Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I Cannot Wait to See The Road by Cormac McCarthy
I read this book and absolutely loved it. I had heard this was going to be a movie and now I have some details.
Releasing - November 2008
Starring - Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce and newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Rating - R (For graphic subject matter, including cannibalism and infanticide)
The director of “The Road” is an Australian, John Hillcoat, best known for “The Proposition,” and many crew members were Aussies as well. In conversation the “Mad Max” movies, the Australian post-apocalyptic thrillers starring Mel Gibson, came up a lot, and not favorably. The team saw those movies, set in a world of futuristic bikers, as a sort of antimodel: a fanciful, imaginary version of the end of the world, not the grim, all-too-convincing one that Mr. McCarthy had depicted.
“What’s moving and shocking about McCarthy’s book is that it’s so believable,” Mr. Hillcoat said. “So what we wanted is a kind of heightened realism, as opposed to the ‘Mad Max’ thing, which is all about high concept and spectacle. We’re trying to avoid the clichés of apocalypse and make this more like a natural disaster.” He imagined the characters less as “Mad Max”-ian freaks outfitted in outlandish biker wear, he added, than as homeless people. They wear scavenged, ill-fitting clothing and layers of plastic bags for insulation.
The script for “The Road,” by Joe Penhall, is for the most part extremely faithful to Mr. McCarthy’s story of a father and son traveling alone through this blighted landscape and trying to keep alive the idea of goodness and civilization — the fire, they call it. The script does enlarge and develop in flashback the role of the man’s wife (played by Charlize Theron), who disappears quite early from the novel, choosing suicide rather than what she imagines will be starvation or worse. And of course the script lacks Mr. McCarthy’s heightened, almost biblical narrative style.
Some of that could be suggested by the look of the film, Mr. Hillcoat said, but mostly the nature of the bond between the man and the son, who in the script, as in the book, speak to each other in brief, freighted moments, would have to come out in the performances.
Viggo Mortensen, who plays the father, said the same thing. “It’s a love story that’s also an endurance contest,” he explained, and quickly added: “I mean that in a positive way. They’re on this difficult journey, and the father is basically learning from the son. So if the father-son thing doesn’t work, then the movie doesn’t work. The rest of it wouldn’t matter. It would never be more than a pretty good movie. But with Kodi in it, it has a chance to be an extremely good movie, maybe even a great one.”
In the novel the father and son have a relationship that is both tender and businesslike; they’re trying to survive against great odds, after all, and there isn’t much time for small talk. Both on and off the set Mr. Mortensen and his co-star behaved much the same way. In Erie, while Kodi’s father was away for a bit, Mr. Mortensen, who has a grown son of his own, moved from his suite to Kodi’s room, a double, where they jumped on the beds together. During filming Mr. Mortensen, protective of Kodi, worried, for example, about yanking or dragging him too hard, but also treated him as an equal, a fellow professional who happened to have a very different way of working.
Once he emerged from his trailer, Mr. Mortensen more or less stayed in character all day — bearded, gaunt, wound up and intense, going off by himself every now and then to smoke a cigarette. Kodi, on the other hand, wearing a ratty sweater, a wool cap and a pair of pants much too big for him, wandered around and hummed to himself between takes. He also engaged in lengthy fencing and stick-breaking contests with Jimi Johnson, a video assist operator.