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THE SKELETON KEY

About The Production
"I wanted to write a distinctly American, non-traditional ghost story,” says screenwriter Ehren Kruger, who penned the hit thriller The Ring. "The South, especially Louisiana, struck me as a pure American milieu, a cultural melting pot. I thought that one way to create a unique ghost story would be to have the audience question whether or not they are, in fact, seeing a ghost story at all. I also believe that a classic Gothic notion among most human beings is a desire to find out what is behind the forbidden door. I actually wanted to find out for myself what would be behind that attic door.”

The Skeleton Key, a supernatural thriller set in a contemporary setting, struck a chord with director Iain Softley. "Some of my favorite films are psychological thrillers, like Don't Look Now, Rosemary's Baby, Angel Heart. I felt that this script followed along the same lines. It was both intelligent and thematically rich, as well as really entertaining.”

A cursory glance at director Iain Softley's body of work, which also includes Universal's K-PAX, an intricate meditation on the very nature of reality, seems to offer little common ground. However, on closer examination, a thread is found weaving through his work. He supplies, "I wanted this film to be based in reality, not too Gothic or over-stylized, and make full use of the authenticity and the flavor that is unique to this area. What haunts me about pictures like this is the possibility that these worlds still exist. I think audiences are hungry to be scared in the real world of today.

"I thought the script was a wonderful page-turner, and it was so evocative of sense of place—New Orleans and the Deep South—but it also had a wonderful mood. I also thought that it dealt with aging, which is something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, in a very interesting way. I've always been drawn to psychological horror because it deals with our perceptions, what we imagine to be going on. Oftentimes, that is far scarier than anything that is actually represented,” adds Softley.

Producer Daniel Bobker—who brought Kruger's script to Softley and then to Universal, where producers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher came aboard—came to The Skeleton Key on the heels of the enormous task of producing the upcoming Terry Gilliam film, The Brothers Grimm. He sees his latest project as "lushly atmospheric and haunting, which I think the best ghost stories are. You want to feel someone breathing behind your neck and Iain Softley is the ideal kind of director for this material. He's a naturalist who brings great reality, an almost unnerving quality to what he's shooting. He's a director with a tremendous eye for detail and atmosphere and he suffuses that with tension and dread. Iain has a gift for getting the dramatic weight out of not only performances, but places, designs, music and textures.”

The filmmakers and Softley—who counts among his credits films in varying genres, from The Wings of the Dove, the four-time Academy Award®-nominated adaptation of the Henry James novel, to the intriguing drama K-PAX—assembled a cast of powerful award-winning actors to portray the rich characters that inhabit the foreboding Louisiana mansion at the center of The Skeleton Key.

Kate Hudson, nominated for an Academy Award® for her luminous performance as Penny Lane in Almost Famous, plays Caroline Ellis, a hospice worker who has recently arrived in New Orleans and is hired by Violet Devereaux to care for her ailing husband, Ben. Hudson, who appears in almost every scene, was selected to create the central character of Caroline early on in the process.

"Kate was the first actress we thought of for the role,” says Softley. "After Daniel Bobker brought the script to me, it went very quickly to Universal. When Kate first saw it, she loved it and was cast. But then, we were hit with a bombshell—Kate became pregnant. We were more than willing to put the p

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