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About the Production

Director Bryan Singer was immediately drawn to this dark tale in which adolescent curiosity comes face to face with evil. "It was one of those rare stories that dealt in a very intense way with adolescent curiosity," says Singer. In the film, Todd Bowden not only confronts a harsh reality of life that few average American 16-year-olds must face, but finds himself strangely attracted to it. "What he discovers," says Singer, "is that this is not school, this is not sports. This is something completely different which has a history and an evil that goes way back before he was born. "I think the combining of the bright, contemporary youth with one of the greatest evils of history in a contemporary suburban setting is just fascinating," says the director.

When Brad Renfro discovered that a film version was being made of "the 'Apt Pupil,'" he knew he must have a role in the film. "I've got goose pimples now just talking about it," says the young star who came to the attention of audiences in Joel Schumacher's The Client. "I was, like, I have to do this movie."

Singer was impressed by Renfro at the initial reading. "The thing with Brad is, he's incredibly real. When he came in for the first reading, he was Todd. He had that bright look of fascination-a sponge of curiosity. I knew Ian would bring it the other dimension."

That 'other dimension' is evil, made manifest in the form of Kurt Dussander, a former Nazi war criminal living in Todd's hometown. "I think he's just waiting to die," says Ian McKellen, who plays Dussander. "Of course, he's happy not to have been discovered and punished." Then he meets someone who takes a genuine interest in him, bringing to the surface powerful, horrible emotions and memories that had long lain dormant. "Todd's friendship awakens in the old man things that would have been better left undisturbed," says McKellen.

Dussander's deep, dark secrets about the past awaken feelings in Todd as well, and the teen becomes inextricably bound to the old man. "It's that seductive nature that keeps Todd there," says Singer. "Apt Pupil is a pretty scary film." Says McKellen, "Dussander encourages what seems to be already in the boy a bit of itching for the nasty side of human nature, and he becomes the apt pupil."

The relationship between Todd and Dussander quickly escalates into something akin to psychological warfare. "It's like a card game-it's great," says Renfro. "Who's holding the ace? Who's got the jack?"

"They're always rivals and constantly trying to see who has control over the other," says McKellen. Adds Singer, "It's not a mystery-it's not like The Usual Suspects in that way. But you don't know what's going to happen next." Both actors express nothing but praise for their director, who is following up the Academy Award®-winning The Usual Suspects with Apt Pupil. "Everywhere you look in this film, the attention to detail is quite remarkable. One's very much in the hands of Bryan, and I'm very happy to be so. I think he's got immaculate taste, and he's very clear about what he wants," says veteran actor McKellen.

Adds Renfro, "We were all excited and into it. I had a great experience working with Bryan. He's a wonderful director."


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