DERAILED explores the repercussions of making one terrible mistake that can change someone's life entirely. As Jennifer Aniston says, "If only he had made his train… It's a great moment."
Lorenzo di Bonaventura read the galley to James Siegel's book over the Christmas holiday. He couldn't put it down and says "it felt immediately like a movie." Once he learned that the rights were still available, he went after it. The story spoke to him: "All of us have made mistakes in our lives--all of us have made a bad decision at one point or another, and sometimes it's a small decision so you don't anticipate the ramifications. I think in Charles Schine's case, life has dealt him a couple of unfair blows, and he's at a vulnerable moment in his life. Unfortunately for him, this vulnerability allows him to make the mistake."
The novel also enamored screenwriter Stuart Beattie. "I read it in one night and thought it was a great Hitchcockian story." He also really liked the book's central character. "He is such a sympathetic guy. He made a big mistake, but he was paying for it, and paying for it. I think if I were in his shoes, I would do the exact same things, making the same mistakes, getting deeper, and deeper into a hole just as Charles does, I just thought it was terrific. Derailed is everything a good thriller should be." Beattie immediately wanted to be a part of it. "I don't see those Hitchcock-type films being made anymore. Films like 'North by Northwest' where ordinary guys get caught up in extraordinary situations and the plot has fantastic twists and turns."
Di Bonaventura hired Beattie to write the script because, as he explains, "He fundamentally understood what made the book work as a movie--what made the characters. He visualized the movie right away."
Once hired, Beattie is proud to say that he's been "the only writer on the film from beginning to end - which is a rarity in Hollywood these days. I'd say maybe one in a hundred films treats the writer so well. It has been phenomenal." He joked to friends that "I'm going to go into arbitration against myself just so that I feel normal, and feel like it's a normal movie. Otherwise it's going to feel too weird."
Because the film has so many twists and surprises, Beattie had to be careful not to lose his audience. "It's really a matter of watching every line you write, and making sure that it can be read in a completely different way once you know what's really going on. So, when you see the film the first time, it'll be one movie, and I hope when you see the film a second time, it will be a completely different movie. That is part of what's so great about this story - being able to do that."
The actors were all drawn to the power of the script. Aniston called it a "roller coaster." She says "I read it pretty quickly. There was so much that you didn't see coming. It was beautifully written."
Xzibit explains, "When I first got the script I read it cover-to-cover, and I thought the story was very realistic. I thought this could actually happen. The characters seemed extremely real, and I just thought that the way it was written, and the way that I knew it was gonna be filmed, it would be very interesting. I am glad to be a part of it."
RZA continues, "Everything that happens in this movie is one surprise after another. It's not going to be easy for the audience to figure it out. Sometimes you go to movies and you watch 15 or 20 minutes, and you know what's gonna happen at the end. That's not gonna happen here."
About Mikael Håfström
Mikael Håfström may not seem like an obvious choice for this project. As producer Mark Cooper explains, "this is his first American film - his first film in the English language." But everyone agreed he was the man for the job. Most people, especially his lead actors, responded to his previous film "Evil," which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Aniston loved "Evil," calling it "brilliant and fantastic." Clive Owen was excited about collaborating with Hafstrom because "Evil" impressed him as well. Di Bonaventura agrees, explaining, "What I especially liked was the simplicity of his narrative story-telling. He created a realistic environment and understands how to draw in an audience."
Vincent Cassel loved Håfström's directing style: "He's one of those directors that when he watches the monitor, he says what to do. It's not just about watching my frame, or my directing. He's the type of director who's watching his actors, and that's a great feeling because it's not always the case. A lot of directors spend time watching what is around taking place in the scene without focusing on the acting."
Aniston also believes Håfström's style was essential to the film's success--"He underplays everything, he's delicate, and focuses on this love story in a beautiful way. It makes it feel like an old movie from the 70's. It just feels right."
"He's on schedule, he's on time, he's not a diva--actors love him, the crew loves him, it's an easy set, it's a fun set," says Beattie of Håfström. But what impressed Beattie most was how "he wants me around all the time, which is so rare for a writer."
Håfström created a special environment on set. Owen contends, "I felt like I was in very good hands. He tells me to go in a certain direction only when he and I both agree on where he wants to take my character. He is very on top of Charles' psychological journey, but also the psychological framework of the whole movie. He's very, very shrewd, and he's a very, very good choice for this type of movie. This is the type of movie that, in the wrong hands, could turn into a movie you've seen before."
Aniston reveals, "He's so specific, and he has such impeccable taste. You know that he won't stop until he gets exactly what he wants. And, when he says, 'I got it,' you just walk away."
Cassel respected the atmosphere Håfström created on-set: "Everything is very mellow, even though it's playful and very concentrated. There's no ego from anybody on set, and it makes it easy and fun. Everything's been great."
Though this is only Xzibits's second feature film, he was also able to appreciate Håfström's style: "He doesn't give his directions out loud blaring through a megaphone. He comes up to you and gives you real one-on-one direction. He speaks real softly, he's like, 'Xzibit, it is good, but we need more.' He's great."
About the Characters
Beattie loves the Schine family. "I love that at the center of this film is this great family--it's the heart and soul of the film, and you care about them so deeply because of what their daughter is going through. You want to care about this unit." At the same time, Owen points out "you get the feeling they're pretty much trapped in their lives, and maybe they've spent an awful lot of time dealing with their child and they've sort of forgotten about each other."
The film turns, however, on the relationship between Charles and Lucinda. Beattie sees them both as lost characters. "When they meet, Charles and Lucinda are two incredibly lonely people. They have families, they have jobs, they have essentially full lives but they're empty inside for one reason or another. And, really, it's about two people finding out they can connect." Aniston agrees. "They're both at a place in their lives when they need to meet each other."
Says Beattie, "by the time they make the decision to go to the hotel, they've crossed that line of 'I'm tired of giving for everyone else.' I think it's almost a selfish thing, but they've gotten to the point where they are running on empty, and they need something to make the everyday existence worthwhile."
Aniston sees Lucinda as "an interesting, tortured" woman. Owen's Charles Schine is innocent and charming, but under tremendous stress from his family and career.
Owen explains, "I'm playing a very reactive part. He finds himself in a horrible situation, and then things spiral out of control, and his life goes completely crazy. He's in a sort of Kafka nightmare."
Cassel sees many facets to his character LaRoche, "He's very smart; he's very slick; he's funny in his own way. A dangerous, fun guy." Producer Mark Cooper says, "It's a game for [LaRoche]. It's a game that he enjoys and where he's very successful. He knows how to turn the screw and get that man's life savings." Beattie describes the complexities, "LaRoche has two roles to play - tough on the outside he is the uneducated mugger, deep down, he's a sophisticated, intelligent criminal."
Winston, played by RZA, demonstrates the film's most steadfast loyalty. Beattie admits, "Winston is a fantastic character. I love his arc." RZA was thrilled because, "with my Hip Hop background, I usually play roles that are more aggressive and all 'hood.' And, this guy had a different kind of range to him - even though he was more of a nice guy who worked in the office, he still had his past of bein' a thug."
About the Cast
Producer di Bonaventura could not have been happier with the cast. "This is one of the more eclectic casts I've seen. I love the idea of having RZA, Xzibit and Giancarlo Esposito with Jennifer Aniston, Clive Owen and Vincent Cassel--it's a great combination of international and American stars. I think our multi-ethnic cast will give the film a contemporary feel.
Aniston had been looking for a role like this. "First of all, I had been wanting to do a thriller, and these types of roles don't come around too often."
Owen says "I think it's a great part for Jennifer, and I was delighted when she expressed interest in doing it. It's very different from anything she has previously done and audiences will get to see an entirely new dimension of Jennifer Aniston. I had a great time working with her."
Beattie describes Charles as "the every man," which fit Clive Owen perfectly. "He just brings a real gravity to it, and he gets Charles so well. He understands the grimness."
"Oh, he's just a dream, he's dreamy," gushes Aniston. "He's fantastic. Really he's one of the great ones in terms of his talent and his charm. I mean he's tall, dark, and handsome, and then there's just something that he brings to the screen that is indescribable, and you just want to watch him. There's just so much going on behind those eyes."
RZA was thrilled to co-star with Owen as well. "Clive made it a very easy job for me. I'm not an actor by profession, I'm a Hip Hop performing artist, and a producer/composer, but to get on the silver screen, and get in front of the camera and try to put myself into a character wasn't an easy job, and Clive made it easier. He gave me a lot of tips. He actually helped me get the part."
Cooper describes RZA as "a wonderfully interesting person. He just left behind the day-to-day happenings in the rap world and came very professionally onto the film set." RZA enjoyed the chance to step into character: "It's fun to kinda be somebody you ain't for a moment. I think that's the beautiful thing about acting in any film you join, you're a whole different person. With music, you've gotta maintain and keep your identity." Beattie simply says that RZA "nails his performance."
Clive Owen describes himself as a fan of Vincent Cassel's work in French film. Aniston says of Vincent: "he's just great, frightening - he sends chills down your spine." Xzibit, who shares many scenes with Cassel, says simply: "He's like my brother from another mother, except he's from France, and he's got a cool accent that I don't have."
Xzibit was happy to find a role where he could show his acting chops. "I'm having fun learnin' the ropes, and getting' my feet wet." While he plays a thug in the film, Aniston had nothing but praise for the new actor. "He's the nicest guy. The first day I met him he held a gun to my head, and he was terrified after every take that he was somehow hurting me, and he was the sweetest guy on the planet."
For his friends back home, Cassel felt like RZA and Xzibit were the real stars. "Where I come from, and especially my neighborhood in Paris, you tell people that you're gonna make a movie with Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen and people go, 'Yeah?' And then you say, 'But RZA and Xzibit are in it too,' and everybody goes, 'Wow!' It was just fun to be around those guys because I've been listening to their music for a long time. And they're not just rappers, they take acting very seriously."
Owen was most astounded by Addison Timlin who played his daughter. "Sometimes you work with child actors and the reason they're good is that there's a naïveté about what they do. They're prepared and they just haven't got that conscious thing yet. But Addison is terribly smart. You really feel she's got a very long future because she's terribly shrewd. I was really impressed with her."
The film was shot in Chicago and London. One Chicago location put the production behind the great steps where "The Untouchables" was shot. Aniston shares "I love being on location. I hate being away from home more than anything, but once I get away and I'm on location, I love it."
On set, the cast and crew were quite close. Aniston explains "we actually had a great dinner together when I got to Chicago. We stayed out way too late, and heard the great music Chicago is famous for. The people are lovely. It's one of the sweetest groups of people with whom I've worked."
Xzibit is proud of his second film role: "I think when you take a certain director, and his viewpoint, and the way he sees cinema, and combine that with a diverse cast and a great story, you can't lose. It's simple. It's a masterpiece."
Aniston agrees. "It's very rare that I actually want to see a movie that I've done, and I'm really looking forward to seeing this film. This was a big challenge for me, but so much fun. I had a good time digging my heels into something sort of out of the box. I loved that. And these people are--across the board--the greatest people."
MIKAEL HÅFSTRÖM / Director
Mikael Håfström was born in Lund, Sweden. He studied film at the University of Stockholm and then the School of Visual Arts in New York. He began his professional life as a freelance film critic and later went on to work as an Assistant Director and Script Writer in Swedish television before moving on to direct Swedish dramas.
In 1995, Håfström directed his first feature Vendetta. He then went on to direct and co-write award winning productions including: Days Like These (Leva Livet) (2001), and Academy Award nominated Evil (Ondskan) (2003).
In addition to Derailed, Håfström's recent projects include Drowning Ghost (Strandvaskaren) (2004).
STUART BEATTIE / Screenwriter
After completing a communication degree in his native Australia, Stuart Beattie attended UCLA, winning the Diane Thomas Award for his student script. This brought him to the attention of LA agents, and from there the work flowed.
Two screenplays produced in Australia, Joey, and Kick, were followed by Collateral which was bought and produced by Dreamworks, becoming an international box office smash, starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx.