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SURROGATES

Sending "Surrogates" To The Big Screen
Producer Max Handelman, a lifelong comic book aficionado, optioned the graphic novel from Venditti. He found the story's themes compelling. "The story really moves along at a great pace and allows you to imagine something that could impact our society someday. Are we all going to have surrogates? Probably not. But it's a metaphor for our society's increasing reliance on technology and increasingly virtual communication.”

Handelman brought the comic to a college friend, veteran producer Todd Lieberman, who is partnered with longtime industry producer and studio executive David Hoberman at Mandeville Films.

"I was looking for something with an edge, a film noir-type story and I found that in Robert's story,” says Lieberman. "The movie starts with two really attractive people outside of a club. All of the sudden, some guy approaches and they fall dead. You have no idea what's going on. In comes a detective, Bruce Willis' character, and his partner. And you realize pretty quickly that we're living in a world that's not our world.

"The two people who've been killed are actually surrogates,” continues Lieberman. "Not only are the surrogates getting destroyed, but the people controlling them at home have been murdered, which is something that's never happened in the history of surrogacy. The entire world of surrogates is at risk because the fail-safe of not harming the user is the cornerstone of the technology.”

Jonathan Mostow agreed to direct the film; his longtime writing partners, John Brancato and Michael Ferris ("Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” the 1991 telefilm, "Flight of Black Angel”), were tapped to tackle the script, marking a professional reunion for the trio of Harvard University alums.

"As soon as Mike and I read the graphic novel, we felt it could make a great film,” says Brancato. "The concept of surrogacy speaks to the modern condition in ways direct and oblique, a metaphor at once for the Internet, plastic surgery, addiction, role-playing games. Not to mention outer versus inner selves.”

To capture the flavor the writers sought to depict in this present-day/near-future universe populated almost exclusively by robots, the pair began to research the technology that reflected Venditti's ideas in the graphic novel. Their studies led the scripters to a Japanese scientist named Hiroshi Ishiguro, who has been using a plastic version of himself to lecture around the world without leaving his Osaka office. They also uncovered a rhesus monkey in North Carolina that has been wired to make a robot in Kyoto walk, merely by thinking. The technology continues to improve with groundbreaking advances that are already benefiting people with debilitating diseases.

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