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About The Production
ONE NIGHT "Collateral” takes place over one night in Michael Mann's City of Los Angeles. But in that one night, the lives of two men will be irrevocably changed. 

Director/producer Michael Mann states, "One of the things that attracted me to the project was the compression of time—it all happens in one night. The whole story takes place between six p.m. and about four a.m. in this PacRim-diverse and most contemporary of American cities, where coyotes roam the streets as if the layer of civilization is new and temporary. That's the world I wanted Max and Vincent moving through as the story unfolds. Tonight, everything in their lives is changing. Totally. Forever. Finality has shown up on the horizon, heading this way. This is the collision of two lives in very extreme circumstances. It is a compression of all they have been and who they think they might be, all collapsed into the events of one night. I liked the intensity, the immediacy of that…”

Mann adds that it was as if the script broke the convention of the standard three-act structure, with a typical beginning, middle and end. "It's almost as if there had been two acts prior to the beginning of our movie—all kinds of events had occurred with many discoveries along the way—and now here is the denouement of the story. The whole movie is the third act, which was very attractive to me.” 

Nevertheless, moviegoers will have no reason to wonder how they got to this point in the story, as the back story that led to this one night becomes all too clear as the drama unfolds. Mann expounds, "An offshore narco-trafficking cartel has discovered that some of their operatives are about to be indicted in Los Angeles. They mount an operation to stop these indictments by killing the five key witnesses.

 Understand, they are very large and have an unlimited budget, so they can buy the best people available to get the job done…people like Vincent. They probably spent months setting up this operation; all the prep work has been done. Now it's just a matter of carrying it out…and tonight Vincent comes to town to do exactly that. Unforeseen circumstances compel him to have to improvise and he winds up taking a hostage—a cab driver named Max.”

"Max becomes a hostage in his own cab as Vincent makes him drive to the places where these hits will be carried out,” screenwriter Stuart Beattie continues. "And the guts of the story is these two characters in what becomes very much a mano y mano game of cat and mouse.”

Perhaps surprisingly, it wasn't the idea of going inside the mind of a contract killer that first inspired Stuart Beattie's script for "Collateral.” Rather, it was the day-to-day risks of being an ordinary, everyday cab driver. The screenwriter offers, "It came from my own experience of taking a cab back from the airport one day. I started talking with the cabbie, and by the time I got home, we were chatting like old friends. Suddenly it occurred to me that I could be anybody and the driver would have no idea. I could be some homicidal maniac and he has his back to me the whole time. It struck me as being a potentially interesting setting for a drama, where you have two complete strangers sitting, one with his back to the other, in an enclosed space, totally alone. And it just grew from there.”

Mann says, "What I thought was brilliant about the script when I first read it was the simple dialectic of these two very different lives coming together and colliding on this one night in L.A.”

In a rare villainous turn, Tom Cruise stars in the role of Vincent, though he doesn't see even this cold-blooded killer in entirely black and white terms. "I've played heroes and antiheroes, and I thought Vincent was just a great character…very dynamic,” Cruise says. "

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