About The Production
Making his feature film screenwriting debut, Mark Protosevich conceived the
idea for The Cell in 1993 when he decided to combine two of his primary areas of
interest, mind-probing and serial killers, together into one project.
former reader for producer Scott Rudin, traces back his admiration for horror
films to his upbringing in Chicago seeing horror films and TV shows such as
"Creature Features." "I was obsessed with The Horror of
Dracula," he notes, "to the point where, when I was in fourth grade I
would pretend at recess that I was a vampire and I got into a lot of trouble. I
used to go around and bite people on the neck at lunch. That was the first black
mark on my career." As he got older, Protosevich was influenced by a new
group of horror films from such noted directors as Wes Craven, George Romero and
David Cronenberg. "The idea of horror has been an obsession of mine for
along time," he continues. "And I'm very interested in psychology and
dreams. The older I got I started to realize the complexities of horror movies.
On the surface there's a monster and you get scared, but deep down they're
actually very complex stories, dealing with a lot of repressed fears and
anxieties. Whether it's the Frankenstein monster or a serial killer, there's
something about them that's terrifying because they don't fit in society."
Protosevich had been toying with the idea of doing a serial killer story, but
wanted to make sure it was not formulaic or predictable. He didn't think he
could improve upon the standard classics like Silence of the Lambs, so he
decided to utilize his fascination with nightmares, dreams and fantasy to create
a new kind of serial killer story. "I wanted to delve into someone's
imagination, someone's mind, because I think fantasies are so much more complex
and wild than our daily lives."
With the idea of the killer in place, Protosevich crafted the story of a
compassionate female scientist whose specialty is psychotherapy with children,
who is then asked to use this advanced technology to go into the mind of a
serial killer to find out where he has placed his last victim who has only forty
hours to live. "She is asked to do this by the FBI," notes Protosevich.
"The lives of her and the FBI agent who becomes involved with her and the
killer intersect, and their understanding of the world is changed via this
In fashioning the science fiction elements of the story, Protosevich relied on
both real science and speculative fiction in the creation of the Neurological
Cartography and Synaptic Transfer System, The Cell's brain-mapping device that,
along with the injection of psychotropic drugs, allows one party to enter the
mind of another party.
New Line Cinema was actively looking for projects for internationally acclaimed
commercial director Tarsem, so when he agreed to The Cell, the film was put on
the track to production.
Producer Eric McLeod, coming off the huge success of Austin Powers: The Spy Who
Shagged Me was brought in by New Line to produce the film with Julio Caro, who
had worked closely with Tarsem at Radical Media, the production company Tarsem
directs commercials and music videos for. Together they began to assemble a
remarkable team of actors and filmmakers to work on the project.
"Tarsem and I had been working together for about two years and were
aggressively looking for a project that would capture his sensibility and his
aesthetic and make the most out of it," says Julio Caro. Caro notes that
the first thing that leapt out to them from the script was the artistic
possibilities of journeying inside the mind of a serial killer. "For the
aspect of the viewer," Caro continues, "that's important, because it's
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