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THE AMERICAN

About The Production
Following the success of his award---winning first feature, the drama Control, director Anton Corbijn was deliberately looking to work on a new film centering on as different material as possible. He reveals, "I started reading thriller scripts. The theme of The American, of a loner trying to find redemption from the deeds he's done, interested me as did the tension and the romance in the story. Here was something I saw could be not only suspenseful but also thoughtful.

"My career for over 35 years has been as a portrait photographer; filmmaking is a new adventure for me. I'm still finding my voice. I feel that where The American does parallel Control is in the idea of trying to change one's life; how can you maybe make good after doing wrong? Can you overcome things that might be in you which define you?"

Music - both motivator and subject in Control was a key inspiration to Corbijn in his formative years. A certain genre of movie was as well; he remembers, "I haven't seen all that many movies in my life, but Westerns have long made an impression on me, starting with in childhood - Rawhide [the 1960s TV series starring Clint Eastwood]. The look, the stories, the morality of movie Westerns always attracted me. Although The American is not actually a Western, it is structured in that genre; a stranger comes to a small town and connects with a couple of the people in it, but his past catches up with him and there is a shootout."

Producer Anne Carey concurs, noting that in The American, as in Westerns, "there is a man who has lived by the gun, and the violence that he's lived by threatens to infect the peace that he's tried to find in a place that he thinks he could live in.

"I read Martin Booth's novel A Very Private Gentleman over a decade ago, and immediately thought that it could be a sexy and entertaining genre piece with a complex and interesting lead role. [Producers] Ann Wingate and Jill Green were simultaneously closing on the rights. We decided that, rather than compete against one another, we would join forces and make the picture together."

Wingate recalls, "I had started working on getting the book made into a movie back in the 1990s, with BBC Films. They had let it drop, and later Jill and I had been working together and I suggested reviving the project. I'd always been drawn to the love story for the lead character, a man who has had enough of escaping his life yet seeks to escape what he is."

Green elaborates, "What also attracted us to the book was the insight into this character as a solitary figure who wants to find romance and redemption, despite his escalating inner turmoil. To have a lead character who is both an expert gun maker and assassin put me in mind of The Day of the Jackal, which also was adapted from a novel. At the time, Martin Booth was still alive, and he insisted on English/European producers for the movie from his book. So that was Ann and me.

"But Anne Carey was so keen on the project that we said ‘Why not,' and so we got together in a happy marriage, spending probably 6---7 years working on the script." Carey adds, "It then took a while to find the right director and star."

Green remarks, "When we first met with Anton, his vision for the piece very much suited Martin's original book, and we liked his articulated visual sense of the material."

Wingate notes, "Inevitably, after all these years, there had to be updates to the material. We had to do that more than once. What's happened is that the movie got much closer to the feel of the novel, much leaner and as a result stronger."

By the end of the decade, Carey reports, "Anton had become the linchpin, the one whose involvement got this to jell. In our conversations with him, it was clear that he envisioned this to be at once a classically framed and told film as well as a contemporary one in the style and the shooting."

Producer Grant Heslov, who joined the project in 2008, notes, "Because Anton comes from the world of photography, he is able to compose his frames in a striking way something that many directors spend their entire careers striving to achieve.

"But he also brings a perspective where he doesn't see anything straight on; everything comes from a bit of an odd angle, which is a plus."

Screenwriter Rowan Joffe came to, and at, the material from several angles. He comments, "When Anton, Anne, and Grant asked me to write The American, I was thrilled at the chance to adapt such a morally rich, visually arresting, and unusual novel. Though there had been several previous scripts, I decided to start completely afresh, inspired by Anton's brilliant idea to re---conceive the story as a kind of contemporary Western.

"With that in mind, I wove together my favorite passages from the book, simplifying the overall structure into a character---motivated thriller with a streamlined plot, a powerful redemptive theme, very spare dialogue, and a wild Italian landscape that acts like a character in its own right, exerting its transformative, melancholy beauty on our hero and assisting him in his journey to redemption. George Clooney's interest in my first draft allowed me to continue refining subsequent drafts with him in mind; that was a considerable dramatic boon for the script as well as a rare opportunity to craft a character for one of the greatest movie actors alive."

For Corbijn, the question of just where to film in as called for in the script - Italy was critical to pre---production planning. He reflects, "The surroundings had to be a character in the movie. I had a clear idea of how the landscape should look, and I wanted to use towns and villages as a back lot." Accordingly, the filmmakers were loath to attempt "casting" another country instead.

The name of the movie, however, did change; after going by the novel's title, Corbijn baptized the film as Il Americano before it finally became The American.

In terms of specific Italy locales, all concerned had been transfixed by Abruzzo, a mountainous region located east of Rome and spreading from the base of the Apennine range of mountains towards the Adriatic Sea. Remote and majestic, the area is "a raw environment, an honest landscape of a type that is rarely seen in movies," marvels Corbijn.

By the winter of 2008, the filmmakers had chosen their Abruzzo locations, as Corbijn and Joffe together and, prior, Carey had all made scouting trips. Then, on April 6th, 2009, the Abruzzo region was hit by an earthquake. There were over 300 casualties; 60,000 people were suddenly homeless; and many parts of the ancient town of L'aquila less than 70 miles northeast of Rome - lay in ruins.

It was also on April 6th that Corbijn was meeting with Clooney to finalize the latter's plans to produce and star in the movie. Corbijn remembers, "We discussed our shared hope that filming The American would help to boost the region economically, what with the money spent during production and the finished film encouraging tourism in the future."

Executive producer Enzo Sisti adds, "I started with the production in April. Everyone - Anton, George, Focus Features was saying, ‘We must go with Abruzzo. They need a film like this, and our movie needs a beautiful region like this.'"

Wingate notes, "The atmosphere gives you a different view and a different feel; it's not the pretty Tuscany or Umbria, or the beautiful Florence or Rome, of so many movies."

Corbijn says, "The terrain is rugged a

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