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all the news that's fit to print (well, maybe)




New Russell James book only available in the US DOROTHY L.SAYERS Convention
5th October 2002
INSOMNIA - Al Pacino & Robin Williams. Interview with its director, Christopher Nolan
SCAREDY CAT - Mark Billingham's follow up to Sleepyhead The STEEL DAGGER - a new award from the Crime Wrieters' Association THE SALTON SEA starring Val Kilmer, directed by D J Caruso
The Medieval Murderers -Mayhem, murder and medieval magic, that’s what is promised by the formation of the Medieval Murderers Writers' Group DEAD ON DEANSGATE 2002 ROBERT CRAIS at the movies
Macavity Award Nominees HALLE BERRY GETS FOXY
BAD COMPANY - thriller with Anthony Hopkins
SIGNS thriller starring Mel Gibson


The 2002 Dead on Deansgate crime fiction convention will take place from 1st to 6th October. Events during the week will include workshops for aspiring writers, with the main events featuring visitors authors over the weekend. All events will be held at Waterstone's bookshop, Deansgate, Manchester, and there is no involvement by the Crime Writers' Association this year.

Dorothy L. Sayers conference On 5th October 2002, the University of London Institute of English Studies will be holding a conference on Dorothy L. Sayers in association with the Dorothy L. Sayers Society and Mystery Women. Speakers will include: P. D. James, Barbara Reynolds, Jill Paton Walsh, Susan Rowland, David Doughan and Jasmine Simeone. http://www.chriswillis.freeserve.co.uk/sayers2002.htm

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The Crime Writers' Association is to launch a new Dagger award - the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller. The award is the idea of the Ian Fleming Estate, who have donated an annual prize of £2,000 in memory of the creator of James Bond. The first Steel Dagger will be presented during 2002, in conjunction with the Macallan Daggers. Also revived this year is the Dagger in the Library, chosen by librarians for the crime novel most praised by readers.

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Mystery Readers International announces Macavity Award Nominees for works published in 2001. The Macavity is nominated and voted on by members of Mystery Readers International, the largest reader/fan based organization in the world. Winners will be announced at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention in October 2002. For more information, contact Janet A. Rudolph at whodunit@murderonthemenu.com or call (510) 845-3600.
Best Mystery Novel
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane (Morrow)
The Deadhouse by Linda Fairstein (Scribner)
Folly by Laurie R. King (Bantam)
Tell No One by Harlan Coben (Delacorte)
Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker (Hyperion)
Best First Mystery Novel
The Jasmine Trade by Denise Hamilton (Scribner)
Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter (Morrow)
Open Season by C. J. Box (G.P. Putnam's)
Perhaps She'll Die by M.K. Preston (Intrigue)
Best Bio/Critical Mystery Work Writing the Mystery:
A Start to Finish Guide for Both Novice and Professional by G. Miki Hayden (Intrigue)
Seldom Disappointed: A Memoir by Tony Hillerman (HarperCollins)
The History of Mystery by Max Allan Collins (Collectors Press)
My Name's Friday: The Unauthorized but True Story of Dragnet and the Films of Jack Webb by Michael J. Hayde (Cumberland House)
Who Was that Lady? Craig Rice: The Queen of Screwball Mystery by Jeffrey Marks (Delphi Books)
Best Mystery Short Story:
"My Bonnie Lies" by Ted Hertel (The Mammoth Book of Legal Thrillers, Michael Hemmingson, editor; Carroll & Graf)
"Bitter Waters" by Rochelle Krich (Criminal Kabbalah, Lawrence W. Raphael, editor; Jewish Lights)
"The Would-Be Widower" by Katherine Hall Page (Malice Domestic 10, Nevada Barr, editor; Avon)
"The Abbey Ghosts" by Jan Burke (AHMM, Jan 2001)

Janet A. Rudolph, Editor, Mystery Readers Journal http://www.mysteryreaders.org

The Medieval Murderers

Mayhem, murder and medieval magic, that’s what is promised by the formation of the Medieval Murderers, a group within the Crime Writers’ Association which has banded together to speak at events up and down the country.

The Medieval Murderers are a mixed team which span probably the most exciting periods of English history, but they also write in very different styles and about the areas which inspired them. All rely on careful plotting and detailed characterisation, but that’s only a part of their story.

Susanna Gregory, before taking up the pen, was a police officer. She changed career and took a PhD at Cambridge, which spurred her interest in the university’s history and led to her setting down on paper the Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew, a physician living in Cambridge in the period immediately after the Black Death.

Michael Jecks was a computer salesman until beginning his Templar series. Now he can finance his main interests: walking over Dartmoor, reading about medieval England and daydreaming. His books describe life among the peasants of Devon during the period of almost continual civil war under King Edward II.

A little before him, historically, was Ian Morson, whose Falconer series delighted him because at last instead of lending books to people while he worked in the library service, he was able to earn money from people borrowing his books! Now he lives and works in Cornwall, writing in a variety of genres.

Finally, in the late twelfth century, there is Bernard Knight, a prolific writer of books and who also writes scripts for TV and radio. He has made good use both of his fascination with the medieval system of Coroners, and his own experience as a senior Home Office Pathologist and Professor of Forensic Pathology, in his Crowner John series.

This is the team. All successful writers in their own right, they give talks and sit as panels for libraries, clubs and associations - and speak to writing groups about getting into print and what the life of a modern writers is really like! They can also perform as a ‘reduced, medieval English murder company’, spanning two centuries in the space of an hour, including a coffee break!

All are committed to the support of the library service and helping schools motivate children to read and write.

For further information or requests for the Medieval Murderers to appear, please Jecks on 01 email him on mail@michaeljecks.co.uk.

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"The 'Godfather of British noir' succeeds once again in this eminently readable, vividly portrayed, and highly suspenseful story. For fans of British crime novels." - says Library Journal.
"A taut, compelling noir with liberal dollops of sex and violence," exclaims Publishers Weekly.
Yes, it's time for you to order a copy of the latest shocker from RUSSELL JAMES.
Like to know something about the book?
I'd been reading a clutch of those bloodthirsty Jacobean tragedies and in several I came across the old man cuckolded by a virile young blood. One evening in the theatre I saw a particularly sexy rendering of Thomas Middleton's Jacobean shocker, THE CHANGELING, and I realized that here was a twist that would make a great noir story for today. Don't get me wrong: I wasn't writing to impress some college professor - I was sitting down to write a good hot story that you and I would want to read. So I didn't follow academic rules. I gave myself the freedom to play around a little, cutting out some of the more old fashioned coincidences, cutting all the speeches, a good deal of the poetry and some of the minor characters, and concentrating instead on the gripping plot and its three main characters (middle aged husband, his young bride, and their wicked servant). Naturally I threw into the brew the saucy maid, the rival boyfriend and the awful secret - all from the original - and this left me with a plot any author would give his favourite whisky for. From the original play I kept the blood, the sex and above all Middleton's outrageous sexual premise and I did my best to serve it up at the same pounding speed as in the original Jacobean play. The result, I hope, is just the thing to pep up one of your sultry summer evenings.
How to order: THE ANNEX has just been published in America by Five Star Mysteries and is not easily obtainable outside the States. But you can order from www.amazon.com THE ANNEX retails at $25.95 and its ISBN is 0-7862-3931-X. Get your hands on a copy today!
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Coming your way 4th July 2002

Mark Billingham's second novel explores fear. And the power that this can give people. If you scare someone enough, they'll do anything. Bringing back DI Tom Thorne and his young team, Billingham creates a powerful case where the Serious Crime Group find themsleves on the hunt for not just one serial killer, but for a partnership - two killers working in unison. Impeccably plotted and darkly compelling, Scardey Cat confirms Mark Billingham's place at the forefront of a new generation of cracking good crime writers.

Mark will be launching the book at Crime In Store (contact them for further details).

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{short description of image}INSOMNIA

Sent to a small Alaska town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl, a veteran police officer (Al Pacino) is forced into a game of psychological cat-and-mouse by a primary suspect (Robin Williams) after his partner is killed. The stakes escalate as he contends with an idealistic detective (Hilary Swank) and finds his own stability dangerously threatened.

Insomnia stars Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney, Martin Donovan, Nicky Katt, Paul Dooley, Jonathan Jackson, Larry Holden and Katherine Isabelle.

Insomnia is directed by Christopher Nolan ("MEMENTO") and produced by Paul Junger Witt, Edward L. McDonnell, Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson. The executive producers are George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Tony Thomas, Kim Roth and Charles J.D. Schlissel. The screenplay is by Hillary Seitz.

Insomnia was orginaly a Norwegian production from 97 by Erik Skjoldbjærg.

Below is a conversation with Christopher Nolan about his new film Insomnia. Hopefully this will give you some insight to the film and its director.

Why choose Insomnia for your follow up to Memento? What about the original appealed to you?

I think it has a fascinating and very evocative psychological situation. A great moral dilemma that is taken one direction in the original movie, and I think it’s a great movie, but as I saw it, it occurred to me that you could by changing the characters take the same situation, the same intense psychological relationship between the two main characters and take it in a rather different direction and create a different kind of moral paradox.

Was there a lot of pressure to follow up Memento with an original? Were people surprised you were making a remake?

To be honest I started work on Insomnia some months before Memento was even released in theatres, so I wasn’t really having to view Insomnia necessarily as a follow-up in the sense that people would question it because no one really knew the extent Memento would get out there at the time. I thought I should be free to do whatever inspired me and took my fancy. I found the original movie very inspiring.

Did you find that working with a much larger budget liberating or constricting in terms of having so many choices your third time as a director.

I found that each film I’ve made has had its budget increased sort of exponentially, and I’ve found the process reassuringly similar at every stage. Cause at the end of the day it always just seems to be about the shots that you get - what’s actually going to be there on screen , so all the other stuff, a lot of which is costing the money in terms of doing something on a larger scale tends to be stuff that doesn't necessarily effect the creative process of imagining a series of images, or creating a narrative.

Did you have Al Pacino and Robin Williams in mind when you first started working on Insomnia

Well I try not to when I’m working at a development or script stage, I try not to have actors in mind because I think it limits your writing a little bit. You start writing other characters that they have played so forth. You know I tried and Hillary and I were very much in agreement with me she, had tried to imagine the characters as real people. So that is how I first thought of it, but right from the beginning my concept and luckily Warner Bros and Alcon felt the same way, you had to have in the Will Dormer role you had to have a substantial star. Somebody with audience association, someone with a familiarity to the audience to give them a kind of built-in sympathy and built in appeal so that you can start the story and take it somewhere rather unexpected. So Pacino absolutely fit that because he has played these great cop figures in the past and my idea, of the different direction take the story and to play up on the iconic cop figure of so many studio movies. Al in addition to just being one of the finest actors who ever lived is someone who has this great star appeal that I felt the character demanded to draw the audience in to this very dark situation. Then of course when you’ve got someone like Al Pacino in the center of your movie when you try to think of an adversary it’s gonna have to be somebody with a very substantial presence, to stand opposite, this character really gives him a run for his money. So Robin Williams has this tremendous charisma and tremendous audience association - it was terrific to turn on its head. He’s playing an incredibly dark but very realistic dark character that no one has seen him do before.

Did Robin come to you with the project, or were you looking to cast someone against type.

Well I felt he was a very daring idea but I forget who exactly it came from our side or their side first, but I hadn’t really dared hope he would play something so different than he had done in the past, as it turned out that he was looking for that kind of challenge right now.

So it just came together wonderfully. I think Robin was very excited about the idea of working with Al Pacino. They hadn’t worked together but had admired each others work.

How much of a role do you think guilt plays in the psyche driving the characters? To me the film is about responses to guilt, and you’ve go two characters who deal with guilt in opposite ways, in fact that’s what makes the relationship between them quite interesting.

I think on thematic level the film says something about the role of guilt in defining morality or suggesting morality. Both characters in some sense have transgressed to cause their reacting to guilt.

Did you find it a challenge to get a such a dark feel from the film while shooting in daylight all the time? The juxtaposition of having everything being discovered in the daylight having such a dark feel.

It occurred to me, and I discussed this a lot with the DP Wally Pfister, that having daylight constantly present in the background of scene actually allows you to create even darker images than if you would if you were shooting at night, cause If you are shooting at night you are effectively having to use artificial illumination, you are having to put lamps on in the room. That kind of thing. Whereas what we were sort of trying to create was these dark interiors where somewhere in the back of the room there is a window with some sort of light peeping in and that allows you to create very dark silhouettes, and forms, interesting textures and depths. Within a very dark interior -- effectively a kind of space where somebody backs away and hides from the light. So in that way there are all kinds of senses you can create a darker film during daylight hours than you can at night.

What was it like shooting on location in Alaska. Did you have white nights?

We finished up shooting some of the aerial photography in June and it was pretty light throughout the night, it’s a very eerie source of light, but the sun does dips below the horizon, so its not a full sunlight but this weird twilight world.

Do you have people still ask you constantly about Memento?

Sure, People ask me about it all the time but recently people have been a bit more accepting of the enigma in the story.

Insomnia and Memento are quite serious and dark - do you want to make a comedy someday?

Well I think both of them are quite funny, maybe no one else agrees. I ‘d love to do a comedy. I ‘d like to do all kinds of movies, except maybe musicals, any other type of movie is of interest to me. I do find a lot of what goes on in films like Memento and Insomnia to be darkly serious, they are very straight faced films but they get a lot of laughter at screenings.

How was directing Insomnia different than a story you have written? Is that what you want to do in the future?

I wrote my last two films, this is the first time I‘ve done something that was written by somebody else. I think In the future I’d be open to both ways of working. There’s something quite liberating about taking somebody else’s script on because you can be a lot more objective about a pretty advanced draft whereas when you are writing yourself you get very much wrapped up inside it…and its difficult to maintain focus. There is something quite nice about coming to something in a later stage and then apply your own creative process as a filmmaker to something you have already been able to judge the merits of in a quite objective fashion.

Did you have to fight to get the same DP and editor as Memento to work on Insomnia? I was very fortunate, even though Memento hadn’t come out yet; both the photography and the editing were quite striking in the film and have obvious association with the type of film Insomnia would have to be so everybody was pretty receptive to me working with the same team.

Any fame related stories since the success of Memento?

It’s all been a bit weird and crazy, but once you start to go to work every day with Al Pacino and Robin Williams and things like that, you get used to the insanity of the whole thing in terms working with people that you’ve grown up watching on screen.

That’s a very bizarre thing to start doing but as soon as you start working with these people and seeing the type of acting they are capable of and type of performance, which is of course why you’ve grown up watching them on screen, it becomes very exciting. Feels like a real privilege.

Did Robin stay in character on set ? Robin is irrepressibly funny, he’s constantly making jokes and like a lot of good actors he is able to separate himself from the character he is playing except right before a the camera starts to roll.

I haven’t worked with Robin before - I found him to be very funny a lot of the time. I am told by him and the people around him that he was a little more subdued on this film and he definitely had to go to a pretty dark place, I suppose bound to have a little less joking around going on. He has such an incredibly brilliant mind, he’s constantly coming up with observations and witticisms and all that. I think you are just always going to get some of that from Robin.

Did you encourage Al or Robin to see the original? I didn’t at all and in fact I didn’t watch the original myself once I committed to the project because we didn’t want to be doing stuff either because it was in the original or not doing stuff because it was in the original. I didn’t want to make any kind of a reactive film. It’s a film that has to work dramatically, totally independently of the original film and particularly when it comes to characterization the key differences in what we tried to do as opposed what the original tried to do evolved from differences in characters, so as far as the actors were concerned I was very happy for them to just work from the script

What’s the longest you stayed up without sleeping? Well just as were finishing the film, my wife, who worked on the film, she gave birth to a baby girl so we were kept up pretty intensely for several weeks that’s definitely the least sleep I’ve had and that was right as we were at the end of the editing the film. I found it a pretty informative experience

Any plans to collaborate with your brother on any future projects.

Yes, we are working together on something right now but the Howard Hughes biopic is going be the next thing I am going to start writing.

Any actor or actress you would want to work with next? Having just worked with Pacino, Robin and Hillary, I’m feeling pretty satified with the actors I have been fortunate enough to work with.( laughs) I’ve been very lucky in that regard and working the previous film with the cast of Memento with Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano and Carrie-Anne Moss. I don’t know but I’ve set the bar pretty high for my self on who I work with next but it is a great position to be in.

As far casting Hillary, was there a conscious decision to have the female character in your version be a younger actress than the original?

The character in the script is a very different character than appears in the original film, youth is certainly one element of that. This is a character who is just beginning her career in the police force and that is very important to her relationship with Al Pacino’s character.

How much do use the Internet?

My wife is online all the time, I’m not hugely into computers really. I’ve used the internet for research, and it’s a very useful tool for that. I think I get the most use for communication in terms of it in contacting people by emails and such. But its our experience on Memento was that the Internet was very incredibly useful way of getting word out about the film out there, to small film lovers it was immensely valuable. But I actually left it to my younger brother, he’s the computer literate of the two of us.

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The Salton Sea

In the Imperial Valley of Southern California there is a little known body of water 226 feet below sea level, one of the lowest points in the United States. As there is no outlet from this sea, water is being removed only by evaporation, which results in a salinity level more than 25 percent higher than the Pacific Ocean. There is an eerie stillness to this vast sea, and a peculiar density to the water. This lake is the Salton Sea.

Set against this remote and mysterious landscape, an unexpected and brutal crime leaves an innocent woman, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, dead at the hands of masked gunmen. Her husband’s life is left in ruins, his every waking moment haunted by the recurring imagery of the murder he witnessed, but was powerless to prevent. He is alive, but lifeless in his despair. “The Salton Sea” is a character-driven crime thriller about an unlikely hero entangled in a web of deceit and treachery. Full of unexpected twists and turns, this is a compelling and emotionally-charged story about loss and recovery set to the lonely resonant tones of jazz great Miles Davis’ horn.

{short description of image}Danny Parker (VAL KILMER) is a man in search of redemption, consumed by a sense of loneliness and alienation. Following the death of his wife (CHANDRA WEST), he is set adrift in a seedy underworld inhabited by an eclectic, and often comical, cast of characters united principally by their choice of drug: crystal methamphetamine. An accomplished jazz musician, Danny is now a low-life “tweaker” in Los Angeles who leads us through a frenzied maze, one from which he must emerge before his tenuous grip on reality snaps for good.

In a bold attempt Danny secretly hatches a plan to serve as middle-man in a lucrative drug deal. With the help of his friend Jimmy “The Finn” (PETER SARSGAARD), Danny is introduced to Pooh-Bear (VINCENT D’ONOFRIO), a deranged methamphetamine baron with a penchant for sadistic recreational games, who seals the deal. But in this mad world, nothing is as it seems and no one is who he or she appears to be.

While making this perilous journey through the underbelly of Los Angeles, however, Danny reconnects with a tenderness long thought dead as he reaches out to help his troubled and vulnerable neighbor, Colette (DEBORAH KARA UNGER).

Joining the production’s cast are ANTHONY La PAGLIA and DOUG HUTCHISON who portray narcotics agents Garcetti and Morgan respectively; ADAM GOLDBERG as ‘Kujo,’ a speed freak; LUIS GUZMAN, as ‘Quincy,’ Colette’s violent boyfriend; rock veteran MEAT LOAF makes an appearance as ‘Bo,’ a shady druggie; GLENN PLUMMER as ‘Bobby,’ a drug dealer; in his acting debut JOSH TODD, lead singer of the band Buckcherry, as ‘Big Bill,’ one of Pooh-Bear’s sidekicks; DANNY TREJO as ‘Little Bill,’ a member of Pooh-Bear’s posse and Tony Award-winning B. D. WONG as ‘Bubba,’ a cowboy with crystal meth connections.

Castle Rock Entertainment presents A Darkwoods/Humble Journey Films Production, “The Salton Sea,” directed by D. J. CARUSO (HBO’s “Black Cat Run”) from a screenplay by TONY GAYTON (“Murder by Numbers”). The film is produced by Academy Award® nominated filmmaker FRANK DARABONT (“The Majestic,” “The Green Mile,” “The Shawshank Redemption”) along with ERIQ La SALLE (“E.R.”), KEN AGUADO (“Ticker”) and BUTCH ROBINSON (“The Original Kings of Comedy”). The film is executive produced by JIM BEHNKE (“The Majestic,” “Zero Effect”).

The behind-the-scenes team is led by director of photography AMIR MOKRI (“Coyote Ugly”), production designer TOM SOUTHWELL (HBO’s “Black Cat Run”), editor JIM PAGE (“The Majestic”), costume designer KARYN WAGNER (“The Green Mile,” “Eve’s Bayou,” HBO’s “Black Cat Run”) and Academy Award® nominated composer THOMAS NEWMAN (“Erin Brockovich,” “The Shawshank Redemption”). “The Salton Sea” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, an AOL Time Warner Company.

Castle Rock Entertainment is an AOL Time Warner Company.


In the opening scene of “The Salton Sea,” we are introduced to Danny Parker sitting alone on a bed in a dilapidated rooming house with a duffel bag full of money. Around him the room is ablaze with fire, but he seems unaware, quietly playing his trumpet. In voice-over against this distressing image Danny speaks to us, seeking to define who and what he has become. This opening confessional reveals him to be a man in crisis, struggling with his identity and haunted by his past. His probing questions propel us backwards into the story and we begin to travel through the recent events of his life that lead him to this critical point.

Suspenseful, intriguing and moody, Tony Gayton’s screenplay caught the eye of producer Ken Aguado. Gayton’s original screenplay unfolds in a very deliberate and measured way, never revealing too much at one time. Just when you feel you have come to understand what’s at play, another layer is unveiled and your perspective shifts. Aguado explains, “Character revelations and plot twists are introduced throughout the entire piece, which is one of the reasons it’s such a fascinating movie. A lot of scripts are boring after the thirtieth page because everything has been revealed. This film is not about the immediate moment. It’s about the future, the past, and it requires two hours to figure out.”

Aguado passed the script on to D. J. Caruso and insisted he read it immediately. Aguado remembers, “He really responded to the material for the same reasons I had. You find yourself trying to understand the hero, what his agenda is and what his and the other characters’ motives are and where they will end up. You’re surprised all the way through and there are some really funny moments.”

D. J. Caruso recalls his thoughts after reading the script, “I loved it. I flipped out because I had been waiting for the right opportunity to direct my first feature film. I’ve had a couple opportunities before, but I really wanted my first film to be something that meant something to me. I’m obsessed with character journeys, whether that growth is a positive or negative growth. I was really compelled by the dilemma the lead character Danny Parker experiences.”

Producing partner Eriq La Salle, widely known as the uncompromising doctor on the hit television series “E.R.,” was equally compelled by “The Salton Sea.” “It was one of the best scripts we had ever read. The opening is so powerful - a man sitting in a burning room, his life about to end, while he plays his trumpet and asks the audience ‘who am I?’ But, he also asks the viewer to listen to his story before making any judgments because nothing is, as it seems. The whole movie then delivers on that promise and reveals what led him to this place, this burning room. The narrative unfolds so gradually over the course of the film and it has you constantly guessing. It’s involving and very rewarding in that way,” says La Salle.

Aguado adds, “This is a movie that survives 100% on the quality of the writing and the story. It’s challenging material that requires you to use your brain while also being emotionally engaged. And all the characters are interesting and richly-drawn.”

Frank Darabont, with whom Caruso had collaborated on the HBO film “Black Cat Run,” with Darabont executive producing and Caruso directing, was sent the script by the Humble Journey Films partners.

“I’m an enormous fan of D. J. Caruso,” says Darabont. “D. J. was really excited about the script for ‘The Salton Sea’. I have enormous faith and confidence in his instincts, so I took it home that night and read it. I thought the script was really terrific.”

Darabont elaborates, “The script for ‘The Salton Sea’ was not like any other script I had read and consequently not really like too many other movies I see. It’s definitely got its own unique texture and that’s rooted in the script. D. J. is a director who respects the screenplay as he’s shooting the movie. The result is a director doing justice to a good script.”

Intrigued by the project, Darabont lent his support and joined the producing team to help the filmmakers bring Tony Gayton’s story to the big screen.


At break-neck speed, the casting process was then underway. The lead role required an actor to project a sense of humanity and vulnerability while pulling the audience through his dark and difficult journey. “As the story unfolds, you find yourself feeling sympathy for a character that normally you wouldn’t be very sympathetic towards. We needed someone with the acting chops who could pull that off,” explains Aguado. At the top of Caruso and the producer’s list was Val Kilmer.

Aguado explains, “This is a very dark role for an actor and it required someone who would throw himself entirely into the part. Val was our first choice.” They were not disappointed, and in fact the actor’s commitment to the role greatly surpassed their expectations. Aguado beams, “Val completely submerged himself in the character. He is very dedicated and serious about his craft, and I think this is one of his best performances.”

Caruso adds, “I wanted Val Kilmer from the start. I enjoyed watching Val in ‘Tombstone’ because I thought his portrayal of Doc Holliday was just fantastic. In the ‘The Doors,’ he embodied and became Jim Morrison in the film. Val is the most passionate person I’ve ever met. You can only hope to have someone like him on your team wanting the movie to be just as good, if not better than you want it to be.”

Tackling a character of such complexity was of immediate appeal to the actor, and he signed on to play Danny Parker without hesitation. Kilmer explains, “It was a very challenging role, one of the hardest I’ve ever done. This character is wonderfully tragic and beautiful. I was very affected personally by the character.”

In summarizing his role, Kilmer continues, “Danny is a jazz musician who’s really in love with his wife. They get lost one day near the Salton Sea, and his whole life changes. She’s murdered and he survives. He blames himself and becomes locked in that period of time.”

By infusing what could have been an unsympathetic character with humor and sensitivity, Kilmer fleshed out a multi-dimensioned portrayal of a man lost in a bleak and sordid subculture of drug users and dealers. “I had played a couple of alcoholics before - Doc Holliday and Jim Morrison - and other similar characters in theater, so I had a pretty good idea about addiction and those arenas of characters who become suicidal.”

Adding to this experience, however, Kilmer sought real-life inspiration for his portrayal and spent time with police informants. Kilmer says, “Rats” are really desperate people. It’s the end of the line and, as all “rats” know, eventually they get caught. There’s no place to exist as an informant. It’s tough - both sides are against you and you’re always getting squeezed.” The amalgamation of these experiences brought a depth of understanding and reality to Danny Parker. Kilmer concludes, “I put the pieces together in a non-intellectual way, watching how hard it is for some people just to survive.”

Anthony La Paglia and Doug Hutchison portray undercover narcotics agents Garcetti and Morgan respectively. Their area of focus is crystal methamphetamine. Initially, they present a classic good cop/bad cop front.

Hutchison reveals, “As the story unfolds, all of the boundaries get blurred. It’s refreshing not to see the same old stereotypical relationship. I like that you’re never sure what’s real or what’s an illusion in the film.”

La Paglia couldn’t resist the role of Garcetti when he read the script, even though he had decided he’d had his fill of playing cop roles. La Paglia recalls, “It felt different from a lot of things I had read - it’s an interesting story with a hard edge. My character is described as a man who doesn’t like dolphins. ‘Who doesn’t like dolphins?’”

Hutchison spent time with actual narcotics agents in Riverside to help flesh out his character, during which time he accompanied them on a drug raid. “The officer that I rode with had an informant who provided the tip responsible for the bust. I grilled the officer about his relationship with the informant - it was really valuable information that perfectly applied to my character,” remembers Hutchison.

Although the film is set in this harsh world, and centered around a man whose life has been destroyed in many ways, it is not a film without hope. “The film introduces you to a world of characters that most people will never meet in their lifetime - and thank god,” Aguado says. “But you discover that people from all walks of life and in all kinds of different situations have their own sense of dignity, their own hopes, dreams and aspirations. This is not a film about pure and clean people. These are people who have been to a place most of us will never go, but they come out the other end changed, and hopefully better. All the characters are flawed, but loaded with humanity and reality.”

It was these multifaceted characterizations that attracted Deborah Kara Unger to the story of “The Salton Sea” and to the role of Colette, Danny’s neighbor in a down-and-out boarding house/hotel. Unger recalls, “I was struck by the extraordinary writing, and the story’s emotional pace. This film does not insult the intelligence of an audience; the plot is rich and complex. It’s a very dark world, but there are alarming flashes of humor and light, and the characters are unpredictable and colorful.”

Casting Unger was a real coup for the director as she, like Kilmer, had been his first choice for the role. As Caruso’s producing partner Butch Robinson explains, “D. J. wanted the film to be hyper-realistic, and he wanted someone who was attractive, but approachable, sympathetic and appealing.” For everyone involved, Unger embodied all these characteristics.

Caruso explains, “I felt Deborah was right for the role of Colette because I found her to be sexy, intriguing and real, qualities that were essential for the character. Deborah’s character Colette is really vital because she reawakens passion in Danny, something that he thought he had lost forever.”

Kilmer states admiringly, “Deborah comes to work almost exclusively from an emotional connection, which lends a certain power to her acting.”

Haunted by her own demons, Colette is a single mother who finds herself in an abusive relationship and is barely hanging on. Her despair and vulnerability mirror that of Danny Parker, and their friendship and compassion provide respite from the horrors of their lives. “My character is exceedingly fractured,” Unger begins. “Both Colette and Danny are burdened by a past from which they’re both trying to escape, to make sense of. They’re both seeking retribution. And Colette feels a lot of empathy for the deep pain Val’s character is enduring.”

Kilmer further comments, “Our characters have a generosity of spirit and sensitivity in common. We also have a motive in our life that is different than survival, pleasure or greed. We’re both seemingly lost and feel as though we’ve failed to help those we love. But we’re also tough and neither one of us is revealing everything we know.”

Caruso provided an opportunity for spontaneity in certain scenes, a flexibility and collaboration that reaped rich rewards. Caruso explains, “I like to be visually prepared but I also wanted to give the actors the freedom and make them comfortable enough so they felt free to do what they felt.”

Kilmer responded strongly to the approach, but cautioned, “Improvisation must be in the same spirit as the writer’s vision. Time is running out in our story, so the structure is very tight and dependent on a rhythm and pace. But there were moments when we were given room to really fly. All the actors in the film were well suited to that freedom.”

“D. J. inspires trust and excitement in an actor,” Unger reveals. “He allowed us to embrace the chaos of the characters’ lives through an improvisation that helped feed the tensions needed in particular scenes. Imbalance is central to this story’s world and a lack of certainty is intrinsic to the activities of most of the characters.”

The filmmakers believe that the compatible acting styles of Kilmer and Unger elevated their respective performances, and indeed the film. “Val and Deborah have a very similar energy level. They’re both intense, internal and thoughtful as actors,” Aguado observes.

Unger, however, credits her co-star for heightening the stakes and enriching her portrayal. “Val was committed to the story and the characters. Without a doubt, I knew from the beginning that he would be able to embrace the film’s world almost flawlessly, certainly fearlessly. He made every effort to let me know that whatever cliff I might want to jump off, he’d be there with a net. I’m thankful for his confidence to go places that I might not have gone.”

{short description of image}The story’s many richly drawn characters attracted a top-notch roster of gifted actors, including Vincent D’Onofrio in the sinister role of Pooh-Bear, a twisted and menacing speed dealer. “As soon as I read the script for “The Salton Sea,” I immediately thought of Vincent D’Onofrio for the role of “Pooh Bear,” Caruso explains. “Pooh Bear is a character that I thought Vincent would be perfect to play. Vincent is the type of actor who becomes the character and hides behind the character so brilliantly that you forget that it’s Vincent.”

D’Onofrio describes his character as “a dealer who sits around with his buddies cooking methamphetamines. He’s a sort of bandit who’s out for the money and will screw with people and rob them along the way. He also has a strange way of communicating and dealing with situations - I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s weird stuff !”

D’Onofrio’s versatility and unquestionable talent have spurned many memorable characters, but perhaps he’s most widely remembered for his disturbing portrayal of a young cadet in Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant Vietnam drama “Full Metal Jacket.” The actor brings a similar intensity to “The Salton Sea,” and will undoubtedly leave another indelible impression on audiences with Pooh-Bear. D’Onofrio explains, “I felt there was a lot I could do with Pooh-Bear when I first read the script. He’s a foil character who really helps move the story along. I always try to avoid making typical choices with a character, and villains are particularly fun and interesting for me because I try to humanize them and give them heart. I have a very short attention span, so I pick the most interesting and complex characters I can find to keep from getting bored.”

D’Onofrio often transforms himself physically for his roles, and Pooh-Bear is no exception. “I gained 40 pounds for the part. This will be the last time I ever put on weight for a film because I’m getting older and it’s becoming harder to take off,” says D’Onofrio.

Contrary to the depraved Pooh-Bear is Jimmy the Finn, Danny’s naïve but loyal drug-buddy. Peter Sarsgaard, who garnered attention in the critically acclaimed film “Boys Don’t Cry,” brought a sincerity and affability to the role. “My character is involved in this whole crystal meth scene. No one is quite what they seem in the film, but Jimmy is transparent - he could never lie believably, for example. He’s really honest and trusting, so Danny turns to him in this world of people who are foreign to him,” explains Sarsgaard. Although unaware, Jimmy becomes more and more involved in Danny’s struggle and conflict.

“The Salton Sea” characterizes a very specific branch of the crime underworld: the world of crystal methamphetamine. Like crack is to cocaine, crystal meth - crank or gack as it is often called on the streets - is the crystal form of methamphetamine. Cheaply made and easily accessible, meth is powerfully addictive and, arguably, the hardest drug to kick. Highly combustible meth labs litter the landscape of the United States in unsuspecting trailers, run-down shacks or in the kitchens of people’s homes. Made largely from household products, law enforcement agencies have had a difficult time controlling the traffic of meth due to its surreptitious production.

Meth’s speedy high keeps its addicts, also known as tweakers, awake for days at a time. Extreme sleep deprivation not only devastates a person’s body, but it amplifies the craziness of the high and can cause hallucinations and insanity. With too much time on their hands, tweakers are predisposed to manic and obsessive-compulsive behavior. “It’s a lunatic world,” Kilmer concludes.

Not unlike a lot of Americans, the cast knew very little about meth and its ravaging effects. The director provided them with endless research material in the form of documentary video reports and articles, but they were also encouraged to visit drug recovery centers on their own. In visiting one such center in Riverside, California, Unger met former addicts who candidly shared their experiences. “I need to thank that center and those individuals with whom I spoke for really illuminating me and enabling me to feel intimate with a world that thankfully I’ve never journeyed through.” She continues, “I had no idea meth was so common and was shocked to discover how pervasive it is. There’s no one type of individual that becomes hooked - it’s indiscriminate in that way.”

Kilmer adds, “It’s a really rough, hard drug, and unfortunately it’s very popular now. It’s cheap and easy to make, and you’re high for a long time. It seems that being a tweaker is a vocation - the drug will grip you, and your life becomes an endless pursuit of getting it, using it for as long as possible, sleeping a little, and getting some more.”

Told with humor and pathos, “The Salton Sea” provides a glimpse into a particular world of fringe-dwelling tweakers. Although tragically in the clutches of this drug, the camaraderie of this group and their absurdly funny antics provide comic relief from the darkness of Danny’s journey and his more sinister dealings with Pooh-Bear and others. Central to this dark comedy is Jimmy and the character Kujo, played by Adam Goldberg. “Kujo is a motor mouth speed freak with grand designs,” says Goldberg.

In summary, Val Kilmer says of the film, “It’s a tragic and beautiful love story in many ways, but also a wild ride. You step into an unusual and unique world, both strange and dynamic.”

Producer Ken Aguado says, “Everything about this movie will make you appreciate your life. People can lose their way in life and find themselves in a place they never thought they’d be. I think audiences will take away a sense of this character’s quest for redemption. The film’s journey is about his reemergence as a person into the world of the true and the honest. It’s a cautiously hopeful tale with a tremendous amount of humor.”

Producer Frank Darabont says, “What I loved about the script was that it took me into a world that I was quite unfamiliar with, but did so in a way that made it tremendously accessible to me as a reader and to me as a viewer. The story delves into a real underbelly kind of existence. It has an absurdist kind of reality where anything can happen and at the same time the script has its other foot in this very intense, real crime drama that you can take seriously.”

Caruso says of the film, “I’d love for the audience to connect with the soul of the piece, the theme of redemption.”

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It looks like 24's Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) will go on to face another stressful day. Despite a slow start out of the ratings gate, Fox is set to renew 24 for a second season, according to the New York Daily News. Fans might be unhappy to hear, however, that the show's real-time format will be changed for season two. Currently, 24 covers a day in the life of agent Bauer - an hour at a time - as he tries to prevent a presidential candidate's assassination while saving his own wife and daughter from kidnappers. For next season, executive producers Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran are considering single episodes that would cover a 24-hour period each week. With that format, viewers wouldn't have to watch every single week to know what's going on. This new format would also help the network capitalize on reruns. At the moment, Fox has no plans to rerun the show this summer because the storyline unfolds over 24 episodes. Reruns of the drama currently air on the FX channel.

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The movie rights for both DEMOLITION ANGEL and HOSTAGE have been purchased; DEMOLITION ANGEL by producer Laurence Mark (AS GOOD AS IT GETS, JERRY MAGUIRE) and HOSTAGE by Bruce Willis. Both projects are currently in pre-production. Although Robert has received numerous offers from Hollywood to buy the screen rights to the Elvis Cole novels, he has no intention of selling them.

Bruce Willis takes HOSTAGE!

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Bruce Willis, producer Arnold Rifkin, and MGM have snatched up the film rights to Robert's new novel, HOSTAGE, with a pre-emptive move that shut out competing studios. The project, concerning a former LAPD SWAT negotiator caught between a family held hostage and the mob, will be a starring vehicle for Willis, with Rifkin producing and Robert drafting the screenplay.

Marks shows Crais the money!

Producer Laurence Mark and Columbia/TriStar have bought the film rights to Robert's new novel, DEMOLITION ANGEL. Laurence Mark is well known as one of Hollywood's 'A' list producers, having produced such major hits as JERRY MAGUIRE, AS GOOD AS IT GETS, ROMY AND MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, and BICENTENNIAL MAN. Robert has also been hired to write the screenplay.

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Out UK/Ireland: 19 July 2002
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Chris Rock, Gabriel Macht, John Slattery, Peter Stormare Director: Joel Schumacher Academy Award®-winner Anthony Hopkins portrays Gaylord Oakes, a veteran CIA agent who must transform sarcastic, street-wise punk Jake Hayes (Chris Rock) into a sophisticated and savvy spy to replace his murdered identical twin brother. He only has nine days to accomplish this "mission: improbable," before having to negotiate a sensitive nuclear weapons deal.

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Out UK/Ireland: 13 September 2002
Stars: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Patricia Kalember, Cherry Jones, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer/Director M. Night Shymalan follows up "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable" with his new feature film, "Signs", a thriller set in Bucks County, Pennsylvania focusing on the mysterious appearance of a five-hundred-foot design of circles and lines carved into a family's crops. Mel Gibson stars as Graham Hess, the family patriarch, who is tested in his journey to find the truth behind the unfolding mystery. Joaquin Phoenix is Merrill Hess, brother to Graham and a former minor league baseball star. Shyamalan re-teams with producers Sam Mercer, Frank Marshall, and Kathleen Kennedy, and produces the project under his Blinding Edge Pictures banner along with Touchstone Pictures.
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Plot: (From official press release) "Signs is a thriller set in Bucks County, Pennsylvania focusing on the mysterious appearance of crop circles carved into a family farm. Mel Gibson stars as Graham Hess, the family patriarch and town reverend, whose faith is tested in the journey to find the truth behind the circles. Joaquin Phoenix is Merrill Hess, brother to Graham and a former minor league baseball star."
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Director/Writer: M Night Shyamalan Executive Producer: Kathleen Kennedy Producers: Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer Cast: Mel Gibson (Graham Hess), Joaquin Phoenix (Merrill Hess), Patricia Kalember (Colleen Hess), Rory Culkin (Morgan Hess), Abby Breslin (Bo Hess), Cherry Jones (Officer Caroline Paski), Jose L. Rodriguez (Radio Host), Michael Showalter, Lanny Flaherty, Nelson Machado

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{short description of image}Oscar winner Halle Berry (left)- who is currently filming the latest James Bond movie "Die Another Day" - has signed on to star in a remake of 70s blaxploitation movie "Foxy Brown." In the remake she will take over from Pam Grier (pictured right) as the title character, a woman who avenges the death of her boyfriend at the hands of criminals.

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Following last week's news that Vin Diesel is to be paid $12.5M to reprise his starring role from "Pitch Black" in the sequel "Pitch Black 2: Chronicles of Riddick" comes news that the producers have brought Oscar-winning "A Beautiful Mind" screenwriter Akiva Goldsman on board to rewrite the script. However just because he's an Oscar winner doesn't guarantee that Goldsman will come up with the goods: he previously wrote three other other big budget, special effects heavy, action movies: "Lost In Space" "Batman Forever" and "Batman And Robin."

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