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ESCAPE PLAN

About the Production
The golden age of Hollywood action films was dominated by a pair of hallmark stars, broad-shouldered, square-jawed loners who faced down their adversaries with unflinching determination. For more than 20 years, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger vied for supremacy in a quintessentially American movie genre, but never stood side by side in an adventure that pitted the two giants against a worthy foe.

Never, that is, until Escape Plan, in which fittingly, the enemy is no mere human, but a chillingly prophetic vision of the ultimate prison -- The Tomb, a bottomless black hole into which some of the most dangerous men alive disappear, never to be seen again.

Penned by first-time screenwriter Miles Chapman and Arnell Jesko, Escape Plan follows security expert Ray Breslin on a journey through a brutal world that hints at the future, but remains firmly rooted in today. Hired to ferret out the flaws in The Tomb's monolithic security system, Breslin becomes trapped in a maximum-security facility designed based on his own recommendations, but without regard to law or human rights. Unable to find a way out on his own, Breslin is forced to team up with fellow detainee Emil Rottmayer for help with his daring escape plan.

Stallone recognized in the script's innovative concept and nuanced narrative a unique opportunity to reinvigorate the action genre. "Today's audience is intelligent and demanding," he explains. "You have to give them something unusual, like pairing Arnold and me. This is a film that I don't think people are going to expect from us. We were on a parallel career course during what I would call the golden age of hardcore action films, but this is something new. It is not just guns and flames and bombs. Our characters really have to use their brains to get out. There's a tremendous amount of action in it, but it is very much a thinking man's adventure, and it plays into the mature part of our careers."

For producer Mark Canton, who has produced a host of raging actioners including 300 and Immortals, the pairing of the two screen legends was a long time coming. "I have always wanted to see Sly and Arnold onscreen together," Canton says. "It has been surprisingly difficult to find a project that would bring out the best in both of them. They are both great in The Expendables, but Arnold has a very specific and small role. Here they have a real partnership that pits them head to head and mano a mano.

"Sly and Arnold are masters of what they do," Canton adds. "Sly loves to write and he's an acclaimed director, so he had a very strong point of view about his character. Arnold knows what he needs to know and he knew how to play off of Sly. What interested both of them was that they are not playing paper cutouts. At this point in their careers, they don't have anything to prove. They want satisfying roles and a good environment to work in and this project had all those opportunities for them."

Producer Randall Emmett adds, "Sylvester is a consummate filmmaker and he was instrumental in shaping the film from script and thru production, giving us invaluable input. "

Screenwriter Chapman conducted extensive research for the project, spending months studying prison architecture with an expert from UCLA and devouring books on the subject. "It was important that everything be plausible," the writer says. "The Tomb is the ultimate prison. It's Guantanamo Bay 3.0, only it's run by a for-profit company, which allows its clients -- governments, multi-national corporations, influential individuals -- to deny any knowledge of its existence. If you're powerful and wealthy enough, you can make people disappear forever. We are right at the boundaries of reality with a facility that could, and perhaps has been, built today. There's nothing in the film that is technologically impossible."

"Miles and Arnell have written a really compelling script," says Canton. "Escape Plan is an unusual combination of high-velocity intrigue and mystery. There is no lack of testosterone in this movie. It features a lot of ass kicking, a lot of action and a lot of good guys and bad guys. But it's also a brilliantly conceived puzzle and, if we've done our job right, the audience will not be ahead of what's happening on screen."

In a chilling reference to the real-life U.S. government practice of "extraordinary rendition," the prisoners held in The Tomb have been "disappeared," drugged and abducted, then spirited away to a remote and undisclosed location. Accused of an array of crimes that threaten world order, they are held indefinitely, without any kind of trial or sentencing. "Once you get there, you have no idea where in the world you are," says Chapman. "You never see the sky. There are no routines, no set meal times, no scheduled shift changes. All points of reference are taken away to disorient and break the wills of the detainees.

Unfortunately for Ray Breslin, The Tomb was built according to his own guidelines to be escape- proof."

Producer Randall Emmett, co-chair of Emmett/Furla Films, found the idea that the world's foremost expert on prison security is trapped in a prison designed to his own specifications to be extremely compelling, but it was the script's multiple twist and turns that really got his attention. "When we learn that he has been set up by persons unknown, it becomes even more intriguing," Emmett says. "There were so many other elements that I never saw coming, like the location of the prison. That reveal totally blew me away."

For Kevin King-Templeton, a longtime associate of Stallone and producer of The Expendables franchise as well as Escape Plan, the script's unusual story and sharp, economical dialogue was a powerful draw. "It was unlike anything I'd ever read," he says. "The twists will shock the audience. Nothing is what it appears to be."

If The Tomb were to exist in real life, the lack of adherence to any human rights conventions would ensure that it was a top-secret, covert operation, King-Templeton says. "The idea of extraordinary rendition, imprisoning people without a trial and denying them any kind of human rights in the wake of war on terror, that's part of what separates this from other prison- escape movies."

The producers realized that combining eye-popping action, brilliantly imagined futuristic visuals and character-driven drama in a single film would require a deft hand at the helm. They knew they had found everything they needed when they met with Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom. The director's resume reaches across the Atlantic, with films that range from Hollywood productions like The Rite, a horror-thriller starring Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins, to the Oscar-nominated Swedish drama, Evil. Escape Plan, with its epic scope and slowly unraveling mysteries, is his most ambitious project to date.

"Mikael understood the material and the characters," says Emmett. "He also understood that we wanted to make a big action movie that will entertain people, as well as a quality-driven film. He was the best person to blend those elements together seamlessly."

Hafstrom's ability to problem solve -- much in the same way Ray Breslin does in the film -- helped make him the ideal director for the project, according to Chapman. "He breaks situations down in an almost mathematical way. At the same time, the heartbeat of the movie is very visceral. This is a great adventure at its core. Mikael understood that and recognized the scope of the story. And he captured both sides of the movie with an awesome sense of humor."

Hafstrom says he was attracted by the screenplay's fresh take on a proven genre. "The twists are great. We all like to be surprised by a situation or a character. And, of course, to have the opportunity to do it with Sylvester Stallone was something that I couldn't resist. Then when Arnold became attached, it was almost too overwhelming to think I would be working with two such iconic action stars."

The project offers more than just twists and action, however, says the director. "It's a rich movie with layered, interesting characters, as well as a great adventure. Sly's character carries with him a dark past that is revealed during the film and Arnold's character has a lot of secrets in his back pocket. Watching these two characters get to know each other and reveal their history is what really drives the film. That for me was the main reason to dig into it."

Seeing his script come to life in this way has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Chapman, who says the film's No. 1 goal is to entertain. "The movies I love tell a great story with real characters, humor and larger-than-life action, so you care about what happens. I hope what we've provided is intelligent and thrilling entertainment."

Escape Plan is designed as a nonstop thrill ride, according to Emmett. "And when you get off our ride, you are going to be fully satisfied. It is packed with adrenaline, but there is also a lot of intense emotion in addition to the action. You are going to see two of the most iconic action stars in history on screen together for two hours and that will be something really special. Casting Arnold & Sylvester in the same movie was a dream pairing. These two iconic action figures have excited and thrilled movie audiences worldwide and having them on the same film playing off each other would definitely satisfy their legions of fans."

Producer Mark Canton notes that after four decades making movies, his mission remains the same. "I always aim to give audiences a movie they can only experience properly in a movie theater," he says. "And I feel very excited about this picture. It doesn't matter if you're an 18-year-old college kid or a 50-year-old professional man or woman. The sheer originality of the project, along with the level of acting talent and the unique style that our director brings to it offers something for everyone."

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