Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Q&A with "A Fall From Grace" Producer Eric Wilkinson

 Wilkinson on writing about—and shooting in—St. Louis
You're a St. Louis native, correct?
Yeah, St. Louis native. I left right out of high school. I've lived in Miami, in Phoenix, all these different places. But my family still stays in St. Louis, so I go home for the holidays.
The script for A Fall From Grace was originally yours. Can you talk a little about the origin, and the connection to the Kerry murders?
I ended up on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, and that thing just has so much history and energy. There's a lot of haunting energy there. It was actually for a different movie contract that I was recording   it. I started doing this research on it, on Route 66. I came across the story of the murders, and I read the book [A Rip in Heaven] by Jeanine Cummins. I actually started adapting it into a screenplay, and I approached her and offered to make her an executive producer, to make sure everything was done correctly. The media had sensationalized a lot of things, and a lot things were mishandled. I just wanted to make sure that the family felt safe with us. She declined. She didn't want to go forward with a film, and didn't want to put her family through that, so I respected those wishes.
I finally wrote a screenplay about a completely fictional story, that had nothing to do with those murders, but had everything to do with that bridge, at the beginning and the end.  And I knew that if I got Jennifer Lynch there, it would speak to her, and it certainly did.
The bridge is definitely unusual. It has a weird feng shui about it, for lack of a better term.
It certainly is! It's unique. We have four-time Oscar-nominated production designer, Jeannine Oppewall, who just came on board. She did L.A. Confidential and Catch Me If You Can. She's one of the best production designers in the world. We're going to have really trick out the Chain of Rocks Bridge to make it look like it once was. It doesn't look the way it did, twenty or thirty years ago, before the restoration. We want it to look the way it did, abandoned and haunting. All these vines twining around it. That's when it looked most beautiful, in my opinion.
Did you ever envision the film as a period piece?
No, not really. But St. Louis is certainly capable of shooting a period piece. We were really fascinated with how vastly different the locations are, and also how historical many of the locations are. Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, Cathedral Basilica, Laclede's Landing, Soulard. Tim Roth's character, the detective, he lives in Soulard in the movie.
There aren't many films that have been many film shot in St. Louis that are also explicitly set here.
You're right, it's usually done in passing. In this film, it's not just a backdrop, it's a character. I've continually joked: When was the last time you saw the Arch in a film since Chevy Chase stopped to get directions in Vacation?  For us, it's like an untapped resource. Another huge part of our fight is restoring the film commission for the city, as well as lobbying the state for the tax incentives. We feel like we have two or three different films that we want to film there. Right now, if we do get this tax setup from the state, we're going to take it right there. If we do that, there's nothing for anyone else if they want to shoot a film there. The state needs needs to put more funds into that, which will generate more funds for the city and state eventually, just like Louisiana is doing. New Orleans is already starting to get old, they film there so much. People are seeing it over and over again. We would like to be on the forefront of moving some of that Hollywood movie-making from Louisiana to Missouri, with St. Louis at the center point. That's really a huge part of our mission.

As a native, I'm biased, but I've always thought the physical environment of St. Louis is intriguing. It's not something you see anywhere else in the Midwest, even. It's that indefinable blend of architecture and location, that you can't quite put your finger on.
It's very unique. There was so much footage we had just for the teaser trailer, we couldn't cram it all in there. We shot all around Forest Park, and the statue of St. Louis near the Art Museum. We did this really cool shot from the back of a truck, where you're seeing the back of the statue overlooking the city. But it didn't make its way into the teaser.
You've worked previously as an actor and producer. Is A Fall From Grace this your first screenplay?
No, I've actually written screenplays before this. The first screenplay I ever wrote was Devil Dogs,  which was based on real-life hazing and physical punishment that I experienced while serving in the United State Marine Corps. There's Code Reds, there's all kinds of crazy stuff. That was the first script I wrote, and that was basically a real-life experience. I written some shorts. I would say that this is my first fictional feature. Everything else before that was true life. But I was on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, and everything just sparked, and everything started coming to me.
At first I wrote a short. I was jazzed as all hell at how good this short was. I shared it with my executive producer, Jory Weitz, who did Napoleon Dynamite, and then David Michaels, my producer who did Surveillance with Jenn Lynch and her father David Lynch. They both read it and said, “This is not a short, this is a feature. You've got to make this a feature.” I was really happy to get the feedback. Orlando Bloom is a friend of mine, and he was very supportive too. I took that script to Jenn Lynch, and she said “No”. But we kept meeting, and she said, “I can't get this script out of my head. These bridges and river and everything speak to me. But I don't agree with the perspective of the killer. There are all these religious elements you have in there, and I don't know that I want to do any of that.”
So many writers out here are so one-dimensional with their vision, she didn't know that I was open to change. We kept meeting and discussing what she was connecting to in the script. And so we started from scratch, with her taking the lead. The first one was more me than her, but this one is Jenn Lynch's, and I co-wrote. She's in the front seat, for sure.
Do you feel like you work well as a collaborator?
Absolutely. David Michaels, Jennifer Lynch, and I are doing back-to-back features. We're doing A Fall From Grace, and we're doing Monster Explorer, which I optioned. It's been an incredible creative collaboration as far our respect for each other. We bounce stuff off each other, and eventually incredible things come out of it. David and I even ended up being executive producers for the documentary that was done about Jennifer, Despite the Gods. The director of that did such a brilliant job. I saw it and said, “Oh, my God, I want this.” We were at the Cannes Film Festival and we literally Skyped with the director, David, Jennifer and I. Fortunately for us, they had not gone into the U.S. Territory yet, so they gave us the U.S. Territory, and David and I are executive producers now. We're grateful to have that. We have a great team. Jennifer has done feature films before. A Fall From Grace is her fifth, but this is the first time she's been an executive producer on her own film.
It seems like you hooked her with the visit to St. Louis.
It did! I'm so grateful that happened, I really am. She wasn't as committed at first. She was directing another film, and she was trying to write A Fall From Grace with me. She was just going off my descriptions, she hadn't actually seen it, just pictures. I said, “You know what? I have to get her out there.” And once we got her out there, the rest took off on its own. She loved, loved St. Louis, and the city has totally loved her back.
The film is still in pre-production, but you've reportedly cast Tim Roth in the lead at this point. Can you talk a little about the protagonist, Detective Tabb, and the casting?
He's got a lot going on. He's battling with himself, not just the killer. This detective's got's demons. He's boozing, he's doing drugs. He's just broken, because he can't get to this guy before this guy gets to these little girls. The killer toys with him, too. The killer shoots him, at one point, and could have killed him, but he lets him live. So he's dealing with all that.
Originally, we had written the part for Orlando Bloom. I knew Orlando, and I knew Jennifer, but they did not know each other. Both of them had broken their backs, and were told they would never walk again. They had both faced that adversity. Jenn and I started writing this for Orlando, and Jennifer said, “You know, I'm not seeing Orland as this detective in my head, I'm having a hard time with it.” I asked, “Who are you seeing?” and she said, “Tim Roth”. She really took off, once she started seeing Tim Roth in the role. And she saw Gary Oldman as the antagonist. There's a possibility that Gary may still be in the movie. They're old friends, him and Tim Roth. His schedule is busy, but his reps said that they'd circle around when we start filming, and they'll see what they can work out.
Both actors starred in Tom Stoppard's 1990 film version of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
That's right. And the world's been waiting for that, the return of that Roth-Oldman combo. We'll have to wait and see.
Roth's had a lot of success recently with Lie to Me, but when you consider his iconic film roles, few of them purely heroic. He has something about him, even when he's playing a Good Guy, that's always a little bit dodgy.
Him and Gary Oldman both have played so many villains, that's kind of their mark, that's what everybody knows them for. As far as Tim, for me, the film is, of course, Reservoir Dogs. But a lot of people don't even know the film that got him nominated for an Academy Award, which was Rob Roy.
Great character, and a very memorable film, with some truly great sword-fights.
You're right. I just can't get over how good he is in that.
Although that character, Archibald, is definitely an evil son of a bitch.
When I first met, I said, “Tim, one of my favorite performances of yours is Archibald Cunningham,” and he just smiled and said, “Yeah, he's a sick motherf***er.” [Laughs] David Michaels, our producer, has known and worked with Tim for years. He got Tim the script right after that trip, when Jennifer came with us. Time said, “Give me the script, I want to read it.” He got it on a weekend, and the next day, he was “Fine, I'll do it”. It's one hell of a role, and he knows it, he's going to kill it.
It's great that you nail your lead, and one so high-profile, that soon in the process. Then it just sort of opens the floodgates with the rest of the casting, I assume?
Absolutely, it does. Although, getting such a solid “Yes” right out of the gate, we weren't prepared for the “No's” we got. It's a touchy subject matter, though, dark material. Some people don't want to go there. Other people do, though. Right now we have the script with Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Nicholas Cage. Cedic the Entertainer just came on, to play the coroner. Vincent D'Onofrio just came on. So the ball's definitely rolling.
Thanks so much for your, time. I hope you and Jennifer can stay in touch with us as the film develops.
I really appreciate it. Thank you.

By Andrew Wyatt


Regina Caschetto said...

My ex-husband lives in St. Louis. Think he'd get an autograph from Vincent for me, if he sees him. I doubt it.

thereel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

[Browse Amazon]


List of films in production.

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]
An activist gets caught up in the labor movement for farm workers in California during the 1930s. Vincent....Al Anderson


A story about the early life of Tennessee Williams

Directed by James Franco
Vincent D'Onofrio, Jacob Loeb

"American Falls" - [TBA]

In a rural town in Southern Idaho, the Suzukis, a Japanese American family, run a small motel. One night they get a strange visitor who sports ‘city’ clothes who turns out to be the first African-American man that Toru Suzuki’s children have ever seen. Yoshiko takes it upon herself to solve the mystery about this man, especially when 2 police officers come knocking on their door.

Short film produced by Erika Hampson.
Vincent D'Onofrio as Detective Foster.

'Purgatory' [TBA]

'Purgatory' [TBA]
Tagline: In the Wild West a lot of blood was spilled... but it didn't go to waste. Vincent....Dallas Stoudenmire

"A Fall From Grace" [TBA]

Detective Michael Tabb knows the city of St. Louis inside and out. He has felt its true heart, as much as its dark underbelly: but he does not know who, in both the dark and light - is taking the lives of young girls.

Director: Jennifer Lynch
Producer/Writer ...Eric Wilkinson

Vincent D'Onofrio ....George Lawson (GRACE's father)
Tim Roth.......Detective Tabb

Filming in St Louis - TBA

"Supreme Ruler" [TBA]

A man campaigns to become the leader of the Buffalo lodge.

Vincent D'Onofrio as Hank Dory
Ron Livingston as Steve
Marcia Gay Harden as Nancy

"The Monster Next Door" [TBA]

"The Monster Next Door" - Comedy Horror

Executive Produced by Dennis Johnson, Melanie Mohlman Produced by Eric Wilkinson, David Michaels
Written by Jim Robbins
Directed by Jennifer Lynch

Cast: Vincent D'Onofrio, Bill Pullman, French Stewart, Bill Moseley

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]
Vincent......Harvey Weinstein

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