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THE SON OF NO ONE

Director's Statement
Writer/director Dito Montiel teams with actor Channing Tatum for the third time on the powerful suspense drama The Son of No One following their successful collaborations on Montiel's first two critically acclaimed feature films, Fighting and his impressive, award-winning feature film debut A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, an adaptation of his 2003 memoir about growing up in Astoria, Queens. Montiel often draws on his own experiences and the environment in which he spent his childhood and teen years. This is certainly true of his latest film, The Son of No One, with many of his characters composites of people from his past and his experiences living in the Queens Housing Projects.

The film demonstrates, once again, that Montiel is an uncanny story teller with what critics and many of the actors who have worked with the filmmaker call "a unique voice in American film.” Beginning with A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints Montiel has shown a keen eye and savvy sense for interesting casting, this time around assembling a stellar and somewhat eclectic cast which in addition to Channing Tatum includes Academy Award® winner Al Pacino, Ray Liotta, Katie Holmes, Academy Award® winner Juliette Binoche, Tracy Morgan and James Ransone. The film also features two extraordinarily talented child actors, Jake Cherry and Brian Gilbert, as the young Jonathan and young Lenny (the adult characters played by Channing Tatum and Tracy Morgan).

At this point in his career, when Montiel starts writing, he's not necessarily certain whether it will be a screenplay or a novel first, and that was the case with the genesis of this film. "I just start writing – because that's what I do for fun. I started writing what became The Son of No One based on this kid, Jonathan, who I grew up with in the projects. There used to be White John and Black John, which is what we called this kid and another boy who were always together. I always mix up people I knew, and there was a kid we named Milk because he was so white.”

Montiel explains his process of developing the story: "So I had this idea and just started messing with it and writing some stories, then a long story. It started to feel like a book at one point, but then it began to feel more like a movie.”

"It's a bit of a crazy process I go through,” Montiel admits, "So I'm still trying to finish the book. I always was the kid that watched the movie for the book report, so it makes sense that I'm doing it backwards. When I wrote my book A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, if I knew then what "INT.” meant, it probably would have been a screenplay first. It ended up close to being a movie then. But it's all the same to me,” says Montiel, who is also a musician and painter. "Writing, directing, music, painting – art is art.”

And what Montiel has created with The Son of No One is both a captivating character piece and a cleverly crafted suspense thriller in which there aren't completely good guys or bad guys, but rather all the key characters are painted in varying shades of gray. As Montiel explains, "It starts off in 1986 about two kids living in the Queensbridge projects in Astoria, Queens, who kill two people and get away with it. The rest of the film concerns how they deal with that as adults in 2002 when something occurs that impacts their lives and all the people around them.”

Montiel elaborates: "One of the boys, Jonathan White (then known as Milk), played as an adult by Channing Tatum, becomes a cop because he needed the medical insurance. He and his wife, played by Katie Holmes, had a baby, and he was tired of working at 7-11s and record stores. It's hard to get a normal job these days and getting a job as a cop gets you medical insurance. And that's why Jonathan becomes a cop at 30 years old. So he's now a cop, working close to his home in Staten Island and can live a relatively normal life with his wife and daughter.

"But then he gets transferred over to the 118th Precinct in Astoria, Queens, where he grew up and where much of the film takes place. He thinks it's a bit weird, wondering why he's been transferred there. It's all under this supposedly ‘Quality of Life' program going on in Astoria, where they're trying to ‘clean up' the projects—and basically run people out in order to develop the land for nice condominiums.

"They're bringing in a lot of cops from different precincts for this, so Jonathan thinks that's probably why he was transferred to the Astoria precinct,” continues Montiel. "But once Jonathan's been brought into the precinct, he begins to feel that he's been brought back there for other reasons. That's where the interesting, weird twists begin—as his past slowly comes back, and things start to happen.

"Al Pacino's character, Stanford, is now Deputy Commissioner, but back in 1986, he was a detective and Jonathan's father's partner—he's known Jonathan since he was a baby. After Jonathan's father was killed, Stanford would always take care of him—the way some people will just check in on a kid. I think part of it was that he felt bad for a little white kid in the projects. So when the boy is rumored to have killed those two people, I think Stanford helps him out—the way I believe you could possibly get away with murder in 1986. "So it seems that Stanford covered up the killings for young Jonathan—and then in 2002 things start to resurface. Captain Mathers, played by Ray Liotta, is about to replace Stanford as Deputy Commissioner. Now people are starting to receive letters alluding to the killings and Bridges, a journalist played by Juliette Binoche, is printing them. Stanford and Mathers are concerned that rumors will start about corruption in the police department and need to put a stop to that.”

Montiel admits he's always been a big thriller fan. "I like all kinds of thrillers. Morgan Freeman, white girl, serial killer – I'd go. Ashley Judd, black guy, serial killer – I'd go. They switch around once in a while. But I do love thrillers, so there's a thriller thing going on in the film, too.”

"I think it's a beautiful story, but some pretty scary and crazy things happen. When two young boys are involved in killing people, whether it's justified or not, and then covering up the acts— that's scary. And what happens when this begins to be uncovered when they're older; it's no less scary.”

Montiel, in effect, has created two stories, one that takes place with the boys and their friends and neighbors in 1986 and the other when they're adults, leading very different lives from one another in 2002. Writing the script presented some challenges for Montiel. "I love it, but it's crazy doing this kind of story. There's a lot of room for error, which I like, or rather, there's no room for error but there's a lot of room to make an error and I like that because it puts you in check a lot.”

As to his choice of years in which to set the two stories, he explains: "I thought 1986 was an interesting time and place. I was a kid then and, although it might have been awful if you were an adult, I sure liked it because it was in some ways a bit lawless. But when I think about what we got away with as kids, a lot of those things could be a headline in the New York Post. It was a little bit free-er then; I don't know if it was better, but it was free-er.

"2002 followed a strange time anywhere in America, but particularly in New York, because it was that period after 9/11,” he continues. "But my reason for setting the story in 2002 was that there was this love affair with the police in 2001. I had an American flag and it was a nice time to be an American. Throughout the tragedy I was reminded of when I was a

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