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ROAD TO PERDITION

Taking The Road
"Road to Perdition" is a title with a twofold meaning. In literal terms, Perdition is the name of the town to which Michael Sullivan and his only surviving son, Michael Sullivan, Jr., are headed. But Perdition is also a euphemism for Hell, and in that regard, the road is one Michael Sullivan prays he can keep his son from traveling.

Tom Hanks, who stars as Michael Sullivan, offers, "The message from Michael the father to Michael the son is that you get to choose the road you're on in this life, but don't choose what I have chosen…the road I've been on all my life. Somewhere in my past, I made the choice to go in a certain direction, and it leads right to perdition."

Director/producer Sam Mendes agrees, observing, "Michael Sullivan considers himself to have been put on the road to hell. Now he is in a battle for the soul of his son. Can a man who has led a bad life achieve redemption through his child? That is one of the central questions asked by the movie."

The first step on the movie "Road to Perdition" was taken by producer Dean Zanuck when he received the graphic novel, written by Max Allan Collins, as part of a pitch. Having never even seen a graphic novel, let alone read one, he began flipping through it and was hooked. "I just loved it," he recalls. "The father and son story had a powerful emotional impact on me, and the illustrations by Richard Piers Rayner provided a great visual of the period. That, combined with the action in the piece, made it very appealing. When I finished it, I said to my wife, ‘I think something special is going to happen with this.'"

The younger Zanuck immediately sent the book to his father, producer Richard D. Zanuck, who was on location in Morocco. Richard Zanuck picks up the story with, "I read it and was instantly attracted to it. It had wonderful action and colorful characters, and it just had all the elements of being a very entertaining, provocative picture. But it was the relationship between the father and son that develops through the course of the story that really got me. I called Dean and asked him to send a copy over to Steven Spielberg at DreamWorks. To my amazement, two days later the phone rang in my humble little room in Morocco and it was Steven. He said, ‘I love this. Let's do it,' and that's how it happened."

The father and son relationship that had struck a chord with the father and son producers would eventually be fleshed out even more in the screenplay by David Self. Richard Zanuck says, "Everyone responded very strongly and very positively to the script. The graphic novel was told in pictures and images, but the screenplay evolved into a much deeper, more complex story. It delves more into the personal side of this father and son and has more heart…more human emotions."

One of those who responded positively was director Sam Mendes, who chose "Road to Perdition" as his follow-up to his Oscar®-winning film directorial debut "American Beauty." The Zanucks knew Mendes was perfect to helm "Road to Perdition" from their very first meeting with him. "The way he spoke about the story and his plans for the film, we felt the movie elevating before our very eyes," Dean Zanuck states. "He had an extraordinary grasp of the material."

Mendes offers that there were several elements that attracted him to the project, beginning with the script. "David Self had made some clever additions to the graphic novel, but it remained an incredibly simple

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