MAN ON A LEDGE
The Story: Stepping Out
Since his days as president of production at Warner Bros., producer Lorenzo di
Bonaventura had wanted to turn the script for Man on a Ledge into a film. It
started, of course, with that immediately alluring title. "There's an inherent
to the idea," says di Bonaventura. It's also a phrase known to cops everywhere.
Producer Mark Vahradian explains, "it's a real terminology the police use,
on a ledge,' when somebody is up in a building and going to jump."
Explains di Bonaventura, "it's a movie where things keep turning on
The film begins with an unidentified man in a business suit, coming out of New
York City's subway and getting a room at an upscale hotel in midtown and
ordering an ostentatious meal, complete with champagne and lobster. He then
writes a note and steps out onto the ledge of his hotel room. To the audience
appears to be a desperate man, perhaps answering a desolate economy with the
only solution he knows: ending it.
"There's something gripping about the idea of a man on a ledge," continues di
Bonaventura. "Is he going to jump? Is he not gonna jump? And you know we
talked to a lot of veteran cops and people who have been in this situation. And
they say in general the people down below about are 50/50 for them to jump or
not jump, which is kind of sick and yet I guess it is human nature. I think it's
what attracted us to the script is that impending catastrophe and in this case
we wanted to have this very strong interactivity between the ledge and what's
going on there."
Executive Producer David Ready adds, "it really had a romantic quality to it.
redemption story of a guy who's putting it all on the line in one day to get his
back. And so it just sort of hit all the buttons, for me and for the group."
Cut to a prison scene where we again meet our "jumper," Nick Cassidy (Sam
Worthington) once a New York City police officer now a convict, sentenced to 25
years for a crime he didn't commit. Cassidy admits to being suicidal to the
prison's shrink and unable to handle his time for the crime for which he was
found guilty of. While doing a moonlighting gig, escorting the rare and
Monarch Diamond, it is stolen and businessman David Englander (Ed Harris)
frames Cassidy for its disappearance, putting him behind bars for 25 years and
allowing Englander to collect the insurance on the diamond. Englander's motto,
di Bonaventura says, is "if somebody takes something from you, you take more
back, 'because that's America.'"
Cassidy is furloughed to attend his father's funeral where an elaborate
plan and heart pounding chase scene ensue, bringing us back to the ledge.
"Cassidy," di Bonaventura explains, "has an agenda, which is to prove that he
was framed, and as an audience member, you still believe that maybe he is
suicidal." Explains Ready, "it's a prison escape that turns into a heist movie
sort of results in a love story." Worthington agrees, "it's got something that
different to other action moviesâ€¦I get to stay still and act for a bit, not just
go around yelling."
The love story comes into play through the relationship between Cassidy and
NYPD negotiator, Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) whom Cassidy asks for by
name. Mercer is a controversial figure within the police force, having recently
a jumper who was one of their own. "Cassidy chooses Mercer," explains di
Bonaventura, "because he feels that she'll understand what has happened to
him. He was ostracized for something he didn't do, as she was for something she
had no control over."
Man On A Ledge was a spec script written by Pablo F. Fenjves that Lorenzo di
Bonaventura hoped to option while he was the president of Warner Bros. He later
acquired it under the di Bonaventura Pictures umbrella. As Mark Vahradian
further explains, "the script got stuck along the way at MGM Studios, where they
asked to take it out. It then went to Paramount and was set up at Paramount
Vantage. Three months later Paramount Vantage went out of business and so the
script was dead again."
di Bonaventura and Vahradian didn't give up on it, though. They had just
Red with Summit Entertainment, so they sent the studio the script. "They fell in
love with it," says Vahradian. Suddenly there was interest from Sam Worthington,
and Summit bought it that same week. "From there it went very, very fast,"
Director Asger Leth, whose background is in documentaries, was brought on to
steer Man on a Ledge as his first feature film. It's a decision the producers
especially excited about because the qualities he'd used to tell real-life
were what they were after. Explains Vahradian, "what Asger brought was that
awareness of details that you have to have as a documentary filmmaker. You have
to be able to pick out what's interesting in this grand gigantic frame of
reality and move there."
di Bonaventura describes Leth as gutsy, an attribute one would probably want
from a director who was going to film a 14-inch ledge, 225 feet above midtown
Manhattan. Leth's fearlessness was made initially apparent at his first meeting
with di Bonaventura. As Leth recalls, "I went to meet with him about another
script, but on the way there I was thinking, 'he's also got that other script
really like, that I've been talking to my agent about for a while.' So I went
there and said, 'Lorenzo I know we're having a meeting about this script, but that
script, Man On A Ledge, I read that. I really like that.'"
di Bonaventura was impressed by Leth's willingness to tackle a big
movie as his first film. "He's not risk averse," says the producer. "And that's
great thing, to find somebody like that. So much is unfamiliar that you want
somebody who's gutsy. Also, stylistically, doing documentaries is really
interesting, so we were hoping to bring that style and gutsiness to our movie."
Within a week of that first powwow, Leth and di Bonaventura were meeting with
Summit and Sam Worthington. "Worthington had a really short calendar," Leth
explains, and it was decided if they were going to do this, they had to get
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