Who's on THE CALL
In The Call, Jordan is a veteran 911 operator at the top of her game, but involved in a 911 call gone awry. Unable to save the caller, it leaves her shattered. An emergency responder must stay in control at all times, so Jordan decides to address her shaken faith by voluntarily taking herself off the call center floor. Settled in her new position as a call center trainer, she happens to hear the call from a distressed teenager who's been kidnapped. The current training operator is struggling to manage the situation, and despite her personal struggles, Jordan knows she must step in to help. But she has to find her emotional bearings and overcome her insecurities first.
Producer Robert Stein recalls Michael Helfant's first words to him about casting the movie. "He said to me, 'Halle Berry has to star in this movie.' And you know, Michael was absolutely passionate about Halle being in the movie, and we went and started a two-year odyssey of romancing Halle to get her to come into this movie."
Berry says she quickly related to the script when she read it, as a thriller and as a character piece. "I love this genre of film," says the Academy Award-winning actress. "I love to be a little bit scared, but also [films with] a cerebral content to it, as well. Jordan is at the top of her game. She's established in her job. She's one of the best operators in the Hive, which is what the 911 center is called in our movie. She's a happy girl, but then things happen and she starts on a different journey, a life-changing experience."
Says director Brad Anderson, "We really needed an actress with a caliber of talent that could pull off that sort of emotional rage. Halle made several visits to call centers and she was really interested in getting to know the call operators to develop her character. She was really intrigued and passionate about the process."
Berry found talking to real 911 operators an invaluable tool beyond her usual process of breaking down a character and creating her own inner life for the role. "I've always wondered who these people are and what they look like," says Berry. "And I think that's one of the elements that makes this movie interesting, because everybody says, 'Who are those people? What kind of training do they have, and how do they stay so calm under such pressure?' So it's been kind of nice to put a face to all these people that do this job."
With Halle Berry as Jordan, the filmmakers got their dreams fulfilled again when their first choice for the role of Casey, Abigail Breslin, eagerly jumped on board. "She's the right actress for the role," says Helfant. "I think audiences are going to see Abby in a way that they haven't before."
Brad Anderson says, "I met with a few actresses for the role of Casey, but when I met Abigail she was so driven to play the role. She really related to the character's helplessness and fear of small spaces."
Casey's day begins like any other as a socially outgoing teenager: a carefree trip to the mall with her friend. When the pair go their separate ways, Casey reaches her car only to be suddenly attacked, drugged, and thrown into the trunk of the assailant's vehicle. Upon regaining consciousness, she's frantic and terrified by her cramped, unfamiliar, dark surrounding. But she ultimately gains her composure enough to figure out she's in a moving car and desperately needs help. When she locates the cell phone of her friend -- inadvertently left behind at the mall and fortuitously picked up by Casey -- she takes a measure of control and calls 911.
"Casey is definitely a different character than I've played before," says Breslin, who shot to fame as the pageant-obsessed child in Little Miss Sunshine. "It's been really intense, and that's part of the reason I wanted to do it so badly, because of how much of a stretch it was."
Aside from challenges like lots of screaming, and performing tense, involved dialogue scenes into a phone, there was having to act in a car trunk. Says Breslin, "It's pretty terrifying. Weirdly enough, I didn't expect it to be so dark. Your eyes don't ever adjust to the darkness. But everybody's being very gentle about it. I'm actually in two trunks in the movie, a Camry and a Lincoln. The Lincoln is definitely a lot easier: it's larger, and a little more comfortable, but" -- she adds, laughing -- "the Camry does have a few cup holders in the trunk!"
Berry is quick to praise Breslin. "She's such a phenomenal actress," says Berry. "I watched her for three days be in the trunk of this car and just tear it up. She's emotional, imaginative, and a consummate professional. She's a walking advertisement for what an actress should be as far as her ability. I can't say enough good things about her. She's got a really bright future."
Of her onscreen savior, Breslin is equally effusive. "She's been awesome," says Breslin of Berry. "So sweet, and she's such an amazing actress, so it's such an exciting thing to be able to work with her."
With Berry and Breslin attached to the project, the filmmakers needed to cast their bad guy, which went to Michael Eklund. Anderson had recently worked with Eklund on an episode of the television series Fringe, and knew he would be the perfect fit. Says the director, "We needed someone that could carry the role of a tortured psychopath and not shy away from it. Michael has the ability of getting into the skin of characters. I knew he would be able to bring this psychotic killer to life as well as incorporate a level of empathy for the character."
Anderson thought Eklund would be perfect for the role, but needed to get filmmakers on board. Recalls Eklund, "I wanted this role, and needed to prove to the filmmakers that I was the right guy for this. I had to audition, so I basically shot a mini movie based on the character and sent it off. Six weeks later, I'm filming."
Luisi recalls of Eklund's casting, "When we started casting for The Call, Eklund was clearly perfect for the role. He had previously starred in two other films for WWE Studios and I always felt that with the right part, he would deliver a breakout performance -- and he does exactly that in The Call. "
Eklund describes the part this way: "He's a family man, well respected in his community and on the other hand, he is a tremendously troubled serial killer with a fetish. A very "upstanding" yet dark and disturbed character. I was drawn to his layers." The character is so disturbing that Eklund had to dig deep and get into the killer's state of mind. "I have a map in my mind that keeps me on track with all his emotions. It's tricky but fun."
Casting also led the filmmakers toward Morris Chestnut as Jordan's supportive police officer beau, and David Otunga as his overzealous partner in trying to help Jordan find Casey. "The Sopranos" star, Michael Imperioli was also cast, as a limo driver whose day intersects with the kidnapper's. On working with director Brad Anderson, Imperioli says, "Brad's very clear on what he wants to do. He has a very keen visual sense. I'm also amazed at how fast he's able to execute these complicated set-ups and scenes and move through them, and keep the energy up and flowing."
Breslin uses the word "awesome" to describe her director. "I love working with him," she says. "He's so specific, and knows exactly what he wants, but he lets you try things and he's very open to talk about things. He's very calm, never gets hysterical, which is really nice, to just have somebody who is really level-headed throughout the whole thing. We're doing such intense material, and it's really emotional, really heavy, and it's hard to go to some of those places emotionally. So to have a director there who is aware of that and really attentive to what everybody needs and is thinking about is awesome."
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