JAMES McAVOY (Atonement, The Last King of Scotland), MORGAN FREEMAN (Batman Begins, Million Dollar Baby) and ANGELINA JOLIE (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) tell the tale of one overlooked nobody's transformation into an unparalleled enforcer of justice in Wanted. In 2008, the world will be introduced to a hero for a new generation: Wesley Gibson.
Visionary director TIMUR BEKMAMBETOV (creator of Day Watch and Irony of Fate: The Continuation, the two biggest films in the history of Russian cinema) powers this twisted and visceral adventure of 25-year-old Wes (McAvoy), a slacker who hates his life--with good reason, because it sucks.
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.
Just how did that happen? Perhaps a little background…
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."
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Kazakhstan-born writer/director TIMUR BEKMAMBETOV (Directed by) co-wrote and directed the highest grossing film of all time in Russian cinema: 2006's Day Watch, the follow-up to his explosive 2004 international hit Night Watch, the fantasy/ thriller he also wrote with Sergei Lukyanenko.
Before he became a filmmaker, Bekmambetov studied at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute. He went on to graduate from the A.N. Ostrovsky Institute of Theatre Arts in Tashkent in 1987 with a degree in theater and cinema set designing.
After several years in the military, Bekmambetov began working in the field of advertising. For the next 15 years, he created and directed many award-winning television campaigns that would influence his distinct vision for film. Many of the ads received prizes and awards at both Russian and international festivals. In 2000, he became a member of the Russian Academy of Advertising.
Bekmambetov's film career began in 1992, when he collaborated with Gennadi Kayumov to write and direct Peshavar Waltz. The film was awarded with prizes for both Best Director and Best Cast at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic.
In 1999, the filmmaker produced and directed an eight-part miniseries for television, Our '90s. In 2000, he directed and co-produced (with Roger Corman) the feature The Arena. In 2002, Bekmambetov directed and co-produced (with Bakhyt Kilibayev) the film GAZ--Russian Cars.
Bekmambetov is currently producing the animated feature 9 for Focus Features. He also recently partnered with Universal to produce and distribute Russian-language feature films.
Writers MICHAEL BRANDT & DEREK HAAS (Story by/Screenplay by) are the force behind such engaging, fast-paced, colorful screenplays as 2003's blockbuster 2 Fast 2 Furious.
Most recently, Brandt and Haas wrote the remake 3:10 to Yuma, starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. The film is about a battle of wills between a rancher and the outlaw he's captured. Directed by James Mangold, the Lionsgate release opened no. 1 at the box office on September 7, 2007.
Brandt and Haas first met at Baylor University in 1989, where they attended both undergraduate and graduate school. At Baylor, Brandt received an MA in film and Haas graduated with an MA in English literature. The duo started writing screenplays together in the mid-1990s.
Their first produced work, Universal's 2 Fast 2 Furious, has amassed more than $236 million in worldwide box office. Brandt and Haas followed up with the children's film Catch That Kid for 20th Century Fox, starring Kristen Stewart and Corbin Bleu.
In addition to their thriving writing partnership, Brandt has recently been hired to direct his first feature film, Countdown (based on the Richard Matheson short story "Death Ship"), with Haas producing. Haas' first novel, "The Silver Bear," a thriller centered on the life of an assassin, will be published by Pegasus Books (distributed by Norton) in July of 2008.
CHRIS MORGAN (Screenplay by) was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He started screenwriting in college and his first produced credit was 2004's thriller Cellular, starring Kim Basinger. Morgan followed this up by penning Universal's high-octane actioner The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Morgan's latest project, Universal's Fast & Furious, reunites Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez and is currently shooting in Los Angeles.
MARK MILLAR (Based on the Series of Comic Books by) has written some of the most successful English-language comics of the last few years and has, for six years running, been the best-selling British writer working in America. His current projects are "Ultimates 2" with artist Bryan Hitch; "Ultimate Fantastic Four" with artist Greg Land; and "Marvel Civil War" with artist Steve McNiven. "Civil War" has been Marvel's best-selling series in over a decade and was featured on everything from CNN to MTV in June 2006, for the public unmasking of Spider-Man. Millar is also a senior writer/story consultant at Marvel Entertainment in New York and the creator of his independent Millarworld line of books. Millarworld was launched in 2004 as a means of generating new, creator-owned properties for comics, television and movies. The first of these titles was "Wanted."
Millar was born in Coatbridge, Scotland, on December 24, 1969. Growing up, he was into all the same time-wasting pursuits you were into and so, when the opportunity arose, he dropped out of university in the final year of his degree and became a full-time writer. After stints at 2000AD and DC Comics and a brief foray into British television, Millar's first real success was "The Authority" for Wildstorm Productions and a subsequent string of hits at Marvel. These started with the creation of "Ultimate X-Men" and "The Ultimates," before being followed by "Marvel Knights Spider-Man," "Ultimate Fantastic Four," "Wolverine" and "Civil War." Outside of Marvel, he created the best-selling "Superman: Red Son" graphic novel, "Wanted," "Chosen" and "The Unfunnies." The most recent wave of Millarworld books launched in February 2008 with "Kick-Ass," "the most violent comic in the history of the human race," where Millar reteams with John Romita, Jr., the artist on his smash-hit "Wolverine" run and co-creator of Frank Miller's "Daredevil: Man Without Fear."
He is currently writing two major superhero screenplays and acting as an executive producer on one of his creator-owned properties. In his downtime, he writes a monthly Millarworld column for his friends at SFX magazine and occasional pieces for a variety of British newspapers and magazines. He lives with his wife, Gillian, his small daughter, Emily, and a menagerie of pets, including two rabbits, two guinea pigs, a hamster and two goldfish. He has no plans on leaving Scotland ever, though he does like to travel and top up his tan.
J.G. JONES (Based on the Series of Comic Books by) does not like you. He has never liked you, and it wasn't he who sent that anonymous valentine card and rose. He wants you to stop throwing rocks at his window and stop calling and hanging up. Oh, and stay away from the basement, too.
Jones got a late start in comics after a career as a famous painter failed to materialize. He has always drawn pictures, beginning with the little-used medium of screwdriver on car door. Comics were just the first time folks were willing to pay cash money for his scribblings.
Jones has worked on titles such as "Shi," "Black Widow," "Marvel Boy" and "Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia," as well as the most recent special hardcover edition of "Wanted." He has also drawn and painted any number of covers, with extended runs as cover artist for "Codename: Knockout," "Y: The Last Man," "Wonder Woman" and the DC Comics weekly series, "52."
Jones grew up in Louisiana, where he learned survival techniques which translated poorly to life in and around New York City--in fact, some of these techniques can get you arrested. FYI.
Now a resident of the great state of New Jersey, Jones wants you to know that the Internet is not your savior, but, if you like, you can leave a message.
THE DESIGN AND SETS
PHYSICAL TRAINING FOR THE CAST
LOTS OF SHOOTING: BEKMAMBETOV LENSES WANTED
EFFECTS THAT BEND BULLETS AND SLOW TIME
THE ART OF ADAPTATION