A Directors Vision
With Washington on board, the search for a director began. "We wanted a director who understood what we were trying to do, and who wanted to make the type of film we wanted to make. We felt that the story was a gift that we had been entrusted to handle and to deliver well. It was essential to get the right director," explains Langlais.
Jewison turned out to be that director. Recipient of the prestigious 1999 Irving Thaiberg Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for lifetime achievement recognizing his diverse and rich body of work, Jewison has a unique talent for bringing projects of social significance to the masses. In fact, the film completes his trilogy of films dealing with racial injustices (beginning with 1967's multiple Academy Award winning In The Heat of the Night and continuing with 1984's A Soldier's Story).
"As a director, I've always looked for stories which reflect social and human conditions," says Jewison.
"Because, film is the literature of this generation."
Jewison sees Rubin Carter's story as symbolic of the time. He continues, "I remember reading about the story in the newspaper while shooting "In the Heat of the Night." The tremendous injustice that was done to Rubin Carter was just one more incident. This was the time of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King - a time of tremendous social unrest, a civil rights revolution. If you were black and challenged the status quo, you were in danger."
The film was a great opportunity for Washington and Jewison to renew their working relationship, having previously worked together on one of Washington's first feature films, Jewison's A Soldier's Story. Washington readily speaks of Jewison's ability to enter the actor's world.
"He's an actor's director. He makes you feel comfortable and inspires you," says Washington. "Norman gives you confidence by taking you into his confidence. He's just a really simple and sensitive filmmaker, a great filmmaker."
In fact, the acclaimed director initially began his career in the entertainment business as an actor in his native Canada.
Bernstein was thrilled to have Jewison on board. He says, "The story is worthy of someone of his skills. This is a director with stripes in the area of race relations and the poignancy of interaction between people, having made 'In The Heat of the Night' and 'A Soldier's Story.' It felt like the right people were going on an adventure together."
Jewison had his own history with the Rubin Carter story. During the '8Os, Jewison had been approached by another producer to direct a film based on Carteds book, The Sixteenth Round.
"I was extremely moved by Rubin's eloquence. That's when I first became interested in the story," Jewison says.
However, they were unable to secure production financing and that opportunity passed. But when Jewison was approached again by Beacon, he accepted the challenge. It was time to assemble the rest of the cast.
Casting the role of Lesra Martin proved an exhausting and difficult task for Jewison. He auditioned many young actors in New York, Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles to find the right Lesra, as he truly is the key to the film.
"It's the relationship between Lesra and Rubin that really is the emotional thrust o
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