Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a former black-ops CIA agent who is now living a quiet life alone. That is, until the day a hi-tech hit squad shows up intent on killing him. With his identity compromised and the life of Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a woman he deeply cares for, endangered, Frank reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive.
Based on the DC Comics cult-favorite graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, RED is an explosive action-comedy starring Bruce Willis, Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman, Academy Award-nominee John Malkovich and Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren. Frank (Willis), Joe (Freeman), Marvin (Malkovich) and Victoria (Mirren) used to be the CIA's top agents but the secrets they know just made them the Agency's top targets. Now framed for assassination, they must use all of their collective cunning, experience and teamwork to stay one step ahead of their deadly pursuers and stay alive. The team, along with civilian Sarah (Parker) in-tow, embarks on an impossible cross-country mission to break into the top-secret CIA headquarters, where they will uncover one of the biggest conspiracies and cover-ups in government history.
Directed by Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler's Wife, Flightplan) from a screenplay by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber (Whiteout, Montana).
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Red, the graphic novel written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Cully Hamner and published by DC Comics Wildstorm imprint, was originally written as a complete work but was released as three chapters over three months. Later, it was released in its entirety in book form. Although the graphic novel is just 66 pages long, Gregory Noveck, Senior Vice President of Creative Affairs at DC Comics, knew immediately after reading it that it was a perfect vehicle for a film adaptation.
"I loved the book instantly," says Noveck. "Warren and Cully are two of the brightest lights in the comic book universe and together they created a very slick, very cool action thriller with an awesome central character and an intriguing central theme. We had a mandate at DC Comics not to just adapt our superhero characters but to take advantage of the other amazing titles in our library. 'Red' was one of those titles that I had targeted very early on after joining the company.
"Obviously Warren's story had to be expanded in order to make a two-hour movie," Noveck says. "But all along the way we aimed to retain the best element of the book - a complex, conflicted hero - and to stay true to Warren's central theme…the idea of how our society readily discards people, in this case old guard CIA operatives and Cold War spies, once they've reached a certain age and replaces them with a new wave of younger, more tech-savvy agents."
Noveck then acted on that DC mandate, brought on Jon and Erich Hoeber, and took the adaptation idea to di Bonaventura Pictures' executive Mark Vahradian, who in turn, showed it to producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.
"Lorenzo and I were immediately impressed with the edgy quality, the attitude and the stylization of the graphic novel," says Vahradian. "We loved the espionage context and both of us were fascinated with the idea of what happens to these old spies when new administrations come in and clean house. We had also been looking for projects that could attract some of the great, older actors that might never be given the opportunity to work on a 'comic book movie' so it seemed like a very natural fit for the company."
di Bonaventura concurs: "Warren and Cully created a very provocative piece of work that stands alone in its genre as a graphic novel but we saw the potential in their work for a movie that could combine action, espionage, romance and comedy and could deliver a subtle message about ageism to the audience no matter what the age of the demographic. And it was of paramount importance to us that we stay true to the essence of what they created - especially with the character of Frank Moses - so that both of them could feel vested in our endeavor. And I think we've done that quite well."
"It was my first time working with the Hoebers," di Bonaventura says. "It was amazing to watch these two brothers work together because they both bring slightly different sensibilities to their work. Each of them has certain things that they care about more than the other and, in this case, the sibling dichotomy worked out very well. And they were the only two writers on the film from start to finish."
After just one meeting with Summit Entertainment executives Erik Feig and Geoff Shaevitz and just one draft of the screenplay later, Summit green lit the project. "The Hoeber's first draft was remarkable," says producer di Bonaventura. "We all read it and all had the same first reaction…now THIS is a movie. We asked Summit what they thought and they agreed so we all started to try to put it together. I think we all knew we were in for a great ride."
"When it came to writing a script, it was all about elaborating on what was in the graphic novel," says producer Vahradian. "Jon and Erich took the ball and ran with it…they broadened the scope and the tone of the graphic novel by creating new characters and cross-country locales but remained faithful to the Moses character and the thematic elements of the original story. Jon and Erich gave us everything we asked for and we've ended up with a great example of a cross-genre film with mass appeal potential."
"Because the graphic novel is so short, we knew we were going to have to use it just as a jumping off point for a longer-format story," says Jon Hoeber. "That jumping off point began with the Moses character. He's one of the most dangerous men in the world and has killed many people over the years but he also has this incredible innocence about him. Here is a guy who has spent his whole life undercover avoiding personal connections with other people. So when we meet him, newly retired, he's discovering for the first time what it might be like to live a normal life. We see him trying to find simple pleasure in everyday activities like 'decorating' his house at Christmastime. When he telephones Sarah, he doesn't even know what to say at first…he's terrified of exposing himself. He's a trained assassin and suddenly he's acting like a pimply-faced high school boy trying to find the guts to call a girl for a first date. You can't help but fall in love with him a little."
"We then came up with the idea that if Frank Moses is an older agent who is now retired and then targeted," says Erich Hoeber, "then there must be other retired agents out there. That notion led us to create the other characters in the film and gave us the freedom to elaborate on all those other lives besides Frank's."
"And even though the stakes in the film are very real," adds Jon, "we deliberately made the characters a little larger than life. We wanted to capture a little bit of that old-school 'Butch and Sundance' feel…whether it's the pairing up of Frank and Marvin, Frank and Joe, Frank and Victoria and even Frank and his civilian sidekick Sarah…there's always the feeling that from those pairings comes a great deal of conflict and comedy. But it is all-organic because it starts with the character of Frank and the situation in which he now finds himself…retired yet still extremely dangerous."
"Lorenzo, Mark, Gregory and David [Ready, the film's co-producer] were all deeply involved in the development of the screenplay," says Erich. "They were true creative partners.
They understood that the story we were writing relied a lot more on great character dynamics rather than just a high concept." "And Warren and Cully were extremely generous in letting us expand their original story," adds Jon. "Fortunately, they ended up really liking the script and have publicly been very supportive of us and the film."
"I think Jon and Erich, Robert [Schwentke] and the producers all did an amazing job collaborating and adapting 'Red' for the big screen," says illustrator/artist Cully Hamner, who visited the New Orleans set for a few days shortly before the film wrapped in mid-April, 2010. "The movie is a lot funnier and a little less bloody but it is not without the same artistic aspirations which Warren and I had when creating the original."
"I knew going in as they bought the option and the book went into development as a film that it would be massively expanded," says Warren Ellis, who also dropped by the set for a few days in Toronto, "so there was no sense on my side of having to be precious about it. I never had worries of faceless, marauding Hollywood monsters killing off my darlings. In fact, any shock I may have felt actually turned into surprise, as Jon and Erich's script was so truly dedicated to the central themes of the book. Everything that mattered to me about the book is there in the script and in the film. So, it's a great surprise for me indeed."
Ellis was also impressed with the producer's choice of Robert Schwentke to direct the film. "A lot of people may not realize that Robert is a huge fan of the comic book medium. In fact, the first time I met him, he quoted back to me from the first comic book I ever wrote. He clearly has a real passion about the form as well as the story."
"Robert was a great choice as director," says di Bonaventura. "We knew we needed someone who had a clear understanding of the tone of the film and the huge balancing act that the script presented. To interpret and then harmonize the comedy, the drama, the action and the romance was not an easy feat but based on his previous films and his appreciation of the comic book genre, Robert handled it brilliantly."
"Robert is a great guy and a very intelligent collaborator," says writer Erich Hoeber. "Like us, he is sort of a film geek so when we would talk about obscure film references either for story or visual purposes, he always knew exactly what we were talking about. That kind of knowledge combined with his beautiful yet disciplined visual style impressed Jon and I immensely."
"Robert's other films - a thriller, an action-drama and a time-traveling romance - were proof that he was capable of helming different genres," says producer Vahradian. "Although he had never directed something with comedy overtones, he immediately and completely understood the dry humor that we wanted to have in this movie. In fact, it was his concept to have the actors deliver a lot of their lines in a very matter-of-fact kind of way.
"For example," Vahradian says, "when Morgan Freeman introduces Helen Mirren to Mary-Louise Parker, he says 'Victoria was the best wet asset in the business, a true artist with a PSG.' Sarah responds with 'What's that mean?' and Helen's matter-of-fact reply is 'I kill people dear.' There are so many great moments like that in the movie and Robert's success of integrating those moments into the action and romance is testament to his understanding of the tone of the script and his ability to communicate very clearly with a large cast of extremely talented actors."
Headlining the ensemble cast is Bruce Willis, an actor whose body of work has included everything from drama (Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense and Nobody's Fool) to romance and comedy ("Moonlighting" and Death Becomes Her) and, of course, action (the Die Hard franchise and Armageddon).
"Honestly, just look at the cover of the graphic novel and try to think about anyone else other than Bruce to play Frank Moses," says di Bonaventura. "It was a no-brainer for us…we all wanted Bruce for this role and we sat on the edge of our seats waiting and hoping he would sign on." Read more
Production began on January 12, 2010, in the middle of a typical Toronto winter with a shooting schedule that would eventually end much further south in a much warmer New Orleans. Producer di Bonaventura explains that these two cities were chosen specifically for their extremely diverse looks and locales. Read more
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, with Jodie Foster. Most recently, he directed Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams in The Time Traveler's Wife. Schwentke made his feature debut in 2002 with the dark, moody thriller, Tattoo. The following year, he wrote and directed The Family Jewels, a semi-autobiographical dark comedy.
Born and raised in Germany, Schwentke studied comparative literature and philosophy before attending the directing program at the American Film Institute. Upon graduation from AFI, he began writing and directing for television.
Brothers ERICH HOEBER (Screenwriter) and JON HOEBER (Screenwriter) have worked as screenwriters in Hollywood for the last ten years. Their credits include the comedic thriller and Sundance favorite, Montana, starring Kyra Sedgwick and Stanley Tucci, and the Warner Brothers action-thriller Whiteout, starring Kate Beckensale. Their naval action extravaganza, Battleship, is currently being directed by Peter Berg for Universal.
Erich and Jon have a special working relationship: they can't stand each other. Fueled by early childhood grudges, their mutual contempt and constant petty bickering generate a crucible of creativity in which their best ideas are purified.
"Actually, I do all the writing," confides Jon, "but I let Erich share the credit all the same. Sometimes I just feel so sorry for him - and for Mom. She'd give anything to see him do well, just once. Anything I can do to ease her disappointment, you know?"
"The tricky part," notes Erich, "is feeding him just enough information to make him believe he's actually coming up with the material himself. It's a burden, but I have to do it for Dad. It tears me up, that sad way he looks at Jon, wishing there was more there."
The brothers are hard at work on their next opus, The Story of my Youth: One Boy's Triumph in the Face of Fraternal Tyranny.
WARREN ELLIS (Author of original graphic novel) is an English author of comics, novels, and television, well known for socio-cultural commentary, both through his online presence and his writing, which covers trans-humanist themes (most notably nanotechnology, cryonics, uploading, and human enhancement). He is a resident of Southend-on-Sea, England.
Ellis was born in Essex on February 16, 1968, about seventeen months before Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969; he reports that the televised broadcast of the event is his earliest coherent memory. He was a student at the South East Essex Sixth Form College, commonly known as SEEVIC. He contributed comic work to the college magazine, Spike, along with Richard Easter, who also later began a career in writing. Prior to his career as a writer Ellis had run a bookstore, a pub, worked in bankruptcy, worked in a record shop and lifted compost bags for a living.
Ellis' writing career started in the British independent magazine Deadline with a six page short story in 1990. Other early works include a Judge Dredd short and a Doctor Who one-pager. His first ongoing work, Lazarus Churchyard, appeared in Blast!, a short-lived British magazine.
By 1994 Ellis began working for Marvel Comics, where he took over the series Hellstorm: Prince of Lies with #12, which he wrote until its cancellation with #21. He also did some work on the Marvel 2099 imprint, most notably in a storyline where a futuristic Doctor Doom took over the United States. His most notable early Marvel work is a run on Excalibur, a superhero series set in Britain. He also wrote a four-issue arc of Thor called Worldengine, in which he dramatically revamped both the character and book (though the changes lasted only as long as Ellis' run on the book).
Ellis then started working for DC Comics, Caliber Comics, and Image Comics' Wildstorm studio, where he wrote the Gen spin-off, DV8, and took over Stormwatch, a previously actionoriented team book, which he gave a more idea and character-driven flavor. He wrote issues No 37-50 with artist Tom Raney, and the 11 issues of volume two with artist Bryan Hitch. He and Hitch followed that with the Stormwatch spin-off, The Authority, a cinematic super-action series for which Ellis coined the term "widescreen comics."
In 1997 Ellis started Transmetropolitan, a creator-owned series about an acerbic "gonzo" journalist in a dystopian future America, co-created with artist Darick Robertson and published by DC's Helix imprint. When Helix was discontinued the following year, Transmetropolitan was shifted to the Vertigo imprint, and remained one of the most successful non-superhero comics DC was then publishing. Transmetropolitan ran for 60 issues (plus a few specials), ending in 2002, and the entire run was later collected in a series of trade paperbacks. It remains Ellis' largest work to date.
1999 saw the launch of Planetary, another Wildstorm series by Ellis and John Cassaday, and Ellis' short run on the DC/Vertigo series Hellblazer. He left that series when DC announced, following the Columbine High School massacre, that it would not publish "Shoot", a Hellblazer story about school shootings, although the story had been written and illustrated prior to the Columbine massacre. Planetary had been notoriously plagued with delays over the course of its run, finally concluding in October 2009 with the release of issue no.27.
Ellis also returned to Marvel Comics, as part of the company's "Revolution" event, to head the "Counter-X" line of titles. This project was intended to revitalize the X-Men spin-off books Generation X, X-Man, and X-Force, but it was not successful, and Ellis stayed away from mainstream superhero comics for a time. In 2003 Ellis started Global Frequency, a 12-issue limited series for Wildstorm, and continued to produce work for various publishers, including DC, Avatar Comics, AiT/Planet Lar, Cliffhanger and Homage Comics. In 2004 Ellis came back to mainstream superhero comics. He took over Ultimate Fantastic Four and Iron Man for Marvel under a temporary exclusive work for hire contract. Toward the end of 2004, Ellis released the "Apparat Singles Group", which he described as "an imaginary line of comics singles. Four imaginary first issues of imaginary series from an imaginary line of comics, even." The Apparat titles were published by Avatar but carried only the Apparat logo on the cover. In 2006 Ellis worked on Jack Cross (for DC), which was not well received and subsequently cancelled. For Marvel, he worked on Nextwave, a 12-issue limited series. He also worked on the Ultimate Galactus trilogy. Ellis also took over the Thunderbolts monthly title, which deals with the aftermath of the Marvel Civil War crossover. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Marvel's New Universe in 2006, Ellis and illustrator Salvador Larroca created a new series that re-imagines the New Universe, under the title newuniversal. The first issue was released in December 2006.
Ellis continues to work on several projects for different publishers, including Fell (for Image), Desolation Jones (for DC/Wildstorm) and Blackgas (for Avatar Comics). Ellis also wrote an episode of Justice League Unlimited entitled "Dark Heart." Ellis has managed a series of online forums and media to promote his written works and his creative ideals. These forums are sharply moderated by Ellis and his assistants, to suit the particular purpose for which each one was created. They include the Bad Signal mailing list, warrenellis.com, and Whitechapel. He is popularly known as "Stalin," "The Love Swami," or "Internet Jesus" on these forums.
Ellis' first prose novel, Crooked Little Vein, was published in the summer of 2007 by William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins), with a second novel, Listener, to follow. He is also developing a television series for AMC called "Dead Channel," for which he will be the sole writer. It has recently been announced that he is writing an animated direct to DVD feature film, Castlevania: Dracula's Curse, which will be based on the similarly titled video game Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse.
Ellis has described himself as "a notorious pain in the arse for getting involved in book design." According to a comment made in the first issue of Fell, he has more trade paperbacks in print than anyone else in the American comic industry.
Ellis wrote a column for the Suicide Girls website that appeared every Sunday from July to December 2007, entitled "The Sunday Hangover." Ellis is also writing a Second Life column for Reuters titled "Second Life Sketches," in which he is known under the name Integral Danton. In July, 2007 Ellis announced two new projects for Avatar Press; FreakAngels, a free long-form webcomic illustrated by Paul Duffield, and Ignition City, a five-issue miniseries. He also has three other current series with Avatar: Anna Mercury, No Hero and Doktor Sleepless. The first quarter of 2009 saw the release of G.I. Joe: Resolute, a series of web-episodes written by Ellis.
CULLY HAMNER (Illustrator of original graphic novel) is these days mainly known for drawing DC Comics' new Blue Beetle series, and as the co-creator, with Warren Ellis, of Red. In 2006, he re-teamed with Ellis on the well-regarded Down for Top Cow. For years, though, he's also been the go-to guy for a long list of projects such as Batman: Tenses, The Ride, The Titans, Green Lantern, X-Men, Daredevil, Spider-man Unlimited, and many others. More recently, he worked on DC Comics's Black Lightning: Year One.
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