About The Production
Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington (Glory), who most recently received accolades for his performance in Training Day, plays John Q. Archibald, a working man on reduced hours at a factory, whose world falls apart when his son Michael collapses during a baseball game. "He finds out in an awful way that his son is very ill," says Washington. "He is in tough financial straits. His car is repossessed the same day. He also finds out that he doesn't have the insurance that he thought he had to cover something of this magnitude.
Says producer Mark Burg, "John Q. takes a hard look at the common man and how far he would push the envelope to save his child. He'll sacrifice his job, his house, his money, and ultimately, he's willing to put his life on the line."
Ten-year-old newcomer Daniel E. Smith plays John's son, Michael, and Kimberly Elise plays his wife, Denise, who stands by her husband after he resorts to drastic actions. "Whether she agrees or not with what John does is irrelevant to her," says Elise. "They're in this terrible situation and she's the last person in the world who will turn her back on her husband. The love in their marriage is so deep and so real, and what he does for his family is just breathtaking."
"When your child is sick, you have tunnel vision. Nothing else matters," says director Nick Cassavetes, for whom the story resonated in light of his own experiences. "My daughter has a congenital heart disease, and I've watched her go through four operations. I know about the runarounds you get from insurance companies, hospitals and doctors."
After exhausting all possibilities for paying for his son's direly-needed heart transplant, John makes an appeal to Dr. Raymond Turner, head of the cardiac unit at the hospital, played by Oscar nominee James Woods. "What I find most moving about this film is the human story of a man who is put in a position to do
something that he ordinarily wouldn't do out of his love for his child," says Woods. "Dr. Turner is a fundamentally kind man who is caught up
in the system and wants to do the best he can, but in fact, he is hampered by the system itself. The operation Michael needs is going to cost one quarter of a million dollars, there's no insurance and he offers to waive his
extraordinary fee. But that's still not enough."
Anne Heche plays hospital administrator Rebecca Payne, who is forced to take the hard line in representing the hospital.
"I'm sure every single person who holds this position would want to get health care to anybody who needs it," says
Heche. "But they can't always do that. There are some things you don't like doing — to sit down and say to people in need of help, 'I'm
sorry, your insurance doesn't cover this.'"
The pressure on John Q. reaches the breaking point when the hospital informs him they will be sending Michael home. "They're sending his son home because John doesn't have enough money," says Washington. "If they send him home, his son's going to die. He's backed into a corner and makes a critical but wrong decision."
"John's attitude is, 'my son's not dying because I don't have health insurance,'" adds producer Mark Burg.
"Once John takes the emergency room hostage, the story goes out above the radar, on television, on the radio," says Ray
Liotta, who plays Police Chief Gus Monroe, who convenes his SWAT team at the hospital. 'There are a lot of people watching
this; and it's a political year. Monroe thinks the best thing to do, especially because John has threatened the lives of people, is to just take him out — insensitively so, to some people. What John Q. does is very heroic, but it's not the right thing to do, and we're not condoning it. We want to end it."
Monroe brings in hostage negotiator Frank Grimes, played by Academy Award-<
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