About The Production
After almost three decades in the entertainment industry and a string of
internationally successful blockbuster movies, veteran producer Lorenzo di
Bonaventura immediately recognized the potential in Knate Lee's boldly original
spec script, Kidnap. A compelling and entertaining mix of heart-stopping action
and gut-wrenching tension, the screenplay had what he calls "an essential
intensity and emotional drive that was irresistible," as well as an unusual
heroine who finds strength and empowerment in a crisis that would defeat many.
"This is a movie that has the best of both worlds - it's character driven and at
the same time it's an action ride," says the producer, whose credits include the
hugely successful Transformers, G.I. Joe and Salt franchises. "Women
traditionally come to a movie for the emotion, but guys will love the pacing of
it. Karla is fighting relentlessly for the life of her child and the momentum
builds relentlessly, in terms of both emotion and action."
The script first caught the attention of Di Bonaventura Pictures senior vice
president of Production Erik Howsam, who passed it on to di Bonaventura for his
input. "Lorenzo and I agreed it was a unique piece of material because it was
told almost entirely from the main character's point of view," says Howsam. "You
don't see that very often. It makes the viewers ask themselves, what would I do
if I were in that situation? Would I go that far? It is such a pure piece of
storytelling, not simply plot driven, but very well delineated and dramatized."
Lee was on a solo drive from North Carolina to California when he came up with
the premise for Kidnap. "To pass the time, I told myself a story about a car
chase," he remembers. "I was thinking, what if I had to chase that guy over
there? And what could he possibly have done that would create a situation in
which I couldn't risk losing him no matter what? To me, the most powerful and
universally understandable motivation would be the maternal instinct."
The script's action kicks into high gear within the first five pages and the
energy keeps ramping up from there, says executive producer Bill Johnson. "It's
a very straightforward concept. It picks you up, takes you on a rollercoaster
ride and drops you off satisfied at the end."
At the center of the film is Karla Dyson, a suburban mom who surprises even
herself with the lengths she goes to save her baby. "She starts out as a soccer
mom in a minivan, spending the day with her son at the park," explains Lee. "She
looks away for just a moment and he's gone. She tries to get help, but there's
no time. She pursues the kidnappers but she can't keep up, so she has to hatch a
series of plans to outsmart them. We're with her every second, from the messy,
clumsy beginning attempts all the way to the end. At some point, we realize that
this woman has gone from an average mother to a total badass."
The part required an actress who could believably convey both the helplessness
Karla feels in the face of her son's abduction and the steely resolve that keeps
her going when the situation seems hopeless. Finding the right actress for that
role was essential, says di Bonaventura.
Fortunately for the filmmakers, Oscar-winner Halle Berry and her partner in 606
Films, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, found the premise as intriguing as they did. "I
think the best ideas are born from more than one mind," says Berry, who is also
one of the film's producers. "We've come together in a really good way on this
film. Everybody has a unique perspective, which has made the whole project
richer, deeper and more meaningful in so many ways."
"There is something incredibly visceral about the subject matter," adds
Goldsmith-Thomas, who also serves as producer. "Karla is an ordinary woman who
becomes extraordinary. Hollywood makes a lot of movies about superheroes, but we
are celebrating the superhero in every woman. I think so many of us don't
understand the power we have until something extraordinary forces it out."
Berry, who executive-produced the television series "Extant," worked tirelessly
as both producer and actress to ensure that Karla was a fully fleshed-out
character. "It was nice to be wearing both hats," she says. "I got to have real
input into the story, into how the movie was shot and who was involved from
start to finish. That's a really good feeling."
Goldsmith-Thomas, whose numerous production credits include Maid in Manhattan
and the long-running TV series "The Fosters," says Berry is a natural-born
filmmaker. "Halle's really good with script. She's so smart and she comes from
character. It was her idea that Karla would not only rescue her child, but also
rescue herself in the process by finding strength and courage she didn't know
she had. One of the reasons Halle is extraordinary is that she always finds the
truth in the character."
To direct Kidnap, the producers brought on Luis Prieto, a young Spanish
filmmaker whose first project, Bamboleho, took home the Best Narrative Short
Film award from the 2002 Tribeca Film Festival. "Luis is a very thoughtful
director," says di Bonaventura. "He understands the nuances of each of the
characters at a given moment."
The film's portrayal of a woman finding her untapped personal power was the
primary reason Prieto agreed to take on the project. "The relationship between
mother and child is primal," he says. "She will do anything to get him back. You
don't see a woman in a role like this very often. It's a movie about
empowerment. I also love that you never know what's going to happen next. Karla
is figuring it out as she goes along and you can see that in Halle's eyes. It's
The movie begins in an idealized world in which a mother and son go to the park
for a perfect weekend day. "When Frankie, the son, is kidnapped, what was
beautiful becomes a nightmare," says Prieto. "I wanted to reflect that
transformation from beauty to darkness, from light to dark in the look of the
film. It's no longer something bright and beautiful. And I needed an actress who
would be able to go from that moment of brightness to a very dangerous place.
Halle was the perfect choice."
Berry was impressed with the director's sensitivity to a very female point of
view. "The action is so testosterone-driven and so male, but Karla is reacting
as a mother. Luis found a way to meld the two elements. That's not easy to do."
The director also had the ability to remain calm under pressure, a quality that
kept an ambitious shooting schedule running smoothly, says di Bonaventura. "Luis
has a very steady hand, which we needed. The pressure to complete this in only
20 days was intense. Someone more excitable would have worn himself out
immediately. Luis is very methodical and puts his energy into creating a rich
world full of authentic characters."
Seeing his first screenplay come to life has been a thrilling experience,
according to Lee. "The movie has some amazing, over-the-top action elements," he
says. "But it always remains a realistic first-person experience. We almost
never have information that Karla doesn't have. We never see what's happening
inside the kidnapper's car. There's no way out for 90 minutes, so you won't be
thinking, 'this is an awesome action scene,' you'll just be terrified!"
As the film progresses, di Bonaventura believes moviegoers will become
completely invested in Karla. "A couple times, it seems like she's just about to
get what she wants. And then the hope vanishes. It's a roller coaster of
emotions and the audience will be brought along for the ride with her."
Mama Bear at the Wheel
As Karla Dyson, Halle Berry is in virtually every frame of Kidnap, from the
intimate everyday moments she shares with her son to the film's jaw-dropping
stunts and action set pieces. The actress is equally convincing at both
extremes, says di Bonaventura, providing the character with a rich and
believable emotional life.
"Halle is truly one of the most beautiful women in the world, but in this film
there's also an Everywoman quality about her," the producer says. "She shows you
the vulnerability of the character, and then the gradual dawning of empowerment
as she finds the strength to take on the villains of the piece. Karla is
probably the last person who would think herself capable of doing what she has
to do. She chases down two dangerous people who have grabbed her kid, driving
like a crazy woman in a minivan. There are some near misses, some car crashes
and some things that jolt the audience, but the real ride is what's going on
inside Karla's mind."
From acclaimed dramas to international blockbusters, Berry approaches all of her
roles with the same commitment, observes producer Gregory Chou. "Her
performances are raw and relatable. Karla's whole arc is figuring out who these
people are, why they're targeting her and how to get her son back."
Berry, herself a mother of two, describes her character as an average mom who
has to do something extraordinary to save her child. "I think every parent
around the world will relate to the superhuman strength she is capable of when
her child is in jeopardy," she says.
The character's desperate situation combined with Berry's taut performance
elevates the movie, according to executive producer D.J. Gugenheim. "What I
responded to in the script was that Karla starts out as just another mom in a
park and this horrific situation empowers her to do things she never dreamed she
could. Halle's awesome in the role. She just brings it in every scene. She is
always dialed in and the result is a nonstop, thrilling action ride."
Young actor Sage Correa makes his major film debut in the role of Frankie,
Karla's son. 'We tested a lot of young children, but Sage really stuck out,"
says Howsam. "His innocence and purity made him the perfect kid to play
The youngster remembers being both nervous and excited when he auditioned for
the role. "When I heard I was going to do some lines with Halle Berry, I was
scared I wouldn't remember my words," he says. "But Halle was so nice to me. On
the first day, she gave me a magic set with different tricks in it. After that,
it was so fun to run around until the mom rescues Frankie - AKA me. I hope to
make another movie with her someday."
He may yet, says producer Joey Tufaro, who believes Sage is a future superstar.
"He was completely into his character and you could see how he took to Halle."
Despite his character's dire situation, Correa was always upbeat on set,
according to Gugenheim. "He's just so lovable," says the executive producer.
"The second he's taken, your heart goes out to him. It's devastating because
he's a great little actor."
As compelling as Berry is in her role, a hero is only as effective as the
villain. For much of the film Karla doesn't see her son's kidnappers. She
doesn't know who they are or why they have taken her son. "They're almost
phantoms," says Howsam. "The monster that you can't see is much scarier than the
monster that you do see."
The criminals, Margo and Terry, are played by veteran character actors Chris
McGinn and Lew Temple with cold, casual viciousness. "Chris and Lew are
perfect," says Lee. "If you saw them at the park, they would be really
frightening. Karla has no way of knowing how dangerous they really are, which is
an important element in the story. For a long time, they don't even speak."
Having a child snatched away in the blink of an eye is a nightmare under any
circumstances, but Karla Dyson will soon learn that something far more evil and
far-reaching is at play. When she - and the audience - finally realize the scope
of what is happening, it is even more terrifying than first imagined. "These
people are doing something that is unthinkable to most of us and yet they feel
justified," says di Bonaventura. "They don't really see themselves as bad. That
makes for really frightening characters.
McGinn says she was excited to have a chance to play someone truly evil. "It's
unusual for this kind of bad guy to be a woman," says the actress. "To find the
character, I played with the fact that people don't notice Margo - she blends
into a crowd. But the more it happens, the angrier and more frustrated she gets.
She and Terry are trying to make a big score to set themselves up for another
life. And then everything goes out the window when they run into this woman who
just won't give up."
The role gave the actress a chance to do things she has never done before in a
film - like speeding across a bridge hundreds of feet in the air holding a knife
to her hostage's neck while Halle Berry drives alongside. "And Halle and I have
these fights that look so real that Luis would yell, 'Are you okay?' and we
would be laughing. Between crazy car chases and physical fights and wild dogs
and guns there's quite a bit of action."
As Terry, Lew Temple is also playing against type. "I'm normally loud and
outgoing whereas my character is quiet and uncertain," he says. "There's
something creepy about people who don't talk but just look at you. You don't
know what they're going to do. Terry's very much that guy, where Margo is the
brains of the operation - which is not a good thing. This outfit could use one
"These two are not good people by any stretch," Temple adds. "Terry's got a
little drug habit. His judgment is not that great. No one has ever fought back
before and he doesn't have a clue as to what to do. I can tell you, it will
become rather messy."
Hard Driving in the Big Easy
Kidnap was filmed in and around the city of New Orleans. With help from the
local film commission, the production received permission to shut down bridges
and highways for the extensive and spectacular chase scenes. Producer Joey
Tufaro and his colleagues at Louisiana-based Goldstar Films were instrumental in
scouting locations that fit Prieto's requirements.
"Luis had a distinct look in mind," Tufaro says. "We mapped out some of the best
roads for our needs. The action spans a park and a parking lot to a shopping
center and a rural setting. The next thing you know, you're on the interstate in
the middle of one of the biggest chase scenes I've ever seen through one of the
prettiest and most unique cities in the world."
For many of the stunt sequences, the filmmakers chose to shoot just outside of
the city in more rural areas that provided space for Kidnap's elaborate stunts,
as well as to create the illusion that Karla is alone, according to location
manager Johnny Eastlund.
The Huey P. Long Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River a few miles north of New
Orleans, was just one of the many bridges and roads where filming took place.
The bridge's three 11-foot-wide lanes were ideal for one of the film's chase
scenes. Named for the state's best-known governor, the bridge was described in
the New Yorker as "a structure so vaulting and high that it seems to extend from
one white, towering Gulf Coast cloud to the next." The massive sequence required
45 stunt drivers and multiple tractor-trailers to stage.
Other locations include City Park, where Frankie is abducted; downtown Slidell,
a small city near Lake Pontchartrain; and the Nine Mile Point neighborhood on
the West Bank, where production designer Sarah Webster found what the company
called the "kidnap house."
"The house set has a very detailed, almost demented quality," says Webster. "It
feels eerie and disheveled, adding to Karla's sense of desperation and
confusion. I wanted the spookiness and subtle devastation to heighten the
tension and fear."
Di Bonaventura and his fellow filmmakers were adamant that the driving sequences
be shot without resorting to green-screen technology. "Shooting the movie on
green screens would have been the easy way to do it, but it can make things feel
inorganic," says di Bonaventura. "Doing it for real required that Halle do some
of the driving scenes herself and she was game from the word go. That gives it
an extra dash of realism. Halle is reacting to what's happening around her for
real. Sometimes things got a little out of control, but that contributes to the
authentic energy we wanted."
One of the challenges, according to di Bonaventura, was pushing a mundane
minivan past its workaday limitations and into another realm. "The vehicle's
limitations make the sequences unexpected, exciting and relatable," says the
producer. "It was dangerous to some degree but we were able to find the right
Berry, the veteran of multiple action epics, including the blockbuster X-Men
franchise, says she loves physical roles like this one. "I was a gymnast as a
kid, so whenever I get to do these things, I enjoy it. I certainly didn't do all
the stunts in this movie, but I did a great deal. There's some serious precision
driving, which I did not do - because I am the mother of two! But I have the
most amazing stunt double, as well as racecar drivers and stunt driver."
Steve Ritzi, who had previously worked with Howsam and di Bonaventura as the
stunt coordinator for GI Joe: Retaliation and RED, was brought on as second-unit
director responsible for Kidnap's extensive stunt scenes. "We had a short list
of possibilities and he was at the top," Howsam says. "There are a lot of
incredible stunts and we wanted to keep it all as safe as possible. We needed
someone who could design the action and was familiar with latest equipment.
Choreographing what is essentially a 90-minute car chase was right in Ritzi's
wheelhouse, but he notes that Kidnap is far more than just its action sequences.
Karla's situation and Berry's performance elevate the film into devastating and
riveting new territory. "The character's emotional arc is the crux of the
movie," he explains. "She starts out timid and terrified as she searches for her
kid with no help from anyone. She gets stronger and stronger as she starts to
gain confidence in herself. At the end, she's downright aggressive. That's what
makes this movie different from a straightforward action-driving movie."
Prieto and Ritzi were able to work so smoothly together that it is virtually
impossible to tell which shots are first unit and which are second, as the movie
cuts back and forth fluidly between them, notes Gugenheim. "Luis shot elements
and then showed Steve what he was looking for on the other side," the executive
producer says. "Steve shot pieces and showed Luis so he could direct Halle. It
was a lot of moving pieces but Luis was never flustered. He's a great director
and a gentleman as well."
Prieto had a clear vision of what he wanted to see on screen, says Ritzi. "He
had a lot to say about the stunts and the way they were shot. He was very
specific about the ways in which they affect Halle's character and what they can
reveal about her, so it's not just stunts for their own sake. Each section feels
different. He and director of photography Flavio Martinez Labiano decided how
they wanted to achieve the different looks and I came up with the right
equipment to make that happen."
The equipment included a rig called a "biscuit," a traveling platform that
controls the vehicle remotely, so that Berry could remain at the wheel of the
minivan while an expert driver took over. "It's like a flatbed but it has a
monitor," Ritzi explains. "You can look in every different direction. It gives
you flexibility for your camera angles. Then there's the 'pod,' which looks like
a go-kart that goes on top of the van. That driver can also control the van
while giving the illusion that Halle is driving it."
One of the film's most impressive stunts sends an SUV careening down a highway
at top speed before it rolls over multiple times. "It's part of a longer
sequence where the kidnappers are tossing things out of their car to try and
throw Karla off," Ritzi says. "She has to swerve to miss a toolbox, but there's
a car right behind her, an SUV whose driver is unaware of what's going on. That
SUV loses control and swerves in front of another vehicle, flips and tumbles
over at least five times. It is hard to believe that there's actually a guy
inside that vehicle."
Packed with action, emotion, adrenaline and personal triumph, Kidnap will have
both men and women in the audience wondering if they would find it within
themselves to do what Karla has to in order to save her child. "The pacing and
the action build as Karla keeps fighting for her son's life and the stakes
rise," di Bonaventura says. "She finds herself running headlong toward a cliff,
hoping she's going make the landing, each step emboldening her to take the next.
With no one else to help, she is able to find within herself the strength and
self-reliance to take on some really dangerous people."
Her story will both touch and thrill the audience, according to producer Howsam.
"I don't think there's a force more powerful than a mother's love for her
child," he says. "It's such a primitive thing. We have tapped into that for this
movie and added this high-stakes pursuit. Kidnap will pick people up and take
them on a great ride. There won't be a moment to catch your breath. I've always
loved films that keep you glued to your seat and this is one of those."
Berry believes the potent themes underlying Kidnap's non-stop action will help
the film resonate with audiences of all stripes. "It's about female
empowerment," says the actress. "It's about women. It's about moms. It's about
the triumph of the human spirit and how far each of us will go to save the ones
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