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Director Wes Craven, who is best known for such classic horror films as "A Nightmare on Elm Street” and the "Scream” franchise, adopted a more subtle approach to keeping audiences on the edge of their seats in his new thriller, "Red Eye.” "This is definitely not a horror film; it's a psychological thriller,” he states. "There aren't people being chased by a maniac with a butcher knife, and nobody wears a mask—except in the sense of presenting himself as one thing and then turning out to be something totally different. After all,” he smiles, "you never know who you are going to sit next to on a plane.”

It was that central and almost universally shared experience that first sparked the imagination of screenwriter Carl Ellsworth. "All sorts of characters come on to airplanes. Sitting there, watching them come down the aisle, we've all had those thoughts like, ‘What's that guy about?' or ‘Oh, I don't want that person sitting next to me.' The story originated out of that.”

Ellsworth offers that he also found inspiration in the movie "Phone Booth,” whose protagonist spends virtually the entire film trapped in the title's set piece. "You could say that movie is a claustrophobic thriller in that there is a sniper holding a guy hostage in a phone booth.” Nevertheless, he observes, "There is still a considerable amount of space between the good guy and the bad guy. I started to think about how I could condense that space even more. Could I have my protagonist and antagonist literally trapped together, side by side, and sustain the action and suspense? With ‘Red Eye,' I think the answer is emphatically ‘yes,' because the tension for me is generated out of this very compelling conversation between these two individuals, Lisa and Jackson, which starts out innocently enough, but then suddenly develops into something much more sinister. I'm hoping audiences will go along for the ride—a different type of ride because it hinges on the words that pass between these two people, but a ride just the same.”

Most of that ride takes place within the confines of a plane at 30,000 feet, which executive producer Mason Novick says adds to the inherent tension. "If you're on a plane, there's truly nowhere to go. We didn't have to invent a scenario for why the doors are locked or why they can't get out for this reason or that… Lisa is stuck in that little seat with this guy who is threatening her with this horrific plot, and there is nowhere to run. It makes it very claustrophobic and ‘in your face.'”

Ellsworth notes that he also had to find a way to keep Lisa and Jackson in a virtual vacuum, even as they are surrounded by 150 fellow travelers. "You might think that with a planeload of people around her, Lisa might be able to find some help during this ordeal, but Jackson has planned for those contingencies. So even though she could theoretically scream for help, it's just not going to happen.”

Ellsworth's screenplay eventually came into the hands of producer Marianne Maddalena, who is a longtime associate of director Wes Craven. "I read it and I thought it was wonderful,” she states. "It was exactly what I had been looking for—a nice, tight little thriller—but at that point in time, Wes was exhausted. We were filming ‘Cursed,' and he was planning his marriage at the same time. He was overwhelmed, so when I told him about ‘Red Eye,' he said, ‘I can't; I'm too busy.' I said, ‘Just read it. You're going to love it,' and, just as I said, he read it and loved it.”

Craven confirms, "I am always most attracted to a project by the script, and the first time I read the script for ‘Red Eye,' I felt it was a page-turner. It just compelled you to see what was going to happen next. You know, a director can do nothing if he doesn't have a good script, and this screenplay by Carl Ellsworth was remarkably well constructed and very original. I felt it was a great opportunity


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