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THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO

About The Production
When casting "The Count of Monte Cristo," the priority was to make it as contemporary as possible. "We were looking for some fresh talent," Gary Barber says. "Jim Caviezel was superb in ‘The Thin Red Line' and Guy Pearce was outstanding in ‘L.A. Confidential.' Guy had also demonstrated his popularity in Europe with ‘Neighbors,' the Australian soap opera, and he is a terrific actor."

"We wanted a cast that was young, talented and pleasing to the eye -- fresh blood to make it a really spectacular looking film," concurs Roger Birnbaum. With stunning newcomer Dagmara Dominczyk as Mercedes and legendary actor Richard Harris as the Abbe Faria, the principal roles were complete.

"The Count of Monte Cristo" is the story of one man's journey into the dark places of his soul. "The way I related with the part was through the notion of losing your faith, of hating God and then coming back to finding peace again," Jim Caviezel says of his character who changes from a bright-eyed idealist into a cold-hearted avenger. "It is the journey of having to go through hell to become a better man. The young Edmond Dantes starts out as someone who sees the world as basically good, like how a child sees it, and that gradually changes. This guy becomes a victim of circumstance and doesn't understand why such things could happen to him. I tried to relate to some of those elements in my own life."

Despite the many previous film versions of Dumas's classic novel, Caviezel opted not to watch any of them as he quite literally played it by the book. "I didn't see any of the versions of ‘The Count Of Monte Cristo' because I didn't want to take anything from them," he says. "I'm a mimic. If I watch people, I unconsciously pick things up that I like. So if I was to watch let's say, Richard Chamberlain or Gérard Depardieu, then I may want to put certain things in. People would then say, ‘Oh, that's Depardieu.' So I tried to stay true as much as I could to the book."

Caviezel did a lot of historical research relating to the era. "I studied a lot about Napoleon and his life," he says, "where he came from in Corsica, his time in military school in France, and how he was below the class of the other men in his section. I could relate to that in my own life when I moved to another school where I didn't fit in. So I took that and drew a parallel to this character."

Guy Pearce, the versatile star of "L.A. Confidential," "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," and "Memento," is Edmond Dantes's nemesis, Fernand Mondego. "I loved Guy in ‘L.A. Confidential,'" Kevin Reynolds says. "He is a consummate actor and really gets inside the skin of the characters he is portraying. I needed someone with that ability to play Fernand, and he didn't disappoint at all. He is a lot of fun to watch."

Mondego is a complex villain and his relationship with Edmond Dantes is a curious contrast in character. "We've taken the liberty with this film of making these two childhood friends, so there's more at stake within the relationship. In Dumas' extraordinary novel, these two are barely even acquaintances," Guy Pearce says. "Fernand is a young man who is in love with Mercedes and yet knows that she is in love with another, and so he does what he must to eliminate his opposition. Similarly, in our story, Fernand's jealousy leads him to take the same fateful action, but with the added conflict of the betrayal of a friend."

To chart the change from being the young man who saves Edmond's life to the one who steals it was a compelling challenge for Pearce. "Here is somebody who essentially has everything: status, wealth, anything he wants, and yet is completely miserable," he says. "Yet Edmond Dantes, his longtime

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