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STIR OF ECHOES

Hypnotic Suggestions
The launching pad for the supernatural journey taken by an extremely skeptical Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) is a hypnosis session, conducted spontaneously by his sister-in-law Lisa, portrayed by Illeana Douglas, at a neighborhood party

The launching pad for the supernatural journey taken by an extremely skeptical Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) is a hypnosis session, conducted spontaneously by his sister-in-law Lisa, portrayed by Illeana Douglas, at a neighborhood party. When Tom becomes hypnotized, he loses his disbelief ... and strange things start happening shortly thereafter in the old house Tom, his wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) and their young son Jake (Zachary David Cope) rent from a neighbor.

As it turned out, the crucial hypnosis scene was not only researched, but actually experienced firsthand by two of its key participants - director David Koepp and actress Illeana Douglas. As Douglas explains, she and Koepp visited a hypnotherapist in Chicago shortly before production began, and they "went under" themselves.

"It was my idea - I really wanted David and I to get hypnotized," says Douglas. "I felt it would really help my character. She has to hypnotize Kevin Bacon's character, and we really wanted the session to be realistic. Normally, on TV, you see someone hypnotized and they run around and act like a chicken or something. We didn't want that - we wanted it accurate. So we found a hypnotist in Chicago and he explained the whole thing to us. A lot of what you see in the hypnotizing scene comes from our discussions with him. The comment in the film about only eight percent of the population being capable of going fully under when hypnotized - that came from him, and so did several other things. So does much of the method my character uses to hypnotize Kevin in that scene.

Crucial to that method was Lisa's suggestion to Tom Witzky that he imagine himself in a movie theater as he begins to relax. Douglas suggests a bit of supernatural may have been at work in the placement of that concept into the script.

"The hypnotist went on and on about the idea of being in a theater as a common theme when hypnotizing people," Douglas says. "Coincidentally, David Koepp had written that idea into the script long before we began researching this. He just liked the idea and then, later, we find out that is a classic technique. I thought that was pretty weird."

The actual theater where Tom's supernatural journey begins during his intense hypnotic session is the venerable Rialto Theater in Joliet, Illinois, located 50 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. The ornate structure was built at the turn of the century as a place for rich industrialists to see theatrical productions. Refurbished a few years ago, the building today is a registered landmark.

The theater scene shows what takes place in Tom Witzky's mind while he is being hypnotized. The experience profoundly changes him, and Bacon's character wasn't the only one changed by hypnosis. Douglas recalls her hypnotic experience with Koepp as the film entered production.

"The really interesting thing about the experience was that, for the rest of the day, both David and I felt we were more open about our own life memories and things," Douglas recalls. "I remember we talked all day about childhood memories and many other things we had not thought about or talked about for years. It was like all of these different life experiences had been stored in our brains, but they required something to unlock or trigger them. I think that being hypnotized unlocked them all.

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