds his life is at risk.

THE POST – Set in 1971, The Post depicts the true story of attempts by journalists at The Washington Post to publish the infamous Pentagon Papers, a set of classified documents regarding the 20-year involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War and earlier in French Indochina back to the 1940s. A 2017 historical political thriller directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. It stars Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, the longtime executive editor of The Washington Post, with Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon, Alison Brie, and Matthew Rhys in supporting roles.

THE RAVEN – 2012 American psychological crime thriller directed by James McTeigue, produced by Marc D. Evans, Trevor Macy and Aaron Ryder and written by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare.[7] It stars John Cusack, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson and Luke Evans. Set in 1849, it is a fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life, in which the poet and author pursues a serial killer whose murders mirror those in Poe’s stories. While the plot of the film is fictional, the writers based it on some accounts of real situations surrounding Edgar Allan Poe’s mysterious death. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name “Reynolds” on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. The title derives from Poe’s 1845 poem “The Raven”, in the similar manner of the earlier unrelated 1935 and 1963 films.

REGRESSION – A detective (Ethan Hawke) and a psychoanalyst (David Thewlis) uncover evidence of a satanic cult while investigating the rape of a traumatized teen (Emma Watson).  2015 psychological thriller horror mystery directed and written by Alejandro Amenábar. The film stars Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson, with David Thewlis, Lothaire Bluteau, Dale Dickey, David Dencik, Peter MacNeill, Devon Bostick, and Aaron Ashmore in supporting roles.

THE RIOT CLUB – 2014 British drama thriller directed by Lone Scherfig and written by Laura Wade, based on Wade’s 2010 play Posh. The film stars Sam Claflin, Max Irons and Douglas Booth. It is set among the Riot Club, a fictional all-male, exclusive dining club at the University of Oxford. When the play Posh premiered, the Riot Club was often described as a thinly veiled version of the real-life Bullingdon Club, although according to Wade it is entirely fictitious

RUN ALL NIGHT – 2015 action thriller -directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and written by Brad Ingelsby. The film stars Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Common, and Ed Harris and follows an ex-hitman who goes on the run with his estranged adult son after he is forced to kill the son of a mafia boss.

SANCTUM – Frank McGuire gets cut off from his team of divers on the expedition to explore an unmapped, underground network of caves. The divers’ lives hinge on their ability to find a way out. 2011 action-thriller directed by Alister Grierson and written by John Garvin and Andrew Wight. It stars Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, and Ioan Gruffudd.

SEARCHING – 2018 American mystery thriller directed by Aneesh Chaganty in his feature debut and written by Chaganty and Sev Ohanian. Set entirely on computer screens and smartphones, the film follows a father (John Cho) trying to find his missing 16-year-old daughter (Michelle La) with the help of a police detective (Debra Messing).

SECRET IN THEIR EYES – Rising FBI investigators Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Jess (Julia Roberts), along with Claire (Nicole Kidman), their district-attorney supervisor, are suddenly torn apart following the brutal murder of Jess’ teenage daughter. Thirteen years later, after obsessively searching for the elusive killer, Ray uncovers a new lead that he is certain can permanently resolve the case and bring long-desired closure to the team. But no one is prepared for the shocking and unspeakable secret that follows.  2015 American thriller written and directed by Billy Ray and a remake of the 2009 Argentine film of the same name, both based on the novel La pregunta de sus ojos by author Eduardo Sacheri. The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, and Michael Kelly.

SHOT CALLER – 2017 American crime thriller directed and written by Ric Roman Waugh. The film chronicles the transformation of a well-to-do family man into a hardened prison gangster, which he undergoes to survive California’s penal system after he is incarcerated for his role in a deadly DUI car accident. The film stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Omari Hardwick, Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal, Emory Cohen, Jeffrey Donovan, and Evan Jones, with Benjamin Bratt, and Holt McCallany.

SLEUTH – Andrew Wyke (Michael Caine) is a highly successful mystery writer living in a beautiful and technologically advanced mansion in England. Milo Tindle (Jude Law) is an unsuccessful actor with decidedly less to show for his professional exploits. The lives of these two men cross paths when Andrew’s wife leaves him for the younger Milo. Hoping to carry out a cleverly constructed revenge plot, Andrew invites Milo to his estate, where elaborate mind games ensue. 2007 thriller film directed by Kenneth Branagh. The screenplay by Harold Pinter is an adaptation of Anthony Shaffer’s play, Sleuth.

THE SNOWMAN – 2017 psychological thriller directed by Tomas Alfredson and written by Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan and Søren Sveistrup. The story is based on the novel of the same name by Jo Nesbø. The film stars Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, and J. K. Simmons, and follows inspector Harry Hole as he tracks a serial killer who builds snowmen at his crime scenes.

SOLACE – 2015 American mystery thriller directed by Afonso Poyart and starring Anthony Hopkins, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Abbie Cornish. The film is about a psychic doctor, John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins), who works with FBI special agent Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in search of serial killer Charles Ambrose (Colin Farrell).

SPIRAL – The story follows lonely introvert Mason, a telesales insurance company worker by day and talented painter as well as a lover of classic jazz by night. His only friend is his boss, Berkeley (Levi), who keeps an eye on him and humors his bizarre behaviour. When awkward Mason meets social Amber, a new co-worker, he begins to come out of himself, and reveals the depth and darkness of his mind. 2007 psychological thriller produced by Coattails Entertainment and Ariescope Pictures. The film stars Joel David Moore, Amber Tamblyn, Zachary Levi, and Tricia Helfer. Spiral was co-directed by Moore and Adam Green. The original screenplay for the film was written by Moore and Jeremy Danial Boreing.

STATE OF PLAY – 2009 political thriller directed by Kevin Macdonald. It is based on the 2003 British television serial of the same name. The film tells of a journalist’s (Russell Crowe) probe into the suspicious death of a congressman’s (Ben Affleck) mistress. The supporting cast includes Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, Robin Wright and Jeff Daniels.

THE STEPSON (2010) Donna May is a grief counselor who suddenly finds herself grieving and alone after the hit-and-run death of her husband, Robert. Soon after Robert’s death, Donna’s estranged adopted son, Kevin, appears at her house, claiming he has cleaned up his act and wants to regain her trust. Donna reluctantly takes Kevin in. With Christina Cox, Jon McLaren, Chris Potter, Adam Beach. Directed by Anthony Lefresne.

STOKER – After the untimely death of her father, India and her mother are left alone in their estate. Soon, the arrival of her uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, is followed by unexpected developments. 2013 psychological thriller written by Wentworth Miller, under the pen-name Ted Foulke, and directed by South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, in his English-language debut. It stars Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, and Nicole Kidman

THE SKIN I LIVE IN (Spanish: La piel que habito) Ever since his beloved wife was horribly burned in an auto accident, Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), a skilled plastic surgeon, has tried to develop a new skin that could save the lives of burn victims. Finally, after 12 years, Ledgard has created a skin that guards the body, but is still sensitive to touch. With the aid of his faithful housekeeper (Marisa Paredes), Ledgard tests his creation on Vera (Elena Anaya), who is held prisoner against her will in the doctor’s mansion. 2011 Spanish psychological thriller drama written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet, and Roberto Álamo. It is based on Thierry Jonquet’s 1984 novel Mygale, first published in French and then in English under the title Tarantula. Almodóvar has described the film as “a horror story without screams or frights”

THE USUAL SUSPECTS – 1995 neo-noir mystery thriller directed by Bryan Singer and written by Christopher McQuarrie. It stars Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite, and Kevin Spacey. The plot follows the interrogation of Roger “Verbal” Kint, a small-time con man, who is one of only two survivors of a massacre and fire on a ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles. Through flashback and narration, Kint tells an interrogator a convoluted story of events that led him and his criminal companions to the boat, and of a mysterious crime lord—known as Keyser Söze—who controlled them. The film was shot on a $6 million budget and began as a title taken from a column in Spy magazine called The Usual Suspects, after one of Claude Rains’ most memorable lines in the classic film Casablanca, and Singer thought that it would make a good title for a film.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN – Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton) is a travel writer/publisher who gives up her beloved freedom and bohemian lifestyle to have a child with her husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly). Pregnancy does not seem to agree with Eva, but what’s worse, when she does give birth to a baby boy named Kevin, she can’t seem to bond with him. When Kevin grows from a fussy, demanding toddler (Rocky Duer) into a sociopathic teen (Ezra Miller), Eva is forced to deal with the aftermath of her son’s horrific act. 2011 psychological thriller drama directed by Lynne Ramsay. The screenplay, written by Ramsay and Rory Stewart Kinnear, was based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Lionel Shriver

WIDOWS – 2018 heist thriller -directed by Steve McQueen from a screenplay by Gillian Flynn and McQueen, based upon the 1983 British television series of the same name.The plot follows four Chicago women who attempt to steal $5,000,000 from the home of a prominent local politician in order to pay back a crime boss from whom $2,000,000 was stolen by the women’s husbands before they were killed in a botched getaway attempt. A British-American co-production, the film features Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson in an ensemble cast.

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1900 (Italian: Novecento, “Twentieth Century”) Set in Bertolucci’s ancestral region of Emilia, this expansive period drama follows two childhood friends in northern Italy during the early 20th century. Alfredo Berlinghieri (Robert De Niro) and Olmo Dalcò (Gérard Depardieu) grow up as close companions despite their class differences. However, they drift apart as adults, Alfredo embracing his landowning heritage and Olmo championing workers’ rights. As the years go by, they see the rise of fascism in their country, and eventually their values find them directly in conflict. 1976 epic historical drama directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and featuring an international ensemble cast including Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu.

300 – In 480 B.C. a state of war exists between Persia, led by King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and Greece. At the Battle of Thermopylae, Leonidas (Gerard Butler), king of the Greek city state of Sparta, leads his badly outnumbered warriors against the massive Persian army. Though certain death awaits the Spartans, their sacrifice inspires all of Greece to unite against their common enemy. 2007 American epic period action film based on the 1998 comic series of the same name by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. Both are fictionalized retellings of the Battle of Thermopylae within the Persian Wars. The film was co-written and directed by Zack Snyder, while Miller served as executive producer and consultant. It was filmed mostly with a superimposition chroma key technique to replicate the imagery of the original comic book.

  • 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE – Xerxes sets out to control the major states of Greece with the help of his vast Persian army. Themistocles, the admiral of Athens, is forced to form an alliance with Sparta in order to save Athens. 2014 American epic action film written and produced by Zack Snyder and directed by Noam Murro. It is a sequel to the 2007 film 300, taking place before, during, and after the main events of that film, and is loosely based on the Battle of Artemisium and the Battle of Salamis. The cast includes Lena Headey, Peter Mensah, David Wenham, Andrew Tiernan, Andrew Pleavin, and Rodrigo Santoro reprising their roles from the first film, alongside Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Hans Matheson, and Callan Mulvey.

A MILLION COLOURS -A Million Colours, also called Colors of Heaven, is a 2011 film directed by Peter Bishai and co-written with Andre Pieterse. It is based on the lives of Muntu Ndebele and Norman Knox, actors in the film Forever Young, Forever Free, also known as e’Lollipop. It follows them from the success of the film around the time of the Soweto Uprising, through to the election of Nelson Mandela.

AGORA (Spanish: Ágora) – 2009 Spanish English-language historical drama directed by Alejandro Amenábar and written by Amenábar and Mateo Gil. The biopic stars Rachel Weisz as Hypatia, a mathematician, philosopher and astronomer in late 4th-century Roman Egypt, who investigates the flaws of the geocentric Ptolemaic system and the heliocentric model that challenges it. Surrounded by religious turmoil and social unrest, Hypatia struggles to save the knowledge of classical antiquity from destruction. Max Minghella co-stars as Davus, Hypatia’s father’s slave, and Oscar Isaac as Hypatia’s student, and later prefect of Alexandria, Orestes. The story uses historical fiction to highlight the relationship between religion and science at the time amidst the decline of Greco-Roman polytheism and the Christianization of the Roman Empire. The title of the film takes its name from the agora, a public gathering place in ancient Greece, similar to the Roman forum.

ARGO – An exfiltration specialist masquerades as a Hollywood producer in order to rescue six Americans who are held captive in Tehran during the US hostage crisis in Iran. 2012 historical drama thriller film directed by Ben Affleck. The film stars Affleck as Mendez, and Bryan Cranston.

BAARIA – From the 1920s through to the 80s, follow the story of Peppino, who comes from a poor shepherding family. The film tracks both Peppino’s romance with local beauty Mannina and his political awakening – which will take him to the upper reaches of the Communist Party – as well as the social changes within the town: life under the Fascists, the influence of the Mafia, and the dominance of the Catholic Church and Christian Democrats. 2009 Italian film directed by Giuseppe Tornatore.

THE BEGUILED is a 2017 Southern Gothic film written and directed by Sofia Coppola, based on the 1966 novel of the same name (originally published as A Painted Devil) by Thomas P. Cullinan. It stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning. Cpl. John McBurney is an injured Union soldier who finds himself on the run as a deserter during the Civil War. He seeks refuge at an all-female Southern boarding school where the teachers and students seem more than willing to help. Soon, sexual tensions lead to dangerous rivalries as the women tend to his wounded leg while offering him comfort and companionship.

BEN-HUR – Judah Ben-Hur, a nobleman, is sentenced to years of slavery after being accused of treason by his adopted brother, Messala. However, he returns to seek revenge by competing with him in a race. 2016 epic historical drama film directed by Timur Bekmambetov and written by Keith Clarke and John Ridley. It is the fifth film adaptation of the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. The film stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell, Nazanin Boniadi, Haluk Bilginer, and Rodrigo Santoro.

BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (French: Le Pacte des loups) The story takes place in 18th-century France, where the Chevalier de Fronsac and Mani of the Iroquois tribe are sent to investigate the mysterious slaughter of hundreds by an unknown creature in the province of Gévaudan. 2001 French period action horror film directed by Christophe Gans, co-written by Gans and Stéphane Cabel, and starring Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, Émilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel.

THE BUTLER – 2013 historical drama directed and co-produced by Lee Daniels and with a screenplay by Danny Strong. Loosely based on the real life of Eugene Allen, who worked in the White House for decades, the film stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, an African-American who is a witness of notable political and social events of the 20th century during his 34-year tenure serving as a White House butler.

CHURCHILL – A 2017 British historical war-drama directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, portrays Winston Churchill in June 1944 – especially in the hours leading up to D-Day. The film stars Brian Cox as the titular character with Miranda Richardson and John Slattery in supporting roles. Exhausted by years of war, Winston Churchill awaits the 1944 Normandy landings, which he believes will be a disaster.

CLEOPATRA – 1963 epic historical drama film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, with a screenplay adapted by Mankiewicz, Ranald MacDougall and Sidney Buchman from the 1957 book The Life and Times of Cleopatra by Carlo Maria Franzero, and from histories by Plutarch, Suetonius, and Appian. It stars Elizabeth Taylor in the eponymous role. Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Roddy McDowall, and Martin Landau are featured in supporting roles. It chronicles the struggles of Cleopatra, the young Queen of Egypt, to resist the imperial ambitions of Rome.

THE CONSPIRATOR – Following the assassination of President Lincoln, seven men and one woman are arrested and charged with conspiring to kill Lincoln, the vice president and the secretary of state. Lawyer Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) reluctantly agrees to defend the lone woman, Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), who owns a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and others met to plan their crimes. Aiken realizes that Mary may be innocent and being used as bait to capture her son, a suspect who is still at large. 2010 mystery historical drama film directed by Robert Redford and based on an original screenplay by James D. Solomon.

THE CRUCIBLE – After married man John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis) decides to break off his affair with his young lover, Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder), she leads other local girls in an occult rite to wish death upon his wife, Elizabeth (Joan Allen). When the ritual is discovered, the girls are brought to trial. Accusations begin to fly, and a literal witch hunt gets underway. Before long, Elizabeth is suspected of witchcraft, and John’s attempt to defend her only makes matters worse. 1996 American historical drama written by Arthur Miller adapting his 1953 play of the same title, inspired by the Salem witchcraft trials. It was directed by Nicholas Hytner and stars Daniel Day-Lewis as John Proctor.

THE CURRENT WAR – A 2017 historical drama film inspired by the 19th-century competition between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over which electric power delivery system would be used in the United States (often referred to as the “war of the currents”). Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, written by Michael Mitnick, and executive produced by Martin Scorsese and Steven Zaillian, the film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Edison, Michael Shannon as Westinghouse, Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla, and Tom Holland as Samuel Insull, alongside Katherine Waterston, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Macfadyen and Damien Molony.

DOWNTON ABBEY –  2019 historical drama film written by Julian Fellowes, creator and writer of the television series of the same name, and directed by Michael Engler. The film continues the storyline from the series, with much of the original cast returning. The film, set in 1927, depicts a visit by the King and Queen to the Crawley family’s English country house in the Yorkshire countryside. As the Royal staff descend on Downton, an assassin has also arrived and attempts to kill the monarch. The family and servants are pitted against the royal entourage, including the Queen’s lady-in-waiting, who has fallen out with the Crawleys, especially the Dowager Countess, over an inheritance issue.

THE EAGLE – Under the command of Flavius Aquila in A.D. 120, Rome’s Ninth Legion marches north carrying its revered eagle emblem and vanishing into the mists. Rumors of the legion’s golden eagle appearing in a tribal temple reach Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum), Flavius’ son, 20 years later. Accompanied by his slave (Jamie Bell), Marcus makes a dangerous journey to Scotland to retrieve the hallowed eagle and, in doing so, to restore his father’s tarnished honor. 2011 epic historical drama film set in Roman Britain directed by Kevin Macdonald, and starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and Donald Sutherland.

THE FAVOURITE – In the early 18th century, England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne occupies the throne, and her close friend Lady Sarah governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing, and Abigail sees a chance to return to her aristocratic roots. 2018 period black comedy directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, and written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. Set in early 18th century Great Britain, the film’s plot examines the relationship between cousins Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Masham (Emma Stone), who are vying to be Court favourite of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman).

FREE STATE OF JONES is a 2016 historical war film inspired by the life of Newton Knight and his armed revolt against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi, throughout the American Civil War. Written and directed by Gary Ross, the film stars Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, and Keri Russell.

THE IMITATION GAME A 2014 historical drama film directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Graham Moore, based on the 1983 biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. The title of the film quotes the name of the game Alan Turing proposed for answering the question “Can machines think?”, in his 1950 seminal paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”. The movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch as British cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who decrypted German intelligence messages for the British government during the Second World War. Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, and Mark Strong co-star as well.

THE KING’S SPEECH – 2010 British historical drama directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler. Colin Firth plays the future King George VI who, to cope with a stammer, sees Lionel Logue, an Australian speech and language therapist played by Geoffrey Rush. The men become friends as they work together, and after his brother abdicates the throne, the new king relies on Logue to help him make his first wartime radio broadcast upon Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1939.

THE LINE OF BEAUTY – The Line Of Beauty (2006) charts the relationship between Nick Guest, a gay, middle-class boy with a passion for Henry James, and the Feddens, a rich Tory family from Notting Hill.Nick meets Toby Fedden at Oxford and is attracted to him, so he is thrilled when he is invited to live with Toby’s family when university ends.During a hot summer in London, Nick befriends Catherine, Toby’s manic depressive sister, and falls in love with Leo, a black, socialist council worker.He becomes entranced by the powerful, privileged life led by the Feddens and their friends – a life untouched by the stark realities of 80s Britain: vast unemployment and the rise of AIDS. A story of love, class, sex and money set in the Thatcherite 80s. Framed by the two General Elections which returned Mrs Thatcher to power, The Line Of Beauty is set over four extraordinary years of change and tragedy. This outsider’s journey into the heart of the beautiful and seductive world of the social elite bristles with emotion, drama and social commentary. Full of style and wit, it is a richly textured coming-of-age story set in London during a ruthless decade. Adapted from Alan Hollinghurst’s novel by award-winning writer Andrew Davies.Directed by Saul Dibb

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS – 2018 historical drama directed by Josie Rourke (in her feature directorial debut) and with a screenplay by Beau Willimon based on John Guy’s 2004 biography Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart. The film stars Saoirse Ronan as Mary, Queen of Scots and Margot Robbie as her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, and chronicles the 1569 conflict between their two countries. Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant, and Guy Pearce also star in supporting roles.

THE NEW WORLD  (See TREE OF LIFE) 2005 historical romantic drama written and directed by Terrence Malick, depicting the founding of the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement and inspired by the historical figures Captain John Smith, Pocahontas of the Powhatan tribe, and Englishman John Rolfe. It is the fourth feature film written and directed by Malick. The cast includes Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, David Thewlis and Yorick van Wageningen.

OMAGH – 2004 film dramatising the events surrounding the Omagh bombing and its aftermath, co-produced by Irish state broadcaster RTÉ and UK network Channel 4, and directed by Pete Travis. It was first shown on television in both countries in May, 2004. Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden (Paul Kelly) was killed in the bombing, is played by Gerard McSorley, originally from Omagh. Out of respect for the residents of the town, it was filmed on location in Navan, County Meath, Republic of Ireland. The film ends with the Julie Miller song Broken Things, which was performed by local singer Juliet Turner at the memorial for the victims of the Omagh bombing.

PHANTOM THREAD – 2017 historical drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps. Set in 1950s London, it stars Day-Lewis as an haute couture dressmaker who takes a young waitress, played by Krieps, as his muse. The film was Day-Lewis’s final role] before his retirement.

THE POST – Set in 1971, The Post depicts the true story of attempts by journalists at The Washington Post to publish the infamous Pentagon Papers, a set of classified documents regarding the 20-year involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War and earlier in French Indochina back to the 1940s. A 2017 historical political thriller directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. It stars Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, the longtime executive editor of The Washington Post, with Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon, Alison Brie, and Matthew Rhys in supporting roles.

PRIDE – Realizing that they share common foes in Margaret Thatcher, the police and the conservative press, London-based gays and lesbians lend their support to striking coal miners in 1984 Wales. 2014 British historical comedy-drama film written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus. Based on a true story, the film depicts a group of lesbian and gay activists who raised money to help families affected by the British miners’ strike in 1984, at the outset of what would become the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign.

THE PROMISE – 2016 American historical drama film directed by Terry George and starring Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale, set in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. The plot is about a love triangle that develops between Mikael (Isaac), an Armenian medical student, Chris (Bale), a Paris-based American journalist, and Ana (Le Bon), an Armenian-born woman raised in France, immediately before the Armenian Genocide.

RISEN – Roman military tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) remains set in his ways after serving 25 years in the army. He arrives at a crossroad when he’s tasked to investigate the mystery of what happened to Jesus (Cliff Curtis) following the Crucifixion. Accompanied by trusted aide Lucius (Tom Felton), his quest to disprove rumors of a risen Messiah makes him question his own beliefs and spirituality. As his journey takes him to places never dreamed of, Clavius discovers the truth that he’s been seeking. A 2016 biblical drama film directed by Kevin Reynolds and written by Reynolds and Paul Aiello. The film stars Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Peter Firth, and Cliff Curtis, and details a Roman soldier’s search for Yeshua’s body following his resurrection.

SCHINDLER’S LIST – 1993 American epic historical drama directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the 1982 non-fiction novel Schindler’s Ark by Australian novelist Thomas Keneally. The film follows Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who together with his wife Emilie Schindler saved more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War II. It stars Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ralph Fiennes as SS officer Amon Göth and Ben Kingsley as Schindler’s Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern.

SILENCE – 2016 epic historical drama directed by Martin Scorsese and with a screenplay by Jay Cocks and Scorsese, based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. Set in Nagasaki, Japan, the film was shot in Taiwan, using studios in Taipei and Taichung and locations in Hualien County. The film stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, and Ciarán Hinds. The plot follows two 17th-century Jesuit priests who travel from Portugal to Edo-era Japan via Macau to locate their missing mentor and spread Catholic Christianity. The story is set in a time when it was common for the faith’s Japanese adherents to hide from the persecution that resulted from the suppression of Christianity in Japan during the Shimabara Rebellion (1637–1638) against the Tokugawa shogunate. These are now called the kakure kirishitan, or “hidden Christians”. It is the second filmed adaptation of Endō’s novel, following a 1971 film of the same name.

TRUTH – 2015 American historical political drama film written and directed by James Vanderbilt in his directorial debut. It is based on American television news producer Mary Mapes’s memoir Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power. The film focuses on the Killian documents controversy, and the resulting last days of news anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes at CBS News. It stars Cate Blanchett as Mapes and Robert Redford as Rather.

TULIP FEVER – 2017 historical romantic drama film directed by Justin Chadwick and written by Deborah Moggach and Tom Stoppard, adapted from Moggach’s 1999 novel of the same name. It stars an ensemble cast featuring Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Jack O’Connell, Holliday Grainger, Tom Hollander, Matthew Morrison, Kevin McKidd, Douglas Hodge, Joanna Scanlan, Zach Galifianakis, Judi Dench, and Christoph Waltz. The plot follows a 17th-century painter in Amsterdam who falls in love with a married woman whose portrait he has been commissioned to paint.

VICEROY’S HOUSE – Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, is tasked with dissolving the British rule and creating an independent Indian nation. A 2017 British-Indian historical drama film directed by Gurinder Chadha and written by Paul Mayeda Berges, Moira Buffini, and Chadha. The film stars Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, and Michael Gambon.

W.E. – 2011 British historical romantic drama film written and directed by Madonna and starring Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, Oscar Isaac, Richard Coyle and James D’Arcy. Dissatisfied with the way her own life is playing out, New York-based Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) becomes obsessed with the romance between American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and England’s Edward VIII (James D’Arcy) when Sotheby’s holds an auction of the royal couple’s belongings. Wally is especially drawn to Wallis’ side of the story, and as certain events transpire in her life, the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur.

THE WORLD UNSEEN – The World Unseen is a 2007 historical drama film, written and directed by Shamim Sarif, adapted from her own novel. The film is set in 1950s Cape Town, South Africa during the beginning of apartheid. The film stars Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth as two Indian South African women who fall in love in a racist, sexist, and homophobic society.

THE YOUNG MESSIAH is a 2016 biblical drama film directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh and co-written by Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh and Nowrasteh, based on the novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice. The film stars Adam Greaves-Neal, Sean Bean, David Bradley, Lee Boardman, Jonathan Bailey, and David Burke. The film revolves around a fictional interpretation of a seven-year-old Jesus, who tries to discover the truth about his life when he returns to Nazareth from Egypt.

When Marissa Kate Goodhill was graduating college and took a class in ‘Classic and Contemporary Fairy Tales’, it inspired her to craft the screenplay for Come Away, bringing Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland together as siblings and exploring the worlds that they came from.

At the heart of Come Away lies a tantalising ‘What if?’ — a question which forms a unique and ingeniously conceived prequel to two of the world’s most beloved and enduring pieces of children’s literature. What if, the film asks, Lewis Carroll’s Alice and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan were brother and sister?

Before Alice went to Wonderland, and before Peter became Pan, they were brother and sister. When their eldest brother dies in a tragic accident, they each seek to save their parents from their downward spirals of despair until finally they are forced to choose between home and imagination, setting the stage for their iconic journeys into Wonderland and Neverland.

The Origin of a Fantasy

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“I had taken a class that totally changed my life, called ‘Classic and Contemporary Fairy Tales,’” says Marissa Kate Goodhill, an L.A. native, who was raised on movies and magic in the hills of Laurel Canyon by a film editor Father and a mother who dabbled in all things creative.

“I did a deep dive into fairy tales and was deeply moved and drawn to the darkness of some of those original stories. They are very much cautionary tales for children; they’re trying to get children to understand the world they live in. In the midst of all that, I read the original Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland while exploring them as a co-artistic director of a college dance theatre troupe. A movie immediately began forming in my mind. I hadn’t realised how much darkness was in those stories and how they felt very common, but also such opposite representations of childhood: Alice just desperately wants to grow up, which is how I was when I was a kid, and then Peter never wants to grow up.”

Marissa Goodhill (@marisskate) | Twitter

Always an avid reader and lover of fairytales, it was her background in dance and choreography that finally led her to screenwriting. While in college she became co-artistic director of a dance theater company, and it was through creating full length visual narratives for the stage that she realized screenwriting and choreography share the same spine: visual storytelling. In the years that have followed, this conviction has continued to deepen and grow with experience.

Goodhill was further inspired by writer-director Guillermo Del Toro’s 2006 dark fairy-tale masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. “I thought it so beautifully explored what I’m trying to explore with Come Away, which is: what happens in our life that causes us to create fantasy, and what role does fantasy serve in our lives?” 

As she researched further, she learned that Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie had a brother who died when he was young, and even once put on his brother’s clothes to try and get his grieving mother’s attention. That, she says, was when the idea really started to gel, of connecting Peter and Alice via a sibling who is tragically taken from them.

“I liked the idea of giving these stories context and contour, and exploring how they could serve as different but complementary explorations of the way we all react to our lives.”

Goodhill met and pitched the idea to producer Leesa Kahn in 2011, who instantly thought, “Wow. What a brilliant idea. Let’s go for it,” and encouraged the writer to take it to script.

“I loved the idea of bringing Peter Pan and Alice together as siblings and exploring the worlds that they came from and the reasons they took their iconic journeys into Wonderland and Neverland,” says Kahn. “It was such a beautiful thing to explore. What is so beautiful about the story is it’s about how children deal with tragedy, and the resilience of children, and how one’s imagination becomes such a strong supporter, and such strong comfort, in those times of grief.”

Kahn’s fellow producers would be just as impressed by the idea, and the completed script itself, not least because it was Goodhill’s first.

“It felt like the story was written by an old soul,” says Steven Richards, of Endurance Media. “I was surprised to learn it was Marissa’s first script, but nonetheless was drawn to the clever idea of a prequel to both of these stories. Marissa truly not only captured a raw realism about tragedy and family, but also captured the magic of being a kid, and how to use imagination to cope with hardship.”

James Spring, of Fred Films, agrees. “I was impressed by the skill with which Marissa had woven together those two stories,” he says, “and then created an extremely dramatic catalyst for those journeys, which she handled so elegantly in the way she’d written the screenplay.”

The Perfect Marriage

“It is not in doing what you like, but in liking what you do that is the secret of happiness.” — J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

The key to making Come Away truly fly was finding the right director: one with the correct sensibility to breath it to life on screen, one who could embrace the fantastical elements and allow them to flourish without losing sight of the story’s firm grounding in tough reality. “It required a careful hand,” says Spring, “someone who could create a film that can play broadly to a family audience while still dealing with the death of a child.”

Brenda Chapman Discusses Brave | The Mary Sue
Brenda Chapman

The answer was to look beyond the world of live-action cinema. “We really wanted a female director,” says Kahn, “and Brenda Chapman, coming from a story background and animation background, seemed like the perfect choice.”

Brenda Chapman started her career as a story artist at Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1987, where she worked on films such as The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, the Oscar nominated Beauty And The Beast, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Fantastia 2000. Chapman was the story supervisor on the original The Lion King, for which she won the Annie Award. Chapman then helped launch DreamWorks Animation Studios, where she codirected the 1998 release of the Oscar winning Prince Of Egypt. Chapman was the first woman to direct an animated feature for a major Hollywood studio.  She joined Pixar Animation Studios in September 2003. Chapman then created, wrote and directed Brave – inspired by her relationship with her daughter – for which she was the first woman to win an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film. She is working on several projects in different stages of development for ‘Twas Entertainment, which she co-owns with her husband, filmmaker Kevin Lima. (Enchanted, A Goofy Movie, Disney’s Tarzan).

The material and Brenda’s sentiment formed “the perfect marriage”, according to Spring. “It’s relatively tricky material to handle until you look at it in the context of what Brenda’s handled in the past in the animation she’s directed.”

As the co-director of Pixar’s Brave, for example, Chapman blended the dark-edged terror of the demon bear Mor’du with a bright family adventure; in DreamWorks’ The Prince of Egypt, she dealt with the Ten Plagues and the death of Rameses’ son in the context of an animated musical.

Chapman’s experience creating such artful worlds made her ideally suited to Come Away, feels Kahn.

“The story is so beautifully and intricately written, and nuanced and really visual. There are so many moments from both Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland that are intricately woven into the story. It just seemed like a no-brainer to get someone who has a very visual story background to helm the film.”

“When you look at her previous work, you immediately know she’s a really smart director. She is  able to keep so much in her head, yet filter it down to pure storytelling in reality,” adds Richards. “She’s a very visual communicator.”

Chapman confesses she had never pursued the idea of doing a live-action film. “I have many colleagues in animation who say, ‘Ooh, I want to do real films,’ and I roll my eyes and say, ‘What we do isn’t real?’” she laughs. “I think what we do actually touches more people and lasts longer than a lot of live-action films. But I read the script and thought, ‘Wow, if I ever was going to do one, this one would be it.’ It was just a really interesting, beautiful take on the two stories, a magical read. It has many elements of what I dealt with in animation, and was still within my world as a storyteller, because I love fantasies. But this brings fantasy into the real world, which I’ve never had the ability to do in animation. It was the whole enchilada, so to speak.”

Finding The Littletons

“When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

For Chapman, the most interesting aspect of Goodhill’s script was the way she portrayed the family, and their tragedy. “It’s something I don’t get to explore too deeply in animation. Yes, there are moments — I worked on The Lion King and dug into Mufasa’s death — but you don’t dwell on them too much, you don’t get to explore them. So that was a big draw for me. I thought, ‘This is a way I can take a look at that, and really work with the actors on what that means.’”

The casting of the Littletons was crucial. Everything depended on them being convincing as a creative, loving family, suffering harsh reality while being able to sweep themselves away on flights of fancy.

The first actor cast was David Oyelowo, the British-Nigerian performer lauded for his performances as Martin Luther King Jr in 2014’s Selma and as Louis Gaines in 2013’s The Butler. Once he’d read the script, Oyelowo did not need much convincing to take the role. “I was blown away by how imaginative it was,” he explains. “I became very passionate about it very quickly. Being a father of four myself, one of my biggest challenges when it comes to films is being able to find one that isn’t animation that we can all enjoy together, but is also thought-provoking for the adults and worthy of the big screen all at the same time. This ticked all those boxes for me.”

Come Away - what if Alice and Peter Pan were brother & sister?

Not only did Oyelowo leap aboard to play Jack, he also joined as a producer. “Whenever I become passionate about something, I just start trying to put it together,” he laughs. “Like, ‘When are we shooting it, how, and what do we need to do?’ I let them know very quickly that’s how I felt about this, and thankfully for me, having a bit of a track record as a producer in my own right, they saw the value.”

“We saw that David would be a real asset,” says Spring. “And he has been all the way through the film-making process. One of his first contributions was to speak to and make the suggestion of Angelina Jolie coming in to play Rose.”

However, due to Jolie’s limited availability, all the house-interior sets had to be entirely rebuilt on a soundstage in the San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles, by a different crew, for the final month of the shoot. “Angelina loved the script, she wanted to do it, but she said, ‘The only way I can do it is if we shoot it in Los Angeles,’” says Richards. “We said we were happy to do that, but there is a big challenge to doing it. Any changing of location is a tremendous added complexity.”

Folk tales and history from the English shores - Chinadaily.com.cn

While Oyelowo and Angelina Jolie, who plays Rose, had never been in a movie together before, they are friends, whose children regularly have playdates. “We met at a birthday party several years ago and we instantaneously did a deep dive about being actors in Hollywood whilst also being parents, all that kind of stuff,” he says. He thought Jolie would be ideal for the role of Rose, mother to Peter and Alice, even though it’s not the kind of role audiences would expect of her.

“I don’t think we’ve really had the opportunity to see Angie as a parent, not to kids of a similar age to her own kids, but that’s mainly how I know her. A lot of people might think, ‘Whoa, bad-ass Angelina Jolie as a mother of three in idyllic England in the late 1800s? Uh, give me a minute…’” he laughs. “But when I read the script, it felt very natural to me.”

Chapman agrees that, on the surface, it seems an unusual choice, but Jolie brought a real authenticity to the part. “She was determined to feel like a Victorian mother as opposed to a modern mother, with a reserved quality but also with such a warmth coming from her for those children. She did a beautiful job. She was also very excited, as was David, about the Littleton’s being an interracial family, because they both have interracial children. It had an appeal to them to put something like that on screen.”

It was never the intention to make Peter, Alice and David biracial; indeed, race is never mentioned in Goodhill’s script. “I just felt David was the right person for the role,” says Chapman, “and I thought about it and realised we didn’t have to change one word of the script to accommodate anything.”

“I’m really grateful they approached me,” says Oyelowo. “I’m the first person who was approached to play Jack, and so obviously you have to acknowledge what that means, casting-wise for the children, and it’s proved to be a really wonderful added layer to the story.”

I Haven't Forgotten How to Dream" – Come Away (Film Review) - Filmhounds  Magazine

When Goodhill heard about the casting of Oyelowo, her first instinct was to rewrite. “I didn’t want it to feel tacked on, I wanted to make sure it felt intentional,” she admits. But then, on consideration, she agreed with Chapman. “I realised, ‘Oh my God, I don’t need to change a word, it just works.’ Then of course I did all the research and making sure that historically this would make sense — and it totally would. Actually, the way films depict this era is so whitewashed. There was way more diversity in Victorian England than you would ever think from watching any movie. Those are not historically accurate. This is historically accurate.”

“I’m sure there are going to be some people who get a bit up in arms about it,” says Chapman, “but, you know, times they be a’ changin’, and it’s time to broaden our horizons a little bit and think outside the box. And I think it’s quite lovely to open up these stories. Peter Pan doesn’t have to be a red-headed boy and Alice doesn’t have to be a little blonde girl.”

Finding three biracial children of the right ages, who individually and as a trio had the right qualities to play the Littleton siblings, proved a challenge and found those children in Reece Yates, Jordan Nash and Keira Chansa.

Come Away' movie review: 'Peter Pan' and 'Alice' prequel/mashup is lovely  but not fully grown | The Seattle Times

This impressive family unit forms the heart of a film which also boasts an amazing supporting cast. Anna Chancellor took the role of Rose’s overbearing sister Eleanor, Sir Michael Caine as Jack’s friend Charlie; Sir Derek Jacobi as Mr. Brown, a client of Jack’s; David Gyasi as shadowy crime-lord C.J.; Clark Peters as a mercury-poisoned pawn-shop owner known as Hatter; and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who plays the adult Alice for the film’s prologue and epilogue. All were hooked by Goodhill’s script.

“It had something that caught people’s imaginations, and I think there’s also a joy to be playing those characters,” says Spring. Each of them, after all, has their equivalent in either Barrie or Carroll’s source stories. “Mr. Brown is the Mock Turtle, Charlie is the Walrus, C.J is Captain Hook… I think there is something incredibly attractive about the way those roles are written, and presented in this film. Also, obviously, it was a joy for us all as the filmmakers to have the likes of Michael Caine, Derek Jacobi, Gugu, Clark and David Gyasi onset. I think they bring something incredible and fantastical to the film.”

'Come Away': How Brenda Chapman created a woke fairy tale

Neverland, Wonderland and Victorian England

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” — J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Despite depicting the creation, or discovery, of two iconic fantasy worlds, Come Away was never going to be reliant on visual effects. “I didn’t want this to be in the vein of the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland,” explains Chapman. “I didn’t feel the need to try and compete with that, or try to fit into that arena. I felt the story had a grounded humaneness to it. I didn’t want to go overboard with the effects. We only use visual effects to augment the real world.”

To help craft these interconnected worlds, Chapman and the producers enlisted the help of Oscar-winning production designer Luciana Arrighi (Howard’s End, Sense and Sensibility) and veteran costume designer Louise Stjernsward (The Passenger, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), with Jules O’Loughlin (The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Angel Has Fallen) coming on board as cinematographer

“I loved the script,” adds Stjernsward. “I especially loved its ethnic quality. When you do Victorian films, you usually get the same old people who turn up to play the Victorian crowd. But we had these wonderful-looking people turning up to dress, which I thought looked great. For a designer, it was a fabulous job.”

As specified in Goodhill’s script, there are numerous visual references to both Barrie and Carroll’s worlds dotted throughout the film: Alice has a toy white rabbit and is given a tinker’s bell as a gift by her mother, while Peter carries a looking glass, and has a self-drawn map of Neverland.

“It was fun trying to find moments that weren’t too ‘bump on the head,’” says Chapman. “Some of them are more subtle than others. For example, Charlie is seen eating oysters like the Walrus, and Mr. Brown is eating mock turtle soup when we meet him.”    The most important location was the Littletons’ house, which had to both feel like a real home, but also the kind of place that would feed the children’s voracious imaginations. “I wanted a little fairy-tale house,” says Chapman. “Something that spoke of stories, of fantasy. I didn’t want this plain, brick building, but something that had character that would inspire this family’s creativity.”

Arrighi confesses she was concerned about the move to Los Angeles. “I’ve never worked in Los Angeles, I’ve only been honoured and gone to parties there,” she says. “I love working with British teams, so I dreaded it. But then when I went there and they started building, I thought, ‘This is amazing.’ The LA crew did a jolly good job.”

The relocation to Los Angeles proved something of an adventure for the young cast, at least. “It was amazing seeing all the beaches and the fairs,” says Nash. “And Angelina was really nice. She invited us to an arcade with her kids and gave us a card where we could have unlimited plays. Then we went to her house, which had a big swimming pool.”

Between the two Littleton house shoots that bookended principal photography, the focus was primarily on the London locations, including the grand locale of Somerset House and the docks of Butler’s Wharf. This part of the shoot was particularly enjoyable for Oyelowo. “I’ve lived in London for most of my life, and on this film I feel like I’ve seen more of London, and am more aware of hidden London, than I hitherto was,” he says. “Myself and Michael Caine did a scene in a very old pub that was just tiny, but you could tell it had barely changed in the intervening 200 years. Another incredible moment was when we were at Syon House, and the scene I was doing with Derek Jacobi was in an amazing area called the Gallery Room, which was the very room that Pocahontas had walked down when she was visiting the UK. One location that really sticks in my mind was the House of Detention, which is where people were stowed before they were transported to Australia. What an eerie, weird place, right there in Clerkenwell.”

As impressive as it was, this subterranean location wasn’t the easiest place to film. “It was such a difficult shoot, because it’s such an old, mouldy place,” says Chapman. “We had to keep going upstairs to get fresh air and then come back down again. It was a genuine, scary old place.”

The final, and arguably most significant location was Windsor Great Woods, which formed the verdant backdrop to the Littleton children’s creative outdoor play and the imaginative entranceway to both Neverland and Wonderland. “Brenda has put her own visual stamp on the fantasy worlds of the children,” says Kahn. “She brought the environment that they live in into their fantasy world in an organic way. She wanted to use colours within the forest environments to represent each child’s world and each child’s fantasy. So she’s brought a really distinctive voice to the way in which these children escape into their worlds.”

Chapman also chose to frame many scenes with dense foliage, as if the audience is peeking through a bush, or the branches of a tree. “It’s the framework for their story,” Chapman says, “or a frame for a picture. It makes you feel like you’re watching the story, but you’re also in there as part of it. That’s how I always felt watching animation. I’ve always felt like animation is like opening a story book and then being able to go into it. That’s the approach I was taking to telling this story.”

While Come Away is Chapman’s first-ever live-action movie, she hardly seemed like a newcomer to her cast and fellow crew. “Not only does it not seem like her first live-action movie,” says Oyelowo, “I can really feel the benefit of working with someone who as an animation director had to focus very keenly on structure, on framing, and on being very economical with which story beats are necessary for the story. There’s an efficiency to the way she works, and a laser focus when it comes to what story beats we need.”

Finding the Balance

“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.” — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Walking the line between tragedy and adventure, grief and fantasy, darkness and light, was one of the toughest parts of crafting Come Away, especially during the editing process.  

“What Brenda has done,” says Spring, “is create a movie that has the tricky elements and does go there — a sibling dies, it’s the catalyst for journey, you can’t escape it — but which allows the audience to feel not only the grief that the family are feeling, but also the resolutions for each of the characters.”

Goodhill recognises that there is a “bittersweetness” to the film but, she says, “Hopefully there’s a heavier dose of hope than despair at the end. I want the audience to leave the cinema feeling uplifted, but also impacted. And I want the film to leave them with a sense of wonder.”

It is also a movie which, for all its creators, needs to be as appealing to children as it is to adults — a true family experience. “I hope that children watching will be able to identify with these kids and see that it’s okay to have a very broad imagination, and it’s okay to play within that space,” says Kahn. “And I think that adults will understand that it’s okay to feel your feelings and to react to them, and to find your child and give them a big hug.”

Chapman believes it is imagination which connects us all, young and old, whether it takes us away to an eternal childhood on a wild and distant island, or down a rabbit hole into a phantasmagorical dream-world reflection of our own reality — or anywhere else for that matter. You do not need to be deeply familiar with Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland to appreciate Come Away. “Watching it, I want people to get how important our imaginations are, how important it is to find that inner emotion in you,” the director says. “To let your inner subconscious come out, your soul even, like these children’s souls come out to deal with their grief, to heal them and enable them to move forward. We all do it differently, and it’s okay to find your own path.”

The film also, of course, provides an exciting new way of experiencing these two very well-known stories, making them more accessible than ever before.

“So much of what you’ve experienced will inform you as you watch this story,” Chapman concludes. “You’ll have your own ideas of what these stories are, and then you’ll find this new way to interpret them. Not only because Peter and Alice are brother and sister, which has never been done before, but also the fact that they’re now interracial versions of those characters. It’s a whole new look at these stories and what they may mean to people.”

“This is a universal story,” affirms Oyelowo. “This is a story that hopefully has appeal for everyone, because it really goes to the heart of things. That’s why I had to be a part of it.”

Award-winning French novelist, playwright and director Florian Zeller makes his feature film directing debut with The Father, which he adapted for film from his celebrated stage play with British writer Christopher Hampton, his long-time collaborator and translator.

It is an inescapable fact of life that for every relationship between a parent and a child, there is a moment in time where the child becomes a carer, and the parent a dependent.

This is at the core of The Father, a beautifully wrought family drama that brings together Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman in a heart-rending account of what happens when a relationship which has coloured our every waking moment for decades suddenly and irrevocably changes.

In The Father, Hopkins plays the eponymous role of a mischievous and highly independent man who, as he ages, refuses all assistance from his daughter Anne (Colman). Yet,such help has become essential following Anne’s decision to move to Paris with her partner.As Anne’s father tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.

Florian Zeller is an award-winning French novelist, playwright and director. He is, according to the Times of London, “the most exciting playwright of our time”. He has written more than 10 plays, including The Father, The Mother, The Truth, The Lie, The Height of the Storm and most recently The Son, which premiered in London in 2019. His plays have been staged in more than 45 countries. The Father, is one of the outstanding hits of recent years and was described as “the most acclaimed new play of the last decade” by the Guardian, and has won several awards in Paris, London and New York. The Father is Zeller’s first film as a director.

Florian Zeller, who has moved into cinema from the world of theatre, is accustomed to building a relationship with the audience which he describes in French as “ludique” – best understood as “playful”. Far from film’s common role as a naturalistic medium, audiences will discover that what we see on the screen does not necessarily give us a true version of the world.

In The Father we experience the world through the prism of the character Anthony’s confusion, as his dementia set in motion a gradual decline effecting every part of his reality.

But this is not just a film about dementia, and he is more than an unreliable narrator. He is at the centre of a struggle which gives The Father elements of both thriller and horror – with Anthony’s mind as the unremitting nemesis.

In the words of the director, the audience should feel as if they are “groping their way through a labyrinth.”

Despite such apparently dark subject matter, The Father is built on a foundation of human empathy, with moments of laughter and even a sense of joy. It celebrates the unbreakable bond between parent and child as they are locked together on a journey into the unknown.

The close relationship between frequent writer-translator collaborators Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton

Florian Zeller_Christopher Hampton_glikas_ (2).jpg
Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton

Over the course of the shoot Parfitt remembers a very companionable atmosphere –particularly the close relationship between frequent writer-translator collaborators Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton.

The project would not have been possible without Christopher Hampton’s instinct that Zeller, relatively unknown outside of his native France, was an international talent. Zeller frequently and publicly pays tribute to Hampton’s work, and for introducing him and his writing to an English-speaking audience.

“My resume would tell people that The Father is not the first time I have worked with Florian,” says Hampton with a smile. “I started my career in the theatre by working with dead people such as Laclos, the author of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. I’d seen Florian’s play La Verite (The Truth) and I could tell that he was one to watch. Then I heard good reports of Le Pere (The Father) and when I saw the play, it knocked me out. I met Florian and asked him for permission to translate it, as I thought it was the ideal play with which to introduce Florian to British audiences. Florian has always trusted what I do to his plays.”

The pair are faced with a dilemma every time they bring out a new production: should it be set in London or in Paris? In choosing the location of The Father there was no context to guide them.

Hampton remarks: “With The Son, we really believed that it had to have a French setting because of the differences that exist between the French and British systems for treating depression and The Son had to reflect that difference.”

While they set the play of The Father in Paris, and chose London for the film, they never feared this would make it harder to access for audiences.

As Hampton says: “Florian’s work finds an audience all over the world.”

These are human emotions, human connections, and human empathy – the setting is in most ways irrelevant.

In making his debut as film director with his own adaptation of his hit play, Zeller has taken to this new discipline with a calm manner and charming attitude. Zeller wishes to play with a cinema audience in the way he enjoys manipulating a theatre audience.

Describing The Father, he comments that “In a way it’s like a thriller. It asks the audience to be part of the story by building a narrative, as I had done in the theatre. I wanted the audience to feel closer to the characters. With Tony (Anthony Hopkins) as Anthony, we had an actor who has always had a powerful presence on screen. But it was fascinating for me to watch him working with Olivia (Colman) who in my opinion is the greatest actress working at this time.

The story is about that moment when you become your parents’ parent, and Anne, played by Olivia is at the heart of the narrative. She has to decide if she is going to lead her life or lead her father’s life.”

He continues: “for me writing is a lot like dreaming and it was only when I saw the plays in production that I realised what I’d written. Theatre and the movies remind you that you are part of something bigger than yourself. Despite its labyrinthine qualities, there is also a distinct sense of joy about the play which I wanted to keep.”

Hampton is also careful to emphasise that The Father is not a medical treatise.

“It is not about a medical condition and the people who suffer from it,” he explains. “The Father tries to find an artistic way of presenting the way dementia affects the people around the patient – those who suffer the fall-out. I’d also argue that the screenplay is surprisingly funny.”

Parfitt agrees, describing the film as “in parts, almost a black comedy”.

Olivia Colman, Anthony Hopkins' 'The Father' Gets Release Date - Variety

Bringing Zeller’s vision from the stage to the silver screen

Producers David Parfitt, Phillippe Carcassonne, and Jean-Louis Livi. Phillippe and Jean-Louis were responsible for the acquisition of the film rights and the project’s initial development in France, and Parfitt joined the team to help ferry it across the channel and into production.

Livi previously produced a short, directed by Zeller, and once word got out about Zeller’s feature screenplay for The Father, the two were keen to work together again.

The Father was to be Zeller’s first feature film as a director, but the producers and other insiders were confident that Zeller’s talent and personal connection to the project made him the only choice.

Parfitt, who formed both the Renaissance Theatre Company and then Renaissance Films with Kenneth Branagh, was solely responsible for bringing The Father from stage to screen. However, he protests that he played a more minor role in the early stages of development.

Parfitt maintains, “A lot of my work starts in the theatre and I still produce in the theatre. I saw the play in the West End, and every scene surprised and engaged me. The narrative is meant to confuse, but what was so striking were the elements in the play of a thriller. The gradual realisation was masterful, but like Anthony – you’re not meant to find your way out of the maze. I knew the film rights to The Father were unavailable, so I didn’t pursue it, but you could see immediately how this play could be made into a film.”

According to Parfitt, the success of this transition is chiefly down to Zeller’s clarity of vision, and Carcassonne agrees.

Trademark Films' David Parfitt Joins London-Based Bob & Co – Deadline
David Parfitt

“Florian has the extraordinary ability to adapt himself to whichever set of circumstances he finds himself in”, says Carcassonne. “He demonstrated a resilience which we all know is essential to film development and was instrumental in attracting the best of British acting talent in The Father. It is on the strength of his passion and the quality of his screenplay that we were able to attract the people we wanted to support the leads. We ended up with big names in relatively small roles.”

Once the trio had secured the cast and crew, production ran smoothly for the five-week shoot.

“Filmmaking is a pretty standard experience in whichever part of the world you find yourself,” Carcassonne continues. “But life on The Father set was a very comfortable experience. We weren’t too worried about Florian’s lack of directing experience, because experience can be as much a curse as a blessing in a director. But it was a pretty smooth ride. I think that what matters is the nature of the characters you see: ordinary people who are trying to deal with basic issues. I haven’t had direct experience of decline and confusion in old age, but my mother is ninety now and although she’s very spry, it may soon happen that I’ll be faced with overcoming that last trial. Besides, I don’t feel that the subject of the film is really dementia. It’s more to do with making amends and the changing relationship we have with our parents.”

Casting The Father

The Father' Movie Review: Anthony Hopkins Will Destroy You

“When I started working on the adaptation of my play, the face that came and came again to my mind was always Anthony Hopkins” says Zeller.

“I had the profound conviction he would be so powerful and devastating in this part. He was at the beginning of my desire to make this film. This is the only reason for my decision to do it in English: it was a way to come to him. In that sense, he was part of my dream. That’s why the main character’s name is Anthony.”

Christopher Hampton’s relationship with Anthony Hopkins stretched back for more than forty years to the early 1970s and a dramatization of The Good Father.

Zeller and Hampton flew to LA to discuss Hopkins playing the role of Anthony: “we approached him and he agreed to do it almost immediately,” says Hampton, “but then we had to wait patiently for his availability!”

Hopkins and Zeller struck an immediate rapport. “I knew Christopher Hampton from having worked with him several times in the past. I knew that it was going to be a relatively small cast and crew. Everything was so compact: it felt almost as if we were working in a cottage industry. I was delighted to hear from Florian that the screenplay of The Father had been written with me in mind. If that is the case, I feel very flattered and honoured.”

“Working on this film,” he continues, “has concentrated my mind on my own mortality. In away, I half-feel that I might avoid contracting dementia by making it! We had a lot of fun on set trying to memorize Florian’s conversational style of dialogue. In some ways, by the time the cameras were on me, no acting was required!”

“I’m eighty-two now and I’ve managed to survive past the age my father was when he died. I think I understood Anthony from the beginning – in a way it was like playing my father.”

When questioned on his own age and possible retirement, Hopkins response is typically strong: “I’d die if I ever gave up the business. I must be an old warrior! A survivor!”

The Father Reviews - Metacritic

Though international recognition for Olivia Colman’s extraordinary talent has only relatively recently emerged, the actress has been producing diverse and critically acclaimed work in the UK for many years. Her steady, global rise culminated last year in her receiving the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in The Favourite.

She is also forthright with her praise for Zeller’s writing and the film’s cast:

“I completely love this story. It’s one of the most beautifully written scripts about this subject. The script really shows what it must be like to live the life of a man suffering from Alzheimer’s, when there are moments of clarity mixed with moments of obscurity. Anne wants to care for her father, but she also has to live her life. She must make some very hard decisions.”

Discussing what drew her to The Father in particular, Colman says, “For me, it’s always the writing that clinches it. If the script is good enough, that’s the way I’ll go.” She adds, “Some first-time directors can become a bit precious about their work. But Florian has been the opposite: incredibly generous, kind, and understanding. He’s a really lovely man and he’s the only one who properly understands what’s going on in the film. Christopher Hampton who has co-written and translated the screenplay has also been very supportive and it’s been very lovely to come into work when everybody has been so nice.”

One of the ideas expressed in the script of The Father is its universal application – how few of us are likely to escape some kind of direct exposure to the themes of the film. This resonated with Colman.

“My lovely mum was a nurse specialising in geriatric care, and I remember as a child watching her with her patients. My parents are still young enough to take care of themselves, and the roles have not yet been reversed. But I saw my mum looking after granny, and so it won’t be long before I have to step up to the plate.”

Discussing the way in which the set and screenplay cause the audience to question the ‘reality’ they’re watching, Colman continues: “The use of the set has been brilliant. You see that Anthony starts off comfortable and at home in his flat, but gradually he sees that there has been a series of small, incremental changes. It is terrifying to think of your world shifting beneath your feet when you’ve lost the ability to comprehend the change. I’ve read the script again and again, but for all the complexity I think at its heart it very simple. It’s about loss and love, and the way you suffer when the person you love no longer knows you. The script is beautifully written and very moving. ”

The Idea for the film Nobody, a home invasion that propels an underestimated, overlooked man to tap into his most lethal and ruthless instincts to keep his family safe, a wish-fulfillment fantasy for tens of millions of fathers, sprung from the mind of actor Bob Odenkirk who developed the story based on personal experience.

“My home has been broken into twice, both times with my wife and kids and myself at home,” Odenkirk says. Bob Odenkirk, who is best known for playing Jimmy McGill in Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. “The first time was particularly traumatic. As a dad, I felt the right thing to do was…nothing. I believe we made it through with minimum damage, but still, the experience has never left me, and I’ve always wondered if I should have been more proactive.”

The police officer said to Bob, ‘You did the right thing. It’s not what I would have done, but you did the right thing.’ That comment lingered with Bob.

It was something he talked about with Producer Marc Provissiero, who is also Odenkirk’s manager.

Nobody Soundbites with Marc Provissiero - Producer - YouTube
Producer Marc Provissiero

“We discussed what it means as a father and a husband to protect your family, in this day, where men are guided to react in a different way than perhaps our fathers did, to sublimate more primal instincts. And that evolution is probably a good thing. But then, what happens when you’re that dad and your family is in danger?”

Brainstorming the idea they pondered doing something like Death Wish, or Taken, “where a father has to protect his family, but he’s not the type of guy who just flips a switch and you know he will take down everyone in front of him? What if he’s a more suburban dad, an every-dad, and you’re not sure whether he’s capable.”

Sometimes, the man you don’t notice is the most dangerous of all. When two thieves break into his suburban home one night, Hutch declines to defend himself or his family, hoping to prevent serious violence. His teenage son is disappointed in him, and his wife seems to pull only further away. The aftermath of the incident strikes a match to Hutch’s long-simmering rage, triggering dormant instincts and propelling him on a brutal path that will surface dark secrets and lethal skills. In a barrage of fists, gunfire and squealing tires, Hutch must save his family from a dangerous adversary and ensure that he will never be underestimated as a nobody again.

Getting the Film Off The Ground

Eager to get the film off the ground, Odenkirk and Provissiero found producing partners in 87North’s Kelly McCormick and David Leitch, whose long list of action film credits includes the John Wick series, Atomic Blonde and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

McCormick was thrilled about the project. “I just fell for the idea,” McCormick says. “As a huge fan of Bob, I could see the stepping stones from his more comedic work to this role—playing an ‘action’ everyman who people could really connect to. I jumped at the opportunity.”

Leitch adds: “Kelly championed this project for a long time. She responded to the material and that it had a great central character, Hutch, who’s relatable and has heart. There’s a connection to Hutch’s family and his longing to rediscover himself. Kelly has a great sense of material, and I was excited when she brought it to us.”

After pitching the project to multiple studios, the filmmakers were thrilled when it landed at Universal, where 87North now has a first-look deal. “Nobody became the first project under our new deal with Universal,” McCormick says.

“The studio responded very quickly to the material, which was a real testament to what they felt we could do. They took a bet on us and on Bob, and they moved extremely quickly on the project. It was the perfect test for what we hope to continue doing again and again under this partnership.”

Odenkirk and Provissiero also brought the idea to producer Braden Aftergood, who was equally quick to jump on board with the project.

“Bob had this idea to make a film that was his version of 1974’s Death Wish by way of The Raid: Redemption,” Aftergood says. “Obviously, I was intrigued at the prospect of that, so I sat down with Bob and Marc at their office. Bob told me about some of the experiences he’d had in his life. I got excited about the idea, and we started putting the movie together.”  

What adds an unexpected layer to the story is that in almost every other action film ever made, the actor playing the role of the “ordinary” man is anything but ordinary to the audience.

“Charles Bronson is a ‘normal’ man in Death Wish, but he’s not normal to us; he’s Charles Bronson!” Aftergood says. “The actor is bringing his public persona to the role, too. Usually, movies like this—John Wick, Taken, The Equalizer, even Rambo—are based on the premise of the bad guys messing with the wrong guy. The bad guys mess with a tough guy who is even tougher than they are. Bob’s idea was: What if the bad guys messed with the ‘right’ guy? Meaning, what if they messed with a normal guy who isn’t a threat, who shouldn’t fight back, but then he does? It explores this idea of what a normal person’s capacity for violence is—or can be under the right circumstances.”

From Idea To Screenplay: Finding the perfect narrative architect

When it came time to find the ideal person to tackle the script, the filmmakers found that person in John Wick trilogy writer Derek Kolstad.

“We developed a small wish list of writers,” Provissiero says. “Bob’s pedigree initially was in comedy. We had to stretch out of our area of comfort and seek a writer who could provide what was missing”

John Wick: Parabellum - Derek Kolstad (writer) interview - YouTube
Derek Kolstad

Kolstad burst onto the scene by scripting an original spec screenplay, entitled Scorn, which was later re-titled John Wick. That film has now spawned the most profitable franchise in Lionsgate’s history, with Kolstad also penning the second and third installments, and includes a premium spin-off television series, multiple video games and two more theatrical installments currently in development. Aside from Nobody,up next for Kolstad is Marvel’s new tentpole series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which he co-executive produced for Disney. He is currently adapting Ubisoft’s legendary IP, Splinter Cell,for Netflix; number-one New York Times best-selling author V.E. Schwab’s The Shades of Magic series for Sony; and a remake of legendary Korean film The Man from Nowhere for New Line Cinema.

“We met with Derek Kolstad, and we were working together from that moment forward. He had already been a big fan of Bob, and he really understood our idea and that we wanted to approach this action film in a more character-based way. Derek throws hundred-mile-an-hour fastballs with action. Then Bob added his own dimensionality to the character as we honed the pitch.”

Having worked with Kolstad on the John Wick trilogy, McCormick and Leitch became deeply familiar with his writing style and couldn’t imagine a better fit to write the script for Nobody.

“Derek is great at setting up a world and creating empathetic characters within that world,” Leitch says. “I love working with him in the genre space. I think he’s a master of that craft.”

McCormick adds: “Derek not only creates such relatable characters and cool genre stories, but his writing allows us, our action teams and the directors that we bring onto our projects the freedom to create really fun, iconic action.”

Once they had a script and a studio on board, the filmmakers were eager to move the film forward, but there was still one piece of the puzzle missing: a director.

Finding a Director

“We sat down with a lot of directors,” Aftergood says. “We put a lot of ideas for directors in front of Bob. A lot of people who felt fancy, a lot of people who had done work tonally similar to Better Call Saul. Bob wasn’t responding to any of them.” Odenkirk adds: “We needed someone who knew the action genre and knew me and was able to see the possibilities in bringing my presence, vulnerability and humor to a seriously played, unironic, action film.”

In came Ilya Naishuller, best known for directing 2015’s first-person action-thriller Hardcore Henry, who was high on the list of directors that the filmmakers were interested in.

Илья Найшуллер снимет боевик с Бобом Оденкёрком 1
Ilya Naishuller

“Bob and I hadn’t seen Hardcore Henry, so we watched that and some other samples of Ilya’s work, and we were amazed by how inventive and beautiful his work was,” Provissiero says. “The action is artistic, at times poetic.”

The filmmakers were excited at what they knew Naishuller would bring to the table, particularly the audacity of his vision. “Bob was looking for this movie to feel unlike anything that he had ever done before,” Aftergood says. “Hardcore Henry was an extraordinary accomplishment, and we got excited about the prospect of bringing that vision to the world of this film.”

McCormick was a fan of Hardcore Henry, but she was also captivated by Naishuller’s earlier work in Russia. “The music video that really put him on the map was ‘Biting Elbows – The Stampede,’ a first-person action music video,” McCormick says. “It was so cool and revolutionary. When David and I saw that, we thought, ‘We’ve got to watch this guy.’”

As it turned out, Nobody was exactly the type of project that Naishuller was looking for.

“After Hardcore Henry came out, I spent the next three years developing my next projects, while keeping myself afloat by directing music videos, commercials and producing comedies back home in Russia,” Naishuller says. “I told my agents that if I was to accept an American feature film, I wanted it to be an action-thriller, starring an actor that would play against type (a comedian with a shotgun was the exact description) and the action should be done by 87North. Lo and behold, in April 2018, my agents sent me the script with the following: ‘Nobody—action thriller, written by Derek Kolstad, produced by 87North and starring Bob Odenkirk.’ Ask and you shall receive.”

Naishuller read the script and fell in love with the character of Hutch. He soon jumped on a call with Odenkirk to discuss his ideas for the film.

Bob Odenkirk is "Nobody" in First Trailer for Ilya Naishuller's Film | The  Credits

“I pitched him my understanding of the themes and how I would make this an elevated action film beyond the expected,” Naishuller says. “The phone connection was horrible, but Bob heard enough to ask me to fly out to L.A. I prepared a 30-page presentation outlining my take on Nobody. We met with the team, I fired up the presentation, and I was on page 17 or so when they stopped me and said that I got the job. I don’t know if I was that convincing or if they were just dreading having to listen to me go over the rest of the pages. There was a lot—frankly, too much—detail.”

From the producers’ standpoint, when Naishuller presented his vision to them, everything clicked. “When you meet with a director who you know is the perfect choice, it’s a comforting feeling,” Provissiero says. “Watching Ilya present his vision of the tone, action, themes and styles of the film, we all just raised our hands and said, ‘Yes. Yes, Ilya. Please and thank you.’”

Leitch adds: “Ilya makes interesting choices as a filmmaker. He’s great with character, but, more importantly, he swings for the fences. He wants to be provocative in his imagery and his style. He’s confident as a filmmaker in areas where a lot of people aren’t. He was great about being open to ideas and aggregating the good ones to combine with his own vision.”

Naishuller, McCormick says, brought a perfect balance of his own fresh ideas and an openness to collaboration. “To me, that makes the perfect product,” McCormick says. “He’s not only a bold visionary, but he had trust in his heads of departments and the producers, which created the perfect collaborative environment. We were so thrilled to bring him into our action world.”

Naishuller envisioned the look and feel of the film to resemble a Korean thriller.

“In my opinion, Korean thrillers capture a special romantic mood that envelops the action and are largely driven by somewhat darker heroes, almost anti-heroes, rather than relying on typical story points,” Naishuller says.

“Derek Kolstad and I are huge fans of Korean cinema, and I remember giving Bob a few films to watch to familiarize himself with my intent while we reworked the script. A Bittersweet Life by Kim Jee-woon was my initial reference for mood, as it combines a strong lead performance with a simple yet affecting story. Its raw violence and action scenes feel just polished enough to be entertaining, but always avoid gilding the lily with unnecessary but expected pop visuals.”

Another element that attracted Naishuller to the project was that Hutch’s story is driven by interior conflict.

“As Hutch pivoted away from being an international assassin, he overcorrected and now spends his days in an automated, mundane and lifeless suburban existence,” Naishuller says. “If you pay close attention, you’ll see that everything that happens to him during the film is the result of his own doing. This is rare for a studio picture. I always equated Hutch’s need for violence to an addiction, and I could not recall a strong film with a similar undercurrent. I was careful to avoid falling into the awfully tempting trap of going drama-heavy, but it was important to me that the audience not just relate to his humdrum life and a ‘cool past,’ but feel Hutch’s somewhat torturous desire to spice things up in a violent way.”

Nobody fills the whole spectrum, with action set pieces, shock moments, dark moments and emotional moments, too.

“David and I are trying to bring heart to these action films every time out,” McCormick says. “There’s an emotional core to this movie that really excited David and me that we hope connects with audiences. I hope people take away the idea that you can be living your best authentic self, even if you’re not ripping down the world around you like Hutch does.” But, she adds with a laugh, “if people just come for the ride, I’m ok with that, too.”

Bringing the characters to life

The fundamental goal for the filmmakers of Nobody was to do the unexpected, and that included the film’s casting. “The question for us was, what are the unexpected casting choices that we can put around Bob that will deliver on that promise without ever taking the audience out of the reality of the film?” producer Braden Aftergood says.

It was also important that the audience feel an emotional connection to the characters. “We wanted to make sure that we set a tone within the movie where we keep the stakes real for the characters, but we also still care about them,” producer David Leitch says. “We wanted to see violence and consequences, but we also wanted there to be emotion.”

Director Ilya Naishuller had a personal motive behind his character and actor choices. “My father loves going to the movies, and we used to go together all the time, but as blockbuster spectacle began to squeeze adult storytelling into TV, I’ve struggled to find films he’d enjoy,” Naishuller says. “I made Nobody for my father, and the millions of people like him, who desperately want to see a good story, set in the real world, that features great actors.”

Official Poster + Trailer for Action Flick 'Nobody' Starring Bob Odenkirk -  Metaflix

As an actor, Odenkirk is someone people connect with on a human level. “They feel what he’s feeling,” producer Marc Provissiero says. “So, when he decides to take these guys on, there’s an ‘Oh my God’ feeling. It isn’t a suspension of belief to watch a superhero do super things. There’s an identification with him, which I don’t think is the case with your typical action star. He represents the everyday guy who is put in a position that real people could actually envision themselves in.”

Director Ilya Naishuller spent a lot of time discussing the character with Odenkirk and writer Derek Kolstad. “We discussed his motivations, his dreams and his demons,” Naishuller says. “We all felt that while he is presented as a hero, the undercurrent is clearly that of an anti-hero, and it was an interesting challenge to walk this fine line. Nobody needed a grounded, real, relatable Hutch who would become a ferocious animal once released off the leash. With Bob’s tremendous acting and comedic writing experience and Derek’s and my thorough understanding of the genre, we aimed for a strong story and character backbone that would then allow for all the nuances of Bob’s performance.”

Odenkirk believes that Hutch shares some DNA with his character from Better Call Saul, Jimmy McGill.

“While I believe Hutch is built out of basic elements of Jimmy as well as my personal experiences as a father, I was excited by how far I would have to stretch to step into the world of intense action,” Odenkirk says.

“Jimmy is a striver, his feelings lead him into dangerous situations, he gets knocked down a lot by life and he always gets back up. While much of my career was in comedy, I am far more well known for this character in Saul. I figured if I could train hard and pull off the physical moves, that I could bring a vulnerability and determination to an action-film role.”

And training hard is an understatement for the amount of commitment that Odenkirk put into the role. “I trained for two years with the best in the business, David Leitch’s action design team through 87North,” Odenkirk says.

Russian villains are a staple of Hollywood action films, dating all the way back to the 1980s, during the height of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. They were so frequent, in fact, that they bordered on cliché. So, when it came to casting Nobody’s antagonist, Yulian, Russian director Naishuller was only comfortable with the character being of Russian descent if they could do him justice by avoiding stereotype. He also wanted to ensure the character was played by an actual Russian actor, and Alexey Serebryakov was always his number-one choice for the role.

While in many ways Hutch and Yulian are different, Naishuller found that the two characters’ transformations had similarities. “Yulian is a tough-as-nails gangster on the outside and a joyful, non-violent man on the inside,” Naishuller says. “Both he and Hutch are forced by circumstances to shift throughout the film, to face who they are and to accept themselves. And once they do, we see that they’re actually one and the same, and this character arc is what makes their battle so engrossing to witness.

For decades, cinematic titans Godzilla and Kong have been following their own, separate theatrical journeys…until now. Legends collide in Godzilla vs. Kong as these mythic adversaries meet in a spectacular battle for the ages. This rivalry fuels an epic adventure that spans the globe to bring these two forces of nature, both more powerful than ever before, face to face and fist to fist on land and at sea in a battle to restore balance to the Earth.

“Godzilla and Kong have an incredible legacy in film,” says director Adam Wingard who directed from a screenplay by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, story by Terry Rossio and Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields, based on the character “Godzilla” owned and created by TOHO CO., LTD.

It is the fourth film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse. The film is also the 36th film in the Godzilla franchise, the 12th film in the King Kong franchise, and the fourth Godzilla film to be completely produced by a Hollywood studio.

Adam Wingard got his start in feature filmmaking at 19, with his directorial debut Home Sick, a slasher horror film. However, it was his second effort, at 24 years old with the film Pop Skull, that made him a talent to watch. Made for a budget of around $2,000 dollars, he managed to capture the attention of French Distribution company The Wild Bunch. The film went on to premiere at the prestigious Rome Film Festival and the American Film Institute Film Festival. His dark and sometimes abrasive directing/editing style has been compared to directors such as David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky, and Shinya Tsukamoto.

Adam Wingard

“Originally you could look at them almost as monsters from the East and West, Godzilla storming Tokyo and Kong being brought by man to New York.  But however you perceive them, they are movie icons that excite audiences all across the globe.”

And audiences of all ages.  “I remember as a kid having arguments on the playground with my friends about who would win in a fight, Kong or Godzilla,” Wingard laughs. 

“In reality, directing this film started as the perfect excuse to go revisit all the Godzilla and Kong films in sequential order; that was the first thing I did when I began talking to Legendary about the possibility.  And that really became a huge influence in terms of my approach to this film in general.  For starters, Godzilla went from being a bad guy to a good guy to a bad guy again, and I think that’s what’s cool about the evolution of both Godzilla and Kong, and what keeps the stories we tell about them new and fresh.”

Producer Mary Parent acknowledges that this story is the pairing fans have been waiting for and that will absolutely thrill audiences, whether they’ve seen the recent movies or not. 

MH talks to legendary producer Mary Parent – Moviehole
Mary Parent

“We’ve had both Godzilla and Kong battling to survive and thrive in their own spheres, so bringing them together as the surviving heavyweight champions at last is the natural next step.”  But, she adds, “This is also a story that stands on its own, independent of the previous films.  Both of these larger-than-life creatures have intelligent and empathetic human characters fighting for them in ways that render them relatable and heroic.  Because of that it’s not necessary to have followed their earlier stories to be thoroughly engrossed by them in this newest adventure.”  And whether you root for Kong or for Godzilla, she says, “It’s all about getting your popcorn and enjoying an incredible ride.”

The film not only promises intense battles between these two behemoths, but emotion, laughs, and even a mystery.  Wingard elaborates, “The story starts in a place where humanity has accepted Godzilla as a savior, or a protector, and we’re flipping that and showing that something weird is going on with him—he’s on the attack and acting recklessly, and no one knows why.”

And he’s heading straight for Kong, who’s been liberated from Skull Island after its been proven that the isolated locale can no longer contain him.

Alex Garcia, who also produced the film along with Parent, Eric McLeod, Jon Jashni, Thomas Tull and Brian Rogers, states, “For all of the Monsterverse films we’ve sought filmmakers who have a deep appreciation and understanding of these creatures and their legacies.  Storytellers who understand why both Kong and Godzilla have lived in audiences’ hearts and minds for as long as they have, but who are equally excited to do something new with them.  Adam has a really distinctive visual style, and what he and the writers have done with this film, both story-wise and aesthetically, is very dynamic.”

Legends collide as these mythic adversaries meet in a spectacular battle for the ages, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.  Kong and his protectors undertake a perilous journey to find his true home, and with them is Jia, a young orphaned girl with whom he has formed a unique and powerful bond.  But they unexpectedly find themselves in the path of an enraged Godzilla, cutting a swath of destruction across the globe.  The epic clash between the two titans—instigated by unseen forces—is only the beginning of the mystery that lies deep within the core of the Earth.

Crafting the Screenplay

The screenplay was written by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, based on a story by Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields. 

Thor: Ragnarok" Scribe Eric Pearson to Rewrite "Cowboy Ninja Viking" - The  Tracking Board
Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson began his professional career at Marvel Studios in their writers program.  Along with several screenplays, he wrote a majority of the short films from the Marvel “One Shot” series, including “Agent Carter, »which went on to become a TV series of the same name on ABC.  Pearson wrote on both seasons of the seriesContinuing his relationship with Marvel Studios, Pearson contributed pre-production and/or post-production writing on Ant Man, Spiderman: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.  Marvel Studios brought him on to write Thor: Ragnarok at the end of 2015 and then sent him to Australia to continue his work on the script throughout production.  At the beginning of 2019, Marvel Studios brought Pearson on to write Black Widow, and then sent him to London (as well as other locations) to continue his work on the script throughout production. Pearson graduated from New York University, where he studied screenwriting at the Dramatic Writing Department in their Tisch School for the Arts. 

Borenstein reflects, “When I started work on the first Legendary-Warner Bros. ‘Godzilla’ film 10 years ago, and on ‘Kong: Skull Island’ only a few years after that, the Monsterverse was just a glimmer in the eye.  Four films and a decade later, getting to bring our Titans together for a showdown that gives new scale to the word epic has felt like watching our children graduate from Mayhem University.”

Nerd Royalty #4: We talk monsters w/ KONG screenwriter Max Borenstein –  Espionage Cosmetics
Max Borenstein

Max Borenstein (Screenplay) is a screenwriter, show-runner and producer in film and television.  Borenstein wrote the screenplays for Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, and the story for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, all epic, contemporary reinventions of iconic franchises that have earned nearly $1.5 billion in global box office. His follow up film, as writer and producer, was Worth.

In television, Borenstein created and served as showrunner on Steven Spielberg’s television adaptation of his hit film “Minority Report” for the FOX network.  He conceived and co-created the second season of AMC’s acclaimed horror anthology “The Terror” and is developing a new spinoff of the “Game of Thrones” franchise for HBO.

Rossio offers, “It was an honor to be entrusted with two iconic characters of world cinema and design a film to bring them together.  So much cinema history collides when these two giants of our collective consciousness face off against each other. We always knew there would be spectacle, but kudos to the executives and producers at Legendary, who took the time in developing the story, working with a number of writers, to ensure that the film featured intimate character relationships, universal themes and genuine heart.”

Aladdin' Writer Terry Rossio Criticized for Using N-Word on Twitter
Terry Rossio

Terry Rossio (Story) is a writer known for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Aladdin (1992) and Shrek (2001).  Additional credits for Rossio include Deja Vu, G-Force, Lovestruck, The Long Ranger and Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Rossio was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  After graduating from Saddleback High School in Santa Ana, California, he went on to study at California State University Fullerton, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Communications, with an emphasis in radio, television and film.

How 'Godzilla' Filmmaker Michael Dougherty Crafted a Mashup for the  Pandemic Era | Hollywood Reporter
Michael Dougherty

Michael Dougherty (Story) is a writer, director and producer, best known for the cult horror comedies Trick ‘r Treat (2009), Krampus (2015) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Beginning his career as an animator and illustrator, Dougherty’s early work was featured on MTV, Nickelodeon and a line of twisted greeting cards published by Nobleworks. Dougherty then became a screenwriter on the blockbuster X-Men films before making his directorial debut with Trick ‘r Treat.

Zach Shields

Zach Shields (Story) is a writer, director, producer, and musician who lives in Los Angeles. Born in Rochester, New York, Shields studied film and theater at the University of Toronto before moving to LA, where he co-founded the music project Dead Man’s Bones with Ryan Gosling in 2007.  When he’s not making weird art or big budget block buster films, he enjoys modern dance classes, boxing for money and adding to his collection of 40 homemade tattoos. In 2015, Shields co-wrote and executive-produced the Dougherty-directed Christmas horror-comedy, Krampus, followed by 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters.


Godzilla (ゴジラ, Gojira), known as the King of the Monsters, is a giant, prehistoric monster (origins may vary) who is the star of the popular Godzilla franchise of films produced by Toho Company, Ltd. Since his introduction in 1954, Godzilla has become a worldwide pop-culture icon and to this date has starred in 34 films, the most recent being the 2019 film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Godzilla did have a Crossover movie with King Kong, King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong (2021).

Godzilla, a towering apex predator awakened by humankind’s use of elemental weapons of war, has come to be a ferocious protector of the natural world and of Earth.  His devasting breath and thunderous roar, paired with his brute strength on land and under water, have allowed him to survive battles with powerful predators, such as his canonical arch nemesis, the three-headed Ghidorah.

But in Godzilla vs. Kong, Godzilla has begun uncharacteristically attacking cities, seemingly at random—and soon Kong finds himself in Godzilla’s crosshairs.

“The film picks up close to the last one, so in a lot of ways we’re picking up with Godzilla where we left off,” Wingard says.  “But he’s suddenly behaving differently, and the scientists at Monarch—the government’s crypto-zoological agency dedicated to studying the Titans—as well as Madison Russell and a few others, are trying to figure out why he’s seemingly turned his back on humankind.  Face it, it’s great if Godzilla’s on your side, but the second he turns against you, you’re in really big trouble.”


King Kong is a film monster, resembling an enormous gorilla, that has appeared in various media since 1933. He has been dubbed The Eighth Wonder of the World, a phrase commonly used within the films. The character first appeared in the novelization of the 1933 film King Kong from RKO Pictures. The character of King Kong has become one of the world’s most famous movie icons, having inspired a number of sequels, remakes, spin-offs, imitators, parodies, cartoons, books, comics, video games, theme park rides, and a stage play. His role in the different narratives varies, ranging from a rampaging monster to a tragic antihero.

Did You Ever Spot Hidden King Kong Tribute in 'Cloverfield'? - Bloody  Disgusting

The King Kong character was conceived and created by American filmmaker Merian C. Cooper who became fascinated by gorillas at the age of 6. In 1899, he was given a book from his uncle called Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa. The book (written in 1861), chronicled the adventures of Paul Du Chaillu in Africa and his various encounters with the natives and wildlife there. Cooper became fascinated with the stories involving the gorillas, in particular, Du Chaillu’s depiction of a particular gorilla known for its “extraordinary size”, that the natives described as “invincible” and the “King of the African Forest”. When Du Chaillu and some natives encountered a gorilla later in the book he described it as a “hellish dream creature” that was “half man, half beast”. As an adult, Cooper became involved in the motion picture industry. While filming The Four Feathers in Africa, he came into contact with a family of baboons. This gave him the idea to make a picture about primates. A year later when he got to RKO, Cooper wanted to film a “terror gorilla picture”.

Kong has, for decades since his heroic and brutal rite of passage, lived—and been studied by scientists—on the uncharted Skull Island.  He is no longer an adolescent but fully grown and bigger, bolder and more badass than ever. 

The Kong seen in this film is by far the largest incarnation that has ever appeared on screen.  And as always, Kong has an endearing bond with a human—this time it’s a young Skull Island orphan who is, like him, the last of her line, Jia.

“This movie is Kong’s exploration into his own history—his roots.  It’s about discovery,” says Wingard, “and that opens a lot of doors to see what’s out there for the character.”

Because Kong and Godzilla are humanized not only by their own actions (and by the talented craftsmen and women who render them via spectacular visual effects), but also by the characters in the story who work so hard to ensure their survival and safety, whether they are heroes or villains is always in the eye of the beholder—the moviegoer.

Which is why, at its core, Wingard promises, “This is a massive monster movie with not one but two of the most iconic characters in all of movie history battling each other.  And they’re both good guys.  Or maybe not, depending on how you look at it.  What’s going to be really fun is to see who the audience roots for and to see their reaction when they find out who comes out on top!”

Weaving the two Titans’ stories together

To help weave the two Titans’ stories together, the filmmakers cast a strong ensemble in roles that include franchise favorites and a mix of new characters, delivering the emotional layers and connections to both Godzilla, whom audiences have seen in contemporary battles, and Kong, who was last seen in the post-Vietnam War era.  With the Monarch organization still entrenched in the welfare of both, and with outside forces at work as well, the story ensures the ancient rivals’ paths cross, at the same time upping the personal stakes.

Alexander Skarsgård portrays Lind as a mix of pseudo-action hero and science nerd who is tasked with convincing Kong’s on-site team to take him from the only home he’s ever known on a potentially deadly journey to what could be his ancestral home, where Titans like him may have originated.

One of the things that attracted Skarsgård to the role is that, he says, “It’s more nuanced than good versus evil, because Kong and Godzilla are not good or bad.  They may be apex predators but really they’re animals and they do what animals do.  One reason they go after each other is because they’re both alphas, and there can only be one alpha.”

Rebecca Hall stars as Dr. Andrews, Monarch’s Anthropological Linguist who is confronted with the harrowing choice to keep Kong on Skull Island and risk his extinction or use her expertise to help Lind uproot him—and still potentially risk his extinction if the plan fails.

“I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to film history, so I did a bit of a deep dive prior to starting, and it was really fun,” says Rebecca Hall. “One thing I found is that in a lot of the King Kong films, there’s a beautiful lady and he wants to save her; but what I found really interesting in this one was the person that Kong has the connection with is a child, a little deaf girl he can communicate with.  And when I found out that Kaylee, who is Deaf, would be playing the part, I thought that was really interesting and valid.  My character is connected to them both—she is Kaylee’s mother figure as well as a sort of Jane Goodall type of researcher.”

In the film, newcomer Hottle plays the one human with whom Kong has a bond—and the only one who doesn’t possess a healthy fear of the 300-foot ape.  Little Jia is a member of the Iwi tribe of Skull Island, adopted by Andrews after her parents were killed by a Skullcrawler.

Much like Hall, Wingard says, “Traditionally, King Kong’s emotional relationship with the female protagonist is always something that really draws me in and helps me empathize with him, and we wanted to put our own spin on that in this story.  We wanted a character to really have a unique bond with Kong, so the fact that Jia cannot hear anything and communicates with sign language felt like a new evolution of what we could do with Kong, who is always seen as a very intelligent character.  So, because her parents died at an early age, Kong became this kind of almost like savior to Jia, and even though she sees Dr. Andrews as a mom, she loves Kong as her best friend and, as we learn, she’s obviously taught him to understand sign language and to communicate with her.”

Kyle Chandler also reprises his role from the prior films as Mark Russell.  Once a Monarch skeptic and outsider, Dr. Russell has now taken on the mantle of Monarch Deputy Director of Special Projects in the uncharted new world left in the wake of recent events.  In his new position, he grapples with the responsibility of helping to lead a global Titan defense organization while also being present for his rebellious teenage daughter.  Despite his wishes, he knows Madison is passionately determined to venture into the dangerous world of superspecies study.

Chandler—who not only makes his second appearance in a film featuring Godzilla, but also Kong—was thrilled to return to the Legendary Monsterverse, stating, “It’s such an adventure for an actor.  You step onto these incredible sets, crafted by the best in the business, and you also get a chance to create your own reality because there’s of course some green screen work as well.”

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A GHOST STORY – A passionate young couple, unexpectedly separated by a shocking loss, discover an eternal connection and a love that is infinite. 2017 American supernatural drama film written and directed by David Lowery. It stars Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham, Sonia Acevedo, Rob Zabrecky, Liz Franke and Kesha. Affleck plays a man who becomes a ghost and remains in the house he shares with his wife (Mara).

ALWAYS WATCHING: A MARBLE HORNETS STORY – A small town news team discovers a box of video tapes where a faceless figure dressed in a dark suit, haunts and torments a family… slowly driving them insane. Soon after, they realize that the “Operator” has begun to stalk them as well.  2015 found footage supernatural horror film directed by James Moran and starring Chris Marquette, Jake McDorman, Doug Jones, Alexandra Breckenridge and Alexandra Holden.

AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING – Its plot follows a teenager who moves into 112 Ocean Avenue with her family, who shortly find themselves haunted by a demonic entity using her brain-dead twin brother’s body as a vessel. 2017 supernatural horror written and directed by Franck Khalfoun and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bella Thorne, Cameron Monaghan, Mckenna Grace, Thomas Mann, Taylor Spreitler, Jennifer Morrison, and Kurtwood Smith. It is the tenth installment of the main Amityville Horror film series and a direct sequel/metafilm taking place in the “real world” outside of the continuity of the series which establishes The Amityville Horror (1979), the sequels from 1982 to 1996, and the 2005 remake of the original film as fiction.

BEDEVILED Terror strikes when five teens download a malevolent app that uses their deepest, darkest fears to torment them. 2016 supernatural horror film directed, written and produced by Abel Vang and Burlee Vang. Starring Saxon Sharbino, Mitchell Edwards Victory Van Tuyl, Brandon Soo Hoo, Carson Boatman, and Alexis G Zall.

BLAIR WITCH The film, shot in a found footage style, follows a group of college students and their local guides who venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the mysteries surrounding the prior disappearance of Heather Donahue, the sister of one of the characters. 2016 American found footage supernatural horror directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett. It is the third film in the Blair Witch series and a direct sequel to the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project, ignoring the events of its 2000 follow-up film Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, given the events of that film being a film within a film.Blair Witch stars James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Valorie Curry, and Wes Robinson.

THE CONJURING – In 1970, paranormal investigators and demonologists Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) Warren are summoned to the home of Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) Perron. The Perrons and their five daughters have recently moved into a secluded farmhouse, where a supernatural presence has made itself known. Though the manifestations are relatively benign at first, events soon escalate in horrifying fashion, especially after the Warrens discover the house’s macabre history. 2013 supernatural horror film directed by James Wan and written by Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes. It is the inaugural film in the Conjuring Universe franchise.

THE CONJURING 2 (known in the UK and Ireland as The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case) 2016 supernatural horror film, directed by James Wan. The screenplay is by Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes, Wan, and David Leslie Johnson. It is the sequel to 2013’s The Conjuring, the second installment in The Conjuring series, and the third installment in the Conjuring Universe franchise. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as paranormal investigators and authors Ed and Lorraine Warren from the first film. The film follows the Warrens as they travel to the United Kingdom to assist the Hodgson family, who are experiencing poltergeist activity at their Enfield council house in 1977 which later became referred to as the Enfield poltergeist.

CRIMSON PEAK– The story, set in Victorian era England, follows an aspiring author who travels to a remote Gothic mansion in the English hills with her new husband and his sister. There, she must decipher the mystery behind the ghostly visions that haunt her new home. 2015 gothic horror directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Matthew Robbins. The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, and Jim Beaver.

DARKNESS FALLS – 2003 supernatural horror written by Joe Harris and John Fasano, and directed by Jonathan Liebesman. The film stars Chaney Kley and Emma Caulfield. The film follows Kyle Walsh (Kley), who witnesses his mother’s murder at the hands of a vengeful spirit lynched by an angry mob more than 150 years ago. Twelve years later, Kyle returns to his childhood home because Michael Greene (Lee Cormie), the young brother of his romantic interest Caitlin (Caulfield), is being stalked by the same spirit. Kyle must protect them from this powerful enemy and put an end to its killing spree.

DEVIL (also known as The Night Chronicles 1: Devil) Five strangers’ day begins with an elevator ride in a Philadelphia office tower. But, what happens next is anything but ordinary. The elevator gets stuck, and the trapped passengers, who expected to be together just a few minutes, now face the revelation of their secrets and transgressions. Frightening events turn annoyance into terror, as they begin to realize that one of their number is Lucifer himself.  2010 American supernatural horror film directed by John Erick Dowdle. The screenplay by Brian Nelson was from a story by M. Night Shyamalan. The film stars Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Geoffrey Arend, Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O’Hara, and Bokeem Woodbine.

DOWN A DARK HALL – Five emotionally fragile teens are committed to Blackwood, a mysterious school for gifted girls. Mesmerized by the intense head mistress Madame Duret, they think they have found a place where they can finally flourish academically and artistically. The mystery deepens as they break through layer after layer of misdirection to discover the true, horrifying purpose of the school. 2018 film directed by Rodrigo Cortés and written by Chris Sparling and Michael Goldbach. It is based on the 1974 novel of the same name by Lois Duncan. Starring AnnaSophia Robb, Uma Thurman, Victoria Moroles

DRAG ME TO HELL – Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) has a loving boyfriend (Justin Long) and a great job at a Los Angeles bank. But her heavenly life becomes hellish when, in an effort to impress her boss, she denies an old woman’s request for an extension on her home loan. In retaliation, the crone places a curse on Christine, threatening her soul with eternal damnation. Christine seeks a psychic’s help to break the curse, but the price to save her soul may be more than she can pay. 2009 American supernatural horror co-written and directed by Sam Raimi.

11-11-11 – An author’s (Timothy Gibbs) frequent sightings of the number 11 lead him to believe devilish forces are at work. 2011 supernatural horror written and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. The film is set at 11:11 on the 11th day of the 11th month and concerns an entity from another world that enters the earthly realm through Heaven’s 11th gate.

EVIL DEAD – 2013 supernatural horror film directed by Fede Alvarez, in his feature directorial debut, written by Rodo Sayagues and Álvarez and produced by Robert Tapert, Sam Raimi, and Bruce Campbell. The fourth installment in the Evil Dead franchise, it serves as a soft reboot and continuation of the original series. The film stars Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore. The film follows a group of five people being haunted and killed by supernatural entities in a remote cabin in the woods.


  • FINAL DESTINATION – Alex Browning (Devon Sawa), is embarking on a trip to Paris. Alex experiences a premonition — he sees the plane explode moments after leaving the ground. Alex insists that everyone get off the plane and 7 people including Alex, are forced to disembark. All watch as the plane actually explodes in a fireball. He and the other survivors have briefly cheated death, but will not be able to evade their fate for very long. One by one, these fugitives from fate fall victim to the grim reaper. 2000 supernatural horror film directed by James Wong, with a screenplay written by James Wong, Glen Morgan, and Jeffrey Reddick, based on a story by Reddick.
  • FINAL DESTINATION 2 – Kimberly (A.J. Cook) has a premonition of a horrible highway accident killing multiple people — including her and her friends. She blocks the cars behind her on the ramp from joining traffic — and as a police trooper (Michael Landes) arrives, the accident actually happens. Now, Death is stalking this group of mistaken survivors — and one by one they are dying as they were supposed to on the highway. 2003 supernatural horror film directed by David R. Ellis.
  • FINAL DESTINATION 3 – 2006 supernatural horror directed by James Wong. A standalone sequel to Final Destination 2 (2003). Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Wendy Christensen, a high school graduate who has a premonition that a roller coaster she and her classmates are riding will derail. Although she saves some of them, Death begins hunting the survivors. Wendy realizes photographs she took at the amusement park contain clues about her classmates’ death. With survivor and friend Kevin Fischer (Merriman), Wendy tries to use this knowledge to save the rest of them and ruin Death’s scheme.
  • THE FINAL DESTINATION (also known as Final Destination 4)While enjoying a day at the track, Nick O’Bannon (Bobby Campo) has a horrific premonition of his friends and him all dying in a freak accident involving many racecars. Mere seconds before the vision comes true, he manages to convince them to leave. Although they cheat death then, the survivors each begin to meet a grisly end, and Nick tries to figure a way to escape a similar fate. 2009 supernatural horror film written by Eric Bress and directed by David R. Ellis.
  • FINAL DESTINATION 5 – During a bus ride with his colleagues to a corporate retreat, Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto) experiences a horrifying vision: the suspension bridge that they — and many others — are crossing starts to crumble around them. When his vision ends and, almost immediately, starts to come true, Sam takes quick action that saves a number of people, including his girlfriend, Molly (Emma Bell), and his best friend, Peter (Miles Fisher). However, the survivors soon find that Death will not be denied. 2011 supernatural horror film directed by Steven Quale and written by Eric Heisserer.

THE GALLOWS – In 1993, a freak accident involving a noose kills teenager Charlie Grimille during a high-school production of “The Gallows.” Twenty years later, on the eve of the play’s revival, students Reese (Reese Mishler), Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown), Ryan (Ryan Shoos) and Cassidy become trapped in the auditorium, with no way of calling for help. A night of terror awaits the four friends as they face the wrath of a malevolent and vengeful spirit. It seems Charlie will have his curtain call after all. 2015 American found footage supernatural horror film written and directed by Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff.

GHOSTBUSTERS – 2016 supernatural comedy film directed by Paul Feig and written by Feig and Katie Dippold. It stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Neil Casey, Cecily Strong, Andy García, and Chris Hemsworth. It is a reboot of the 1984 film of the same name and the third film, overall, in the Ghostbusters franchise. The story focuses on four women and their assistant who begin a ghost-catching business in New York City.

GHOST SHIP – 2002 supernatural horror film directed by Steve Beck, and starring an ensemble cast featuring Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, Ron Eldard, Desmond Harrington, Isaiah Washington and Karl Urban. The film follows a marine salvage crew in the Bering Sea who discover a mysterious ocean liner that disappeared in 1962.

HELLRAISER – 1987 British supernatural horror  written and directed by Clive Barker, and produced by Christopher Figg, based on Barker’s 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart.[1] The film marked Barker’s directorial debut.[7] Its plot involves a mystical puzzle box which summons the Cenobites, a group of extra-dimensional, sadomasochistic beings who cannot differentiate between pain and pleasure. The leader of the Cenobites is portrayed by Doug Bradley, and identified in the sequels as “Pinhead”.

HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II  (See HELLRAISER) 1988 horror film directed by Tony Randel and starring Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Kenneth Cranham and Doug Bradley. The second film in the Hellraiser franchise, Hellraiser II draws heavily upon (and was made by much of the same cast and crew as) its precursor, Hellraiser, which was released a year prior. Laurence reprises her role as Kirsty Cotton, who is admitted into a psychiatric hospital after the events of the first film. There, the head doctor (Cranham) unleashes the Cenobites, a group of sadomasochistic beings from another dimension. Clive Barker, who wrote and directed the first Hellraiser film, wrote the story of Hellraiser II and served as executive producer.

HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS (also known as Hellraiser IX: Revelations) (See HELLRAISER)2011 horror film written by Gary J. Tunnicliffe and directed by Víctor García. It is the ninth film in the Hellraiser film series. It follows the fates of two friends who discover a puzzle box that opens a gateway to a realm inhabited by sadomasochistic monsters known as the Cenobites.

HEREDITARY – 2018 American supernatural horror written and directed by Ari Aster, in his feature film directorial debut. It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Gabriel Byrne as a family haunted by a mysterious presence after the death of their secretive grandmother. When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter and grandchildren begin to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry, trying to outrun the sinister fate they have inherited.

IT – Seven young outcasts in Derry, Maine, are about to face their worst nightmare — an ancient, shape-shifting evil that emerges from the sewer every 27 years to prey on the town’s children. Banding together over the course of one horrifying summer, the friends must overcome their own personal fears to battle the murderous, bloodthirsty clown known as Pennywise. Retroactively known as It Chapter One, is a 2017 American supernatural horror based on Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name.

LIGHTS OUT – When Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) left home, she thought that her childhood fears were behind her. Holding a mysterious attachment to their mother (Maria Bello), a supernatural entity has returned with a vengeance to torment the entire family. 2016 American supernatural horror directed by David F. Sandberg in his directorial debut, produced by Lawrence Grey, James Wan, and Eric Heisserer and written by Heisserer. It stars Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke, and Maria Bello. It is based on Sandberg’s 2013 short film of the same name and features Lotta Losten, who starred in the short.

THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX – An acclaimed neurologist (Jamie Dornan) taps into the unconscious mind of a 9-year-old boy (Aiden Longworth) who has survived nine near-death accidents. 2016 Canadian-American supernatural thriller directed by Alexandre Aja and starring Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon, Aiden Longworth, Oliver Platt, Molly Parker, Julian Wadham, Jane McGregor, Barbara Hershey, and Aaron Paul. It was written by Max Minghella based on Liz Jensen’s best-selling novel of the same title.

THE NUN – 2018 American gothic supernatural horror directed by Corin Hardy and written by Gary Dauberman, from a story by Dauberman and James Wan. It is a spin-off of 2016’s The Conjuring 2 and the fifth installment in the Conjuring Universe franchise. The film stars Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga and Jonas Bloquet, with Bonnie Aarons reprising her role as the Demon Nun, an incarnation of Valak, from The Conjuring 2. The plot follows a Roman Catholic priest and a nun in her novitiate as they uncover an unholy secret in 1952 Romania.

THE ORPHANAGE (Spanish: El orfanato) 2007 Spanish supernatural horror from Spanish filmmaker J. A. Bayona. The film stars Belén Rueda as Laura, Fernando Cayo as her husband, Carlos, and Roger Príncep as their adopted son Simón. The plot centers on Laura, who returns to her childhood home, an orphanage. Laura plans to turn the house into a home for disabled children, but after an argument with Laura, Simón goes missing.


  • PARANORMAL ACTIVITY – 2007 supernatural horror film produced, written, directed, photographed and edited by Oren Peli. It centers on a young couple (Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat) who are haunted by a supernatural presence in their home. They then set up a camera to document what is haunting them. The film utilizes found-footage conventions that were mirrored in the later films of the series.
  • PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 – When the Reys move into their new Southern California home, little do they realize that the house is already occupied. After coming home one day to find the house in disarray — but with no signs of forced entry or robbery — they install a video surveillance system to catch the perpetrators. But nothing prepares them for what happens next. 2010 found footage supernatural horror film directed by Tod Williams and written by Christopher Landon, Michael R. Perry and Tom Pabst. The film is a prequel to the 2007 film Paranormal Activity, beginning two months before and following up with the events depicted in the original film.
  • PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 – In 1988 sisters Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) seem to be enjoying a normal, happy childhood at home. But when strange things start going bump in the night, their father, a wedding videographer, decides to use his cameras to discover the source, especially since Kristi appears to having conversations with an imaginary friend. While the cameras do indeed reveal a flurry of supernatural occurrences, the family is unprepared for the terror that awaits. 2011 found footage supernatural horror film, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. It is the third (chronologically, the first) installment of the Paranormal Activity series and serves as a prequel, mostly set 18 years prior to the events of the first two films.
  • PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 – It has been five years since Katie (Katie Featherston) murdered her sister and disappeared with her infant nephew, Hunter, in tow. Now, a new family is about to fall prey to nighttime terrors. A mysterious accident next door leads to teenage Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her family becoming the temporary guardians of Robbie (Brady Allen), a very creepy neighbor boy. Cameras installed throughout Alex’s home capture the sinister events that unfold after Robbie’s arrival. 2012 found footage supernatural horror film, directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost and written by Christopher Landon from a story by Chad Feehan. The film features Katie Featherston, who starred in the first film, and had cameos in the other two. It is the fourth installment in the Paranormal Activity series, and a sequel to Paranormal Activity 2, set several years later.
  • PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES – Teenagers Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz) look forward to a carefree summer, but the murder of a neighbor leads to a terrifying encounter with the supernatural. After breaking into the neighbor’s apartment, Jesse and Hector find a collection of ritualistic art and other bizarre items. Jesse takes a journal of occult writings and soon after finds a strange mark on his arm. His subsequent erratic behavior leads Jesse’s friends and family to the realization that he is possessed. 2014 found footage supernatural horror film written and directed by Christopher Landon. Released on January 3, 2014, in the United States, it is the fifth installment of the Paranormal Activity film series.

THE POSSESSION – When their youngest daughter, Em (Natasha Calis), becomes strangely obsessed with an antique wooden box bought from a yard sale, parents Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) see little cause for alarm. However, Em becomes increasingly unstable, leading the couple to fear the presence of a malevolent force. To their horror, Clyde and Stephanie learn that the box contains a dybbuk, a dislocated spirit that inhabits — and ultimately devours — a human host.  2012 supernatural horror directed by Ole Bornedal and produced by Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert, and J. R. Young, and written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White. It stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Natasha Calis, Grant Show, Madison Davenport, and Matisyahu.

THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING – An evil force takes control of a grieving filmmaker (Shane Johnson) who has vowed to disprove the existence of the paranormal.  2014 American found footage horror film written and directed by David Jung, in his directorial debut, from a story by himself and Tedi Sarafian.

THE RUINS –  Amy (Jena Malone), Stacy (Laura Ramsey), Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) and Eric (Shawn Ashmore) look for fun during a sunny holiday in Mexico, but they get much more than that after visiting an archaeological dig in the jungle. Carnivorous vines try to ensnare the friends in their tendrils, forcing the group to fight for survival. 2008 supernatural horror film directed by Carter Smith and written by Scott Smith, based on his 2006 novel of the same name.

SINISTER 2012 supernatural horror Directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson. The film stars Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone, Fred Thompson, and Vincent D’Onofrio. The plot revolves around true-crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Hawke) whose discovery of Super 8 home movies depicting grisly murders found in the attic of his new house puts his family in danger.

THE SIXTH SENSE – Young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is haunted by a dark secret: he is visited by ghosts. Cole is frightened by visitations from those with unresolved problems who appear from the shadows. He is too afraid to tell anyone about his anguish, except child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). As Dr. Crowe tries to uncover the truth about Cole’s supernatural abilities, the consequences for client and therapist are a jolt that awakens them both to something unexplainable. 1999 supernatural psychological thriller written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It stars Bruce Willis as a child psychologist whose patient (Haley Joel Osment) can talk to the dead.

SLEEPY HOLLOW – is a 1999 American gothic supernatural horror directed by Tim Burton. It is a film adaptation loosely based on Washington Irving’s 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, and stars Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, with Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Christopher Lee and Jeffrey Jones in supporting roles. The plot follows police constable Ichabod Crane (Depp) sent from New York City to investigate a series of murders in the village of Sleepy Hollow by a mysterious Headless Horseman.

VISIONS – After leaving her city life behind and moving to a vineyard with her husband, pregnant Eveleigh begins experiencing terrifying visions. 2015 supernatural horror film directed by Kevin Greutert. It is written by Lucas Susan. Jason Blum serves as a producer through his production company Blumhouse Productions. The film stars Isla Fisher, Anson Mount, Gillian Jacobs, Jim Parsons, Joanna Cassidy, and Eva Longoria.

WHAT LIES BENEATH – It had been a year since Dr. Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford) betrayed his beautiful wife Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer). But with Claire oblivious to the truth, Norman’s life and marriage seem so perfect that when Claire tells him of hearing mysterious voices and seeing a young woman’s image in their home, he dismisses her terror as delusion. Claire moves closer to the truth and it becomes clear that this apparition will not be dismissed, and has come back for Dr. Spencer and his beautiful wife. 2000 American supernatural horror thriller directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer as a couple who live in a haunted house.

WINCHESTER (also known as Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built) is a 2018 supernatural horror directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, and written by the Spierigs and Tom Vaughan. The film stars Helen Mirren as heiress Sarah Winchester, with Jason Clarke and Sarah Snook, and follows Winchester as she is haunted by spirits inside her San Jose mansion in 1906.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK: ANGEL OF DEATH – 2014 supernatural horror directed by Tom Harper and starring Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Adrian Rawlins, Leanne Best, and Ned Dennehy. The screenplay was written by Jon Croker from a story by Susan Hill. It is the sequel to the 2012 film The Woman in Black. During WWII, the London bombings force two schoolteachers to evacuate a group of children to Crythin Gifford. When the refugees take shelter at Eel Marsh House, one teacher, Eve Parkins, soon realizes they are not alone. Little does she know that what lives in the house is more sinister than what they were running from.

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A MOST WANTED MAN – An escaped militant’s (Grigoriy Dobrygin) attempt to claim an inheritance gives a German agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman) the chance to lay a trap for a well-regarded Muslim scholar who is suspected of financing terrorists.  2014 espionage thriller based on the 2008 novel of the same name by John le Carré, directed by Anton Corbijn.

ATOMIC BLONDE – 2017 action thriller film based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, which revolves around a spy who has to find a list of double agents who are being smuggled into the West on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The film is directed by David Leitch, and it is written by Kurt Johnstad. The film’s cast includes Charlize Theron,  James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, and Toby Jones.

CASINO ROYALE – Casino Royale takes place at the beginning of Bond’s career as Agent 007, as he is earning his licence to kill. The plot has Bond on an assignment to bankrupt terrorist financier Le Chiffre in a high-stakes poker game at the Casino Royale in Montenegro; Bond falls in love with Vesper Lynd, a treasury employee assigned to provide the money he needs for the game. The film begins a story arc that continues in the 2008 film, Quantum of Solace. 2006 spy film, the twenty-first in the Eon Productions James Bond series, and the third screen adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel of the same name. Directed by Martin Campbell and written by Neil Purvis, it is the first film to star Daniel Craig as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond

EAGLE’S EYE – Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) and Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) are two strangers whose lives are suddenly thrown into turmoil by a mysterious woman they have never met. Threatening their lives and family, the unseen caller uses everyday technology to control their actions and push them into increasing danger. As events escalate, Jerry and Rachel become the country’s most-wanted fugitives and must figure out what is happening to them. 2008 American espionage science fiction action-thriller film directed by D. J. Caruso

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK – 2016 action thriller film directed by Edward Zwick and written by Zwick, Richard Wenk and Marshall Herskovitz, and based on the 2013 novel Never Go Back by Lee Child. A sequel to the 2012 film Jack Reacher, the film stars Tom Cruise and Cobie Smulders with supporting roles by Patrick Heusinger, Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh, Holt McCallany, and Robert Knepper. The plot follows Reacher going on the run with an Army major who has been framed for espionage, as the two reveal a dark conspiracy.

JASON BOURNE – It’s been 10 years since Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) walked away from the agency that trained him to become a deadly weapon. Hoping to draw him out of the shadows, CIA director Robert Dewey assigns hacker and counterinsurgency expert Heather Lee to find him. Lee suspects that former operative Nicky Parsons is also looking for him. As she begins tracking the duo, Bourne finds himself back in action battling a sinister network that utilizes terror and technology to maintain unchecked power. 2016 action-thriller film directed by Paul Greengrass and written by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse. It is the fifth installment of the Bourne film series and a direct sequel to The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). Matt Damon reprises his role as the main character, former CIA assassin Jason Bourne.

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE – 2017 action spy comedy film directed by Matthew Vaughn and written by Jane Goldman and Vaughn. The second instalment in the Kingsman film series, it is a sequel to 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, which is based on the comic book The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. The film features Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Edward Holcroft, Hanna Alström, and Sophie Cookson reprising their roles from the first film with Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Elton John, Channing Tatum, and Jeff Bridges joining the cast. The film follows members of Kingsman needing to team up with their American counterpart, Statesman, after the world is held hostage by Poppy Adams and her drug cartel, “The Golden Circle”.

MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E – At the height of the Cold War, a mysterious criminal organization plans to use nuclear weapons and technology to upset the fragile balance of power between the United States and Soviet Union. CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to put aside their hostilities and work together to stop the evildoers in their tracks. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a missing German scientist, whom they must find soon to prevent a global catastrophe. 2015 spy film directed by Guy Ritchie and written by Ritchie and Lionel Wigram. It is based on the 1964 MGM television series of the same name, which was created by Norman Felton and Sam Rolfe.


  • MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (2 disc Collector’s Edition) 1996 action spy film directed by Brian De Palma and produced by and starring Tom Cruise. A continuation of both the original television series of the same name and its revived sequel series (and set six years after the events of the latter show), it is the first installment in the Mission: Impossible film series. The plot follows Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his mission to uncover the mole who has framed him for the murders of most of his Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team.
  • MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 – A 2000 action spy film directed by John Woo and produced by and starring Tom Cruise. The sequel to 1996 film Mission: Impossible, it follows Ethan Hunt as he is tasked by the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) to find and destroy a dangerous biological weapon called “Chimera” from rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose with the help of love interest Nyah Nordoff-Hall, Ambrose’s ex-girlfriend.
  • MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III – 2006 action spy film co-written and directed by J. J. Abrams (in his directorial debut), co-written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, and co-produced by and starring Tom Cruise in the role of IMF agent Ethan Hunt. In the film, Ethan (Cruise) has retired from field work for the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) and trains new recruits. However, he is sent back into action to track down the elusive arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
  • MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL – 2011 action spy film directed by Brad Bird and written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec. It stars Tom Cruise, who reprises his role of Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt, alongside Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Anil Kapoor and Léa Seydoux. In the film, Hunt and his team race against time to find a nuclear extremist who gains access to Russian nuclear launch codes when a mission by Hunt’s team goes wrong, resulting in the bombing of Kremlin. The IMF is implicated in the bombing, forcing the President to enact “Ghost Protocol”, disavowing the organization, leaving Hunt and his team without back up.
  • MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION – 2015 action spy film written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, from a story by McQuarrie and Drew Pearce.  The film stars Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, Simon McBurney, and Tom Hollander, with Cruise, Renner, Pegg, and Rhames reprising their roles from previous films. In the film, IMF agent Ethan Hunt is on the run from the CIA, following the IMF’s dissolution as he tries to prove the existence of the Syndicate, a mysterious global freelance terrorist group composed of many former intelligence officers from many different countries.
  • MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT – 2018 action spy film written, produced, and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. It is the sixth installment in the Mission: Impossible film series, and the second film to be directed by McQuarrie following the 2015 film Rogue Nation, making him the first director to direct more than one film in the franchise. The cast includes Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, and Alec Baldwin all of whom reprise their roles from the previous films, along with Henry Cavill, Vanessa Kirby, and Angela Bassett, who join the franchise. In the film, Ethan Hunt and his team must track down missing plutonium while being monitored by a CIA agent after a mission goes wrong.

QUANTUM OF SOLACE – 2008 spy film and the twenty-second in the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions. Directed by Marc Forster and written by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, it is a direct sequel to Casino Royale, and the second film to star Daniel Craig as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The film also stars Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, and Judi Dench. In the film, Bond seeks revenge for the death of his lover, Vesper Lynd, and is assisted by Camille Montes, who is coincidentally seeking to avenge the murder of her own family. The trail eventually leads them to wealthy businessman Dominic Greene, a member of the Quantum organisation, which intends to stage a coup d’état in Bolivia to seize control of their water supply.

THE RECRUIT – In an era when the country’s first line of defense – human intelligence – is more important than ever, comes an explosive thriller that gives an insider’s view into the CIA’s secret training ground: The Farm. James Clayton (Colin Farrell) might not have the attitude of a typical recruit, but he is one of the smartest graduating seniors in the country — and he’s just the person that Walter Burke (Al Pacino) wants in the Agency.  2003 American spy thriller film, directed by Roger Donaldson and starring Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, and Bridget Moynahan.

RED SPARROW Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova faces a bleak and uncertain future after she suffers an injury that ends her career. She soon turns to Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons. Egorova emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow after completing the sadistic training process. As she comes to terms with her new abilities, Dominika meets a CIA agent who tries to convince her that he is the only person she can trust.. A 2018 spy thriller film directed by Francis Lawrence and written by Justin Haythe, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, and Jeremy Irons.

SPECTRE – The story sees Bond pitted against the global criminal organisation Spectre and their enigmatic leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), who plans to launch a national surveillance network to mastermind criminal activities across the globe. 2015 spy film is the fourth film to feature Daniel Craig as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond, and the second film in the series directed by Sam Mendes following Skyfall. It was written by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth.

TRUE LIES – Secretly a spy but thought by his family to be a dull salesman, Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is tracking down nuclear missiles in the possession of Islamic jihadist Aziz (Art Malik). Harry’s mission is complicated when he realizes his neglected wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis), is contemplating an affair with Simon (Bill Paxton), a used-car salesman who claims he’s a spy. When Aziz kidnaps Harry and Helen, the secret agent must save the world and patch up his marriage at the same time. 1994 American action comedy film written and directed by James Cameron. It was executive produced by Lawrence Kasanoff and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Art Malik, Tia Carrere, Bill Paxton, Eliza Dushku, Grant Heslov and Charlton Heston. It is based on the 1991 French comedy film La Totale!

Dragon Mythology drives a thematic journey in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Raya and the Last Dragon, set in a fantasy world where a lone warrior, Raya, embarks on a quest, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and unite its divided people.

Nearly all shot production for Raya and the Last Dragon took place from the homes of more than 450 artists and crew members. In total, more than 900 Walt Disney Animation Studios employees worked remotely contributing to the film and other upcoming WDAS projects.

Raya and the Last Dragon is helmed by Don Hall, director of Disney’s Academy Award–winning Big Hero 6, and Carlos López Estrada, whose feature film directorial debut was the critically acclaimed Blindspotting.

Award-winning playwright and writer Qui Nguyen (Vietgone, She Kills Monsters) and Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians, Private Practice) crafted the screenplay.

Screenwriter Qui Nguyen

“Working for Disney Animation, part of what we do is that we deal in magic. Right now the world is very broken. This movie has a lot of magic in it, but I think the biggest piece of magic in it is trust.  It is the real secret ingredient that will save our fictional world of Kumandra. And it’s a message that is really important for the world to have and see,” says Screenwriter Qui Nguyen.

Producer Osnat Shurer agrees, remarking, “Divisiveness in the world and the need to come together for the greater good, despite our differences, is something that is top of mind for so many of us. We all are excited to bring out a film that provides a space for that conversation.”

For screenwriter Adele Lim, Sisu may be the key to finding meaning in the film. “The magical thing about Sisu in this movie is that she has that trust and that faith in humanity, even when we don’t deserve it,” says Lim. “Even when we betray it. Even when we let each other down again and again. We can feel embittered. We can feel caught up in our own grudges. But, some creature like Sisu being able to see that sort of divine core within everybody is the thing that inspires everyone. I hope that’s what people come away with when they see Sisu.”

Article: 'Crazy Rich Asians' co-writer Adele Lim reveals why Asians are  'soy sauce' in Hollywood
Adele Lim

Nguyen also reflects on representation in the film, “For me, this is the big dream. I know that a lot of people are super-excited about Raya being Disney’s first Southeast Asian princess. But, for me, it is such a big deal for her to be my kids’ new favorite superhero. It is something that I didn’t get to see growing up, someone that really represented me, our voice, our culture. And to be able to have that for my children is a blessing that will last way beyond my time here on Earth.  So, it’s an amazing moment to be part of this.”

Adele Lim notes, “Growing up in Southeast Asia, we’re very proud of our culture and our history. But you don’t really ever see it on a Hollywood big screen. I had lots of action heroes on screen growing up, but it was often Hong Kong action kung fu. And now, the idea to be part of a Disney movie that really can celebrate everything that’s beautiful about our culture and how strong our women are is great. And that Raya’s not just a good fighter; she’s got so much personality. I feel that it’s so much of the spirit of a lot of the women that I grew up with. And so, I’m very excited for the world to see this.”

The Story: Dragon Mythology Drives A Thematic Journey

Integral to the story of Raya and the Last Dragon is the character Sisu, the legendary water dragon that Raya seeks to find in the hopes of saving Kumandra. As Raya sets off on her quest to find Sisu, she is empowered by her absolute belief in the dragon’s power to help restore Kumandra and its people to life and happiness.

Raya’s quest is also a journey of self-discovery—a quest filled with danger, adventure, humor and new friendships, yet tinged with regret, loss and anger born of the need to revenge a wrong. What Raya learns, and comes to believe, is bigger than all of us: we can trust, we can work together, we can unite. And, most importantly, we must.

“Throughout different cultures in Asia, including Southeast Asia, there is a very strong love and affection for dragons, but these dragons are very different from what you see in ‘Game of Thrones,’ for example. They mean luckm” says Nguyen, who wrote the screenplay with Adele Lim, offering insight into Sisu and what she represents.

” They mean luck. They signify life-affirming powers and fortitude, and those aspects were important to expand on since Raya is a Southeast Asian-inspired hero.”

Producer Osnat Shurer adds, “The dragon is interpreted all over the world very differently. The European dragon is a fire-breathing dragon; the Asian dragon, however, is more connected to water and to life, and to harmony.  As we dug deeper into Southeast Asian water elementals and water deities, we learnt of the Naga of Southeast Asia, which appears more serpentine than other dragons seen in Asian cultures. The Naga was one of the strongest inspirations for the design of Sisu in her dragon form.”

Director Don Hall points out, “Sisu is a water being, and water became a recurring motif and a huge visual thematic in the film.”

Nguyen offers another insight into Sisu’s character as it plays out in “Raya and the Last Dragon”: “Sisu is highly revered and super powerful, but at the same time, we wanted to subvert our expectations of what a dragon could be like. So she’s funny. She’s goofy. She trips on herself. She’s new to the world. She’s new to what life is like now. There’s something charming and fun about her, and I think that she’s just a really fun comedic character to follow.”

Both screenwriters, Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, drew upon inspirations from their Southeast Asian heritages to develop the characters of Raya and Sisu.

Adele Lim says, “In Southeast Asia, there’s a great tradition of female leaders, military leaders and warriors. And leaders of their realms. And also, the stories of Nagas and dragons, particularly with water.  In Malaysia, we have the warrior Tun Fatimah, and we have stories of Naga Tasik Chini, which is the dragon of Chini Lake.  The Nagas and strong females are present within a lot of the cultures in Southeast Asia, so we knew those were threads that would really resonate within the film.” 

Comments Nguyen, “Without a doubt, I think Adele and I drew inspirations for families from our parents.  Specifically for me, from my mom.  I know what she had to go through when she came to this country.  And just to have that kind of fighting spirit.  And also, just the kind of energy that our people have that you don’t always get to display on screen. It was important for us to show the real spirit of Southeast Asia out there.” 

As the story of Raya’s journey in “Raya and the Last Dragon” evolved over the years of developing the film, a theme of unity and togetherness began to emerge, being further honed and defined when directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada came on board the project.

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Don Hall

“There had been some great exploration by the team into the concept of unity and togetherness,” says Hall, “but Carlos and I felt that honing in on the trust required to achieve unity would lay a firm groundwork from which to make every decision in our lead character’s journey.”

Describing the tone of the film and how it affects the Raya character, screenwriter Adele Lim says, “The tone we really wanted to lead with was one of love for our world, our family and joy. With a project like this that is so fantastical, we wanted to find emotional anchors for our character and her journey, grounded in something true and relatable. So when you look at Raya and her journey—she loses her relationship with her father, she loses this world she grew up in—and there’s this need to fight for the chance to restore her world, and perhaps see her father again, one day. And so we wanted to explore all those emotions, but at the same time, have the film be joyful, fun and an adventure.”

John Ripa - Profile - Creative Talent Network
John Ripa

Co-director John Ripa says writers Nguyen and Lim were “both incredible to work with on this film. They both bring amazing character and humor to their writing. Adele really found Raya’s character—her strengths, her vulnerabilities, as well as how she relates—or doesn’t—to those around her. And Qui is really incredible with structure. He also found a lot of entertainment and humor, and specificity for the characters’ voices. And so with the two working together, you get this powerhouse combination of heart, humor, story structure and character specificity.”

Head of story Fawn Veerasunthorn and her team of story artists were key to visualizing the script and delivering the directors’ vision. “The storyboarding phase of production is like the testing ground of ideas—to see if things work. We rework things a lot on every version of the film to make sure that we deliver the best humor, the best and clearest story for the audience,” she explains.

Head of Story For 'Raya and The Last Dragon' Voted One of Animag's Rising  Stars of 2020 - MickeyBlog.com
Head of story Fawn Veerasunthorn

Veerasunthorn, who was born and raised in Thailand, felt it was essential for her and her team to be steeped in the cultural inspirations, so she put on a presentation of key learnings that she and the other filmmakers gleaned from their research trip to Southeast Asia. “I wanted to provide the same experience for my team,” says Veerasunthorn. “In the beginning it was kind of hard to understand culturally, because people are not as familiar with Southeast Asia as perhaps other parts of Asia. So, a lot of artists didn’t know what to draw for the outfits or other cultural things. So, it was a way to get everyone on the same page.”

For Shurer, developing the first Southeast Asian warrior princess was a labor of love born out of her past Disney experiences and collaborations. 

“I’d have to say that Disney has a long legacy of pushing the envelope in terms of the power and the strength of our female protagonists,” says Shurer.

“We did that on ‘Moana,’ for example, and with ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ we just took it to a whole new level, and just pushed it exactly where we wanted it to be, with all the blessings of our chief creative officer and the rest of our story trust. Just go and play and make her as amazing as she can be.  Not just her, but Namaari, Sisu and all the other characters.  Just push it. And so, we did. We’re really proud of the result.”

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Director Carlos López Estrada

Director Carlos López Estrada concurs, “If you think about Raya in context with the rest of the movies from Walt Disney Animation Studios, it makes sense and belongs to the family.  But, it also just stands out in a way that is just super-exciting. I feel like she is going to be unlike any Disney heroine you’ve ever seen.”

The Raya Southeast Asia Story Trust: A Gathering Of Experts

Throughout the making of the movie, filmmakers consulted with a group consisting of anthropologists, architects, dancers, linguists, and musicians—a group the filmmakers call the Raya Southeast Asia Story Trust.

These expert consultants from the region provided invaluable assistance to the entire production team throughout the making of the film to ensure that even though this is a fantasy adventure, it is grounded in respect for the diverse cultures of Southeast Asia that inspired the film.

Moana' Producer Osnat Shurer to Give Talk at 2020 VIEW Conference - Variety
Osnat Shurer

Explaining how the filmmakers worked with the consultants to enrich the story with elements from throughout Southeast Asia, Osnat Shurer says, “It was an organic process. We met some of the Trust members through our early research trips. Still, others we sought out for specific elements—whether it was an expert in fabrics, in architecture, in music. We worked with a linguist from the region.  Kumandra is such a diverse and big and beautiful and rich world that in finding our connection to each land, we leaned very heavily on our Southeast Asia Story Trust, on some of our experts, to help find those connections.”

Dr. Soulinhakhath Steve Arounsack, a visual anthropologist, who is one of the lead consultants on the film, describes his contributions: “My role was to provide a comprehensive and holistic review of the visuals and cultural themes embedded in our film. That included things such as characters, environment, motifs and all the different philosophies that might go into it. And I examined visuals, small details, such as the types of flowers that are used all the way up to the design of prominent characters like Sisu and Raya and the iconic accessories like Raya’s sword and Raya’s hat.”

The production was blessed with several key creatives who were from or who had familial ties to Southeast Asia, including screenwriter Qui Nguyen, who is Vietnamese-American; Fawn Veerasunthorn, head of story, who is from Thailand; and screenwriter Adele Lim who hails from Malaysia originally. Their insights on everything from customs and traditions combined with the experts from the story trust, created ongoing conversations that enlightened the filmmakers and gave special depth and meaning to the film.

As producer Osnat Shurer says, “The cultural in-conversation was going on during the writing of the script and continued to go on throughout the creation of the film, and continues to this day.  Some of it is just because we’re all buddies and we love to talk to each other. But also, we keep our trust involved as we talk about extensions of the storytelling seen in publishing, in consumer products, in so many elements. So it’s an ongoing conversation that grows organically through the specific needs of the film.”

How Raya and the Last Dragon Became the First Disney Movie Made at Home |  Den of Geek

Martial Arts Inspirations

Combat sequences throughout the film were inspired by martial art forms specific to the cultures of Southeast Asia and were created through collaboration among the film’s co-writer Qui Nguyen, the Character Animation team and fight reference choreographer Maggie MacDonald, a longtime collaborator of Nguyen’s.

Says Qui Nguyen, “Being a lifelong martial artist, I wanted to make sure that our martial arts were correct.  So often when you see a big action movie that is depicted with people who look like me, the martial arts can be just any combination of anything. Really, they could be made-up martial arts.  But for this, it was very important that the moves that Namaari, Benja and Raya used were styles that were rooted in Southeast Asian martial arts.”

Sword Fight Raya GIF - SwordFight Raya Namaari - Discover & Share GIFs

The complex fighting styles employed by Raya and Benja, from the land of Heart, are inspired by Malaysian and Filipino martial arts. When armed, they utilize Arnis, a Filipino fighting style that emphasizes intricate weapon forms (including escrima, which Young Raya wields at the top of the film). Unarmed, they fight using Penchak Silat, a Malaysian and Indonesian fighting style that incorporates animal stances and intricate defenses and strikes.

Raya and the Last Dragon' Trailer #2 - Movie Video | Moviefone

If Heart’s fighting styles are elaborate and dynamic, the fighting techniques of Fang (the land where Namaari comes from) work perfectly in opposition. Her style centers on power and strength. When unarmed, her punches, elbow strikes and kicks are inspired by Muay Thai (also Kun Khmer and Muay Lao), the powerful effective kickboxing techniques of Southeast Asia. She hits, strikes and kicks hard. But that’s not the only thing in her arsenal—she also displays a Vietnamese form that uses surprising flying scissor-leg takedowns as her means of grappling. When armed, Namaari fights using Krabi Krabong, a Thai sword-fighting style that (like Muay Thai) emphasizes powerful slashes and cuts for both defense and offense.

“If kids are big fans of this movie, they will be able to go study real martial arts that represent the cultures that inspired this film and celebrate Southeast Asia so much,” concludes Nguyen.

How To Make A Movie Remotely: Trust & Unity

Nearly all shot production for “Raya and the Last Dragon” took place from the homes of more than 450 artists and crew members. In total, more than 900 Walt Disney Animation Studios employees worked remotely contributing to the film and other upcoming WDAS projects.

“Sometime around March of 2020, as we were heading into the height of our production, which takes place in the last nine months, the pandemic hit,” recalls Shurer.

“And we all went into a work-from-home mode, which meant that in hundreds of homes around the area, we were making assets, animating, making shots, lighting, having story meetings. All of that was happening with all of us from our individual homes. If you asked us a year ago if this is something we could do, we would have said no, of course not. We have to all be together in the same room, we have to be in the building, we need our setups.”

But necessity is the mother of invention, and when March hit, the technology group was ahead of the game as about 30% of the artists had had both work and home set-ups. So when production had to scale up to remote working, they were able to do it quickly and have everyone up and running from home in about two weeks. The technology team on the movie, including Kyle Odermatt, visual effects supervisor, and Kelsey Hurley, technical supervisor, worked with the studio’s technology team to accomplish the feat.

There were definitely challenges and hurdles to jump over along the way: new software had to be experimented with and developed to meet the needs of the artists; internet issues had to be addressed for everyone working from home; equipment needed to be sourced and delivered; a workable daily schedule had to be designed for people new to working from home; and many more. 

With trust and unity being the theme of “Raya and the Last Dragon,” filmmakers found themselves playing out the theme in real life. “One of the interesting things that came from this time of working from home, is that more responsibility was delegated to individual artists by necessity,” says Shurer. “And the artists loved it. And our animators and our lighters and our effects artists just upped their game. As did the supervisors, and the leads, and everyone just learned to trust one another. We learned that we had to trust one another while we working in this distanced way in order to make this movie.”

Visual effects supervisor Kyle Odermatt echoes Shurer, commenting, “One of the incredible aspects of the show that we talked about even before transitioning to work from home is that we wanted to have the directors delegate a great deal of the artistic creation process to heads of departments, department supervisors and the artists themselves.”

Kyle Odermatt - Trojan Horse was a Unicorn
Visual effects supervisor Kyle Odermatt

And that happened organically when the artists began working from home, and it resulted in less review time and back and forth. “What we found is it worked like we envisioned,” says Odermatt, “and I would say our directors thought this was an incredible experience because what they were seeing was artists really getting to extend their creativity and coming up with results that were really just as good as we’ve ever done. And the artists were so inspired by what they were able to contribute to the film.”

“This could’ve been the worst project to work on with what we’ve had to do in this last period of time since March to finish this film off, but I think it’s been one of the best experiences for many people, because of that interaction with the directors and that ability to bring all their creativity to the process,” concludes Odermatt.

Working from home, rather than a recording studio, was a necessity for all of the voice actors as well. Director Don Hall recalls, “We recorded in the voice actors’ closets or in tents set-up in their homes but we always had cameras rolling. It was very important for us to capture not only their vocal performance but their physical performance as well, because the animators are inspired by that footage extensively.”

Whether they choose theaters or their living rooms, when audiences sit down to watch “Raya and the Last Dragon,” filmmakers hope that they will be swept into the fantastical lands of Kumandra and saddle up with Raya on her courageous journey of hope and self-discovery.

Paul Briggs - Trojan Horse was a Unicorn
Paul Briggs

Co-director Paul Briggs hopes audiences relate to the theme. “I want my son, and my grandson, and my great-great grandchildren to understand that this film is about the need for trust in each other so that we can come together to make this world a better place,” he says. 

For Awkwafina, the representation was equally as important. “There are so many different levels of representation in ‘Raya and the Last Dragon.’ There’s Southeast Asian representation that you don’t really see a lot of, especially in the animated sphere. But then there’s also the idea of three strong female leads. In the way that it’s presented, I have never seen anything like it in this country. When it does hit screens it’s going to definitely inspire.”

Summing up the filmmakers’ expectations for the audiences, Carlos López Estrada says, “Audiences should expect to be surprised. It’s a fantasy adventure, but it’s so much more than that. It has so much comedy to offer. It has so much action and so many thrills. We really wanted the movie to be unexpected and we really wanted the movie to feel new within the genre and even within the incredible legacy of Disney Animation.”

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THE FINEST HOURS – 2016 American action thriller directed by Craig Gillespie and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. The screenplay, written by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver, and Paul Tamasy, is based on The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. The film stars Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, John Ortiz, and Eric Bana, and chronicles the historic 1952 United States Coast Guard rescue of the crew of SS Pendleton, after the ship split apart during a nor’easter off the New England coast

FIRST MAN – 2018 biographical drama film directed by Damien Chazelle and written by Josh Singer. Based on the 2005 book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, the film stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, alongside Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Christopher Abbott, and Ciarán Hinds, and follows the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon in 1969.

FUR: AN IMAGINARY PORTRAIT OF DIANE ARBUS (also known simply as Fur). In 1958 New York Diane Arbus (Nicole Kidman) is a housewife and mother who works as an assistant to her husband (Ty Burrell), a photographer employed by her wealthy parents. Respectable though her life is, she cannot help but feel uncomfortable in her privileged world. One night, a new neighbor (Robert Downey Jr.) catches Diane’s eye, and the enigmatic man inspires her to set forth on the path to discovering her own artistry. 2006 romantic drama film directed by Steven Shainberg and written by Erin Cressida Wilson, based on Patricia Bosworth’s book Diane Arbus: A Biography. It stars Nicole Kidman as iconic American photographer Diane Arbus, who was known for her strange, disturbing images, and also features Robert Downey Jr. and Ty Burrell. As the title implies, the film is largely fictional.

GENIUS – Maxwell Perkins, a renowned book editor, develops a friendship with novelist Thomas Wolfe while working together on a project. 2016 British-American biographical drama directed by Michael Grandage and written by John Logan, based on the 1978 National Book Award-winner Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg. The film stars Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Dominic West, and Guy Pearce.

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN – A 2017 British biographical drama about the lives of Winnie-the-Pooh creator A. A. Milne and his family, especially his son Christopher Robin. It was directed by Simon Curtis and written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Simon Vaughan, and stars Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, and Kelly Macdonald.

GOODFELLAS (stylized GoodFellas) 1990 American biographical crime film directed by Martin Scorsese, who also wrote with Nicholas Pileggi, and produced by Irwin Winkler. It is a film adaptation of the 1985 nonfiction book Wiseguy by Pileggi. Starring Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino, the film narrates the rise and fall of mob associate Henry Hill and his friends and family from 1955 to 1980.

GOYA’S GHOSTS – When the prominent Spanish painter Francisco Goya’s muse gets arrested by the Church on account of heresy, her father pleads with him to secure her release as he is in good terms with Brother Lorenzo. 2006 biographical drama directed by Miloš Forman (his final directorial feature before his death in 2018), and written by him and Jean-Claude Carrière. The film stars Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgård.

GREEN BOOK – Dr. Don Shirley is a world-class African-American pianist who’s about to embark on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962. In need of a driver and protection, Shirley recruits Tony Lip, a tough-talking bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx. Despite their differences, the two men soon develop an unexpected bond while confronting racism and danger in an era of segregation.2018 biographical comedy-drama buddy film directed by Peter Farrelly. Set in 1962, the film is inspired by the true story of a tour of the Deep South by African American classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley and Italian American bouncer Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga who served as Shirley’s driver and bodyguard. The film was written by Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie and Vallelonga’s son, Nick Vallelonga, based on interviews with his father and Shirley, as well as letters his father wrote to his mother. The film is named after The Negro Motorist Green Book, a mid-20th century guidebook for African-American travelers written by Victor Hugo Green.

HIDDEN FIGURES is a 2016 American biographical drama directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder. It is loosely based on the 2016 non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about African American female mathematicians who worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the Space Race. The film stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and other missions. The film also features Octavia Spencer as NASA supervisor and mathematician Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as NASA engineer Mary Jackson, with Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, and Glen Powell in supporting roles

HOWL – 2010 drama which explores both the Six Gallery debut and the 1957 obscenity trial of 20th-century American poet Allen Ginsberg’s noted poem Howl. The film is written and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and stars James Franco as Ginsberg. Howl explores the life and works of 20th-century American poet, Allen Ginsberg. Constructed in a nonlinear fashion, the film juxtaposes historical events with a variety of cinematic techniques. It reconstructs the early life of Ginsberg during the 1940s and 1950s. It also re-enacts Ginsberg’s debut performance of “Howl” at the Six Gallery Reading on October 7, 1955 in black-and-white. The reading was the first important public manifestation of the Beat Generation and helped to herald the West Coast literary revolution that became known as the San Francisco Renaissance. In addition, parts of the poem are interpreted through animated sequences. Finally, these events are juxtaposed with color images of the 1957 obscenity trial of San Francisco poet and City Lights Bookstore co-founder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who was the first person to publish “Howl” in Howl and Other Poems.

INTO THE WILD – 2007 biographical adventure drama written, co-produced, and directed by Sean Penn. It is an adaptation of the 1996 non-fiction book of the same name written by Jon Krakauer and tells the story of Christopher McCandless (“Alexander Supertramp”), a man who hiked across North America into the Alaskan wilderness in the early 1990s. The film stars Emile Hirsch as McCandless and Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt as his parents; it also features Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, and Hal Holbrook.

I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS – 2009 biographical black comedy drama based on a 1980s and 1990s real-life story of con artist, impostor and multiple prison escapee Steven Jay Russell, as played by Jim Carrey. While incarcerated, Russell falls in love with his fellow inmate, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). After Morris is released from prison, Russell escapes from prison four times to be reunited with Morris. The film was adapted from the 2003 book I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks by Steve McVicker

THE IRON LADY – 2011 British biographical drama based on the life and career of Margaret Thatcher, a British politician who was the first woman and longest-serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the 20th century. The film was directed by Phyllida Lloyd and written by Abi Morgan. Thatcher is portrayed primarily by Meryl Streep, and, in her formative and early political years, by Alexandra Roach. Thatcher’s husband, Denis Thatcher, is portrayed by Jim Broadbent, and by Harry Lloyd as the younger Denis. Thatcher’s longest-serving cabinet member and eventual deputy, Geoffrey Howe, is portrayed by Anthony Head.

JACKIE – 2016 biographical drama directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Noah Oppenheim. The film stars Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy. Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, and John Hurt also star; it was Hurt’s final film released before his death in January 2017. The film follows Jackie Kennedy in the days when she was First Lady in the White House and her life immediately following the assassination of her husband, United States President John F. Kennedy, in 1963. It is partly based on Theodore H. White’s Life magazine interview with the widow at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, in November 1963.

JARHEAD – 2005 American biographical war drama based on U.S. Marine Anthony Swofford’s 2003 memoir of the same name. The film was directed by Sam Mendes, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Swofford with Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard, Lucas Black, and Chris Cooper. Jarhead chronicles Swofford’s life story and his military service in the Gulf War.

JOBS – College dropout Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher), together with his friend, technical whiz-kid Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad), sparks a revolution in home computers with the invention of the Apple 1 in 1976. Built in the garage of Jobs’ parents, the device — and the subsequent formation of Apple Inc. — have changed the world for all time. Though he is viewed as a visionary, Jobs’ tenure as Apple’s leader is a rocky one, leading to his eventual ouster from the company he co-founded. 2013 biographical drama based on the life of Steve Jobs, from 1974 while a student at Reed College to the introduction of the iPod in 2001.

JOY– A story of a family across four generations, centered on the girl who becomes the woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Facing betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, Joy becomes a true boss of family and enterprise. Allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy’s inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces. 2015 biographical comedy-dramawritten and directed by David O. Russell and starring Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, a self-made millionaire who created her own business empire.

THE LADY IN THE VAN – A 2015 British comedy-drama directed by Nicholas Hytner, and starring Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings, based on the memoir of the same name created by Alan Bennett. It was written by Bennett, and it tells the (mostly[ true story of his interactions with Mary Shepherd, an elderly woman who lived in a dilapidated van on his driveway in London for 15 years.

LA VIE EN ROSE – A 2007 biographical musical film about the life of French singer Édith Piaf. The film was co-written and directed by Olivier Dahan, and stars Marion Cotillard as Piaf.

LEAVE NO TRACE is a 2018 drama directed by Debra Granik and written by Granik and Anne Rosellini, based on the 2009 novel My Abandonment by Peter Rock. The plot follows a military veteran father with post-traumatic stress disorder (Ben Foster) who lives in the forest with his young daughter (Thomasin McKenzie). The novel is based on a true story.

LEGEND – A 2015 biographical crime thriller written and directed by American director Brian Helgeland. It is adapted from John Pearson’s book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins, which deals with their career and the relationship that bound them together, and follows their gruesome career to life imprisonment in 1969.

LIFE – In 1955, young photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) develops a close bond with actor James Dean (Dane DeHaan) while shooting pictures of the rising Hollywood star. 2015 biographical drama directed by Anton Corbijn and written by Luke Davies. It is based on the friendship of Life photographer Dennis Stock and Hollywood actor James Dean, starring Robert Pattinson as Stock and Dane DeHaan as Dean.

LION – 2016 Australian biographical drama directed by Garth Davis (in his feature directorial debut) from a screenplay by Luke Davies based on the 2013 non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley. The film stars Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Nicole Kidman, as well as Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Priyanka Bose, Deepti Naval, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. It tells the true story of how Brierley, 25 years after being separated from his family in India, sets out to find them.

LITTLE ASHES – In 1922, 18-year-old Salvador Dalí (Robert Pattinson) arrives at art school in Madrid. The Residencia de Estudiantes, or Students’ Residence, is a modern environment which encourages Spain’s brightest young minds. Salvador, who is determined to become a great artist, soon catches the attention of the Resi’s social elite — poet Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltrán) and aspiring filmmaker Luis Buñuel (Matthew McNulty). Together, they form the nucleus of the most modern artist group in Madrid. Their private lives become increasingly complex, as Federico ignores the advances of devoted friend and writer Magdalena (Marina Gatell), and Salvador himself feels the pull of Federico’s magnetism. Salvador and Federico leave Madrid to spend the summer at the seaside village of Cadaques, at the home of Dalí’s family. Federico finds himself accepted into the Dalí family as he and Salvador grow closer until, one night, their friendship becomes romantic. Even as they draw closer, their relationship appears doomed. Luis visits them at university and becomes more suspicious and appalled by their apparent intimacy. Salvador finds Federico’s obsession more than he is prepared to handle, and eventually leaves for Paris. 2008 Spanish-British drama set against the backdrop of Spain during the 1920s and 1930s, as three of the era’s most creative young talents meet at university and set off on a course to change their world. Luis Buñuel watches helplessly as the friendship between surrealist painter Salvador Dalí and the poet Federico García Lorca develops into a love affair.

LONE SURVIVOR – 2013 biographical military action film based on the eponymous 2007 non-fiction book by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson. Set during the war in Afghanistan, it dramatizes the unsuccessful United States Navy SEALs counter-insurgent mission Operation Red Wings, during which a four-man SEAL reconnaissance and surveillance team was given the task of tracking down the Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. The film was written and directed by Peter Berg, and stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, and Eric Bana.