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About The Production
"I think the dark brilliance of the American aristocracy is they've convinced the world they don't exist. But America has a ruling class. And FIERCE PEOPLE is about that ruling class.”  Dirk Wittenborn, author/screenwriter

A bold drama about the dark secrets of America's elite, Lionsgate's FIERCE PEOPLE offers a rare glimpse into the well-guarded world of the super-rich. Directed by Griffin Dunne, the film traces the journey of Liz and Finn Earl, a working class mother and her son, as they are welcomed into the decadent suburb of Vlyvalle by a wealthy benefactor, Ogden C. Osborne. Initially seduced by their lush surroundings, they soon find themselves caught in a brutal class struggle that threatens their undoing. 

"The community of Vlyvalle is like a beautiful rose bush,” says producer Nick Wechsler. "As you dig deep into the bottom of the bush, you will find dirt filled with grubs and worms, and a lot of ugliness.”

More than a simple exposé of privileged lifestyles, FIERCE PEOPLE boldly equates the social mores of the wealthy to those of a primitive tribe. In the film, Finn, played by Anton Yelchin, finds that the denizens of Vlyvalle behave remarkably similarly to the Ishkanani, a primitive people that his anthropologist father is studying in the Amazon. This startling comparison, which is at once wryly humorous and blisteringly accurate, runs throughout the film, gaining gravity as Liz's and Finn's jeopardy grows.

"There is a little bit, or a lot of, brutality in all of us,” says director Griffin Dunne. "People pay a terrible cost for money. It really confuses them, both those who have it and those who want it.”

"Rich people are very strange to outsiders,” says screenwriter Dirk Wittenborn, who adapted the screenplay from his own novel. "They don't let you in. They have secret rules, just like a very primitive people do. The outsider, the anthropologist, doesn't know the rules and rituals of the tribe, and has to learn them. Usually by making mistakes.”

Diane Lane, who stars as Liz, enjoys the parallel the film establishes; yet she admits to preferring the Ishkanani's unabashed brutality to the Vlyvalle citizens' carefully disguised savagery. "At least the Ishkanani have a sense of enjoyment and revelry in using their power,” she says. "The underhanded nature, the passive-aggressiveness of the wealthy is just another layer to get through. I'd rather deal with the more primitive expression.” 

Donald Sutherland, who plays the patriarch of Vlyvalle, Ogden C. Osborne, adds, "The Ishkanani are a pure people. They're not ruled by deceit, like Osborne's enclave.”

As Dunne points out, FIERCE PEOPLE focuses on the upper class crimes that never reach the public eye. "Behind the iron gates of every wealthy family empire are untold secrets of really brutal acts committed to maintain that status,” says Dunne. "You don't just win a lottery to amass that kind of fortune. You've got to spill a little blood.”

"People tend to forget that the reason the founding wealthy families have money now is because they took it from others,” says Lane. Adds Wittenborn, "Rich people didn't get rich by being nice. And people should always remember that.”

Unlike most writers and filmmakers who tell stories about the rich, Wittenborn and Dunne both know their subject first hand. "I'm defensive about being brought up wealthy to this day,” admits Dunne. "We were brought up to appear extremely wealthy. That was very important. And knowing that that wasn't quite right really shaped my perspective on that kind of life. I hated people who made their wealth part of their identity, and I really resented the tremendous emphasis on its importance.” 

"Both Griffin's father and my father were involved with this world peripherally,” adds Wittenborn. "So as teenagers, we were part of it, but not really part of it. We weren


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