SHOOTING THE FILM
Once permission had been granted, Luke paid a visit to the refinery as part of his preparation. Noyce says, "It was a remarkable day when Derek was able to stand inside the Secunda oil refinery and talk by cell phone to Patrick to retrace his steps. The whole time, he was accompanied by executives from that refinery who were there a quarter-century ago, hunting the man that was trying to destroy their facility. I think this could only have happened in South Africa."
Filming the scenes at the refinery proved to be some of the production's most difficult. Up to 350 cast, crew, and extras had to go through a day's safety briefing in the run-up to the over two weeks of filming; everyone who entered the plant had to be approved by security. Location manager Jaco Espach recalls, "Most of the time you couldn't hear well, having to work around the machinery - and the crew left work each night covered in black soot and dirt."
Patrick Chamusso, who had made himself accessible and available through the research and pre-production process, visited the film set for the first time to join the crew at the refinery. On returning after so many years, he states, "I came back to a place that I never wanted to visit again."
On the day Chamusso visited, the production was shooting scenes of white guards searching black employees, patting them down and checking them for explosives. Noyce confides, "Patrick couldn't help himself; he strode over, grabbed hold of one of the black extras and turned to the white extra who was playing a security guard, and said, 'Listen man, that's not how you searched a black man at that time.' The white extra, having come of age in a new era, was acting like a 21st-century South African, showing respect for the black extra. Patrick had to demonstrate for them just how it was back then."
Chamusso adds, "Seeing the place after nearly 25 years took me back to the day I was arrested and all the pains that I felt. But I felt proud, because today it's a rainbow nation in South Africa. The people who work at the Secunda refinery now, are not searched like we were. This is a new South Africa, because of what we did, so that other people could be treated well."
Robbins remembers, "When I met with Patrick, he wanted to make sure I got the portrayal of Vos right. It took him a while to warm to the idea that I could pull it off; he said, 'You're too nice,' and I said, 'That's just me; don't worry.' Eventually, he trusted me enough to tell me about specific things that happened to him."
Another set visit from Chamusso came during the filming of scenes at Security Branch headquarters; again, the real-life hero recalled his own experiences and took it upon himself to advise everyone, from the director through to the actors. "Patrick has incredible insight and intelligence - and perspective," states Noyce.
With Robyn on the set every day, Shawn notes that she didn't have to be around all the time. But she was there for the filming of the ANC members' funeral. Robyn appears as her mother, Ruth First, in the sequence; initially unsure of whether she would play her mother, she did so after much encouragement from her sisters. She recalls, "After Phillip first asked me if I would do it, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep; I thought, 'I can't possibly represent her…' She was the most extraordinary woman. She and my father spent their lives, since they were teenagers, being involved in the struggle of the ANC. I think they are a part of South Africa's history, and are seen and accepted as such."
The Maputo sequences were filmed in Yeoville, an inner suburb of Johannesburg where Joe Slovo had grown up. When he returned to the country in the early 1990s, he went to Yeoville. Filming there proved very emotional for Shawn and Robyn. Shawn says, "It is my deepest, deepest sadness that our parents are not around to see this film being made. The story is a tribute to Joe, and I wish he were around to see it finally get filmed." Joe died of cancer in 1995.
The film's ten-week shooting schedule also encompassed locations in Johannesburg, Germiston, Attridgeville, Witbank, Pretoria, Yeoville, Embalenhle, and Cape Town. The second unit also shot in Mozambique and Swaziland.
The production made an adjustment midway through when director of photography Ron Fortunato had to return to the U.S. because of illness. "Luckily, Garry Phillips was able to step in on short notice and maintain the style and quality of the lensing," comments Noyce.
Catch a Fire was mostly shot on 35mm film, but when the story shifts from South Africa to Mozambique, the style and stock of the film changes. Noyce opted for a switch to 16mm film, with a lot of handheld coverage. He explains, "When the story switches countries, the film has a different texture and also a different color scheme. We wanted the audience to participate emotionally in what Patrick was going through." The very end of the film, which shows audiences Patrick Chamusso as he is today, was shot using a small mini-DV camera.
Robbins marvels, "My experience on Catch a Fire went beyond the movie itself, to discovering and being inspired by South Africa. Going out at night to clubs and seeing whites and blacks together on the dance floor tells you that there is something beyond this past. People would say to me, 'Look at this miracle happening in front of you.'
"The real hope for South Africa is in the young, because they have been in school together, which had never happened before. But for the past decade or so, it has."
Luke adds, "It was joyous working there; we had so much to talk about, because they know far more about America than we know about them. Movies and television are one link, and I think the other one is listening to the people in South Africa today."
With filming completed, post-production began in Australia under editor Jill Bilcock. The "freedom songs" had followed Noyce back home to Australia, and he chose a South African composer, Philip Miller, to score the film. Noyce states, "Music, and those songs in particular, played such an important part in the struggle against apartheid. Philip has an intimate knowledge of black South African music and instrumentation, those rhythms of life of South Africa that are so much a part of the real story.
"The 'freedom songs' expressed frustration and anger, but also hopes for a different future. These were the songs that South Africans sang to support their leaders, to buoy themselves in what were very hard times; these were sung in the townships in the face of armed opposition from the white apartheid regime; and these were sung by Patrick Chamusso, Joe Slovo, and the tens of thousands of political refugees dreaming that one day they would come back and free their nation."
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
PHILLIP NOYCE (Director)
Born in the Australian town of Griffith, New South Wales, Phillip Noyce was a teenager when he was introduced to independent short films, or "underground cinema," which opened his eyes to the possibility of making films himself. In 1973, he was selected to attend the Australian National Film School where he made Castor and Pollux, a 50-minute documentary.
His first professional film was the 50-minute docudrama God Knows Why, But It Works (1975). This helped pave the way for his first feature, the road movie Backroads (1977). He next directed and co-wrote Newsfront (1978), which won top honors (including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay) at the Australian Film Institute Awards. It was the first Australian film to screen at the New York Film Festival.
Heatwave, co-written and directed by Mr. Noyce and starring Judy Davis, was chosen to screen at the Directors Fortnight of the 1982 Cannes International Film Festival. His subsequent films as director included Dead Calm, starring Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, and Billy Zane; Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, both starring Harrison Ford and James Earl Jones; and the murder mystery The Bone Collector, starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.
In 2002, two films directed by Mr. Noyce were released worldwide near-simultaneously. These were The Quiet American, starring Michael Caine (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance); and Rabbit-Proof Fence, which dramatized and brought to the world's attention a true Australian story (and won Best Film at the Australian Film Institute Awards). Together, the two films garnered him several Best Director honors, including from the National Board of Review and the London Film Critics Circle.
His television credits as director include segments of the Australian miniseries The Dismissal and The Cowra Breakout. More recently, Mr. Noyce directed the pilot episodes for the American series Tru Calling and Brotherhood.
In early 2006 he was honored by the Australian Screen Directors Association with a Lifetime Achievement Award. His next feature project as director is Dirt Music, based on Australian author Tim Winton's novel of the same name.
SHAWN SLOVO (Screenplay)
Shawn Slovo was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Although she was raised in South Africa, she left there in her early teens and arrived in the United Kingdom with her family, as political refugees.
Her first feature screenplay, the autobiographical A World Apart, became a Working Title-produced film directed by Chris Menges. At the 1988 Cannes International Film Festival, the movie won three awards; the Grand Prix, the Ecumenical Prize, and Best Actress. The latter was given jointly to A World Apart's three female leads, Barbara Hershey, Jodhi May, and Linda Mvusi.
Ms. Slovo has since written screenplays both in the United Kingdom and the United States, collaborating with such directors as Shekhar Kapur, Roger Michell, Michael Mann, Agnieszka Holland, and Mike Newell, amongst others.
For Working Title, she wrote the screenplay adaptation of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, the film of which was directed by John Madden. She is currently adapting Bobby Fisher Goes to War for Working Title and Company Pictures, to be directed by Kevin Macdonald.
TIM BEVAN and ERIC FELLNER (Producers)
Working Title Films, co-chaired by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner since 1992, is Europe's leading film production company, making movies that defy boundaries as well as demographics.
Together, Messrs. Bevan and Fellner have made more than 80 films that have grossed over $3.5 billion worldwide. Their films have won 4 Academy Awards (for Tim Robbins' Dead Man Walking, Joel and Ethan Coen's Fargo, and Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth), 22 BAFTA Awards (including ones for Richard Curtis' Love Actually and Mike Newell's Four Weddings and a Funeral), and prestigious prizes at the Cannes and Berlin International Film Festivals, among other honors.
Messrs. Bevan and Fellner were recently made CBEs (Commanders of the British Empire). They have also been honored with two of the highest film awards that are accorded British filmmakers; the Michael Balcon Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema, at the Orange British Academy Film [BAFTA] Awards, and the Alexander Walker Special Award at the Evening Standard British Film Awards.
Working Title was founded in 1983. In addition to those films mentioned above, the company's other worldwide successes include Mike Newell's Four Weddings and a Funeral; Richard Curtis' Love Actually; Roger Michell's Notting Hill; Mel Smith's Bean; Sydney Pollack's The Interpreter; Peter Howitt's Johnny English; Joel and Ethan Coen's O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Chris and Paul Weitz' About a Boy; both Bridget Jones movies (directed by Sharon Maguire and Beeban Kidron, respectively); Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice; and Kirk Jones' Nanny McPhee. Working Title has enjoyed long and successful creative collaborations with writer/director Richard Curtis; actors Rowan Atkinson, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, and Emma Thompson; and the Coen Brothers, among others.
The company's most recent release was the acclaimed United 93, directed by Paul Greengrass and it has seven films in various stages of post-production. Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz, starring Simon Pegg; Joe Carnahan's Smokin' Aces, starring Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, and Ryan Reynolds; Ringan Ledwidge's Gone, with Amelia Warner, Shaun Evans and Scott Mechlowicz; and Paul Weiland's Sixty Six, starring Eddie Marsan and Helena Bonham Carter; Shekhar Kapur's The Golden Age, the long-awaited follow-up to the celebrated Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush, and Samantha Morton; Steve Bendelack's Bean II, in which Rowan Atkinson reprises his unforgettable Mr. Bean characterization; and Joe Wright's Atonement, adapted from the book by Ian McEwan and starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, and Romola Garai.
In 1999, a new division, WT², was formed with the purpose of providing an energetic and creatively fertile home for key emerging U.K. film talent and lower-budgeted productions. Its first film, Stephen Daldry's Billy Elliot, was released in 2000 and became an international critical and commercial hit. The film grossed over $100 million worldwide, earned three Academy Award and two Golden Globe Award nominations, and was named Best Feature at the British Independent Film Awards. The film's director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter Lee Hall have reunited for a stage musical version, with newly composed songs by Sir Elton John. The production, marking Working Title's debut theatrical venture (co-produced with Old Vic Prods.), opened at London's Victoria Theatre in May 2005 to glowing reviews and continues to play to packed houses.
WT²'s subsequent films have included Mark Mylod's Ali G Indahouse, starring Sacha Baron Cohen, which was a smash in the U.K.; Marc Evans' acclaimed thriller My Little Eye; Terry Loane's Mickybo & Me; Damien O'Donnell's Rory O'Shea Was Here (also a Focus Features release), which won the Audience Award at the 2004 Edinburgh International Film Festival; and Edgar Wright's award-winning sleeper hit rom zom com (romantic zombie comedy) Shaun of the Dead.
ANTHONY MINGHELLA (Producer)
Anthony Minghella is an Academy Award-winning film director, producer and writer. The English Patient, which he adapted and directed from the Michael Ondaatje novel of the same name, was honored all over the world. The film won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and BestSupporting Actress (Juliette Binoche); six BAFTA Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay; the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for Best Screenplay; and the Directors Guild of America Award for Best Director.
He made his feature film screenwriting and directorial debut with the critically acclaimed Truly Madly Deeply, which won several honors, including a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Mr. Minghella's other films as writer/director include The Talented Mr. Ripley, which he adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel, and which was nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Adapted Screenplay) and seven BAFTA Awards (including Best Film, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay), among other honors; Cold Mountain, which he adapted from the Charles Frazier novel, and which was nominated for seven Academy Awards (winning for Best Supporting Actress [Renée Zellweger]) and thirteen BAFTA Awards (winning two); and the soon-to-be-released Breaking and Entering.
Since 2000, he has been joint owner with Sydney Pollack of Mirage Enterprises. The production company has been involved in such as projects such as Iris (which won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor [Jim Broadbent]); The Quiet American, which was Mirage's first collaboration with Catch a Fire director Phillip Noyce; the aforementioned Cold Mountain and Breaking and Entering; Mr. Pollack's The Interpreter; and Kenneth Lonergan's upcoming Margaret.
Since December 2002, Mr. Minghella has been chairman of the British Film Institute. He holds Honorary Doctorates from the University of Hull; the University of Southampton; and the University of Bournemouth.
He has had long affiliations with the Arvon Foundation, which offers creative writing courses; the Script Factory; and the Canadian Screenwriters' Workshop.
Mr. Minghella was recently made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire).
ROBYN SLOVO (Producer)
Robyn Slovo is head of film at the U.K. production company Company Pictures.
She began her career writing and producing for the stage. She segued to reading and story-editing for film and television, and in 1993 became executive in charge of all development for BBC Single Drama/Films. While at the BBC, she worked on a diverse slate of feature films, telefilms, and television dramas.
In 1997, Ms. Slovo joined George Faber and Charles Pattinson in forming Company Pictures. Recent Company credits include Stephen Hopkins' The Life and Death of Peter Sellers and the U.K. television series Shameless.
In the past half-decade, she has produced Lynne Ramsay's Morvern Callar, starring Samantha Morton; co-produced Norman Jewison's The Statement, starring Michael Caine; and executive-produced two soon-to-be-released independent features, Penny Woolcock's Mischief Night and Dan Wilde's Alpha Male.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF APARTHEID (1948-1991) AND SOUTH AFRICA (1652-PRESENT)
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ANC AND THE ANC MILITARY WING (MK)
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PATRICK CHAMUSSO