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About The Production
"What do you see right now? You see exactly, and only, what I choose to show you. That's illusion, Ivy. That's the lie I tell your eyes.” —Buddy "Aces” Israel

When writer/director Joe Carnahan came onto the indie-film scene at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival with a sobering, raw cop drama entitled Narc, he left audiences a bit shocked. The complex drama, which earned Carnahan a best director Independent Spirit Award nomination, was recognized as a film that didn't fit the typical pattern for the genre. It was deemed "explosive stuff” full of "seething passion” (Susan Stark, The Detroit News), "…an ambitious picture that recognizes no limits” (David Denby, The New Yorker) with "…the velocity of a hot slug from the barrel of a gun” (Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times).

Entertainment journalists had predictions about Carnahan's next project, but it was one of his original screenplays that would next see the light of day. Under his direction, nurtured by the team at Working Title Films who were willing to gamble on a volatile mix of eccentric characters, dark humor, unorthodox form and raw violence, all twisted in a jigsaw of a plot—pure Carnahan—Smokin' Aces was greenlit.

"I've always wanted to make a film like this,” states Eric Fellner, producer and co-chairman of Working Title Films. "One that has murder and mayhem…for want of better words.”

"I met Joe after Narc,” recalls executive producer Liza Chasin, who as president of production for Working Title Films was largely responsible for developing the project. Her first lunch with Carnahan would prove memorable. "He gave me 30 pages of Smokin' Aces, and that was it. He said, ‘Just read these, and tell me what you think.' Of course, it was the biggest tease you could give someone because it was the setup of these unbelievably interesting characters in this crazy world he'd painted.”

"I called him and I said, ‘That was so mean,'” Chasin continues, "and he replied, ‘Well, buy it, and I'll write the rest.'”

Chasin sent the pages to Fellner in London. "I read it, and I loved it,” says Fellner. "So we commissioned him to develop it further. A year later, we received a screenplay of 186 pages, and it was fantastic,” he continues. "It was so dense with the most vibrant, vivid characters, impossible scenarios and wonderful setups. And we thought, ‘Wow, this is great, but it's a novel. It's not a film.'”

"It was unmakeable, and it was also fantastic,” agrees Chasin. "It was the most original piece of writing any of us had read in a long time.”

"I thought it would be nice to write something that was fun to read,” recalls Carnahan. "In trying to connect these disparate events and characters so they coalesce and feel that they're intrinsically linked, I wanted to write it on the page the way it would be cut together—so it would have a real snap to the pace and not let up. It's also very, very black comedy.”

Carnahan winnowed the story and delivered a version that, as Fellner puts it, "suddenly started to resemble a movie,” although it was still over 135 pages long. "The page count has always been long,” admits executive producer Robert Graf. "Joe tends to write like a novelist. He's very descriptive and writes florid passages about blood and guys flying through the air in bits. Some of it he means literally, and some of it is flavor to help the reader understand the nature of the movie.”

In his script, Carnahan had created a larger-than-life, hyper-real world crammed with human drama, tough emotion and ambiguous boundaries against a backdrop of mayhem and destruction. The inhabitants of his mind included characters from uptight FBI agents and washed-up magicians to the mobster old guard, sleazy bail bondsmen, tarnished vice cops, street assassins, torture experts, bottom-feeding lawyers and three demente

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