THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE
About The Production
For twenty-odd years
now, I have written the notes on the making of my films. Originally, it was a
knee-jerk reaction to the practice of distributors handing out unhelpful
hyperbole -hastily assembled info often written by someone who wasn't even
around when we made the movie - usually dished up on a few sheets of
stapled-together paper. Equally, as has often been pointed out to me by my
journalist friends, perhaps a few sheets of superficial information are exactly
what journalists and film writers require especially if they don't like the
movie! (They sarcastically tease me that whets it comes to me spouting on about
my film, they find that a list of cast and crew credits, preferably spelled
correctly - plus a tote bag full of CDs, T-shirts, baseball caps and passes for
the Universal Studios tout to be imminently more preferable. After all, shouldn't
watching the actual movie for two hours be enough?) Boy, do I agree.
But anyway, I
persevere. Not least of all, because something of what I've scribbled down
here, as honestly written as it can be, might be of help to anyone interested in
how we made the film and, more importantly perhaps - considering the subject
matter — why we made it.
This film began
with a strike - well, at least the threat of one. There I was in September of
2000 tapping away at my keyboard working on a novel when my co-producer (and
wife), Lisa Moran, gently pointed out that the threatened strikes by SAG and the
Writers Guild could mean that I might not be making a film for a whole year.
Maybe longer, as the strike, set for June 2001, was nine months away, and who
knew how long it would last? In fact, as a member of the Writers Guild, I might
not even be allowed to write either. Consequently I joined the frantic scramble,
along with many of my fellow filmmakers, to seek out (always difficult) and get
financed (always impossible) what became known as a "pre-strike"
movie. In short: get your movie made before the sword of Damocles falls and the
factory gates slam shut for who knows how long.
I quickly read
eighteen supposedly "hot" scripts, and disliked them all. It's
always agony for me to decide what to do next in normal circumstances, having
been sent over two hundred scripts in the previous year - films take two years
of your life to make, after all, so it's not a good idea to be hasty (I have
made fourteen films in twenty-eight years) and the clock-ticking exercise didn't
seem to improve my ability to decide what to do. I asked my agents in Los
Angeles to send me anything that they had, even if it didn't quite fit into what
the studios were snapping up in those days of frenzy or, more importantly, into
the ever more debilitating exigencies for commercial success. Lisa was the first
to read Charles Randolph's script, The Life of David Gale. And,
like her, I then read it in one sitting, astonished that such a well-written,
page-tuner of a script hadn't already been made. Although the script - an
original story, a fiction - most certainly had an important political issue at
its core that I strongly responded to, it was also a terrific thriller. It had
been gathering dust on a Warner Bros. shelf since it was written in 1998 when
Nicholas Cage's production company commissioned it and the script was now in
"turn-around" from Warners. Charles Randolph, originally from Texas,
had written it while still performing his day job as a professor of philosophy
at a Vienna university.
I flew to Los Angeles and had lunch with Nicolas Cage, who I
knew, having directed him as a very young man in Birdy (1984). He had two
pre-strike films lined up as an<
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