DON'T SAY A WORD
About The Production
Novelist Andrew Klavan, who received the Mystery Writers of America's "Edgar" award for best mystery novel of the year, for Don't Say A Word, draws inspiration for his nerve-shattering adventure tales from a variety of sources — even a new-born baby. After his daughter's birth, he would awaken every few hours each night to check on her. "One night." Klavan remembers, "I wondered, 'What if I looked in ... and she was gone?"'
From that disturbing thought — representing every parent's nightmare — "the basics of the story unrolled in front of me." Much to the chagrin of his wife, Klavan set the story in his own New York apartment.
When Klavan completed Don't Sax' A Word, the motion picture rights were grabbed by producers Arnold and Anne
Kopelson. One of the industry's most distinguished and successful producers, Arnold
Kopelson, a former art and music student, is recognized for his abilities to visualize a film's look, from reading a novel or script. "In my mind, I see the scenes, move the actors around, envision the locations and hear the music." What Kopelson saw in Klavan's novel led him to risk putting up his own money to option it. "I couldn't turn the pages fast enough," Kopelson recalls. "My skin was crawling and my heart was thumping."
The Kopelsons spent the next two years developing the project independently. It was the beginning of a lengthy process. While the novel was hailed for its relentless pacing and tersely graphic prose, adapting it for the screen presented formidable challenges. Notes screenwriter Anthony
Peckham: "The book is a great page-turner, but it's non-linear structure was difficult to translate to the screen."
Peckham and screenwriter Patrick Smith Kelly, working separately, opened up the story through various methods: inventing a broken leg for the character of Nathan's wife, Aggie (justifying her immobility after her daughter is kidnapped," says
Peckham); adding the character of a police lieutenant whose investigation of a murder ultimately intersects with Nathan's predicament; enhancing the novel's voyeurism angle (the kidnappers, situated above the Conrad apartment, always have their eye on the bedridden Aggie) and setting the story during the Thanksgiving holiday. The latter provided the foundation for one of the film's key action scenes, which sees Nathan desperately trying to make his way to Elisabeth by going through Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
As development on the project continued through various studio management changes, the Kopelsons remained steadfast in their commitment to and faith in the material. So, too, did another fan of the novel: Michael Douglas, who expressed interest in the project and in the role of Nathan Conrad; in fact, the role was written with Douglas in mind, says Anthony
"DON'T SAY A WORD is a thriller in the classic tradition," says Douglas. "Its strength lies in the unexpected qualities of its characters. For example, Nathan Conrad is someone who appears to have everything. Suddenly, what he loves most is taken away from him — and he struggles against a ticking clock to get her back."
Nathan must traverse the worlds of the insane (the fictional Bridgeview Psychiatric Hospital, closely modeled after New York's famed Bellevue Hospital) and the dead (an enormous graveyard), to save his daughter. His journey leads him to undergo radical changes. "Nathan never had to get his hands dirty," notes Patrick Smith Kelly. By the end, he's become like a primal man, determined to get his daughter back at all costs. He's thinking that he'd be better off dead than letting his child be killed."
Nathan, like the classic Hitchcockian hero, finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time — thrust into extreme circumstances beyond his control and forced to reach
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