The Time Traveler's Wife" is based on the best-selling book about a love that transcends time.
Clare (Rachel McAdams) has been in love with Henry (Eric Bana) her entire life. She believes they are destined to be together, even though she never knows when they will be separated: Henry is a time traveler--cursed with a rare genetic anomaly that causes him to live his life on a shifting timeline, skipping back and forth through the years with no control. Despite the fact that Henry's travels force them apart with no warning, and never knowing when they will be reunited, Clare desperately tries to build a life with her one true love.
"The Time Traveler's Wife" was directed by Robert Schwentke ("Flightplan") from a screenplay by Academy Award® winner Bruce Joel Rubin ("Ghost"), based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger. Nick Wechsler and Dede Gardner produced the film, with Brad Pitt, Richard Brener, Michele Weiss and Justis Greene serving as executive producers. The co-producer is Kristin Hahn.
Heading the film's cast as Clare and Henry are Rachel McAdams ("The Notebook," "Wedding Crashers") and Eric Bana ("Star Trek," "Munich"). "The Time Traveler's Wife" also stars Arliss Howard, Ron Livingston and Stephen Tobolowsky.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Your future is my past. For you, none of it has happened yet,
but for me…I've known you since I was six. - Clare
The day Henry saw Clare for the first time she had known him for years. From the time she was a young girl, he had been her best friend, her confidant, her not-so-secret crush.
Henry is a time traveler. He has a rare genetic anomaly that forces him to live his life never knowing when he will suddenly find himself in another place, another year. The man Clare has known all her life is Henry in years to come. On his travels back in time, he had met the girl who would become his wife.
Now grown up, Clare has finally caught up with Henry…and introduces herself to the man she has loved all her life.
Director Robert Schwentke asserts that its title notwithstanding, "The Time Traveler's Wife" is not a science fiction film. "It is an emotional journey about two people in a relationship, and the time travel is the catalyst for things that both strengthen and test their bond. You could argue that time travel is the thing that brought them together, but it ultimately causes all sorts of conflicts. So I saw it as an opportunity to make a great love story, but at the same time we were able to weave some undercurrents into the fabric of that relationship. That feels more truthful to me, especially in a story that starts out with two people who are given the incredible gift of finding the person with whom they belong. It's important that at some point they earn it."
The director's outlook is shared by the film's stars. Rachel McAdams, who plays Clare, observes, "A love story is more interesting when the two people are going through life's ups and downs and their love must persevere. I think a love that can withstand the biggest obstacles is inspiring and the obstacle Clare and Henry face is certainly very challenging."
Playing the role of Henry, Eric Bana adds that the concept of time travel and the fact that Henry and Clare can be separated in an instant "is very difficult for them in terms of how much control they have over their own destinies. In any love story, you need things that dramatically drive and test the relationship, and our two characters obviously have plenty of that. But their relationship ultimately has enough building blocks that you believe they are truly in love. I think it's a very intimate and moving story and it leaves you with a lot to think about."
"The Time Traveler's Wife" began as the debut novel of artist and writer Audrey Niffenegger. Originally published in 2003, it became a runaway bestseller, with millions of copies sold worldwide. Producer Nick Wechsler recalls, "I read the book when it was in manuscript form and immediately thought it was beautifully written and had a very intriguing concept. It didn't fit into any one genre; the foundation is a love story, but there is that science fiction-esque twist of time travel, which makes it unpredictable."
"It was a very innovative way to tell a love story that is timeless in every sense of the word," producer Dede Gardner says. "We all felt that in reading the book, as well as in seeing the movie, there has to be a little leap of faith where you just accept Henry's condition and what happens to him. It helps that you have in Clare a woman who believes it utterly; her faith in him and the situation is key to the rest of us going along. So it's about faith and destiny and consequences. It's about how hard love can be but also how completely magical and wonderful it can be."
Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin, who won an Oscar® for his screenplay for "Ghost"--another film that blended romance with a supernatural element--wrote the screenplay for "The Time Traveler's Wife." He reveals that he had become enthralled by Audrey Niffenegger's book early on. "I read it even before it was published and was totally captivated by its vision and the breadth of its imagination. I thought the story was profoundly told and I wanted to help translate it to the screen, so I pursued this project with a vengeance," he admits.
"Any time filmmakers approach adapting a book of substantial length into a movie, it's a daunting task," Wechsler remarks. "It's not just the size, it's the structure--staying faithful to the architecture of the book, but allowing for the screenwriter to bring his own creativity to the project. We struck gold with Bruce Joel Rubin."
Rubin offers, "The book is very complex and it was especially challenging to juggle all the different timeframes. I decided the love story would dictate the flow of the movie. Scene by scene, the romance had its own journey through time, but as long as that journey made emotional sense, it never betrayed me."
Schwentke notes that he was also guided by emotion in his approach to the film. "Our storyline is not dictated by a chronological timeline, but by the arc of their relationship."
Gardner remembers that when they were selecting a director to helm the film, "We felt that Robert had a special understanding of this story. He is incredibly precise but also very passionate, which is a combination that felt uniquely suited to this project. I mean, there is a scientific aspect to this story and then, on the other hand, it's a romance with a beating heart that says science be damned."
I've never wanted to have anything in my life I couldn't stand losing.
But it's too late for that now…I don't feel alone anymore. - Henry
At the center of the romance are Clare and Henry, two people who are somehow destined to be together despite the intractable forces of time.
Cast as Clare, Rachel McAdams relates that she was first attracted to her role on the pages of the book. "I read the book a few years ago and thought it was such a beautiful love story, so when the movie came about I was very excited by the prospect of playing Clare. I was so intrigued by the character. I loved that she is an artist, and I also found her to be full of fascinating contradictions: she's very wise and at the same time a bit naïve; she seeks out the extraordinary--she falls in love with a time traveler--but she also desperately wants something stable in her life. And I think that progresses as the story goes on. She's committed to this man and everything that comes with him, but she's struggling to make a home and have a normal marriage."
Wechsler recalls that when the filmmakers met with the actress, "She was incredibly insightful about Clare and we knew immediately that we wanted her for the role. Rachel also has this natural warmth and charisma that was so important for the part."
"With Rachel," Schwentke notes, "there is something intangible that happens; she just glows. She's so lovely; it takes your breath away. There is almost an alchemical reaction between her face and the camera."
Chemistry was also key in the casting of Eric Bana to star opposite McAdams. "A love story obviously depends on the right two people; without the right chemistry it doesn't work," Wechsler affirms. "After meeting with Eric, our instincts were that he and Rachel would be a great combination, and they were."
"When I met Eric, I thought he was a great fit for the role of Henry," Schwentke states. "He is a terrific actor, and he is also a really good man. He's honest and grounded and a great family man, and those are qualities I feel shine through in his performance and lend gravitas and pathos to Henry's plight."
Bana says that the opportunity to work with both McAdams and Schwentke was part of what drew him to the project. "I've been a fan of Rachel's and wanted to do a movie with her. I had also seen some of Robert's work and thought he was a really interesting director, both visually and stylistically. We had a good chat about how we each saw the film and his interpretation of the material and I came away really excited about playing Henry."
For the actor, the appeal of playing a time traveler was that the character is innately multi-faceted, appearing at various ages and shaped by his experiences, past, present and future. "It gave me room to make choices about what was right for the role at different times," Bana explains. "We all change over time; none of us is the same person we were ten years ago. Life makes an imprint on us--how we behave, how much patience we have, how forgiving we are, how stubborn… So playing Henry at different ages allowed me to explore different sides of the same person and the impact on his relationship with Clare."
Because the romance between Clare and Henry does not progress along a linear timeline, Robert Schwentke first engaged McAdams and Bana in a rehearsal period so they could break down the relationship between the characters at each stage. The director says, "Those weeks were spent examining each scene and translating the time travel into specific behaviors and everyday conflicts. So time travel is the crucible, but the emotional truth in the scenes is grounded and relatable. It was also a chance for all of us to become connected before our first day on the set."
Both actors appreciated the added time together. "I think rehearsal periods are a huge benefit," Bana attests. "I always use rehearsal times to learn how my castmates like to work. Rachel was incredibly easy to work with. She came into rehearsals extremely well-prepared; she knew the material very well and had very clear ideas, but never at the expense of other actors. She's so natural and was always right there in the moment, which made my job so much easier. She is just brilliant."
McAdams has equal praise for her leading man. "Eric is one of the most generous actors I've ever worked with. He's a wonderful listener and he's very patient and supportive; he's someone you can lean on in a scene. And he's also a lot of fun to be around. I had a great time working with him. I couldn't have asked for a better time-traveling husband," she laughs.
I'm going to tell you because you and I are going to be friends
for a long time…so you might as well know now. - Henry
For obvious reasons, Clare had never confided in anyone that the love of her life was a time traveler, so the strange behavior of her new boyfriend is initially cause for some suspicion from her closest friend, Gomez, played by Ron Livingston.
"I've been a huge fan of Ron Livingston's for a long time, so I was thrilled to cast him in the role of Gomez," Schwentke comments. "I wanted someone who had dramatic chops, but at the same time possessed great comedic timing and that is Ron."
When Henry tells Gomez about his condition, Gomez understandably thinks he's crazy…until Henry vanishes right in front of his eyes. Gomez's incredulity and mistrust eventually give way to a lifelong friendship with Henry.
Livingston says, "Ultimately, Gomez and Henry find common ground in how much they care for Clare. Henry needs someone to be there when he can't, and Gomez is that guy. But Henry and Clare have a truly special relationship. Their fates are intertwined in a way that few people can understand."
The unique circumstances of Clare and Henry's love story are contrasted by the relatively routine relationship between Gomez and his wife, Charisse. Jane McLean, who was cast in the role, notes, "In many ways, Charisse's life is the exact opposite of Clare's. But I think Clare's amazing relationship with this man who travels through time is so fascinating that it infuses a little bit of excitement into Charisse's own life. And the other side of that is Charisse is the normal to Clare's abnormal. So I think these two women add some balance to each other's life."
What's wrong with my wanting one normal thing in my life? - Clare
The one thing that Clare desires most is to have Henry's child, wanting to have some semblance of a normal family. But Henry resists, afraid that he will pass on his genetic anomaly to his child and knowing the rift his time traveling has caused between him and his own father.
Arliss Howard appears as Henry's father, Richard DeTamble, who has a difficult time accepting his son's condition, not because of what Henry does but because of what he can't do--save his mother, Richard's wife, who died in a horrific car crash when Henry was six years old. Henry, who was in the car, survived because he time traveled at the moment of impact. Though he has returned to that instant and witnessed the accident many times over, Henry is never able to undo the past.
"The fact that he can't change anything constantly reminds him of how powerless he is in the situation," says Dede Gardner. "It's far more terrible than frustration because it never permits time to heal your wounds. Worse, time perpetuates them because you keep going back."
As Henry explains to Clare, time is "like gravity. Big events pull you in."
Schwentke offers, "It means that he mostly travels to the formative moments of his life, the most formative, of course, being the death of his mother and meeting Clare in the meadow."
Henry and Clare eventually seek help from a geneticist named Dr. David Kendrick, played by veteran character actor Stephen Tobolowsky.
"It's great when you have an opportunity to direct actors you've always admired," Schwentke says. "I grew up a cinephile in Germany and I remember seeing Arliss and Stephen in movies and loving their performances and choices. Then one day you get to work with them and that's a wonderful gift."
The cast of "The Time Traveler's Wife" also features several talented young actors. Brooklynn Proulx plays the young Clare, who first encounters Henry in the meadow behind her house. Alex Ferris is seen as the young Henry. Sisters Hailey and Tatum McCann play Clare and Henry's daughter Alba at ages ten and five, respectively.
READ MORE: RACHEL MC ADAMS AND ERIC BANA TALK ANOUT THEIR CHARACTERS
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
ROBERT SCHWENTKE (Director) was already an award-winning director in his native Germany when he made his American film debut with the 2005 thriller "Flightplan." The film starred Jodie Foster as a woman whose desperate search for her missing daughter on a jumbo jetliner uncovers a far more sinister plot.
Schwentke had made his feature debut in 2002 with the dark, moody thriller "Tattoo," which won the International Fantasy Film Award at Fantosporto, and the Grand Prize European Fantasy Film Award at the Sweden Fantastic Film Festival.
The following year, he wrote and directed "The Family Jewels," a semi-autobiographical dark comedy. The film won the Audience Award at the 2003 Biberach Film Festival and the Best Drama and Best Overall Awards at the Deep Ellum Festival.
Born and raised in Germany, Schwentke studied comparative literature and philosophy before attending the directing program at AFI. After graduation, he began writing for television. His thriller "Bildersturm" was nominated for Germany's Adolf Grimme Award in 1998.
Schwentke most recently directed the pilot episode of the FOX drama series "Lie to Me," starring Tim Roth.
BRUCE JOEL RUBIN (Screenwriter) won an Academy Award® for his original screenplay for the romantic drama hit "Ghost," which also received BAFTA and Writers Guild of America Award nominations. The film, starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, also earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture. He is currently working on a Broadway musical adaptation of "Ghost," which will open in London in 2010.
Rubin has written a number of other screenplays, including "The Last Mimzy," "Stuart Little 2," "Deep Impact" and "Jacob's Ladder." In addition, he wrote and directed the film "My Life," starring Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman.
Rubin graduated in 1965 from New York University, where he majored in motion picture production and direction. He was an assistant film editor at NBC News in the mid-1960s and, in the spirit of the times, hitchhiked around the world from 1966 to 1967.
In addition, Rubin has served as the curator of film at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, where he helped establish a program called The New American Filmmakers Series, an important launching pad for independent filmmakers in the early `70s.
Apart from his film career, Rubin has been a student and teacher of meditation for the past 40 years.
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