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DREAM HOUSE

AboutThe Production
Who Is Peter Ward?: Dream House Begins

In 2009, production partners Daniel Bobker and Ehren Kruger brought Morgan Creek CEO James G. Robinson and vice president David Robinson the script for Dream House. Bobker and Kruger, who had previously collaborated on the supernatural thriller The Skeleton Key and the action-adventure The Brothers Grimm, were intrigued by the themes that screenwriter David Loucka explored in his psychological thriller and were convinced that Morgan Creek was the right production partner to develop and finance the project.

Loucka wove the fascinating tale of Will Atenton, an accomplished publisher who leaves a hectic job in New York City to spend time with his wife and two young girls in their New England home. Just as he settles in to begin his new career as a writer, Will's family is plagued by a series of disturbing occurrences in their house. Now, he is forced to confront the fact that nothing is as it seems.

James G. Robinson explains his decision to develop and produce the material: "With so many thrillers, it becomes painfully obvious early on what the twist is, and the director spends the majority of the time trying to cover his or her tracks. What set Dream House apart is that it explores the mystery as it happens from one person's perspective. As Will tries to figure out who killed the family—or if anyone actually did—there is self-doubt and self-accusation. We loved that you can project your own thoughts onto the material. As it unfolds, the audience will question their own assumptions about what is happening.”

To bring life to the multilayered story, the producers recruited Oscar®-nominated director Jim Sheridan. The Irish filmmaker, known for an impressive body of work that spans collaborations with Daniel Day-Lewis—My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father and The Boxer—to the deeply personal In America and war drama Brothers, never expected that his next film would be a psychological thriller. Still, he was drawn to the taut material and was impressed by the author's ability to deftly traverse genres and to keep the reader guessing.

Sheridan acknowledges that he relished the opportunity of helming Dream House. He says: "I read the script, and I quite liked the compelling idea of a guy living in two realities at the same time.” The director was keen to shepherd this "psychological thriller where you don't know where you are at any point. You don't know what's real or who did the murder. In fact, you don't know if there was a murder at all.”

The filmmaker appreciated that Loucka's story allowed the reader to intimately enter Will's mind and to explore our deepest fears of losing our family. He notes, "I think a lot of the time people react to tragedy by inventing fantasy worlds. I suppose, at its basis, drama is a kind of belief system invented by human beings to counter the overwhelming reality of death.”

When considering what would become his approach to the material, Sheridan explains: "You're trying to capture emotions. You're trying to capture the invisible: a world that you don't quite see, but rather feel. I wasn't that interested in just doing a visual change. I wanted to get an emotional change that's at the core of Will—a change that comes from the inside out, rather than the outside in.”

As preproduction began, Sheridan began to assemble his top-notch behind-the-scenes team to create Dream House. As well, he cast the actors to play the characters who lived in and around Will's dream house. In doing so, he looked to a man known for his work in the action and dramatic worlds, as well as a veteran of thrillers and an accomplished Academy Award® winner.

Belongs to the House: Casting the Thriller

When the team was looking for its Will Atenton, a character Sheridan describes as a man who "discovers truths about himself that he didn't know,” the search ended after Daniel Craig agreed to take on the role. Explains Sheridan of their choice: "Daniel is the kind of guy that women feel would protect them. He seems like a decent sort, and the funny thing is that he is a decent sort. He's sweet to work with and very straight up.”

Long a fan of Sheridan's dramatic films, Craig admits he wasn't a hard sell when the opportunity to work with the director arose. He says: "I've been a fan of his for a long time, and we'd been talking about doing something together for the past couple of years. This came up, and he contacted me, so I said, ‘Let's do it.'”

As he read Loucka's screenplay, Craig was drawn to the difficulties that Will faces as he tries to understand the crisis. The actor agrees with Sheridan and appreciates how much of the screenplay leaves the reader uncertain or guessing. He says: "If you happen to believe in ghosts then, yes, this is a ghost story. If you don't believe in ghosts, then it's something that the mind created, which is just as wonderful. We didn't want to push it either way. We wanted to leave it up to the viewer to decide.”

Craig understood that he actually would be portraying two characters in Dream House. He explains Will's backstory: "I play a happy husband who lives in a dream house with his wife and their two children, and suddenly this other story starts to happen. They find out there's been a murder in the house. With the previous occupants, the wife and children were murdered, and this story begins to creep into their everyday life. It's almost like they are being haunted by the house.”

The actor found that playing such a conflicted character was more challenging than he initially expected: "It's very tricky to do. We did a lot of the film in chronological order and shot the beginning of the movie very early on. The heavier stuff came toward the end. It was very tough emotionally, but as an actor, very satisfying.”

Actress Naomi Watts was cast to play Will and Libby's next-door neighbor, Ann Patterson. We are introduced to Ann when Will heads across the street to discuss her daughter. We see that Ann is extremely wary of this new neighbor, and she quickly ends the conversation. Sheridan discusses his thoughts on casting the Oscar® nominee and how she mastered the role of Ann: "Naomi is great with her eyes. She's just so accurate, and you can read whatever she's thinking all the time. From the moment you see her in this film, you know there's something strange about Ann.”

From The Ring series to Eastern Promises and Funny Games, the performer has long been able to share with the audience her characters' unease by providing a simple look or making the smallest gesture. For Watts, the draw of Dream House was learning how these "three strong characters were very enmeshed in each other's lives.”

Watts introduces us to her character: "Ann has an ex-husband who she is not on great terms with, and they share a child and there are many issues there. We're trying to work out what's going on there with Ann's family life and if she needs Will's help or Will needs hers. There are all these big question marks in the film.”

It wasn't just the chance to work with director Sheridan and with friends Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz that brought her to the project. The actress admits: "Ann reminded me of a Hitchcock character. There's something strange about her, something that pulls you in. Audiences will ask, ‘Do we like her, or do we not?' I liked that juxtaposition, and as an actor, playing out this type of mystery is always fun.”

Oscar® winner Rachel Weisz, impressed by the script's deft handling of romance, supernatural and horror, was brought on to the project as Will's troubled wife, Libby. It wasn't just

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