ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Writer/Director Mark Romanek said his inspiration for ONE HOUR PHOTO emerged out of a desire to make a contemporary film in the mode of the `lonely-man films of the 70s. His influences were drawn from films like The Conversation, The Tenant, Taxi Driver and The Passenger.
After completing the script, Romanek sent it to Producers Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler who instantly liked the story. Vachon remembers, The script was intriguing enough for us to feel like we wanted to sit down and talk to him. Thats part of the process. Will a director convince us that a script we felt was good is even better? Do they make us excited about the journey from the page to the screen?
Producer Stan Wlodkowski joined the filmmaking team after learning of the burgeoning project through a colleague. A longtime fan of Vachon and Koffler, Wlodkowski also found Romaneks script insightful as well as challenging.
The team instantly set about the task of finding the right actor to fill Sy Parrishs shoes. Koffler says, We were driven to Robin by Marks vision. We thought to really elevate ONE HOUR PHOTO, to make it as great as it could be, we needed a real movie star in the role of Sy. Someone with that kind of charisma willing to play a character probably unlike anything theyd ever played before.
Romanek said what convinced him that Williams was the right man for the part was the enthusiasm and empathy he brought to the character. When we first met to discuss doing the film, we were so in synch about how `Sy should be played, I immediately started to see the incredible potential of having Robin take on this role.
To have Robin Williams in a part that is different than audiences have seen before was undeniably an important element in bringing this story to the screen, Koffler explains. Vachon agrees, adding, I think audiences will be excited by the idea of seeing Robin do something that they havent seen him do before, or not in a long time. Robin has done dramatic roles all through his career but they certainly arent Sy. Hes demonstrated in the past the range he has as an actor, so, in a way, all were doing is reminding people of that.
Romanek agrees, If you look more closely at some of Robins dramatic work, you come to realize that this character isnt as far afield from his previous roles as you might imagine.
Williams was enthusiastic about the unusual character. Im glad they sent it to me to begin with. He explains, People always say, Oh, he plays such nice people. This man is nice, but with a dark side. Its been exciting to play that. He does things that are creepy, bizarre. Its interesting stuff to inhabit a real and very, very fascinating character.
Romanek says it was also fascinating to watch Williams play the character. The level of commitment, emotion and attention to detail that Robin brought to playing this role was truly amazing to witness.
Connie Nielsen, who plays the part of Nina Yorkin, the central character in Sy Parrishs idealized fantasy world, credits Romanek for his visionary character development. I found that Mark had written a script that treated Robins character with humanity and understanding.
Michael Vartan, who plays Will Yorkin, agrees, One of the most interesting things was actually thinking of Robin Williams playing this character. Vartan explains, It's not a huge departure because he has played dramatic roles before, but in my head, when I think of Robin Williams, I think of someone very funny, very witty, very fast, and it's always more on the comedic side of things. So when I read the script, especially toward the end of the story, I thought, my God, he is going to be absolutely terrifying in this film.
In addition to the complex nature of Sys character, Williams said he was also drawn to the storyline. When I first read it, Williams explains, I thought it had so many interesting turns. You think its going one way, then it gets very disturbing
disturbing in a good way, if you can be disturbed in a good way, he laughs. His focus changes from one scene to the next and I found myself not knowing what was going to happen next, which is good. I found myself drawn into the character almost to the level of the thought process. Thats what fascinated me.
Sy, who has always been an outsider, is drawn to the Yorkins picture-perfect existence, which seems so opposite to his own. Williams observes, Theyre not like a Norman Rockwell family but almost like families you see in advertisements now. Theyre young, beautiful, and perfect in terms of that ideal image and they seem to have everything. And thats what he finds fascinating because he is totally the opposite; not attractive, he lives alone. They are like the exact counter pole to the universe for him and hes drawn to that.
This duality of perception - the Yorkins appearance vs. their reality - also held intrigue for Nielsen. I thought it interesting to play a character who has both this exterior side, which is the fantasy side, if you will. She is a housewife who, on the outside, looks as if she has the perfect life, and at the same time, we get to see the private side of her, which is anything but perfect. I love the dichotomy, Nielsen says.
And Sy is certainly a character on the outside looking in Nielsen observes, What struck me was that feeling when youre 15 years old and you think, If I could just be that person, or have that money or whatever, then my life would be perfect. Then you grow up and realize that there is no such thing as perfect. That is one of the things Sy needs to realize.
Vachon observes that it is the fact that Sy seems so ordinary that is also disturbing. What Robin achieves with the character is making you wonder about him, and feel for him, and at the same time, be kind of disgusted by what he is doing.
And disgusted, Koffler adds, because everyone has experienced Sy moments; the inability to connect with other people, of always being a little off, that kind of loneliness. The trick to Sy is making him sympathetic, without making him saccharin and thats something that Robins really managed.
Williams adds, We talked about the character and that he views himself not as an evil character, just as a man who is righteous in his own way. A man who views himself almost like he is doing good, in a bizarre way.
Playing the pivotal role of Detective Van Der Zee - the determined, yet compassionate police detective who tracks Sy down - is critically acclaimed actor Eriq La Salle (ER). La Salle sees the film as an exploration of what it means to be damaged, what it means to be lonely and alone, what it means to be in such need of basic love that you have to create an imaginary world for yourself and that you have to kidnap someone elses life just to feel whole and complete. He continues, Its one of those films that should really make us all count our blessings.
As for Williams own take on the course his character chooses, He lives alone because of an inability to connect, to be the warmest guy in the world. Hes disconnected on some levels, hence the fascination with precision. Does he come away a better human being? Hes a different human being because of the things that have happened to him. He acted something out very much from within himself. I dont think hes the same person in the end, its not the same man.
Sy Parrish and the world he lives in has a look that is very distinctive, created with very vivid images by Romanek. Williams describes, The SavMart store is like hyper reality. Its like a lot of those big market-type stores with surreal abundance and amongst that he sits in this little corner. But the store itself - everything is this kind of white, bright light all around and Sy blends in. He doesnt stand out and could all of a sudden just disappear in his blandness. In the outside world he stands out, especially when you get near the Yorkins house which is very warm and incredibly beautiful, almost painfully beautiful because it is his idealized home. Comparing that with the reality of Sy, Williams says, In his own life, you know, things are very much in place. Its very distinct; this is not someone who acts out. Everything is planned except for when things start to fall apart. And when his world falls apart, it falls apart big.
To create the carefully crafted, meticulously ordered, picture-perfect world of Sy Parrish, Romanek turned to long-time collaborator and acclaimed Production Designer Tom Foden (The Cell). Using a soon-to-be-demolished facility, Foden created SavMart, a retail store that would be the foundation of Sy Parrishs domain. As Robin Williams describes, Its designed to be Sys world and he is a creature that blends into the environment, I mean its the clothes, the hair, everything. Its someone who is very, very dedicated to his job and for him it's an art form and hes passionate about it. In that store, there will be music playing and I doubt that he hears it. Hes oriented toward photographs and everything is almost like a picture to him.
The visual style of the film extends into the very specific look of each of the character costumes created by Costume Designer Arianne Phillips. As Michael Vartan observes, I'm wearing all brown today. There's not an ounce of anything else but brown, it's very monochromatic. Everything is painted in this perfect picture. It also has to do with the fact that it's shown from Sys point of view, which is, at times, more of a fantasy than anything real. This family seemingly has everything together...even the dog matches the furniture, he laughs.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
MARK ROMANEK (Writer / Director)
ONE HOUR PHOTO is the new feature film from Writer/Director Mark Romanek. Romanek's groundbreaking music videos for such artists as Madonna, Nine Inch Nails, Fiona Apple, Beck, Lenny Kravitz, Macy Gray, David Bowie, R.E.M., Michael Jackson, and Janet Jackson among many others have received over a dozen MTV awards, two Grammys, four Clios, nine MVPA awards, and three Billboard Music Awards. Two of Romanek's music videos, Madonna's Bedtime Story and Nine Inch Nails Closer, have become part of the permanent collection at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
In 1997, MTV presented Mark with the prestigious Video Vanguard award honoring his unprecedented achievement in the art of music video. Other recipients of this award have included Madonna, Michael Jackson, Peter Gabriel, R.E.M., U2 and the Beastie Boys.
Romanek has also directed TV spots for Calvin Klein, Nike, Philips, and Cirque Du Soleil.
CHRISTINE VACHON (Producer)
In 1999, Christine Vachon produced the critically acclaimed Boys Dont Cry starring Hilary Swank in a performance for which she received the Academy Award in the Best Actress category. Vachons early works as a producer include Todd Haynes controversial first feature Poison which was awarded the 1991 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Video Artist Tom Kalins first feature Swoon, based on the infamous Leopold / Loeb murder case. Swoon received the coveted Caligari Award at the 1992 Berlin Film Festival.
Vachons other producer credits include Haynes Safe starring Julianne Moore; Steve McLeans Postcards from America, which premiered at the 1994 New York Film Festival; Stonewall starring Guillermo Diaz and Frank Weller; and I Shot Andy Warhol starring Lili Taylor, Jared Harris and Stephen Dorff. She also executive produced Rose Troches Go Fish and co-produced Larry Clarks Kids
Vachon and her Killer Films partner Pamela Koffler have produced numerous critically acclaimed films including Kiss Me, Guido, Tod Haynes Velvet Goldmine starring Ewan McGregor, Toni Collette and Christian Bale, which won Haynes a special Jury Award for artistic contribution at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, and received an Emmy Award Nomination for best costume design; and Todd Solondzs Happiness.
In 1994, Vachon was awarded the Frameline Award for Outstanding Achievement in Lesbian and Gay Media and was honored for Outstanding Vision and Achievement by New York Women In Film and Television. Vachons best-selling book Shooting To Kill: How An Independent Producer Blasts Through The Barriers to Make Movies That Matter was published in 1998.
PAM KOFFLER (Producer)
Pam Koffler formed Killer Films with producing partner Christine Vachon in 1996. Their partnership grew out of a collaboration that began in 1993 with Tom Kalin's GEOFFREY BEENE 30, for which Koffler was line producer. She continued as line producer on the next three films Vachon produced: Larry Clark's Kids (1994), Nigel Finch's Stonewall (1995) and Mary Harron's I Shot Andy Warhol (1995).
In 1996, Koffler and Vachon produced Cindy Sherman's debut feature Office Killer. In 1997, Pam line produced Todd Solondz's award-winning feature, HAPPINESS, a Killer Films/Good Machine production. In 1998, Koffler and Vachon completed Bruce Wagner's debut film, Im Losing You, based on his best-selling book, and Kim Peirce's directorial debut, Boys Dont Cry, released by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Boys Dont Cry, based on the Brandon Teena story, stars Chloë Sevigny and garnered Hilary Swank an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Killer's Crime and Punishment in Suburbia, written by Larry Gross and directed by Rob Schmidt, screened in competition at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. The film, which stars Monica Keena, Vincent Kartheiser, Jeffrey Wright, and Ellen Barkin was released by United Artists in September 2000, with whom Killer has had a first look deal since 1998.
Upcoming releases produced by Killer are The Grey Zone, directed by Time Blake Nelson and starring Harvey Keitel and Mira Sorvino, The Safety of Objects, directed by Rose Troche and starring Glenn Close and Dermot Mulroney; and Storytelling, a joint production with Good Machine and New Line Cinema, starring John Goodman and Selma Blair.
STAN WLODKOWSKI (Producer)
In 2000, Stan Wlodkowski co-produced the multiple Academy Award-winning American Beauty. Most recently Wlodkowski produced Winchell, which is slated to air on HBO in 2002 and executive produced the Paul Mazursky-directed Knockaround Guys set to release in Australia in 2002.
His producer credits include Slums of Beverly Hills, released by Fox Searchlight Pictures in 1998, Norman Renes Longtime Companion, John Maddens Ethan Frome, and Todd Solndzs Fear, Anxiety and Depression. Wlodkowski
co-produced Imaginary Crimes and Golden Gate, executive produced Bad With Numbers and line produced Zebrahead. His television credits include the American Playhouse productions of The Sunset Gang, Ask Me Again and Blue Window.