Matt Damon ("Invictus," the "Bourne" films) stars in "Hereafter," directed by Clint Eastwood ("Million Dollar Baby," "Unforgiven") from a screenplay by Peter Morgan ("Frost/Nixon," "The Queen").
"Hereafter" tells the story of three people who are haunted by mortality in different ways. George (Matt Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie (Cécile de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus (George McLaren and Frankie McLaren), a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might--or must--exist in the hereafter.
"Hereafter" is produced by Clint Eastwood, Kathleen Kennedy and Robert Lorenz, with Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Peter Morgan and Tim Moore serving as executive producers.
The film also stars award-winning Belgian actress Cécile de France and twins George and Frankie McLaren. The international cast also includes Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard, Marthe Keller, Thierry Neuvic and Derek Jacobi.
Behind the scenes, Eastwood reunited with his longtime collaborators, including director of photography Tom Stern, production designer James J. Murakami, editors Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach, and costume designer Deborah Hopper.
"Hereafter" was filmed entirely on location in Paris, London, Hawaii and San Francisco.
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents a Kennedy/Marshall Production, a Malpaso Production, "Hereafter," to be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
READ MORE ABOUT CLINT EASTWOOD
READ MORE ABOUT SCREENWRITER PETER MORGAN
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
A massive tsunami tears through a small beach town in Indonesia, dragging a French journalist under the waters and into a fleeting death. On the streets of London's harsh projects, an accident causes a young twin to be cut off forever from the brother that has always guided him. And across the world, in San Francisco, a man disconnects from life to shut out the voices of the dead.
What happens after death? How can someone so close just disappear? How can those left behind continue to live? "Hereafter" is a drama that explores three characters' search for answers about their own lives in the face of what lies beyond.
"We don't know what's on the other side, but on this side, it's final," says director Clint Eastwood. "People have their beliefs about what's there or what's not there, but those are all hypotheticals. Nobody knows until you get there."
"I think we all want to believe that there's something beyond and we're not sure what that might be," adds producer Kathleen Kennedy. "It sounds funny to look at it this way, but I think life is often defined in the face of death."
"Death touches the three characters in this film in ways most people don't experience," says producer Robert Lorenz. "But, in one way or another, we can all relate to the core emotions of the story--love, loss, loneliness and connection. These are things we all experience."
Matt Damon, who stars in the film, agrees, noting, "The point isn't to sit there and be a lonely nihilist. The point is to reach out to the other people that are here on the planet with you. And I think that's ultimately a very life-affirming message."
Peter Morgan wrote the screenplay for "Hereafter" shortly after having lost a dear friend in an accident. It forced him to mull the question everyone considers at some point in their lives. "He died so suddenly. So violently. It made no sense. His spirit was still so alive around us, at his funeral I was probably thinking what everyone else was: 'Where has he gone?'" poses the screenwriter, who also served as an executive producer. "We can be so close to somebody, know everything about them, share everything with them, and then they're gone and suddenly we know nothing. I wanted to write a story that asks some of those questions. There's kind of an epic quality to that search."
Morgan's idea evolved into the film's three converging stories. "As I was writing it, I was unaware of the fact that I'd created three very lonely characters who were somehow seeking completion from one another," he offers. "It was a very unusual screenplay for me. Normally my screenplays are researched, and based on fact. This felt very instinctive and very emotional…unplanned, unschematic. It was a thrilling story to write."
Years after completing the script and putting it in a drawer, Morgan found himself discussing the story with Kennedy while both were in the midst of other films. "Peter mentioned to me that he was working on this script, called 'Hereafter,' that was very different from anything he had done," recalls Kennedy, who was in post-production on a film with her partner, Frank Marshall, and Steven Spielberg, both of whom serve as executive producers on "Hereafter." Kennedy was taken with the script and gave it to Spielberg to read. "Steven instantly loved the screenplay and said to me, 'I know exactly who should direct this--it's Clint.' There was something about it that Steven recognized would appeal to Clint's sensibilities."
Spielberg, who had worked with Eastwood on his dual films about Iwo Jima, called Eastwood while the latter was in France. Lorenz, Eastwood's longtime producer, arranged to have the script sent over. "I remember reading it in a little cabana in the South of France, which is a sort of otherworldly experience in itself, and I liked it a lot," Lorenz recounts. "It's a simple, realistic but highly original story written with the clear, concise storytelling that Peter has a gift for. Clint read it that same afternoon and said, 'I want to make that movie.'"
"The way it was laid out, it seemed to be something I had never seen before, and had such great dilemmas and dimensions," says Eastwood. "I liked the way Peter wrote three stories that stand alone but at the same time are connected."
GEORGE IN SAN FRANCISCO
"Hereafter" unfolds through the eyes of three individuals in different parts of the world. Though their lives ultimately converge, they begin their journeys alone. Matt Damon plays George Lonegan, a reluctant psychic medium trying to break free from the desperate people seeking one last moment with loved ones that have passed on.
After working with Damon on "Invictus," Eastwood hoped to cast the actor in the film, a desire Damon echoed. "I originally thought that my schedule wasn't going to permit me to do it because I was on another movie when Clint called me," Damon remembers. "I said, 'Did you just call me and say you have a Peter Morgan script that you're directing? You want to offer me the part and it's going while I'm working on another movie? I'd rather be tortured than get that call,'" he deadpans. "But it worked out, luckily, because Clint is so flexible. I love working with Clint and his whole team."
Since the story is comprised of three separate storylines in three countries, Eastwood was able to shoot the film in a way that accommodated Damon's schedule. "I thought, why not just do the two stories and then do Matt's story when he's available?" Eastwood recalls. "So, that's what we did. I'm obviously a fan of Matt's and knew he could really play the character's conflict."
"I think Matt is emerging as one of the most important actors that we've had in a long time, when you look at the body of work and the array of roles that he's taken on," Kennedy comments. "And one of the reasons he loves working with Clint is that there is always going to be something that he can learn from him in terms of acting or directing."
The actor describes his character as "a very lonely guy. He has, within the last three years, made a big life change because of this ability he has to talk to people that have passed on. It's something he doesn't want, that he looks at more as a curse than a gift. It interferes with his ability to be intimate with anybody because of what he experiences when he makes any kind of physical contact with them."
Though George is genuinely gifted, he is aware that the field of psychics and mediums is rife with phonies and the pseudo-scientific. "We try to show the legitimacy of what he does," Eastwood notes, "as opposed to the charlatans out there. Whether there are some who are legitimate and others who are not is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak, but the story does touch on the existence of people that take advantage of those who want to make contact with what might be out there."
One who would like to take advantage of that market is George's brother, Billy, played by Jay Mohr. "I think Billy is a natural-born hustler," asserts Mohr. "His brother has a very special ability, and I think Billy would really like him to use it to make them both rich, even though, emotionally, it's very soul-sapping for George. But Billy is just relentless about it."
"Casting Jay Mohr as Billy was by far the easiest job we had," states Lorenz. "Jay came in and was a real salesman. He didn't go for any of the sappy stuff. Jay's Billy was the ideal contrast to George."
In an attempt to move on, George enters into a tentative romance with Melanie, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, a displaced Midwesterner he meets at a cooking class. "Melanie has just moved to San Francisco because she just got dumped by someone, so she's also trying to start over," Howard says. "When she gets paired up with George at this cooking class, he seems perfect for her. She's a little bit nervous and he's a little bit shy; they have a nice, genuine rapport. But as they get to know each other, it becomes clear that George has his secret, and Melanie has secrets of her own."
Lorenz says Howard brought the character's vulnerability to life: "Bryce has a youthful charm and spirit that was perfect for Melanie in so many ways. And her chemistry with Matt was very strong, which we all saw in their first scene together in the cooking class. But, of course, in an emotional, heartbreaking moment, we discover that she's got a lot of turmoil in her life."
"Meeting Melanie is an example of how George's life gets screwed up by having this talent, this clairvoyance…whatever you want to call it," says Eastwood. "They're the kind of people you root for. You want them to be together. But, of course, there is a problem."
"George's demon is that he literally can see people's souls," Kennedy explains. "He can very quickly tap into things that they feel only they know. And oftentimes what he's revealing, what he's uncovering, are things that people don't necessarily want to reveal to other people."
The one place George has always found refuge is in CD recordings of the works of Victorian novelist Charles Dickens, read by English actor Derek Jacobi. "George realizes that he's connected to this writer who's got all these ghosts in his head that are there with him all the time," Damon remarks.
Seeking to leave his past behind, George embarks on a pilgrimage to Dickens' London home. "George is searching for a way to get beyond this situation he's been stuck in for so long," says Lorenz.
George's journey leads him to the London Book Fair and on a collision course with the story's two other lost souls. "I think all the characters in this film are trying to re-engage in life," Damon observes. "And George needs to come to understand the value of this gift that he has."
MARIE IN PARIS
Marie Lelay, a popular French anchorwoman and political journalist, begins her journey in a small seaside town in Southeast Asia while on a holiday with her boyfriend, Didier.
Marie is played by Belgian actress Cécile de France, who offers, "Marie is a strong, wealthy businesswoman who is in love with her job and passionate about always telling the truth in her reporting. It's why she's a good journalist and why she's so popular. She is in a relationship with the producer of her show, and theirs is the love of extremely busy people. They're not very attached to what is happening in their hearts at the beginning of the story."
Eastwood chose de France for the role after viewing her audition tape early in the casting process. "I looked at a few people and right away, she just jumped out," Eastwood recalls. "I wasn't familiar with Cécile prior to this, but I think she's one of the finest actresses I've worked with."
Marie's life is forever changed when she leaves her hotel to look for gifts for Didier's children in the street market. In the distance there is a roar and she turns to see a devastating tsunami thundering towards her, destroying everything in its wake. "She is absorbed by this killer wave," de France says. "She fights to catch her breath but is dragged under. And while she is actually dying, she experiences this vision. Everything becomes quiet and completely dark; a distant light catches her eyes. Time stands still, and the light in the distance comes closer and closer. There is no sense of linear time or emotion. It's all-knowing, all-sensing."
The sensation doesn't last, and soon Marie is gasping for breath and regaining consciousness. Eastwood says, "After that near-death experience, she goes back to Paris and back to work, but this event has disturbed every aspect of her life."
"There is an anxiety that all human beings share when we are confronted with the mystery of death," de France asserts. "We don't have answers to something that we cannot control. And this kind of trauma forces us to face the fact that we all die one day. Marie can't move on from what has happened to her."
As she attempts to reintegrate back into her life, she discovers an essential separation between herself and those around her. "As a journalist, she's very fact-based; it's all about the images and the stories," Kennedy relates. "When this happens to Marie, not only does she become profoundly curious about what happened, but the people around her begin to think that's she's gone a little off the deep end. They don't want to even talk about it."
Her producer boyfriend is immediately uncomfortable with the change in her. French actor Thierry Neuvic, who plays Didier, explains, "Didier assumes she's under a lot of stress and has post-traumatic shock from the tsunami. He's a pragmatic man and cannot understand the change she's going through. So, a gap begins to grow between them. Didier doesn't want to go down this road with her."
Marie's loneliness and search for answers drives her to begin writing a book about her own experience. Her frustrating quest for information eventually leads her to a hospice in the Alps. Veteran Swiss actress and contemporary opera director Marthe Keller plays Dr. Rousseau, who has studied the phenomenon and now administers to patients in a hospice in the Alps.
"Dr. Rousseau is a scientist who has spent her life researching what's considered somewhat of a taboo subject in science: that there are people all over the world who have experienced death and come back to life," says Keller. "People don't want to talk about it because the concept itself can be so terrifying. But Marie has written this long letter, opening up and telling her story. Marie not only wants to understand, she wants someone to listen. She needs to be understood."
Marie's pursuit of the truth will eventually lead her to London, where she will find herself face-to-face with someone who will finally hear her.
MARCUS IN LONDON
Twin brothers George and Frankie McLaren were cast as the centerpiece of the film's story of loss. Casting director Fiona Weir read over 100 sets of twins in London for the roles of Jason and Marcus. Though they had done some theater, they had no film acting experience, which Eastwood saw as an asset to their roles in "Hereafter." "They have great faces and come from a working class neighborhood," he says. "They were the least experienced, but they jumped right into it and had a very natural way about them that appealed to me."
"They were so instantly right for the way Peter had written these twins," adds Kennedy. "Clint brought out of them a kind of quiet, somewhat damaged sensibility, and some secret that you sense they share."
Jason and Marcus are twin brothers from London's working class council estates. Their mother, Jackie, played by Lyndsey Marshal, is struggling with addiction, and the boys are one social worker visit away from being sent to a foster home. "Jackie loves her children but she can't really cope on her own," Marshal describes. "She's quite young, doesn't have a lot of money, and she's fallen into drugs. The boys really feel a need to repair her, and cover for her when social services visit their flat. There's an absolute wisdom beyond their years from having to cope with the situation."
Born 12 minutes earlier, Jason is the more confident twin and looks after both his mother and brother. "They're close because they don't have many friends," says Frankie McLaren. "They always stick by each other because they're all each other has."
On an errand for his mother, Jason is struck and killed by a car, leaving Marcus to face the unimaginable alone. "Marcus is sort of the weaker of the two, and when his brother is tragically killed, he is set adrift, unsure of what to do next or how to go about life," Lorenz comments. "He's really lost and searching for answers."
"Getting back in touch with his brother becomes an obsession for him," adds Kennedy, who is herself a twin. "He's trying to find a way to make sense of his life without the person who was so much like him. I think anyone has these feelings when they lose a close sibling or a parent. But as an identical twin, I think you do feel like you lose a part of yourself. This aspect of the story definitely resonates with me, but I think it's an idea that will resonate with anybody who understands that kind of relationship."
Both McLaren twins alternated as the characters of Jason and Marcus, which added to the sense that they were two halves of a whole. "I think the most profound loss would be of a twin, someone who is literally from your own cell," says Peter Morgan. "It is especially terrible because the boys in the story are so young and only know life together."
Marcus clings to the memory of Jason, along with the hat his brother always wore. "Jason has a special cap that he wears," says George McLaren. "And when Jason is killed, Marcus takes the hat and puts it on. He wears it to bed; he takes it everywhere with him."
Adding to Marcus's isolation is the fact that the accident results in him being taken from his mother and placed in a foster home. "He's very young and wary of the world and wary of us," says Irish actress Niamh Cusack, who plays his foster mother. "He needs to feel that Jason is still with him. That is his only security."
In an attempt to reestablish a connection with his brother, Marcus goes on an odyssey through the internet's community of psychics and mediums. "He goes around and talks to people to see if there's anybody who can contact Jason, and he runs into all these charlatans who say they can talk to the afterlife, but they can't really," says Eastwood.
But his search ultimately yields a name, and the name a face: George Lonegan. So, Marcus sets out on his own to find the one person he believes can help him find the answers he needs.
ON LOCATION IN HAWAII, PARIS, SAN FRANCISCO & LONDON
Assembling his loyal team of key collaborators and artisans, Eastwood commenced production on a film that would make a sprawling footprint, from London and Paris to San Francisco and Maui. Read more
THE FINAL MIX
Eastwood, who is known for composing and being closely involved in the creation of his film scores, put together the soundtrack for "Hereafter." Read more
THE ART OF ORIGINAL FILMMAKING