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MAN ON FIRE

About The Production
The start of production in Mexico City for MAN ON FIRE marked the culmination of a 20-year odyssey by director Tony Scott and Regency Enterprises to bring the project to the screen. Regency owner and founder Arnon Milchan purchased motion picture rights to the 1980 novel Man on Fire by A.J. Quinnell (a pseudonym – to this day, the author's name remains unknown to the public). The story's protagonist, CIA counter-terrorist John Creasy, appeared in three subsequent Quinnell thrillers: The Perfect Kill, The Blue Ring and Message from Hell.

Milchan recognized the book's cinematic potential and approached director Tony Scott, who had just helmed THE HUNGER, to develop a film based on the novel. "The story is a huge emotional roller-coaster ride,” says Scott. "It's about a guy who has lost his way and is reborn by guarding a nine-year-old-girl. When she is kidnapped, he goes after those responsible and works his way through the kidnapping chain of command, and he is unforgiving in his pursuit.”

Despite his enthusiasm for the project, Scott fell out and moved on to direct TOP GUN. Nevertheless, in the almost two decades that followed, Scott's interest in MAN ON FIRE continued unabated. "The project stayed with me all this time,” he says. "I never really lost sight of it.”

Years later, producer Lucas Foster joined forces with Regency to develop another adaptation of Man on Fire, and two-time Oscar®-nominated screenwriter Brian Helgeland (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, MYSTIC RIVER) penned a new screenplay. In 2003, Tony Scott, with whom Foster collaborated on CRIMSON TIDE, signed in to direct, nearly two decades after he had first encountered the project.  Helgeland's initial screenplay drafts, like the novel, were set in Italy. But Foster and Scott, realizing that that locale and its Mafia antagonists were tired – and that kidnappings had virtually been eliminated in Italy thanks to tough new laws – had locations scouted in Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico. 

The filmmakers' voluminous research revealed that kidnapping has now become a way of life in Mexico City. "Kidnapping is a huge business there,” says Scott, "very controlled and organized. It's an actual industry.” Scott researched case histories of kidnappings in Mexico and screenwriter Brian Helgeland re-engineered the story accordingly. "The research was invaluable in bringing a verisimilitude to the story,” says Scott. "Even if the audience doesn't know the procedures and worlds we detail in the film, I think it will feel real to them.”

Scott says Helgeland's contributions to the project were invaluable. "What Brian did so well was create two stories,” says the director. "The first story, or first half of the film, is about a guy finding his way back into life through this child; the second story is his quest for revenge.”

Helgeland likens MAN ON FIRE to "Beauty and the Beast.” "Pita knows there's a heart beating away inside of Creasy, even if he doesn't know it's there,” he says. "When the thing that brings him back to life is taken away, he becomes enraged because now his heart's beating again.”

Taking on the role of the "man on fire” is two-time Academy Award® winner Denzel Washington, who previously worked with Tony Scott on the thriller CRIMSON TIDE. Scott recognized certain qualities in the actor that would serve him well as Creasy. "I love Denzel's obsessive quality and his internal darkness,” says the director. "There's a hardness to Denzel that's really interesting. He knows how to draw it out and use it effectively. Denzel really brings across how Creasy closes himself off as a defense mechanism against the world. So when his heart does begin to thaw, it's all the more moving.”

"Creasy has lost himself in alcohol, lost his purpose and life, and couldn't cope with what he had done as a government operative/assassin and what he is good at,” says Washington. "He is detached, and<

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