About the Production
"If I do die... I died for love. It'd be a pretty fucking cool way to go."
First time feature filmmaker and 6-time DGA nominee, the acclaimed Fredrik Bond, creates a
genre defying romantic adventure filled with mystery, comedy, drama and violent tension.
Evoking the unforgettable films such as True Romance, Wild at Heart, Slumdog Millionaire,
Trainspotting, and Pulp Fiction, CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN is a playful, exhilarating, fast
paced journey about loss and love conquering all.
The screenplay was written by Matt Drake, who loosely based the story on his real life
experiences while teaching at a small school in Romania. Drake notes, "I had a mild flirtation
with one of the mothers at the school, but after about 2 months the school was temporarily shut
down by the local police and locked up. I had later discovered this women's ex husband
threatened to take her child out of the school, with guns blazing. The story then came from this
event - What if I had had a relationship with this woman?"
The screenplay was featured on the marquee 2007 Blacklist and quickly attracted attention from
top filmmakers within Hollywood. Bond notes when he first read the script "It had been already
taken by another director, but I loved it so much I kept track of its progress until one day there
was an opportunity. From there I spent about 6 months pitching for the project."
Melissa Leo describes it as "An extraordinary story of a young man finding himself and falling
in love, all in an unusual and unique way." Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Gabi's ex-husband
Nigel, recounts when first reading the script, "It's extremely romantic, but in a very specific way.
It's brutal, and yet also funny. It's a heightened drama." The film begins with Charlie
(LaBeouf) who loses his mother and becomes very distraught. "He's been floating through life
and doesn't have much direction, but caught off guard he abruptly loses everything all at once,"
recounts LaBeouf. "It's calamity when we first meet him. He then has his Siddhartha moment
and embarks on a journey to discover himself and find his path."
Our story really kicks off in Bucharest Romania, where Charlie meets Gabi (Evan Rachel
Wood), who is also struck by the recent loss of her father. However, it's love at first sight for
Charlie, who is in a wild, unknown world, more foreign than he ever could have imagined. Gabi,
a beautiful and mysterious woman with a dark and passionate past, proves to be the recipe for
disaster for Charlie as he becomes intertwined with Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen), a violent
charismatic vigilante. Wood describes it as a "Romance that's soft and tender, but surrounded
by craziness." Til Schweiger, who plays a local nightclub owner, notes: "It's dark, yet a
touching and uplifting story, as it deals with true love."
LaBeouf describes Charlie "As a kid who is just chasing the dream; he's chasing love. Nothing
in life really had substance for him until he meets Gabi, whom he quickly realizes is worth
fighting for, even if it means giving up everything he has. It's incredibly surreal in reflection,
but for Charlie it's very, very real and he makes a conscious choice to be courageous, despite the
dangers. He's living in the moment and after playing that character it made me realize that at
any moment, you could meet a stranger who could change the course of your life. Love is worth
giving everything for."
"Shia has an amazing energy in this film. He came onto the set like a hurricane, and was
immediately ready to start bringing his character to life," recounts Wood. D'Onofrio who plays
Charlie's father said, "These are colors we haven't seen in him before" when referring to
LaBeouf's performance. Leo remembers when she brought family photographs to the story for
the art department: She recalls, "It took my breath away, when I saw him study those
photographs. He came to a particular one and absorbed everything in it. He totally immersed
himself into his character. It was a photograph before I was a mother, holding my niece, and he
just took it into his system."
Gabi, the woman who sends Charlie on an emotional roller coaster is a very complex and
mysterious character with many layers. It was difficult finding the right actress who could play
this role and keep it authentic. Shia recounts during the casting process, "Evan was the perfect
choice. I remember there were times, when local young kids would come up to her on set and
assume she was a native, because her accent was so spot on. She's a natural."
Bond describes the relationship between Charlie and Gabi as being like "Playing with
plutonium." "Charlie becomes completely mesmerized by the enigmatic and untouchable Gabi,
but with Nigel in the shadows, Charlie is in way over his head. "I see the attraction and sexual
tension between Charlie and Gabi similar to the Wachowski Brothers' film, Bound. Gabi carries
a sense of beauty and mystery to her. At first she seems untouchable for Charlie, until he begins
peeling off her layers and unveiling her softer, more playful sides," describes Bond.
Nigel is the wild card for Charlie as he finds himself stuck smack in the middle of this love
triangle. Nigel is a charismatic gangster. "You need to fear him and love him, both at the same
time," says Wood. "With Mads you get that from just one look that would send shivers down
your spine. He was perfect for the role," she continues. Shia describes him as being "The perfect
calm and collected villain."
Craig Flores, producer and Patrick Newall, executive producer collectively converse "At
moments the film is dangerous, at others it's funny or incredibly heartwarming. It's not trying to
be one thing, which is what really makes this a genre-bending film." Wood says, "It's high
energy and intense, but also fantastical and surreal mixed with lots of comedic moments."
Much of the film's humor is generated from situations where Charlie, with his uncontrollable
energy and sharp tongue, land him in trouble. He stumbles across these amazingly larger than
life characters while trying to pave a path into Gabi's heart. Rupert Grint plays one of Charlie's
bunk buddy at the youth hostel and describes his character, Karl, as "An aspiring porn-star, but
still a virgin." He slips ecstasy into Charlie's drink when they first meet, which spirals both of
them into a drug-fueled adventure. The comedy that evolves as these situations escalate is in the
vein of Tony Scott's True Romance or similar to that of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.
Bond remembers being particularly inspired by Danny Boyle, specifically the dance number in
Slumdog Millionaire and on the other end of that spectrum, Ewan McGregor's speech laying out
his future in Trainspotting. Bond mentions, "I want this film to be equally engaging and
something that could land in either of these two examples."
Wood claims "Fredrik has an amazing vision and he brilliantly took the story to the next level.
As an example, there was one scene between Gabi and Charlie that seemed to be falling short,
but Fredrik surprised us all by lingering on the silent moments. Nothing was being said, but
EVERYTHING was being said. The tension was enormous."
"I made sure there was a constant tempo and a rhythm to the film," says Bond. He continues, "I
wanted the film to have wit and speed to it. We always had the camera on the move." Our
cinematographer, Roman Vasyanov, who shot Hipsters, the Russian smash hit from 2008 and
more recently the highly visual End of Watch with Jake Gyllenhaal, helped us infuse these dark
and complex characters with intensity and vibrant colors. The colorful visual landscape within
the film is set against the Eastern European architecture and act as an essential part of the overall
experience," says Bond. The locations are stunning and beautiful, but yet still raw and gritty.
LaBeouf describes "Romania as being a living breathing character, similar to that of NYC in
Scorsese's Taxi Driver."
The music in the film remarkably pulls the entire story together in an extraordinary manner.
Composers, Christophe Beck and DEADMONO provide an incredibly energetic original score,
elevating the film and adding to its fast paced style. Mixing in songs from Moby, M83 and The
XX, this film is given the potential of becoming a generation-defining hit movie.
Our story comes to an end when Charlie's exploits of blind valor force him to make a decision; a
decision that could very well cost him his life. Must in fact Charlie Countryman die?
Our Narrator (John Hurt) leaves us with the final word in the film, "Yes Ladies and Gentleman,
the boy did die today, but let us not weep for him. Let us take comfort, knowing that in his final
hours he came more alive than he had in all the days of his life entire. The boy chose Love, and
in defiance of fear and the hazards of this world; HE CHOSE LOVE. ...Fortunately a funny
thing happened, something wondrous, something magical, Love chose him back."
LaBeouf describes "The narration throughout the film reads like a poem" and the film ends on a
big satisfying and inspiring note. Bond notes "I always find that I gravitate towards films where
you feel the energy continues after the screen goes black." Ultimately, the story concludes with
the sacrifice between life and death... and the lovers finding peace together to continue their
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