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SIMONE

About The Production
Just ask Viktor Taransky, writer/director/producer Andrew Niccol's onscreen counterpart: "It's easier to make 100,000 people believe than just one." And that is what Taransky and Niccol do with SIMONE, the embodiment of today's ultimate hyphenate star: actress-director-singer-poet-philanthropist, not to mention having her own branded perfume: SIMONE The Cologne. She is the sizzle that keeps on selling to a public refusing to disbelieve.

Niccol's wry send-up of Hollywood skewers movie star idolatry, a self-perpetuating myth not to be denied by players in front of or behind the camera or, for that matter, an adoring public.

"What does it matter if celebrities are real?" asks native New Zealander Niccol, the Academy Awardâ -nominated screenwriter of The Truman Show and writer/director of Gattaca. "Our celebrity-obsessed culture can't tell the difference anyway. Our ability to manufacture fraud exceeds our ability to detect it."

Examining that inability gave life to the story of Viktor Taransky, a man Niccol describes as a disillusioned director desperate to finish his film when the "Holy Grail of software" falls into his lap. It enables him to create "the first totally believable synthetic actor, indistinguishable from flesh and blood. Of course," he adds, "with any such creation it has the potential to destroy you."

It was the consequences of that creation more than the creation of SIMONE that proved titillating. "What if you have an artificial human and neglect to mention that she's artificial? How can you keep up the deceit? And what if you are so successful in the hoax that when you finally tell the truth, you are not believed?" Niccol muses. "The lie is more believable to the world than the truth."

For Niccol, selling that lie convincingly had to come from a performance only Al Pacino could deliver: "Al brings something subversive to the role of a man who is the advocate of artificial humans," he adds. "When such a respected actor says, `Who needs actors?' you take notice. If a more comedic actor made that statement, it wouldn't have the same gravity."

A modest Pacino was both "flattered and humbled" by Niccol's reason for choosing him to portray Taransky, who he calls an "interesting, funny and strange little fellow." But he placed credit for Taransky at the feet of Niccol, who he described as a "gifted visionary."

Pacino was attracted to the role because of Taransky's "eccentricity, his approach to dealing with life and his work and mainly because he looked like someone who had to fight for everything he got."

While Taransky finds success with his creation, Pacino notes that when all is said and done, "Viktor doesn't want to be alone. He wants to feel the comfort and support and encouragement of family and love with other humans." To Pacino, the "big unanswered question in the movie is how his secret is perpetuated and that's what's interesting. It allows for a certain ambivalence, which is always fun for an audience to think about."

Although Taransky is a man whose identity was once indelibly linked to his integrity, success<

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