About The Production
THE ROAD is a movie that had to get made. On the surface, a story about the Earth's end-game scenario that includes cannibalism and brutality and other unsavory elements is not exactly the right material for a popcorn movie. And though some studios initially passed on the project for these reasons, the producers, the director and the talent who were drawn to it were motivated by an absolute belief that Cormac McCarthy's novel would make an incredible picture.
Producer Nick Wechsler, a huge fan of the author, got beat out when he tried to buy the rights to McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, which went on to win the Oscarâ„¢ for the Coen Brothers, so he alerted literary agents to let him know when the next Cormac McCarthy book became available. He and producing partners Paula Mae and Steve Schwartz took advantage of competitors' skittishness and optioned the property when it was in manuscript form. "The great thing about this particular book was that it was so challenging that all of the studios and other producers were cautiously approaching it, weren't sure whether it could be made into a movie," he says. "That gave me an opportunity to seize the moment, outbid everybody else with the help of my partners, the Schwartz's, and acquire the material."
Like all the other filmmakers involved in making this movie, Wechsler was deeply moved by the experience of reading McCarthy's page-turner. He saw instantly, he says, that it would be great movie material. "I read the novel the evening that it was given to me and I thought it was an extremely powerful, emotional experience—the story of the father and the son and the journey they take and the passing of the fire, the passing of the idea of humanity from one to the other and back again.
"And I also thought that there were some good genre elements as well. The suspense and tension of the need to survive in an extremely hostile world—really obvious elements to make into a movie. I wasn't worried about the challenging aspect at all. I thought that an apocalyptic world is challenging and cannibalism in an apocalyptic world is challenging but that the emotional core of the piece was so fresh and so powerful that that's what would shine through in the making of a movie."
When Wechsler invited Rudd Simmons to come aboard as the film's executive producer, his choice of John Hillcoat to direct was already established. Simmons hadn't seen Hillcoat's film THE PROPOSITION, but when he did, he too was hooked on the director. "I was quite taken with John's film," he says. "What was interesting to me was what he did with the landscape and how much the characters seem to come right out of the landscape. THE ROAD is a fairly simple story in a way but it's mythic and the characters seem to just come right out of the earth. So, I talked to John and he and I got along great."
Another thing that impressed Simmons about the director's process was how prepared and how focused Hillcoat was on exactly how he was going to transform this great novel into a great movie. "At the very beginning John wrote a position paper—and I've never had that on any of the movies I've done," he says. "It was about three or four pages of what he was looking for, the themes that he was interested in, it had to do with genre and the overall look he wanted for the movie, and along with it were a lot of photographs.
"It was a pretty great thing because we gave this to everyone who came onto the project and right off the bat we were all on the same page. We knew exactly what he was looking for. We knew exactly what it was he saw in the story," he says.
"What makes a really good adaptation is if the filmmaker finds something in the book that he is passionate about and tells the story from that point of view," Simmons adds. "And we knew what that was for John."
Some of Hillcoat's state
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