A Compelling Biography
Mythologized in song by Bob Dylan, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter is, according to director Norman Jewison, "one person worth making a film about."
Jewison was not the only one who thought that Carter's life belonged on the screen. The 1991 publication of Lazarus and the Hurricane, Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton's book detailing their relationship with Lesra Martin and their efforts to help free Carter from prison, and of Rubin's autobiography The Sixteenth Round in Canada, resulted in a fierce bidding war to turn them into a film. Studios, producers and actors, (Denzel Washington among them) all vied for the rights to the Carter story.
Armyan Bernstein and Beacon Communications ultimately had the winning combination. Bernstein had been interested in the Carter story since he first heard the Bob Dylan song. His interest was revived when he heard that the rights to the Carter story had become available.
"When I heard part two of the story, the part that the song doesn't tell, about Lesra and the Canadians, I just sat there thinking-this was the best story that I had ever come across," says Bernstein.
His obvious passion for the project was evident to Carter, Chaiton and Swinton, and the rights were sold to Bernstein and Beacon Communications.
Over the next few years Bernstein, who had written films such as One From The Heart and Windy City, wrote several drafts of the script while he continued to run Beacon.
He then hired screenwriter Dan Gordon, credited with the courtroom/prison drama Murder in the First and Kevin Costner's character study Wyatt Earp. Over several more drafts Gordon and Bernstein found the keys to an extremely complex story that begins in 1949 and concludes in 1985.
The script was ready to send to actors, and Denzel Washington became the obvious choice to portray Rubin Carter. An Oscar® winner for his role in Glory and a nominee for Malcolm X and Cry Freedom, Washington's passion for the project was infectious.
Bernstein says, "Denzel came to my office after Rubin entrusted me with the story and said, 'Just know that I want this, and I'm always going to want this. When you're ready to make the film, don't forget when I said I can be this guy.' And that was five or six years ago."
Bernstein never forgot Washington's impassioned request. And when the completed script was finally sent to him, Washington read it overnight, signing on immediately.
Washington's interest had originally been sparked when he read The Sixteenth Round. "I read Rubin's book and was just touched by it, as is Lesra in the film," says Washington. "I hadn't read anything like it. I thought he was a very dynamic individual who had been through so much. It's an inspiring story."
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