About The Production
place on December 31, 1999 at Fort Clayton, a U.S. army base on the edge of the
Panama Canal. The previous day Hurricane Beth had hit the base and the outlying
area at full force. At the time, an elite covert operations team led by Sgt.
Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson) was in the jungle on what appeared to be a
routine training exercise. By the time the storm passes, the sergeant and
several of his Rangers are missing. Of the two recruits who are rescued, both
tell a different story of what transpired. But it soon becomes clear that this
was no ordinary training mission and that a major cover-up is underway.
"I always loved
mysteries when I was a kid," says screenwriter and producer James
Vanderbilt. "I knew that someday I wanted to write one that had many twists
and had the audience guessing up until the last minute."
And he made good on
that promise, says producer Mike Medavoy, Chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures.
"When I read the script for Basic, I was captivated," he says.
"It is packed with dark, Hitchcockian twists and turns. The story is told
by several characters whose versions conflict with one another, which keeps the
audience guessing as to what happened that day in the jungle and why. It all
leads up to a surprise ending that you never see coming."
co-executive producer on Basic and vice-president of production for
Phoenix Pictures, who brought the script to Medavoy says "what really sets
this story apart is the way it builds on the twists and turns of successful
military movies. You think you're getting a typical military thriller like
"The General's Daughter" or "A Few Good Men" and then it
totally derails you...turns you on your ear. It's incredibly satisfying when,
as an audience member, you're outsmarted only to realize that the truth was in
front of your eyes throughout the entire journey."
Medavoy's choice of
John McTiernan to direct the project was based on the director's adept use of
the camera as a narrative presence in his films. It was particularly apt for
this story in which incidents are told and retold from differing points of view.
"In this kind of story the camera has to be active and comment on what's
going on," says McTiernan. "The approach and the angles change
depending on whose version of the story we're watching. A soldier who is a
dumb innocent in his version becomes the mastermind in another character's
retelling of the story. So the narrative style has to subtly shift every time.
It's like you're moving deeper and deeper into the jungle, if you will. It
all has to accelerate, intensify and play at a higher voltage as you go
For McTiernan, Basic
also satisfied all the definitions of a true thriller. "Something
potentially horrific happened to a group of people who have completely vanished
and you follow a couple of people who are trying to figure it out," he
says. "And it just keeps getting more and more dangerous until, eventually,
the whole thing turns upside down and nothing that you thought was going on was
When McTiernan was
approached to direct Basic, John Travolta had already been signed to
portray the pivotal character of Tom Hardy, an ex-Ranger and DEA agent who has
been suspended amidst allegations of taking bribes from a Panamanian d
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