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Movie Reviews by Michael Phillips
Fox (ANGELINA JOLIE) shoots from the driver side of her Viper while Wesley watches (JAMES MCAVOY)
Wanted -- starring Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp and Thomas Kretschmann Common -- is based upon Mark Millar's explosive graphic novel series.
Timur Bekmambetov -- creator of the most successful Russian film franchise in history, the Night Watch series -- is the stunning visualist director that brings Wanted to the silver screen
Wanted tells the tale of one apathetic nobody's transformation into an unparalleled enforcer of justice.
The world is introduced to a hero for a new generation: Wesley Gibson.
25-year-old Wes (James McAvoy) was the most disaffected, cube-dwelling drone the planet had ever known. His boss chewed him out hourly, his girlfriend ignored him routinely and his life plodded on interminably. Everyone was certain this disengaged slacker would amount to nothing. There was little else for Wes to do but wile away the days and die in his slow, clock-punching rut.
Until he met a woman named Fox (Angelina Jolie).
After his estranged father is murdered, the deadly sexy Fox recruits Wes into the Fraternity, a secret society that trains Wes to avenge his dad's death by unlocking his dormant powers. As she teaches him how to develop lightning-quick reflexes and phenomenal agility, Wes discovers this team lives by an ancient, unbreakable code: carry out the death orders given by fate itself.
With wickedly brilliant tutors--including the Fraternity's enigmatic leader, Sloan (Morgan Freeman)--Wes grows to enjoy all the strength he ever wanted. But, slowly, he begins to realize there is more to his dangerous associates than meets the eye. And as he wavers between newfound heroism and vengeance, Wes will come to learn what no one could ever teach him: he alone controls his destiny.
Visionary director TIMUR BEKMAMBETOV powers this twisted and visceral adventure of 25-year-old Wes (McAvoy), a slacker who hates his life—with good reason, because it sucks.
At work, his ballbuster of a boss lives to torment him in front of his fellow cubedwelling drones. Back home, his skeezy girlfriend is a sexual magnet for everyone except him, including Wes’ supposed best friend. No wonder this loser is on his 10th prescription for panic attack pills, which he downs like candy between cardboard meals of vegan tofu wraps.
Wes’ pathetic excuse for an existence might just as well come to an end and save him a lifetime of prolonged misery.
Fortunately for Wes, his life is over—his old one, anyway…and all because of a girl. Enter hot Fox (Jolie), who crashes into Wes on the business end of a smoking gun. Seems Wes’ long-lost and mostly forgotten dad was killed while working for the Fraternity—a centuries-old league of supersensory trained assassins pledged to carry out the unbreakable orders of fate. Their motto: Kill one, save a thousand.
Now it’s Wes’ turn to follow in his father’s footsteps and release the caged wolf that’s always lurked inside of him. Killing is in Wes’ blood, and he trains under Fox and a motley-but-lethal crew that includes the Fraternity’s enigmatic leader, Sloan (Freeman). The neophyte is forcefully pummeled into developing lightning-quick reflexes and superhuman agility. No one said becoming an assassin would be easy.
The former slacker is reborn as the golden boy of the Fraternity and Wes starts to relish his new life, even exacting some best-served-cold revenge on tormentors past. But soon, the sweet taste of power sours when he realizes that the intentions of his deadly associates aren’t as noble as first presented. As he wavers between newfound heroism and soul-killing vengeance, Wes will come to learn what no one—neither cold-blooded father nor steaming-hot assassin—could ever teach him: He alone controls his destiny. The film also stars TERENCE STAMP (Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, The Limey) as Pekwarsky; THOMAS KRETSCHMANN (King Kong, Resident Evil: Apocalypse) as Cross; and COMMON (American Gangster, Smokin’ Aces) as The Gunsmith.
Universal Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment present the visually stunning world of Wanted, based on the series of comic books by MARK MILLAR and J.G. JONES. The screenplay for Wanted is written by MICHAEL BRANDT & DEREK HAAS (3:10 to Yuma, 2 Fast 2 Furious) and CHRIS MORGAN (Cellular, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift), with a story by Brandt & Haas.
Wanted is produced by MARC PLATT (Broadway’s Wicked, the Legally Blonde series), JIM LEMLEY (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Red Eye), JASON NETTER (television’s Wolverine & the X-Men, the upcoming The Red Star) and IAIN SMITH (Children of Men, The Fountain). Executive producing are ADAM SIEGEL (The Perfect Man) and MARC SILVESTRI (The Covenant) and Spyglass Entertainment’s ROGER BIRNBAUM and GARY BARBER (Eight Below, Bruce Almighty).
The filmmakers have assembled an international team of sterling behind-thecamera talent, including director of photography MITCHELL AMUNDSEN (Transformers, Transporter 2), Oscar®-winning production designer JOHN MYHRE (Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago), Academy Award-winning film editor DAVID BRENNER (Independence Day, Born on the Fourth of July), costume designer VARYA AVDYUSHKO (Day Watch, Night Watch) and composer DANNY ELFMAN (Spider- Man 2, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
ABOUT WANTED THE MOVIE
Wanted is very much Wesley’s story, and at its outset, he is about as far from a comic book "hero" as you can get. He’s miserable, a doormat for the world—punching the clock until his pitiable day comes to its end…hardly the stuff of a towering, squarejawed, steroid-sized, classic leading man. And yet, the character undergoes a remarkable metamorphosis, from pathetic to powerful, embracing his legacy and allowing his inner strength to push aside the weakling.
Bekmambetov explains, "We watch Wesley grow up—he finds his abilities and his intelligence. He starts out as a weak boy who everybody thinks is a loser. That is because he does not believe, and he does not know what is in his genes. Because he is different. He is unique. Once he finds that, he grows. He becomes a man, a killer. And then he starts to see that there are lies in his world. So he has to choose—to go back to believing what is told to him, that’s a fake truth. Or go his own path and find a real truth."
It took young Scottish actor James McAvoy a while to sink his teeth into the idea of playing Wesley: "I’m not used to seeing someone like myself in these roles. As a movie lover, I do complain frequently that I’m fed up with seeing 6’ 5" alpha males in these roles. I’m glad they cast someone like me, not in terms of what I can bring to the role as an actor, but more because I’m not an obvious choice."
Bekmambetov says, "I knew James was a different kind of actor for Wesley, but I wanted a real actor. We needed someone people will identify with. Somebody who kind of looks like an everybody. Wes changes a lot, on the inside, on the outside. And James can do that—we believe his changes. I wanted somebody to bring humor to the story, because I think it’s impossible to create a believable fantasy world without humor. He is skeptical and ironic—and when he believes, the audience believes."
Platt comments, "It was essential that we found an actor who was accessible to an audience." The filmmakers wanted someone "who could exist in a world that was heightened, but who could communicate with enough emotional truth that his reality became our reality. James is very smart about his character, even down to his movements and his action. He wants to know everything about what his character is doing and why he’s doing it, otherwise it’s just not believable for him. Watching the character’s transformation has been a palpable, visceral experience as interpreted through James’ great creative mind and ability."
Bekmambetov remembers, "Early, we were trying to find some ways to make the change in Wesley, like hair or costume. Then, we had a test in London before shooting. And suddenly, without costume or makeup or anything, James did it himself. Right in front of us. First, he was this silly boy and then, a totally different character, almost like a superman. It was unbelievable. Then we understood that we didn’t have to do anything, that James could do it himself."
The Scot was drawn not only to the character of Wes and his arc, but also to the world that the Russian director was creating: "I like action movies that don’t take themselves too seriously—I like them when they have fun," McAvoy provides.
"Sometimes, I was quite shocked at what Bekmambetov asked me to do, but generally, it was for the best and elevated the material. He really does think differently than most directors. I think he’s a mad, evil genius and his work is incredibly cool and strange. Even on big, emotional, sincere things, he undercuts it with a very strange angle…which I respond to very well."
Author Millar found the character of Wes particularly interesting as he transits from geek world to underworld: "The idea of a young, geeky office worker going through this transformation to become the ultimate super-powered killer was really more interesting to me than the big, super villain stuff. I’ve always been interested in secret societies…there’s a romantic notion about a secret society. I like the idea of a super cabal of bad guys who are running the show, and the Fraternity was my version of that. Seeing Morgan Freeman bring this idea to life as the head of the organization was really quite thrilling."
Like any strong organization, the Fraternity finds unity in and lives by its mission: to preserve balance in the world by eliminating those who are predicted by the Loom of Fate to disturb this balance and to cause harm.
And "Loom of Fate" is not just a metaphor…the Fraternity is, indeed, an ancient fraternity of weavers, whose headquarters contains the enormous Loom that weaves the destiny of those targeted into the fabric it produces—the tapestry’s flaws are translated into a decipherable, binary code. Literally, when someone’s number is up, a member of the Fraternity is dispatched to carry out the subject’s execution. They consider themselves operatives of fate, instruments of destiny.
Per Bekmambetov, "In many world mythologies—in Greece, in Iran, in China, in France, in Russia—weaving has a mystical context. So weaving and deciphering the future are the same business in our movie. It’s a balance between good and evil…or between chaos and an organized world."
Much as the Fraternity recruits Wesley, filmmakers were choosy when it came time to pick the versatile and talented actors who would comprise the covert society’s membership. The widely ranging characters are an unlikely bunch, each of whom has a specific talent and a unique personality…and yet each also happens to be a lethal assassin.
The head of the Fraternity is the same man who reads the will of the Loom: Sloan. Having already played God twice, it wasn’t a stretch to see Oscar® winner Morgan Freeman as the master architect of an ancient society.
Freeman says, "I’ve been in many, many films, and so I’m always looking to find something different to try. As an actor, you don’t want to do the same thing ad nauseam. When I read Wanted, I thought the concept was compelling, and Timur’s a very interesting filmmaker. Combine that with the rest of the cast—and the fact that I haven’t done too many action movies—and I was eager to participate."
Producer Platt comments, "Morgan, as both a human being and as an actor, possesses such integrity, such a strength of character that I’d believe anything he would tell me. He’s someone you would want to be your father, which in our story is very important for Wesley. There is a strength and force that emanates from Morgan without him even trying. We needed someone who could also articulate the mythology of the Fraternity in such a way that the audience would follow and accept it."
"As a person, Morgan Freeman is very levelheaded and very noble," says Bekmambetov. "We must believe what he says. He is a businessman, and the head of the Fraternity. He is able to engage Wesley, and so us. That was most important for Sloan."
"Something that really impressed me," says Freeman, "is the depth and detail that Timur has provided. There is a whole history of the Fraternity, an actual handbook with their philosophies, their codes, their legacy as weavers, weaponry, abilities, hierarchy— hardly any of which the audience will be privy to, but as actors, and for the crew, it’s a great tool for us to use when we’re building our characters and creating this world. Something like that is a luxury that doesn’t come along all that often when you accept a film role. He just has such a creative mind."
In the Fraternity, the woman who sits at Sloan’s right-hand is named Fox. There are few actresses who have the strength and skill to believably portray one of the world’s best killers while, at the same time, possessing the talent to inject that assassin with emotional strength, a no-nonsense attitude and an all-encompassing commitment to the Fraternity, its Code and its way of life (which actually revolves around taking life). As far as the filmmakers were concerned, there was only one actress in mind: Angelina Jolie.
Platt reflects, "Fox is an incredibly powerful, strong-minded, singularly willed person who has overcome obstacles in her life to become this great assassin. She becomes Wes’ mentor who watches him, trains him and helps him through the difficulties of accepting and understanding what’s happening to him and the grueling physical nature of what he has to overcome. Angelina was the dream choice for this role."
Per producer Lemley: "Fox is stoic. She’s a soldier in search of a cause, and with the Fraternity, she’s found it. The Fraternity has shaped her life and character, and Fox has become a fully formed assassin who takes her job very seriously. And she kicks ass, too."
Angelina Jolie takes her job of inhabiting her character on screen seriously: "Fox is a believer in the Code," Jolie offers. "I like the fact that she’s quite flat, in a way; she just believes in getting on with it and doesn’t really show any emotion. However, let’s not get too serious about this film—it’s supposed to be a fun movie, but the idea of assassinating one person to save thousands is very interesting."
For an actress who throws herself into her work, one of the things that appealed to Jolie was that she had input on her character’s look. She adds, "Fox has binary codes on her arm, which is part of a reading of the fabric from the Loom of Fate. She has ‘know your rights’ in different languages and ‘toil and tears,’ which is from a Churchill speech. It’s things like that that the audience won’t notice or pick up, but giving Fox all these tattoos is symbolic of somebody who lives by a certain code of honor."
The director says, "We were very lucky—and very happy—to get Angelina. She is just so solid, and such a nonconformist. She’s also a perfectionist, so in everything she does she wants to be the best. She is deep and talented, grounded and specific. She knows, every second, what she wants to do in the scene. Her viewpoint is very strong, and so you have to understand it. We worked with her on her dialogue, and she really helped to make it stronger. When we first met, we talked about her character. From then on, she was always trying to keep everything in line with what we discussed. A very focused actor."
While on paper, the subject of Wanted sounds dark and dire, Bekmambetov injected his wry and decidedly off-kilter sense of humor into the narrative. Jolie comments, "I like that this film doesn’t take itself too seriously…It’s a little more nutty and has a sense of humor about itself. It doesn’t pretend to be too cool and there is something textured, European and a little funky about it. Timur is a very focused, deepthinking guy, and it’s cool to see him in the middle of a big Hollywood movie, bringing something to it that is unusual."
Bekmambetov is quick to point out, "My humor is not dark. It is life that is dark—the humor is just in a dark context. When things are dark, people turn to humor to survive. To keep your mind. In the middle of all this violence, humor helps the characters—and the audience get through."
A true survivor (and one of the more unusual, ex-officio members of the Fraternity) is Pekwarsky — an expert who fashions ammunition discharged by the fighters’ magnificent array of custom firearms. And such a gun would require more than just over-the-counter bullets. Pekwarsky’s bullets are themselves tiny works of art, emblazoned with intricate designs and ominous messages (like "Goodbye"). These works of art are lethal, called upon to enter a target from a curved trajectory or to stop an adversary’s bullet by ricocheting off and deflecting the oncoming slug. Esteemed British actor Terence Stamp plays Pekwarsky, and this isn’t Stamp’s first time to work in a motion-picture adaptation of a comic book. He etched a menacing and memorable performance as General Zod in 1978’s Superman and the 1980 sequel. And his earlier film Modesty Blaise was based on a comic strip of the time. So while source material may play into an actor’s choice of project, sometimes word of mouth can also play a part.
Stamp recounts, "I was having dinner with Morgan Freeman, and he said he was working with this great Russian director. And I don’t know if they were considering me at the time or if Morgan said something, but after I got the script and read it, I just really wanted to be a part of it. And he was right about Timur; he’s a really inventive director.
He gives us some leeway to work on character. But on the point of direction, he’s very mindful of structure, of emotions, so you can’t get away with just doing anything." Pekwarsky isn’t the only member of the Fraternity who is more than meets the eye. The icy Cross’ original role within the organization was to carry out the kill orders given by the Loom of Fate and interpreted by Sloan. But after his betrayal of the Fraternity and attack on Fox and Wesley just seconds after the two have met, Cross proves himself a worthy target of the same company he used to keep. After Wesley’s induction into the Fraternity, his assignment is to dispatch Cross.
Thomas Kretschmann fit perfectly into the role of Cross, even signing on to the project before reading the script. The actor muses, "Cross is touted as the greatest assassin alive. Being German, I’m usually thought of as the bad guy, right? Well, that’s the nature of the beast. My character has to appear as cool, precise and confident, so there’s no drama involved in what I’m doing—in an acting sense. We’re taught to keep acting simple, and I always try to explain anything I can with as few words as possible.
In this film, I barely talk at all. It can’t get more simple than that." Grammy Award-winning and platinum-selling musical artist Common has made recent inroads into films, with roles in two 2007 actioners that had plenty of firepower (American Gangster and Smokin’ Aces); this perhaps made him a logical choice for the role of The Gunsmith. But like Kretschmann, he was entirely ready to come aboard. Common offers, "For me, coming from a musical background and being cast in a film with James and Morgan and Angelina was unbelievable. When I heard their names, I knew I had to be part of it. Being among these people, these great actors, just being able to watch and learn…it is an invaluable experience."
In talking about his character, Common offers, "The Gunsmith is a master at weaponry, guns in particular. He knows everything there is to know about guns—how to create them, assembly, new shooting techniques. Despite that, he has a good heart and is incredibly serene and focused.
Weaving the Design: A Brave New World
In both the comic book and the screenplay of Wanted, the characters move about in a world that, at first glance, resembles ours—but on closer look, that world is tweaked, askew, just this side of real. The characters in it don’t just move, they inhabit it in a powerful, superhuman way.
To help realize this vision, filmmakers turned to a double Oscar®-winning production designer, who is quite familiar with creating an on screen version of heightened, "just this side of real" reality: John Myhre. Myhre offers, "I was seduced by Bekmambetov in about 15 seconds—he’s just one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. It’s so fulfilling to talk to another filmmaker and have them so enthusiastic and so full of good ideas…he’d have 3,000 ideas for everything, and they’d all be great."
The Loom of Fate
As mentioned, one of the most prominent sets in Wanted is the centerpiece Loom of Fate. At its heart, the Loom is a very simple structure, but the threads that it weaves determine the fate and destiny of the citizens of the world.
Bekmambetov and the screenwriters fashioned a mythology as background to the group of assassins and how they function—tapping into global mythologies that contain symbolism and imagery of weaving. In the world of Wanted, centuries before we meet Wes and the Fraternity, weavers of fabric started to decipher a code within their work, messages that spoke to the state of the world. A flaw in the fabric signaled a flaw in the world. Eventually, these flaws became the dictates to the earliest member of the Fraternity. Fate designates that someone must be killed in order for the world to carry on in a balanced way—an assassin is chosen to carry out the order of the Loom, theoretically correcting the path of the world and restoring its balance.
Fabric is woven with perpendicular threads, the weft (vertical) and the warp (horizontal, woven back and forth on a shuttle). The flaws on the Loom’s weave result from a skipped thread—these mistakes are counted and form a binary pattern, which is converted into text, and that text spells out a death order.
A Killer Workout
In describing how the members of the Fraternity live their lives, you cannot overemphasize the importance of physical acumen. Their bodies are very much a part of their arsenal. Although the Fraternity of assassins are not superhuman, they do possess certain powers specific to their characters, which even the most regular gym-goer would be hard-pressed to mimic.
That necessitated quite a bit of physical training for the most active among the Fraternity, namely McAvoy and Jolie. McAvoy, in particular, had to do a convincing job of turning his body from that of a couch potato into a sleek, sinewy killer in record time.
A Killer Scene
One of Wanted’s signature sequences is a chase in which Fox scoops up Wesley in a red Viper and hurtles across the city to escape Cross’s pursuit via van. At the wheel of the Viper was Jolie as Fox. Stunt coordinator MIC RODGERS explains what was necessary to get the correct shots for his director (while Jolie hung on at 30 mph): "We rigged the viper for Angelina to hang off the side of it. She was in a harness, but we still spotted her. The camera was on the back of the Viper, where our camera platform is, and we chased it with the camera bike. Angelina as Fox did a head-on, near miss with an oncoming car, which throws her off to the driver’s side of the Viper. Then she shot the crap out of Cross’ truck."
For some actors, however, it wasn’t so much the physicality of their roles that became a part of their characters, but their weapons. Supervising armorer RICHARD HOOPER had the task of introducing his guns to their new owners. He says, "We did some extensive training with the actors so they were all familiar with the weapons they used in the film. They were trained in two ways: the usual way in which anyone would use a weapon and in a specialist ‘Fraternity’ way that has evolved over the centuries, which enables the shooter to curve bullets around people and buildings so that they don’t kill anyone by mistake. Each member of the Fraternity has a unique way of firing specific to that character. All of the actors paid good attention to the instruction and safe use of the firearms."
Thomas Kretschmann says, "The gun training was very tough for me. I was hired quite late in the game, so I was quite nervous about the fact that I didn’t have much time to train. I had no earthly idea how I was supposed to turn myself into the world’s greatest assassin in just one week. I felt like I needed at least six months to prepare. I want it to look good, and I’ll still be nervous about it at the time the movie opens." McAvoy was one of the first actors that Hooper had to train: "When we first meet Wesley, he knows nothing about guns, so we had to show a slightly clumsy, awkward and inexperienced character. In various stages of the training room, he starts to get better and better and eventually becomes the No. 1 top assassin."
Portraying The Gunsmith, Common studied the arsenal of weaponry as part of his preparation. He explains, "I went through a process of learning different things about guns that I wasn’t familiar with. People always think of guns as something evil, but obviously, it’s what a person does with a gun that makes it either bad or good. The Gunsmith uses the gun as an art form and tool to perform the will of the Loom." The weaponry employed in Wanted is a combination of the very modern and very ancient—once again, echoing the overall design concept and grounding the story in a solid history. With it, the Fraternity carries centuries of customs, traditions, codes…and arms. There are approximately 200 various types of weaponry used in Wanted. As an ancient organization, the Fraternity has collected weapons throughout time, adopting a practice of adapting and modifying them, rather than replacing them. The process for developing these specialized props was a matter of design, redesign and then continuing with the evolution until they were finalized.
In his former life, Wesley suffers, as many do, from anxiety and insecurity. This manifests itself to such an extreme that his heart races and he undergoes actual physical and physiological changes—he assumes all of this is due to a severe anxiety attack. But after being reeled into the Fraternity by Fox, Wesley learns that this condition is actually genetic, passed on to him by his father…and it’s not a curse—it’s actually a gift. With his heart wildly beating, his system is flooded with a gargantuan amount of adrenalin, and as his inner world races, the outer world slows to a crawl. Welcome to Assassin Mode.
This is a trait shared by all in the Fraternity. It enables them to see things more clearly than a normal person. With the world at a snail’s pace, the assassin has more time in which to think, decide and act. While in the mode, the fighter can discern what is happening at any given moment with a jewel cutter’s precision—thus making lifealtering decisions with ease and clarity.
The Assassin Mode was a complex notion to try to achieve visually, and Bekmambetov wanted it to work within the Wanted bounds he had established: that every effect needed to have an emotional basis. Ergo, if Wesley was to be in Assassin Mode, the director wanted the audience to be in Assassin Mode as well, not merely looking at it as an observer. And although all Fraternity members have the ability to go into the mode, the audience would only see it from Wes’ point of view.
McAvoy explains, "Within the mythology of the film, the senses of the assassins in the Fraternity become heightened as their hearts pump in excess of 400 beats-perminute. They’re not supermen and they don’t have superpowers, but they see things faster and clearer—but making a decision that quickly, compared to everyone else around them, might be seen as something superhuman."
Bekmambetov likes to push his boundaries—so how about defying the laws of physics? Why not? So he and DP Mitchell Amundsen fashioned a shot specific to the Fraternity that enabled them to bend bullets (again, to be augmented with visual effects). McAvoy explains the concept behind the technique: "The Fraternity members can bend bullets because they have non-rifled chambers and barrels in their guns—non-rifled means there’s no interior grooving which causes the bullet to spiral as its fired. So, in our theory, that means that if I swing my wrist like I’m taking a tennis shot, the bullet arrives at your target but in a curved trajectory—not a straight shot. You can bend around objects. Instead of moving to get a target in sight, you just move your arm." McAvoy and Bekmambetov spent a lot of time developing the actual on screen physical technique that would "bend bullets." Their goal was to create an action that looked "cool, but functional…seamless, rather than apparent." Several crew (from both Team Amundsen and Team Farhat) were also involved in quite a bit of research to create a move that—in both camera effects and visual effects—would look completely possible and completely within the grasp of reality. (Of course, don’t ask a science professor or physics expert about the plausibility of this…)
Jolie comments, "I’m probably the only person that found the bending of bullets the most difficult thing to do in the movie. It’s a little odd to try and talk about it seriously, but when Morgan Freeman’s character is explaining how it works, and because it’s Morgan saying it, you actually start to believe it." Ultimately (and fully) dispelling the myth, McAvoy adds, "Oh, come on…It’s all made up, I’m afraid. Kids, don’t try this at home!" Effects That Bend Bullets and Slow Time
"Everything they told you is a lie." – Cross, Wanted, 2008
ABOUT THE CAST of WANTED
JAMES McAVOY (Wesley Gibson) was born in the Scotstoun area of Glasgow, Scotland, in 1979 and is a graduate of the prestigious Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. In his short career, he has tested himself with a wide variety of work, on stage, television and film, and is regarded as one of the U.K.’s most exciting acting talents.
Although he cut his teeth with small parts in high-profile projects like the World War I drama Regeneration (alongside Jonathan Pryce and Dougray Scott) and the hugely successful HBO series Band of Brothers (produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg), McAvoy first came to prominence in the U.K. with the role of Josh in the Channel 4 adaptation of Zadie Smith’s popular novel "White Teeth," with Geraldine James, John Simm and Naomie Harris. This brought McAvoy to the attention of Hollywood and, in 2002, he was cast as Leto Atreides II in the Emmy Award-winning massive hit miniseries Children of Dune, directed by Greg Yaitanes and co-starring Susan Sarandon and Steven Berkoff.
As McAvoy’s body of work grew, the roles being offered to him grew more and more significant, and he soon found himself playing the role of Dan Foster in the BAFTA-winning BBC One political-drama series State of Play, with Bill Nighy, John Simm and Kelly Macdonald. Written by Paul Abbott and directed by David Yates, the series ran in the U.K. in autumn 2003 and on BBC America in 2004 and became one of the most successful U.K. television exports of recent years.
While impressing on the small screen, McAvoy also proved to be a hit on the big screen, when Stephen Fry’s much anticipated comedy Bright Young Things was released in October 2004. The film had an all-star international cast, including Emily Mortimer, Dan Aykroyd, Peter O’Toole, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant and many more. Bright Young Things was released in the U.S. in August 2005.
McAvoy’s popularity in the U.K. grew with his portrayal of the car thief Steve in the BAFTA-winning Channel 4 series Shameless, which began in the U.K. in early 2004. Once again written by Paul Abbott, the series tells the story of the fortunes and misfortunes of a family living on a Manchester council estate. McAvoy was nominated in the Best Comedy Newcomer category at the 2004 British Comedy Awards for his performance.
In 2004, McAvoy took his first feature film lead role in Inside I’m Dancing (U.S. title: Rory O’Shea Was Here). Directed by Damien O’Donnell and co-starring Romola Garai, the film tells the story of Rory, a young Irishman with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, who leads his cerebral palsy-stricken friend in a fight for physical and emotional freedom. The film received great critical acclaim, with McAvoy’s performance being especially noted; he received a nomination in the British Actor of the Year category at the 2005 London Film Critics’ Circle Awards. The film was released in the United States in February 2005.
December of 2005 saw the long-awaited arrival of Disney’s big-budget The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, filmed in New Zealand over the second half of 2004. McAvoy played Mr. Tumnus the Faun in this adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic, directed by Andrew Adamson and co-starring Tilda Swinton. The film became a massive international success and is one of the 20 highest grossing films of all time. McAvoy won the Rising Star Award at the 2006 BAFTAs, and he was nominated in the British Actor of the Year in a Supporting Role at the 2006 London Film Critics’ Circle Awards for his performance.
In the summer of 2005, James traveled to Uganda to take on the lead role in The Last King of Scotland, directed by the Oscar®- and BAFTA-winning Kevin Macdonald. The film tells the story of Nicholas Garrigan, a Scottish doctor on a Ugandan medical mission, who becomes irreversibly entangled with one of the world’s most barbaric figures, Idi Amin, played by Forest Whitaker. McAvoy was nominated for a BAFTA, a European Film Award, a BIFA and a London Film Critic’s Circle Award for his performance.
Upon returning to the U.K., McAvoy started work on his lead role in the adaptation of the hugely popular David Nicholls book, "Starter for 10," for HBO Films. The film was directed by Tom Vaughan and produced by Tom Hanks; McAvoy’s costars included Alice Eve, Rebecca Hall, Benedict Cumberbatch and Catherine Tate. The film was released in the U.K .in October 2006 and premiered at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival before a February 2007 U.S. release.
The actor’s next project was Penelope, directed by Mark Palansky and co-starring Reese Witherspoon, Christina Ricci and Richard E. Grant. McAvoy played a man called upon to save a young woman cursed with the snout of a pig. Penelope began filming in London in February 2006 and premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival ahead of a February 2008 U.S. release.
In April 2006, the ever-busy McAvoy moved to Dublin to start work on Becoming Jane, directed by Julian Jarrold and co-starring Dame Maggie Smith and Julie Walters. McAvoy played the brilliant and roguish Irishman Tom Lefroy, whose affair with Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) inspired her to write "Pride and Prejudice." The film was released in the U.K. in March 2007 and in the U.S. in August 2007.
From Dublin, McAvoy returned immediately to the U.K. to begin work on Atonement. An adaptation of the popular Ian McEwan novel, the movie is directed by Joe Wright and co-stars Keira Knightley, Brenda Blethyn and Romola Garai. McAvoy played Robbie Turner, a Cambridge graduate falsely accused of rape, who goes on to fight in World War II with the accusation hanging over him. Atonement had its world premiere at the 2007 Venice Film Festival ahead of the September 2007 U.K. and December 2007 U.S. releases. McAvoy received Golden Globe and BAFTA Best Actor nominations and won awards from the London Film Critics’ Circle, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the U.K. Regional Critics for the role.
In April 2008 James moved to Germany to begin filming The Last Station, a historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things; the film is directed by Michael Hoffman.
MORGAN FREEMAN (Sloan) won an Academy Award in 2005 for his supporting role in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. Freeman is also the recipient of three additional Oscar® nominations, the first in 1987 for his chilling performance as a homicidal pimp in the drama Street Smart, which also brought him Los Angeles Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Circle and National Society of Film Critics awards for Best Supporting Actor, as well as an Independent Spirit Award and a Golden Globe nomination. He earned his second Oscar® nomination in 1989 for re-creating his award-winning Broadway role in Driving Miss Daisy and his third for Frank Darabont’s 1994 drama The Shawshank Redemption.
Freeman’s recent film credits include Luc Besson’s Unleashed; Robert Redford’s An Unfinished Life; Batman Begins; Lucky Number Slevin; the comedy Bruce Almighty and its sequel, Evan Almighty; Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone; Robert Benton’s Feast of Love; the Academy Award-winning documentary March of the Penguins, for which he provided the narration; and Rob Reiner’s The Bucket List.
Among his upcoming projects are the next chapter in the Batman saga, The Dark Knight, and the crime drama The Code, both set for a 2008 release.
The Memphis-born actor began his career on New York stages in the early 1960s, following a stint as a mechanic in the air force. A decade later, he became a nationally known television personality when he created the popular character Easy Reader on the popular children’s show The Electric Company. Throughout the 1970s, he continued his work on stage, winning the Drama Desk Award and the Clarence Derwent Award and receiving a Tony nomination for his outstanding performance in The Mighty Gents in 1978. He also won an Obie Award for his portrayal of Shakespearean antihero Coriolanus at the New York Shakespeare Festival.
In 1984, Freeman won another Obie for his role as The Messenger in the acclaimed Brooklyn Academy of Music production of Lee Breuer’s The Gospel at Colonus and, in 1985, he won the Drama-Logue Award for the same role. The part of Hoke Colburn in Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Driving Miss Daisy, brought him a third Obie. His last stage appearance was as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew at the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Delacorte Theater with Tracey Ullman.
In 1993, Freeman made his film directorial debut with Bopha! and soon after formed Revelations Entertainment to develop entertainment products that enlighten, inspire and glorify the human experience. Its most recent production was the Brad Silberling comedy 10 Items or Less, in which Freeman starred with Paz Vega. Freeman’s earlier acting credits also include roles in Brubaker, Harry & Son, Teachers, Marie, That Was Then…This Is Now, Clean and Sober, Johnny Handsome, the multiple award-winning Glory, Chain Reaction, Kiss the Girls, Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, Hard Rain, Deep Impact, Nurse Betty, Along Came a Spider, High Crimes and The Sum of All Fears.
TERENCE STAMP (Pekwarsky) was born in Bow, London. His motion picture debut was in Peter Ustinov’s 1962 film adaptation of Herman Melville’s "Billy Budd." Stamp’s portrayal of the title character brought him not only an Academy Award nomination, but also international attention.
After his success in Billy Budd, Stamp collaborated with some of the cinema’s most revered filmmakers. He starred in William Wyler’s adaptation of John Fowles’ "The Collector," opposite Samantha Eggar, and in Modesty Blaise for director Joseph Losey and producer Joe Janni. Stamp reteamed with producer Janni for two more projects: John Schlesinger’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s "Far from the Madding Crowd," starring Julie Christie, and Ken Loach’s first feature film, Poor Cow. Stamp then journeyed to Italy to star in Federico Fellini’s Toby Dammit, a 50- minute portion of the Edgar Allan Poe film adaptation titled Spirits of the Dead. Stamp made Italy his home for several years, during which time his film work included Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema, opposite Silvana Mangano.
His subsequent film credits include Alan Cooke’s The Mind of Mr. Soames; Richard Donner’s Superman and Richard Lester’s Superman II (as Kryptonian super villain General Zod); Peter Brook’s Meetings With Remarkable Men; Stephen Frears’ The Hit; Richard Franklin’s Link; Ivan Reitman’s Legal Eagles; Michael Cimino’s The Sicilian; and Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. The film Prince of Shadows, in which the actor starred for director Pilar Miró, was awarded the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Stamp began his fourth decade as an actor, wearing some of the choicest of Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel’s Academy Award-winning costumes, for the comedy The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, starring with Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving for director Stephan Elliott.
In 1999, it was Stamp’s lead role in Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey (which debuted that year to widespread critical acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival) that once again made him popular to a whole new generation of moviegoers. For his performance, Stamp received nominations for Best Male Lead at the 2000 Independent Spirit Awards and for Best British Actor at the London Film Critics’ Circle (ALFS) Awards.
Stamp can also be seen in George Lucas’ global blockbuster Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace; Frank Oz’s Bowfinger, opposite Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy; Red Planet, opposite Val Kilmer; the French romantic comedy My Wife Is an Actress, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg; My Boss’s Daughter, opposite Ashton Kutcher; Disney’s The Haunted Mansion, playing the diabolical butler Ramsley, opposite Eddie Murphy; and Elektra, playing Elektra’s blind master Stick, opposite Jennifer Garner in the title role.
In 2008, Stamp will be seen in the Warner Bros. feature film remake of the famous television series Get Smart, playing Siegfried, spokesman for the infamous KAOS organization, opposite Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. In 2009, Stamp will also star opposite Tom Cruise in Valkyrie for director Bryan Singer. The film is based on a real-life plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Stamp recently wrapped production on Yes Man, playing opposite Jim Carrey; also for Warner Bros., the film is due out later this year. In addition to his acting career, Stamp is an accomplished writer and author. He has published three volumes of his memoirs, including "Stamp Album" (written in tribute to his late mother), a novel titled "The Night" and a cookbook co-written with Elizabeth Buxton to provide alternatives to those who are wheat and dairy-intolerant.
THOMAS KRETSCHMANN (Cross) was born in a no-man’s-land—a piece of land that has switched hands over the last 50 years … first Germany, then Poland, then Russia. In East Germany, where he trained as a teen to be an Olympic swimmer, he set numerous international swimming records, but instead he decided to pursue an acting career. At 20 years old, he was able to escape by foot through Hungary, Yugoslavia and Austria to West Berlin to begin a new life without the regimentation of communism— where he received political asylum. After three years of odd jobs and acting classes, he was invited to be a member of the Schillertheater (Germany’s equivalent of England’s Royal Shakespeare Company).
In 1991, he made his film debut in Der Mitwisser, which earned him Germany’s prestigious Max Ophüls Prize as Best Up-and-Coming Actor for his performance. When he appeared in the World War II epic Stalingrad (made by the producers of Das Boot), his performance launched him into the international limelight. He went on to star in Queen Margot, Marching in Darkness, Dario Argento’s The Stendhal Syndrome and Prince Valiant, to name a few of his more internationally known credits. American audiences were introduced to Kretschmann in Universal’s U-571, directed by Jonathan Mostow. He then went on to star in Blade II, directed by Guillermo del Toro. He starred opposite Adrien Brody in the Oscar®-winning film The Pianist, directed by Roman Polanski. Peter Jackson’s King Kong followed, as well as Lee Tamahori’s Next.
Although Kretschmann has done limited television work, he did portray the title role in the telefilm Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II. Kretschmann will next be seen in The Young Victoria, opposite Emily Blunt. He just wrapped shooting in Germany in the upcoming Tom Cruise film Valkyrie. Kretschmann makes his home in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.
In 2006, the Grammy Award-winning artist COMMON (The Gunsmith) made his big screen debut as a musical performer in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. In January 2007, he made his acting debut co-starring opposite Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Alicia Keys and Ryan Reynolds in Smokin’ Aces for Universal Pictures and writer/director Joe Carnahan. In November 2007, he co-starred opposite Denzel Washington in American Gangster, directed by Ridley Scott. His most recent motion picture work was seen in David Ayer’s Street Kings, starring Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker.
Prior to acting, Common rose to prominence as one of hip-hop’s most poetic and respected lyricists, having recorded more than six albums: "Can I Borrow a Dollar?," "Resurrection," "One Day It’ll All Make Sense," "Like Water for Chocolate" and "Electric Circus." In 2004, he partnered with Chicago native and rap music megastar Kanye West to produce "Be," which went on to garner four Grammy Award nominations. In July 2006, his video for the single "Testify" was nominated for two MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Hip-Hop Video.
On July 31, 2007, Common released his critically acclaimed seventh album, "Finding Forever;" it debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart and went on to earn a Grammy. He’s recently wrapped production on his latest album, "Invincible Summer," slated for a June 2008 release date.
In the last year, Common’s launched his Soji hat line and the Common Ground Foundation, which gives back and allows our youth to realize their full potential. The Foundation is dedicated to the empowerment and development of urban youth in the United States.
Additionally, Common offers a younger generation a better understanding of selfrespect and love, using the cultural relevance of hip-hop in the children’s books he has written. The first one, titled "The Mirror and Me," teaches lessons of life, the human spirit and human nature. His follow-up book, "I Like You but I Love Me," was nominated for an NAACP Image Award; his third book, "M.E. (Mixed Emotions)," was recently released.
Academy Award and three-time Golden Globe winner ANGELINA JOLIE (Fox) continues to be one of Hollywood’s most talented leading actresses. Jolie’s most recently released films were Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf and Michael Winterbottom’s critically acclaimed A Mighty Heart, the dramatic true story of Mariane and Daniel Pearl. Jolie’s performance in A Mighty Heart earned her nominations from the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, Broadcast Film Critics and Film Independent’s Spirit Awards. She recently completed filming Clint Eastwood’s Changeling and was heard as the voice of Tigress in DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda, opposite Jack Black. Upcoming films include the long-awaited adaptation of Ayn Rand’s seminal novel "Atlas Shrugged," to be directed by Vadim Perelman.
Jolie’s previous films include The Good Shepherd, directed by Robert De Niro and co-starring Matt Damon; Mr. & Mrs. Smith, co-starring Brad Pitt; Alexander, directed by Oliver Stone and co-starring Colin Farrell and Anthony Hopkins; and the action/adventure Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, with Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. She lent her voice to the animated feature Shark Tale, directed by the creators of Shrek, which also featured the voices of Will Smith, Robert De Niro and Jack Black. Jolie also starred in the Warner Bros. thriller Taking Lives, also with Ethan Hawke. In 2003, she played the lead role in the action/adventure Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, the sequel to the 2001 box-office smash Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and portrayed a relief worker for the United Nations in the provocative drama Beyond Borders.
In 2001, she starred in director Simon West’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Original Sin, opposite Antonio Banderas for Gia writer/director Michael Cristofer. The previous year, she was seen along with co-stars Nicolas Cage and Robert Duvall as car thieves committing their final heist in the smash hit Gone in Sixty Seconds for producer Jerry Bruckheimer. She was also in the romantic comedy Life or Something Like It. Jolie’s portrayal of a mental patient in Girl, Interrupted garnered her an Academy Award, her third Golden Globe Award, a Broadcast Film Critics Award, ShoWest’s Supporting Actress of the Year Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film, based on the true story by Susanna Kaysen, was directed by James Mangold and co-starred Winona Ryder.
Prior to that, she played a rookie police officer opposite Denzel Washington’s veteran detective in the thriller The Bone Collector, directed by Phillip Noyce. She also co-starred in Mike Newell’s Pushing Tin with Billy Bob Thornton and John Cusack. Playing by Heart earned her the National Board of Review’s award for Breakthrough Performance; this character-driven drama, directed by Willard Carroll, featured an all-star ensemble cast, including Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Madeleine Stowe, Ellen Burstyn, Gillian Anderson and Dennis Quaid.
The HBO film Gia earned Jolie critical praise as well as a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of supermodel Gia Carangi, who died of AIDS. Jolie also received an Emmy nomination for her role opposite Gary Sinise in director John Frankenheimer’s George Wallace, a period epic for TNT about the controversial governor from Alabama. The film earned Jolie her first Golden Globe Award and a CableACE nomination for her portrayal of George Wallace’s second wife, Cornelia.
Jolie also co-starred with David Duchovny and Timothy Hutton in director Andy Wilson’s Playing God. Prior to that, she starred in Hallmark Hall of Fame’s four-hour miniseries presentation True Women; directed by Karen Arthur, it was based on Janice Woods Windle’s best-selling historical novel. Jolie also starred in Annette Haywood- Carter’s much-acclaimed Foxfire and Iain Softley’s Hackers.
A member of the famed MET Theatre Ensemble Workshop, Jolie trained at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute and has also studied with Jan Tarrant in New York and Silvana Gallardo in Los Angeles.
Jolie has also received wide recognition for her humanitarian work. She was the first recipient of the Citizen of the World Award from the United Nations Correspondents Association, as well as the Global Humanitarian Award in 2005. In February 2007, Jolie was accepted by the bipartisan think tank Council on Foreign Relations for a special fiveyear term designed to nurture the next generation of foreign policy makers. Jolie is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She helped push through the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act and founded the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children, an organization that provides free legal aid to asylum-seeking children.
Wanted the Movie: From Comic Book to Screen
"Cool as hell," "unique," "experimental," "ironic" and "creative genius" are just some of the words used to describe Russian-born director Timur Bekmambetov, who hails from the city of Guryev in Kazakhstan. Bekmambetov’s vision has landed him his first English-language film, in collaboration with astute producers and an award-winning cast and crew, all under the aegis of a large American movie studio.
The year 2004 saw the release of Bekmambetov’s film Nochnoy Dozor (or Night Watch). The film was budgeted at $1.8 million but grossed more than $16 million in Russia alone, making it more of a hit in his own country than The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The sequel to Night Watch (the first installment of the trilogy), Day Watch, was released in Russia in early 2006. Again, the film was considered low budget (costing just $4.2 million) and became a juggernaut—grossing nearly $40 million in Bekmambetov’s home country.
About the same time, executives at Marc Platt Productions had come across Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’ first issue of their comic book series "Wanted" and immediately thought the dark and inventive tale had huge cinematic potential…but the subject matter (a covert band of super villains who has split up the world into factions) needed an offbeat spin. They sought an exciting, creative new filmmaker who thought beyond limits and, after seeing Night Watch, they knew they’d found their man. If Bekmambetov could create such a visually stunning movie on such a low budget, producers reasoned, there would be no holding back the auteur’s energetic point of view and dark sensibility when given a large-scale budget and the vast resources available to a studio-made film. Producer Marc Platt comments, "The cinematic experience of Timur’s work and the visual language employed by him are so unique, eye-popping and extraordinary, I knew his was a voice that had to be heard. I had never experienced visual images in that way. I thought by matching him and his ability to create a completely new world with this material, we could create something exciting, experimental and yet accessible for audiences all over the world."
Bekmambetov’s producing partner, Jim Lemley, adds, "We spent two years getting from the first draft of the script to the shoot. It was important for us to push through a comfort level of what had been seen on film before and come up with ideas— no matter how outlandish they seemed on paper—that could visually blow the audience away."
Regarding his trust in the director’s unique vision, Lemley concludes, "You could put three people in a room, give them the same camera and ask them to take the same shot. Timur’s image would be amazing."
Of his thoughts on visual imagery, Bekmambetov remarks, "It is like 100 ideas are going on inside my brain, all fighting to come out. What happens is this makes a new style, maybe something that no one has seen before. I want to put the audience in the action—in the middle—so that they go on a journey with the character, not just sit and watch."
The director’s mantra seems to be a fantastic realism on each of his projects. He believes there should be a realistic base to every action, every emotion, no matter how outlandish the circumstances. As a director, his attention to detail gives him something on which to focus—a solid way into each scene.
"Making my first film in English is not so different from my other movies," claims the director. "I just try to communicate with the audience, fall in love with them in a way and make a good movie for them—be a good storyteller for them." The director’s approach to filmmaking and skewed tone hardly changed with his move to an American-studio and English-language production. Platt adds, "Bekmambetov brings a very strong sardonic sense to his work, which was very present in all of his previous films. Not in a silly, broad way, but in a dark, comedic way that constantly undercuts the earnestness of the proceedings. It is the irony that he brings to the project, both narratively and visually, that gives Wanted a very unique tone."
That black humor is also present in the project’s source material, Millar and Jones’ graphic novel of the same name (originally published as a six-issue limited series). More than just acquiring the property that was one of the best-selling independent comic books of the last decade, the filmmakers were also keen on obtaining the blessing of the original creators.
At the time Millar had sold the movie rights to Universal, he and Jones were only up to the second issue. So, while Millar was finishing the series, the studio had almost finished the first draft of the screenplay.
With two parties writing independently, both projects took on separate lives. Millar comments, "I was relaxed about this, because the comic book and movie were two distinct entities. Regardless of what they changed, my book would be untouched. But I was pleased to see them going back again and again to the source material, and once they had my entire book in a complete form, subsequent drafts by other screenwriters incorporated pretty much all of the main material. They dropped the super villain backstory I had in the original book, but everything else works very well."
Before advancing on separate paths, both the graphic novel and graphically violent screen version of Wanted started in the same place (the first one-third of the screenplay mirrors the first two chapters of the series…but then diverges). The comic writer feels that although the stories take place in very different places, the tone, the characters and basic narrative remain the same in both versions.
Millar observes, "The first 40 minutes of the film are pretty much identical, scene for scene, to the book, and I was pleased with that. This wasn’t the case with the first draft, but once Timur was attached, he really just embraced many of the darker aspects of the material. I thought they might drop some of the slightly more edgy material, but captions, voiceovers, dialogue and entire sequences were lifted straight from the book. I was so pleased to see that. One of my favorite scenes that was transplanted was the opening scene where, suddenly, this guy sees a dot on his head, takes out his guns, jumps out the window and starts chasing after these assassins. It’s beautiful that the way it’s actually shot is almost panel for panel like the comic book."
Not only was the writer impressed by the filmmakers’ attention to detail, but by how the screenwriters and Bekmambetov expanded upon key scenes from the first two chapters in his series. Says Millar, "There were a few scenes where I only had a couple of panels to play with, because you don’t really have a lot of room in a comic book. Timur and the guys fleshed them out and made them into cool scenes with gigantic chase sequences." As a nod to die-hard "Wanted" comic aficionados, Millar acknowledges, "There’s all these little ‘Easter eggs’ that fans of the book will be able to pick up on. The second chapter, for example, is called ‘F--k you,’ and Timur had a little laugh with this by incorporating the words on a computer keyboard flying toward us when the main scene was brought to life in the movie."
Producer Platt adds, "Mark really embraced Timur. The comic is fantastic and gutsy and it has a real edge to it, and that’s what we wanted to build into our script. We didn’t want to make something run-of-the-mill…We wanted to roll the dice and try for something special. Where the script follows the comic book, we didn’t change a word of it. But, of course, the movie is its own thing. Millar backs it, and that’s important to us as filmmakers."
Not only was it important for the director to honor the inventiveness of the source material, he intended to respect Wesley’s search for reality in a world of deceit. "This is really a story about truth," sums Bekmambetov. "Wesley is trying to escape from a world where people lie and find people who tell the truth. Along the way, he finds you can’t do anything about fate, but you can destiny. You choose and you steer your destiny. Something everybody is trying to do."
Wanted the Movie Summary
Timur Bekmambetov closes, "Wanted tells the story of an ordinary man who discovers this very different world … and all along this world was right next to him. Like in your neighborhood, but only two blocks away, and you never walked that way in all of your life. And one day, you walk differently and you find it. He just didn’t know it was there. And now that he’s there, what will he do?"
Universal Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment Present, In Association with Relativity Media, A Marc Platt/Kickstart Production, In Association with Top Cow: Wanted, starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common and Angelina Jolie. The music is by Danny Elfman. The costume designer is Varya Avdyushko. The film editor is David Brenner, ACE; the production designer is John Myhre; and the director of photography is Mitchell Amundsen. The executive producers are Adam Siegel, Marc Silvestri, Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber. The film is produced by Marc Platt, Jim Lemley, Jason Netter and Iain Smith. Wanted is based on the series of comic books by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones; the story is by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas; the screenplay is by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas and Chris Morgan. Wanted is directed by Timur Bekmambetov.
ANGELINA JOLIE as Fox in the action-thriller "Wanted"
Fox (ANGELINA JOLIE) informs Wesley (JAMES MCAVOY) she knew his father
Movies & Movie Reviews: A Girl Cut in Two