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STIR OF ECHOES

A Supernatural Journey Begins
For Stir of Echoes, David Koepp took Richard Matheson's classic ghost story and crafted it into a unique, big-screen convergence of the darkly supernatural with the incredibly ordinary

For Stir of Echoes, David Koepp took Richard Matheson's classic ghost story and crafted it into a unique, big-screen convergence of the darkly supernatural with the incredibly ordinary. But the starting point, clearly, was Matheson's novel, which simply swept Koepp away when he read it.

"I had read several other books by Richard Matheson, but I had never seen Stir of Echoes until I came across it in a used bookstore a couple of years ago," Koepp says. "As soon as I read it, I fell in love with it. I went and hunted down the rights, which were over at Universal. Matheson had sold it to them about 35 years ago, but that studio never did anything with it. I made a deal with Universal that let me write them a screenplay on spec. They agreed to either make it or give me an option on it if they did not make the film. Universal ended up giving me an option, and now, in partnership with Artisan Entertainment, we've finally made the film I had envisioned."

Matheson has fueled the imaginations of readers and audiences around the world for over 50 years, as both a novelist and a screenwriter. He first caught Hollywood's eye when he wrote the screenplay for The Incredible Shrinking Man, starring Grant Williams in 1957. He's also responsible for several memorable episodes of the original "The Twilight Zone", and he wrote the novels on which the films Duel, (the feature film that launched Steven Spielberg's directorial career), Somewhere in Time, What Dreams May Come, were based.

But for Stir of Echoes, his original treatment has been lovingly massaged by writer/director Koepp. Matheson's novel revolves around a blue-collar family living in a Southern California housing tract during the mid-l950s. There, after several inexplicable visions and encounters with an anguished ghost, protagonist Tom Witzky discovers a horrifying neighborhood secret. For the feature film, however, Koepp chose to relocate the story to a working-class neighborhood in the heart of Chicago.

"The world Richard wrote about in the book - tract housing in a young, booming Southern California - doesn't really exist anymore," says Koepp. "Besides, since I was writing and directing the piece, I wanted to put the story into a different working-class environment - one I had personal knowledge of. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my mother's large Irish family on the south side of Chicago and knew that environment very well. So I brought the story into that world. I felt it was important that the neighborhood and the people in it be very believable. I thought the scariness of the movie was going to be in direct relation to how real we could make the world in which the events took place."

Therefore, Filmmakers brought the production to three different ethnic neighborhoods in the Chicago area during September and October of 1998 -Wicker Park, Polish Village and Brighton Park, which editor Jill Savitt later wove together to create a single Chicago neighborhood. All exteriors were shot in those areas, with interiors, designed by Nelson Coates, brought to life on sets built at the abandoned Lakeside Press building near the heart of Chicago.

To maintain the working-class texture, filmmakers hired several Chicago-area native or long-time resident actors, and used primarily a Chicago-based crew. Kathryn Erbe, the film's co-star, grew up in the Midwest and ha

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