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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