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LORD OF WAR

Bringing "Lord of War" to the Screen
The contemporary topic of worldwide arms trading has been debated and discussed in the modern media but never has a film so closely addressed the actuality of this business. Writer/director Andrew Niccol drew his inspiration from a series of current events throughout the years when first embarking on creating the character of Yuri Orlov, the gun-runner whose business dealings lead to him being dubbed the ‘Lord of War'. A composite of five different real-life arms dealers, for Niccol the character of Orlov was also a character study, exploring the darker side of human nature. 

However fictitious the character of Orlov, the events themselves depicted in the film were not. "Almost all of the events in the film have an actual precedent,” comments Niccol. "Military helicopters being sold as rescue helicopters, arms dealers changing the names and registrations of their ships out at sea, a well-know arms dealer released from U.S. custody under mysterious circumstances, the facts about the plundering of Soviet military hardware after the collapse of the U.S.S.R., are all true.” 

However it was this adherence to true life events that made it even more difficult than usual to secure financing for the project. Niccol elaborates, "Since the film does not shy away from stating the facts about the role of the U.S. in supplying arms, it was considered too controversial. The task of finding U.S. financing was made even more difficult by the timing of the script submission - one week before the beginning of the war in Iraq.” 

It was a variety of foreign investors who were courageous enough to gamble on the film's validity and the power of the script. Producer Philippe Rousselet was instrumental in procuring the financing to allow the film to be made but even he did not find it an easy task. "When you try to sell a movie that tells the story of an arms dealer in the world of gun-running a week before the war in Iraq starts, it gives you an idea of how difficult it's going to be to put your finance together. It actually took me a year and a half. And I probably have had three financing structures so I could have made three movies with all the deals I have closed on the film; that ultimately went away.” 

Neither Rousselet nor Niccol were willing to give up on the film. When Rousselet had originally come on board he had been drawn by the quality and intelligence of Niccol's writing and remained assured that this would become a rare production. Rousselet expands, "It's such a powerful story, such powerful characters, such a unique way of writing. It's rare and very fortunate to get the chance to read a script like Andrew's.” 

It was the strength of the material that also attracted a high caliber cast to Lord of War. "I certainly was impressed by the fact that it didn't pull any punches, the honesty of it I think,” muses actor Nicolas Cage, who took on the main role of arms trader Yuri Orlov. "Not many people have the guts to lay it out the way Andrew has. That's part of the reason that I wanted to do the script, it seemed to be so unlike anything else. It had a unique and original story and it's an inside look at what I think is the reality of the gun trade.” 

Cage, who believed in the material enough to come on board as one of the producers of the film, continues: "We got involved about two years ago and started talking to Andrew about the script and started to have meetings about the concepts, talking to other actors and how it would be put together. It's not a low budget film, it is maybe one of the largest truly independent films; in that there is no real American component financing this film.” 

Producer Rousselet remembers the first meeting between Cage and Niccol. "He (Niccol) met with Nic for the first time and he met him in his office and he had a table like 10 meters long covered with pictures from magazi

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