Fracture, directed by Gregory Hoblit, is an engaging thriller about an assistant district attorney who gets into a game of cat-and-mouse with a man who tried to murder his wife and is set free due to technicalities. The unexpected delight in watching this film is the witty script and the presence of two great actors sizing up one another: an old master, Anthony Hopkins, versus the rising star, Ryan Gosling, recently nominated for an Oscar due to his performance in Half Nelson. I sat down with writer Glenn Gers and producer Chuck Weinstock to discuss their film.
How did the film come about?
Chuck Weinstock: Dan Pyne, the original writer, always wanted to do a movie about a guy who represents himself. “But,” he said, “the thing is, I don’t want it to be a courtroom movie.” I said, “Well, now we’ve really got something.” Glenn Gers came in and really made sense of the thing and elevated the script to the point where we were able to begin.
There’s a lot of legal talk in this film. How much research did you have to do?
Glenn Gers: The great thing about being a screenwriter is there will always be research. My sister was a prosecutor in Kansas City, so I could call her and say, “What would you do?” And she would explain things to me.
CW: I was a public interest lawyer in New York and I had at least a passing acquaintance with criminal law. So I knew roughly about how these things would go. We were pretty meticulous.
How did the casting of Anthony Hopkins happen?
CW: People think of him as having done this over and over again, when in fact he has only played a villain once so indelibly that people think he’s doing it in every performance. This is only the second character he’s played who’s a criminal.
GG: One of the things people ask me is if I wrote [the character] for him, and, actually, I wrote it knowing absolutely he would not take this part because it was too much like Hannibal Lecter. Then he was interested. Anthony took this role wanting to be playful. He’s just so childlike sometimes-like in the courtroom scene when he mocks Gosling and his bowtie: That was him having fun.
And Ryan Gosling?
CW: As many producers know, Ryan is famous for turning down everything. It always amuses me when I read a review in which someone says it looks like Ryan has finally decided to cash in. In fact, he has been refusing giant studio movies for years now since his success in The Notebook. He’s just interested in doing good things and one of the strategies in going to Hopkins first was he would be a lure for Ryan. Gosling is a famously picky reader and the attachment of Hopkins made it a thousand times more attractive. When we made the offer to [Gosling], he was in a small boat, in either Louisiana or Mississippi, helping with Hurricane Katrina relief. And there was no Federal Express in sight, so it took days to reach him, like in the Wild West. He eventually got back to us.
The chemistry between Hopkins and Gosling reminds me of the one between Jodie Foster and Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs. The scenes when they’re together sizzle.
CW: You can’t ever predict that with perfect certainty, but, my god, they are two of the best actors alive and it was a good bet they would work off each other.
The role of the wife is a very tricky one: She’s an adulteress and yet one has to sympathize with her.
CW: I think there’s a certain decency about her in those early scenes. And I think there’s a sense that she really loves this new lover. And she’s in a loveless marriage to Hopkins who torments her intellectually, who has contempt for her, and those would be as good a reason as any to commit adultery.
GG: (Laughs.) That’s not an endorsement of adultery. One of the things that makes the movie interesting is we have mixed feelings. I think that’s one of the things that’s great, particularly in a movie as complex as this one. She isn’t easily put in a pen. I wanted to make you think-not just experience the movie.
Tell me about the sculpture/invention Anthony Hopkins is working on throughout the film. It becomes a central symbol.
CW: Glenn imagined this man with a hobby in which he built these big, substantial, complex things that are sort of a metaphor for his brain.
GG: You always seem to find in movies something physical to portray the inside of a character, since you can’t get inside their head like in a novel. Originally, it was represented by his aircrafts-there was this opening scene in which they were testing a part of the engine, and it would break, it would be “fractured.” But we decided it might be unintentionally funny. So I had to come up with something else and my son has this kind of marble toy, and I thought, “What if there was this really complex [version of the toy] to explain this guy’s mind?” That would be the ticket. Then it’s one thing to write that: “It’s a complex machine.” But then you watch the guy on a soundstage for a month trying to build this machine, and I kept apologizing profusely. I didn’t think they would actually make it work. They didn’t have to. But they did, and it’s now a central symbol to the movie.
Fracture is now playing in Santa Barbara theaters.