Based on an acclaimed novel, Charlie St. Cloud is a romantic drama starring ZAC EFRON (17 Again, Hairspray) as a small-town hero who survives an accident that lets him see the world in a unique way. In this emotionally charged story, he begins a romantic journey in which he embraces the past while discovering the purpose of his life and the transformative power of love.
Accomplished high-school sailor Charlie St. Cloud (Efron) has the adoration of single mother Claire (Academy Award winner KIM BASINGER, L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile) and little brother Sam (newcomer CHARLIE TAHAN), as well as a scholarship to Stanford that will lead him far from his sleepy Pacific Northwest hometown. But Charlie's bright future is cut short when tragedy strikes and takes his dreams with it.
During a car accident, the brothers reach out to one another when it looks as if they are about to die. In that moment, Charlie swears to Sam that he will never leave him. But abruptly, Charlie is revived by the intervention of determined paramedic Florio Ferrente (RAY LIOTTA of Goodfellas, Date Night). Sam, tragically, could not be saved.
Charlie is inconsolable. During his little brother's funeral, he runs from the grave site into the forest behind the cemetery, stumbling upon a small clearing just as day is drawing to a close. In the distance, he hears the sunset cannons sound. Dazed, he looks up and is stunned to see Sam, baseball glove in hand, waiting for Charlie to begin the ball practice that is a part of their evening ritual.
Five years go by and Charlie's life has taken a different path than the one about which he dreamed. He's now the caretaker of Seaside Cemetery where Sam is buried, and his sailboat is stored away on blocks. College, friends and family have been abandoned. Every evening at the gloaming hour, just as the cannons sound, Charlie returns to the glade to play catch with Sam. At sunset, Sam vanishes again. Though his brother wants him to move on, Charlie's promise to Sam is all that matters anymore.
But when his high-school classmate Tess (AMANDA CREW of The Haunting in Connecticut, She's the Man) returns home unexpectedly, Charlie grows torn between honoring the promise he made years earlier and moving forward with newfound love.
Like Charlie, Tess has a passion for sailing. Unlike him, she has chased her dreams and will soon embark on an ambitious solo voyage around the world as the youngest skipper to ever compete in this harrowing race.
Is it a twist of fate that has brought her into his life now, when she only has a week until she leaves? Just as Sam helps Charlie to find the courage to let go of the past for good and pursue Tess, he discovers the soul most worth saving is his own.
Director BURR STEERS (17 Again, Igby Goes Down) helms Charlie St. Cloud from a screenplay by CRAIG PEARCE (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet) and LEWIS COLICK (Ladder 49, October Sky) that is based on the novel "The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud" by BEN SHERWOOD.
From Page to Screen: Charlie is Found
Author Ben Sherwood's second book, "The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud," was released in 2004 to critical acclaim and has been translated into 15 languages. The Washington Post proclaimed: "The Sixth Sense meets Field of Dreams in this heartwarming, old-fashioned fable," while Booklist raved: "Uniquely lyrical, Sherwood's story of a devotion so strong it transcends death is mystical, magical and moving."
The novelist crafted his unconventional sophomore effort after a deep loss of his own. "The book came from two very personal places," reflects Sherwood. "First, the sudden and unexpected loss of my father and the accompanying feelings of profound sadness and being frozen in place and not even realizing how much of an impact that grief can have on one's life. Second, the liberating, transformative power of love--the way in which love can unlock so many things and give you the strength and motivation to move forward with your life."
To Sherwood, the first part of this story was about fulfilling a sacred promise to a loved one. As he imagined "Charlie St. Cloud," he asked himself: "What happens after an accident when two brothers make a vow never to leave each other, and then the paramedics are able to save one but not the other? What happens to that relationship then? And what if one of them could keep that promise to the other?" He sums his premise as: "It's about a bond between two brothers that can't be broken."
Producer Marc Platt recalls his interest in Sherwood's novel: "The story is challenging because it's open to interpretation as to what's real and what's not. You don't want to overly sentimentalize notions of loss and love. Yet, cinematically, you want the story relatable and accessible, so there's a very delicate balance to strike." As he looked for a performer to play the lost young man, Platt knew he "wanted to find someone with the humanity and charisma that this character possesses, but who wouldn't be dour and sorrowful."
The producer first met Zac Efron during the performer's High School Musical period. Even then, the charismatic young actor impressed him. But when they connected a number of years later, Platt was struck by his maturity. "He was free of any pretense," recalls Platt. "Zac emanates such humanity and compassion. It was very inspiring to see a young man without any affectation, with a burning desire to work hard and take risks as an actor. As we talked, he related his family history and told me about his younger brother, whom he feels so close to."
Platt acknowledges that this is a much more mature, dramatic role than Efron has tackled up until now. But Efron was game for the challenge, diving into Charlie St. Cloud's world with passion and commitment. "He's got tremendous skill as an actor," commends Platt. "And he's worked so very hard to develop this character and understand his subtext."
When the producer handed him the script, Efron felt an instant connection to Charlie St Cloud. He recalls: "There was a familiarity, a lot that I could relate to and a lot that I recognized in Charlie. It reminded me of the way I connect to my younger brother. I thought Charlie's relationship with Sam was real and honest, and I admired the qualities that I saw in him. I thought they were very heroic."
But Efron knew that portraying this complex lead would be a challenging exercise. The actor notes: "It was interesting to step into Charlie's shoes and play a guy who's down on his luck, who feels numb and doesn't think he has much to live for." He laughs: "I tend to play characters who are more energetic, full of life and dance a lot. But Charlie is very different. The role was a 180-degree change, and that was extremely exciting."
The author of the novel that Lewis Colick and Craig Pearce adapted into a screenplay had originally written Charlie as a 28-year-old man. For the adaptation, Sherwood knew there would be changes and agreed with the casting decision of a younger actor. He offers: "Zac is a great choice for Charlie. He's younger than the character I wrote in my book, but when you watch Zac, you really feel all of his character's promise, potential and hope. Casting him was a brilliant idea, and I'm thrilled that he's doing it. I think that he'll break your heart and heal it too."
Once committed to the film, Efron recommended Burr Steers, the director with whom he had collaborated two years earlier on the smash hit 17 Again. Steers looked forward to another project with Efron and saw this film as the actor's "passage into being a leading man." He commends: "Zac's got that unquantifiable thing that is so rare. You put him in front of a camera, and he just holds it."
About the source material, Steers reflects: "Ben Sherwood has a very specific point of view. On the one hand, you have to make the material your own, but I also wanted to be faithful to his intentions. When I decided to tackle this project, I knew I wanted to make the relationships Ben created, especially between the two brothers, feel very real to our audience. As a filmmaker, it's always my intention to respect source material and still create the tone and aesthetic I imagine for a project."
The director was drawn to the tale of love, loss and renewal and felt he could do justice to the beloved book. What drew him to the project was Charlie's battle against the odds. Steers continues: "Charlie's the golden boy of this small sailing town and from a single parent home. He's working class, and sailing is his ticket out of his circumstances. He's got a scholarship and everything going for him; his whole future is carved in gold. Then, the night after graduation, he's driving and this horrible accident happens that derails his entire life. He's the fallen golden boy, and it's about him coming to terms with his life, loss and living again."
Platt first became familiar with Steers' work in the critically acclaimed Igby Goes Down and was impressed by the director's eye toward lost youth. About their first encounter, he remembers: "I met Burr because he had read the script. He had lost a brother, so instantly I knew that this was emotion and behavior that he understood; that was a part of who he was.
"Burr is also an actor, and he understands that world," Platt adds. "The process in this film was very much about getting to the truth of these performances. Then I saw 17 Again, which was more of a lighthearted comedy, but there's a real heart and soul to it, particularly in Zac's character; that just clinched it for me."
Living and the Dead:
Casting Supporting Players
Finding the child actor to pair with Efron was the next critical piece of casting for the production. Platt had previously worked with Charlie Tahan on Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, in which Tahan starred opposite Natalie Portman, and was struck by the skill that this young actor brought to the complex drama. Tahan was invited to audition for the part of Sam St. Cloud and, almost easily, garnered the role. Recalls the producer: "Charlie Tahan is a gem, a real find. He has an uncanny ability, whether he's aware of it or not, of being very much in the moment. And the chemistry between him and Zac is fantastic." Read more
Time With Ghosts: Charlie's Unusual Gift
One of the most compelling elements in the story is Charlie's singular ability to see those who are straddling the delicate expanse between death and life, and those who have been laid to rest in the Seaside Cemetery, where he works. How this facet of Sherwood's novel should be depicted on film provoked a good deal of discussion among the filmmakers and was also an intriguing part of Steers' decision to direct the project.
Steers wanted to explore how we continue to carry those people we've been close to who have died. He wondered: "How do they still affect us and live on as part of us, long after they've passed away? Is Sam a spirit, or is he a figment of Charlie's imagination? I always wanted to keep both of those possibilities alive. You don't know if his psyche's been cracked by this horrible incident, or if he's really seeing people from beyond. People will think and view this movie very differently."
Efron explains Charlie's precarious situation of being able to live between two worlds: "Charlie doesn't know if he's insane. All he knows is that for an hour every day at sunset, he's able to hang out with his little brother again. The ability to see Sam is a huge gift, but at the same time, it's very much a curse. He becomes very unsocial and a pariah in town. He can't interact with society anymore, because he's got this weight that he carries."
Dexter's AUGUSTUS PREW plays Alistair Woolley, a fellow cemetery worker who is one of the few friends Charlie has. "Alistair has a strange fascination with Charlie's predicament," observes Prew. "He is one of the only people who understands Charlie's visions or who has any empathy for what he sees. Perhaps he even believes him. What's important for Alistair is to find out whether it's true: whether Charlie does see ghosts or if it's all in his head and he's a guy who needs help."
Platt notes that this aspect of the tale is quite open to interpretation. "If you want this to be a ghost story, it's a ghost story," he says. "If you believe ghosts are real, they are real in this film. If you think it's imagined, you can interpret it that way. But it's definitely spiritual in the sense that all of us are yearning for connections in our life--connections to people who are living and to those who are no longer among us. Much of this film is what the audience brings to it and how they interpret it."
Smooth Sailing: Lensing on Water
Cast and crew converged at the Eagle Harbour Yacht Club in West Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 31, 2009, to begin principal photography. It was here that the dramatic sailing sequence that opens the story was filmed. The race has Charlie and Sam aboard their beloved dinghy in a heated competition against many of Charlie's peers, including Tess Carroll. It showcases Charlie's brilliant prowess at the helm of his craft, his competitive spirit and his close relationship with his younger brother. Reveals Steers of the scene that opens the film: "We establish the character of Charlie as this guy who has everything going against him. He's dead last in a race against the rich kids in their fancy boats, while he and Sam are sailing an old, revamped boat they've named "Splendid Splinter," a nickname for celebrated Boston Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams. Yet, Charlie is such a great sailor and strategist that he is able to outmaneuver the other boats and win the race." Read more
Welcome to Quincy: Filming Charlie's World
Though Sherwood's novel is set in Marblehead, Massachusetts, the filmmakers decided to play out the story on the opposite coast, in the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver, British Columbia, and surrounding areas became the setting for this narrative, with multiple locations providing the geographic elements the filmmakers needed. Read more
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
BURR STEERS (Directed by) made his feature film directorial debut with the acclaimed 2002 offbeat dramedy Igby Goes Down, for which he also wrote the screenplay. For the film, which starred Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum and Susan Sarandon, Steers received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay and was honored as Best First Time Director at the 2003 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. Culkin and Sarandon received Golden Globe nominations for their work on the film.
Steers subsequently co-wrote the worldwide romantic-comedy hit How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, which marked the first onscreen pairing of stars Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey.
In 2009, Steers directed Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon and Matthew Perry in the worldwide box-office hit 17 Again. Steers' next directorial effort will be Emperor, the story of a young Julius Caesar, which is based on the first book in Conn Iggulden's "Emperor" series.
For television, Steers has directed the HBO series Big Love and the Showtime series The L Word and Weeds.
Prior to launching his filmmaking career, Steers was an actor. He counts among his credits such features as The Last Days of Disco and Pulp Fiction.
CRAIG PEARCE (Screenplay by) is a graduate of Australia's premiere theater school the National Institute of Dramatic Art. In 1991, he and Baz Luhrmann co-wrote the screenplay for the enormously successful feature film Strictly Ballroom, which won eight Australian Film Institute Awards including Best Screenplay, and was nominated for five BAFTAs including Best Screenplay. It also won the Prix de la Jeunesse at the Cannes Film Festival and the NSW Premier's Literary Award for Script Writing.
In 1994, Pearce and Luhrmann adapted William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" for the screen. The film, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, broke box-office records for Shakespeare films worldwide. Among its many nominations and awards, the film won the Alfred Bauer Prize and the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, and three BAFTAs including Best Screenplay--Adapted. Pearce and Luhrmann also co-wrote the screenplay for Moulin Rouge! The film was in competition at (and opened) the Cannes Film Festival. The film's many accolades include winning two National Board of Review Awards including Best Film; nine Golden Satellite Awards (and was nominated for Best Screenplay, Original); three Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture--Musical or Comedy; a Grammy Award; five Australian Film Institute Awards; two AFI Film Awards; and numerous others throughout the world. It was also nominated for 12 BAFTAs including Best Screenplay--Original, nominated for a Writers Guild Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and nominated for eight Academy Awards® including Best Picture.
Pearce currently has a number of projects at various stages of development including Will, a television series he created for HBO about young William Shakespeare, as well as several other studio projects. He and Luhrmann are also writing an as yet untitled film project and a live stage musical.
LEWIS COLICK (Screenplay by) has written and adapted many feature films throughout his career as a screenwriter. Among his credits are his original screenplays for Ladder 49, Ghosts of Mississippi, Domestic Disturbance and Unlawful Entry. For his adaptation of "October Sky," Colick won the HUMANITAS Prize and was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award. He is currently adapting the memoir "Three Little Words" for director James Mangold.
BEN SHERWOOD (Based on the Novel "The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud" by/Executive Producer) is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist and founder of TheSurvivorsClub.org. From 2004 to 2006, he worked as an executive producer of ABC's Good Morning America during the two most successful seasons in the program's history. Sherwood guided prize-winning coverage of the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the devastation of hurricane Katrina and the presidential election of 2004. From 1997 to 2001, Sherwood served as a senior broadcast producer and a senior producer of NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw. From 1989 to 1993, he worked as a producer and associate producer on ABC News' Primetime Live with Diane Sawyer and Sam Donaldson.
Sherwood is the author of two critically acclaimed best-selling novels: "The Man Who Ate the 747" and "The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud." Both books were translated into more than 13 languages. "The Man Who Ate the 747" is currently being developed into a Broadway musical.
Sherwood's new book, "The Survivors Club," is a nonfiction exploration of the science and secrets of who bounces back from everyday adversity and who doesn't; who beats life-threatening disease and who succumbs; and who triumphs after economic hardship and who surrenders. In January 2009, Sherwood founded TheSurvivorsClub.org, an online resource center and support network for people surviving and thriving in the face of all kinds of adversity.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard College and a Rhodes Scholar, Sherwood earned master's degrees in history and development economics at Oxford University.
THE ART OF ADAPTATION
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