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THE PLEDGE

About The Production

I like the idea of the story being about fate, not so much about logic," says Sean Penn, who knew he wanted to direct Jack Nicholson in the role of Jerry Black when he read the novel The P/edge by Friedrich Duerrenmatt. "I was looking for another project to do with Jack when we got the rights to the book."

"We agreed that the story is fascinating and unique," says Nicholson, who previously worked with Penn on the film "The Crossing Guard." "The theme presented is, sometimes bad things happen to good people who are trying to do good things. It's about a human being struggling with big and little issues at once.

Penn assembled a stellar supporting cast to complement Nicholson's performance as the driven ex-detective, including Academy Award-winner Vanessa Redgrave, Academy Award-nominee Robin Wright Penn, award-winning playwright-actor-director Sam Shepard, Aaron Eckhart, Benicio Del Toro, Helen Mirren, Michael O'Keefe, Mickey Rourke and Harry Dean Stanton.

"Every day I came to work with another great actor, wondering what they were going to do with their character," recalls Nicholson. "The quality of the actors Sean was able to attract to the project, that's what gives the picture its richness. The film maintains its suspense and a lot of that has to do with the quality of the performances of the actors, all of whom are really quite wonderful."

"I knew I wasn't going to have the time I would normally like to have to work with the actors," says Penn of his casting process. "I needed home-run hitters."

Shooting the film, which takes place over a year-and-a-half, proved challenging. The 55-day shooting schedule required the staging of the spring, summer and fall seasons during the winter months in British Columbia, Canada. The unpredictable weather demanded constant flexibility on the part of the cast and crew. "On quite a number of occasions we'd get ready overnight to shoot a whole scene that required snow," says producer Michael Fitzgerald. "We'd arrive in the morning and before we took our first shot, a rain storm would come through and melt it all away."

Lensing the terrible crime scene that propels Jerry's pledge was no except ion. "That particular scene was very difficult because we had originally set it somewhere else," Fitzgerald explains. "At nine o'clock in the morning, everything was fine. But when all the trucks got there at two o'clock in the afternoon, there was no snow. We had to move the entire company eleven miles further up into the mountains, in the freezing cold, at an instant's notice."

'That was cold," Penn chuckles. "There were grizzly bears. Everybody was a little on edge out there."

The sequence in which Jerry delivers the devastating news to the young victim's parents also presented unexpected challenges. Shot on location at a turkey farm, the scene unfolds in a barn filled with live birds. It's virtually impossible to shoot in a turkey farm like that because the smell is so intense you can't breathe," cautions Fitzgerald. Apparently, the birds don't take well to direction. "Turkeys are very fragile," Penn discovered.

"Trotting through them is no simple task," adds Nicholson, "but I think the scene was beautifully done, shot very simply in the great setting Sean picked."

Despite the remote locations and unpredictable weather conditions, Nicholson was able to keep tabs on his beloved L.A. Lakers. "I managed to see a lot of games on the satellite when we weren't working too late to see them," Nicholson says.

"Jack's a great person to be around in that environment," Penn reveals. "The same thing that makes him fun to watch on the screen makes him fun to be with."

"Sean is one of the people that I always want to work with because he's unique," sa

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