The movie tells the funny, poignant and uplifting story of a disillusioned man who attempts to hide from life in a rundown suburban tract home only to discover he can’t escape the forces of hope. Here’s the synopsis:
The movie tells the funny, poignant and uplifting story of a disillusioned man who attempts to hide from life in a rundown suburban tract home only to discover he can’t escape the forces of hope. Here’s the synopsis:
Anyway, I recently participated in a roundtable interview with screenwriter Albert Torres and Producer Gary Lucchesi. During our pretty extensive interview we discussed how the movie got made, all the behind the scenes stories, what they each have coming up, and a
Finally, I also participated in roundtable interviews with director
Again, “Henry Poole” is currently playing in limited release.
Okay, so I guess I’ll start with the basic thing of let’s talk about how you guys got involved, what led you to the project, how did you get the idea, all that stuff.
Albert Torres: Okay, I wrote this thing like 5 years ago and it was on the tail end of…I didn’t really have a career in screenwriting at the time. And at a certain point I had quit writing all together and just had my day job and got kind of depressed and didn’t realize what it was that was making me depressed. Until I finally realized I wasn’t writing and that was why I started writing this particular script, which was different for me because up until this point I’d been writing stuff that I thought I could sell as opposed to writing a movie that I wanted to see. And that was the inception of writing this particular story and the story comes from, you know, I grew up Catholic. You always hear these weird stories about holy visions…
Albert Torres: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And I just started to imagine like what’s the worst possible guy that this thing could happen to and it’s someone who obviously has a lack of faith and a lack of hope and is in a desperate situation.
Well, Mark said last night introducing the movie before the screening, that the movie is 80% that original script that you wrote 5 years ago. He took out the sort of jokey quality to make it…because he felt it was more important to really make people aware that you’re supposed to kind of believe in this.
Albert Torres: Yes, absolutely. And that happened like with my full support. When Mark and I worked on this a lot before we got it to the stage where we felt it was ready to be made.
Go out to the people?
Albert Torres: Yeah. And we realized that yes, the script was more quirky originally, that it still had the same drama and that the quirk was undermining the drama and we both wanted to make something that had…that was more honest and emotional and real and that’s why it evolved into what it’s become.
Now how much did the tone of the script or even some of the basic character structure/plot structure change given the experiences that happened to Mark?
Albert Torres: Structurally not at all. Tonally I think, Mark shepherd this movie into it becoming what it is…it’s his vision of the script that I wrote. I think it’s accurate to say it’s 80% exactly what it was.
In terms of the characters and he was always named Henry Poole?
Albert Torres: Yes, always named Henry Poole.
And where did you get the name Henry Poole? Why Henry Poole?
Albert Torres: Henry, one of my best friends from high school,
It also kind of fits the whole tone of the character. He’s like drowning in life.
Albert Torres: In retrospect absolutely, yeah.
But you have Patience and Esperanza as hope, right?
Albert Torres: That was more calculated, yes.
And so Faith, Hope and Patience, so Faith’s got to come along at some point?
Albert Torres: What do you mean?
I mean, I felt there were 3 virtues if you would say. We have Hope, we have Patience and we need Faith.
Albert Torres: Yeah, the idea of Faith in this movie is secondary to the idea of Hope, always. The notion of the, you know, the religious aspects in needing to believe in something or whatever that may be, I feel that that’s always been a vehicle to tell the story. It’s not necessarily important that it’s the face of Christ. It’s not necessarily important that there’s a Catholic priest there. These are just the dramatic tools that I chose to tell the story about a desperate man trying to find his way out of an awful situation and find a way to be hopeful about life again.
So what was the inspiration for the actual miracle—the image on the wall?
Albert Torres: Honestly…the story element of it? Like it just went back to reading about these kinds of things all the time and trying to figure out how…I was fascinated with the idea that something so….that people could look at something and make themselves believe that it looked like what it was they wanted it to look like.
Like a George Bush.
Albert Torres: Exactly.
Gary Lucchesi: I never thought of it that way but you could say that.
Albert Torres: So I mean that was kind of the inception of the idea and again going back to the thought that…
I sort of thought of
Albert Torres: Well, the girl speaking you could maybe a miracle. Maybe again, she chose to speak again, so…and as far as the Patience miracle that one has a more deliberate nature to it but the point of it for me was to create an ambiguity there because it’s not unheard of that something could…
The might or might not.
Albert Torres: Yeah, something, you know, an aliment like that could reverse itself, you know.
Gary Lucchesi: And when you develop scripts too you look at various alternatives in terms of the story. I mean, you know we could have said this was all a mistake and it was a bad diagnosis and it was a you know…but then you’re making a joke kind of and that wasn’t the intention here.
And why Luke?
Gary Lucchesi: We talked about a lot of different people and the moment Luke’s name came up, we all kind of looked at each other and “said, that seems exactly right.” You know, maybe it’s because he’s sort of done the Wes Anderson movies and there’s a vibe to them that’s sort of alternative that works great and at the same time he’s sort of….he completely suggests humanity. He suggests a guy that you believe he could go dark if he were given this sort of diagnosis, you know he wouldn’t be one of those people saying, I’m going to fight this. I’m going to beat this. You know, he could go into a show and he’s got a Gary Cooper quality about him but there’s heart and soul at the same time.
So what is it that brought you into this project originally,
Gary Lucchesi: Well, we’ve done all of Mark’s movies, you know? Every one of them and they’ve all been different going all the way…
So this is number 4?
Gary Lucchesi: This is number 4. “
How did she die?
Gary Lucchesi: It was an accident. Mark can answer it better than I can but I’m told that it was…she was brought into the hospital and it was a misdiagnosis and they missed something and then it was sepsis or something where she was…it was a catastrophe.
Oh, okay sort of like with Jim Henson?
Gary Lucchesi: Well, I don’t want to mis-speak, but I’m pretty certain that it was the doctors didn’t recognize what she had until it was too late. Okay, and it could have been prevented. So this was a big deal…you know he had a young child. She was 36.
2 years old or something.
Gary Lucchesi: She was 36-37 years old. It was a tragic…complete wipeout tragedy. And this was part of his…he was better but I think this movie was…
This was his catharsis.
Gary Lucchesi: This was his cantharis. Sort of the….because he was in good shape by the time he was ready to make the movie and he was very happy to make the movie.
But it had taken years.
Gary Lucchesi: A couple years later.
Albert Torres: Yeah, I had originally met Mark…I was meeting with a handful of different directors and the minute I met Mark I left the meeting with butterflies in my stomach just knowing, oh my gosh, this is the guy and I just love him as a human being but he understood what I was trying to do. If I’m not mistaken, at this point, he got another movie which was a big Warner Brothers movie, and then this tragedy happened and I thought, well Mark’s gone. That will be that.
The Harrison Ford movie?
Albert Torres: Yeah, he’ll be gone so this isn’t going to happen and then this awful thing happened with his wife and about like 9 or 10 weeks after his wife passed away, he called me and he said I have to get back to work. I need to do something and all I can do is think about your script. Do you still want me to do it? I was like…I was conflicted because….not conflicted that I didn’t want him to do it but I was like this is so weird that he’s being drawn to this story because of his tragedy, but of course, I was like yeah let’s start. And we sat down and started working on revisions and you know, 2-3 years later he brought it to
I’m curious, we were told that you didn’t sell it until Sundance.
Gary Lucchesi: Yeah, we didn’t sell it until Sundance.
Exactly. Can you talk about as a producer, what that balancing act of do I want to sell it…?
Gary Lucchesi: I’ll tell you something, we’ve never…it’s only because of Mark that we would have gone out on the edge like this because we were really in a hole on it financially. And Lakeshore stays alive because we don’t put ourselves in holes okay basically.
What is a $16 million movie?
Gary Lucchesi: No, it’s not that expensive but…I think it’s about $10 at the end of the day…but the foreign pre-sales weren’t very strong and we made the movie anyway. We could have lost a lot of movie—you know $5-$6 million, which for us was a lot of money. But then, you know, Mark made a good movie. Albert had written a good script. The actors were really great and we went to Sundance and we were one of the 4 movies that were sold.
And how much did you sell it for?
Gary Lucchesi: I don’t want to say. We came out, we came out. And then we were able to sell some of the foreign territories after that we hadn’t sold before because we had a domestic sale.
The domino effect.
Gary Lucchesi: Yes, but let’s put it this way. It’s not going to be…if it makes good money here, we’ll make some profits but we certainly didn’t have anything going in. And it was Mark. We love Mark.
We heard it sold during the screening.
Gary Lucchesi: Yes. Chris McGurk started….I was sitting next to Tom and he started texting us in the middle of the screening. He knew what the story was about and had read the script going in and he felt that there was an audience for this type of movie and that he could make money on it. So that was nice and then when he saw it, and by the way it played like gang-busters.
Albert Torres: It did. It was exciting.
Gary Lucchesi: We were in this big room at Sundance, there must have been 1,200 people, and they just loved it. George Lopez’s wife was crying, she was so excited. Everybody was. We had a good time.
Now, George Lopez is not exactly the first person you would think of to take on the role of a priest.
Gary Lucchesi: Well, if you know him he seems….well, there’s the George Lopez standup comedian that you know and then there’s the George Lopez, the human being that you probably met and you know nice man, wife, child, nice guy, got a kidney from his wife. He’s a good guy. Golfer. Golfer’s are usually pretty decent people because golf will humble you, you know?
I take it you play golf.
Gary Lucchesi: I play golf with George sometimes.
Albert Torres: He has a serenity to him that’s very like when he’s not trying to be on all the time. He has a very calming presence. It’s interesting and I think that’s what he tapped into to make…
Gary Lucchesi: George wanted the part, too. He lobbied for it because he knew that this would show a different facet of his abilities as an actor.
I wanted…I’m going to switch subjects a little bit because I need to….I don’t know if you remember me from other junkets, but here we go.
Gary Lucchesi: Yes.
I wanted to know what’s going on with “Game”?
Gary Lucchesi: “Game” is coming out next summer.
Does it have a release date yet?
Gary Lucchesi: It will. It will very soon, but it’ll be…What happened…I’ll tell you exactly what happened is that Neveldine & Taylor, who directed “Game”, they also directed “Crank 2” and because of the potential SAG strike at the end of June, okay, there was an opportunity….we make movies like “Crank 2” so we can make movies like “Henry Poole”. Does that make sense?
Gary Lucchesi: One allows us to take the risks for the other because you know “Crank 1” was successful. The DVD was big. There’s a chance to make “Crank 2”. Jason Statham’s got this window, so we went to Neveldine & Taylor and say, okay we’ve got a lot of visual effects in “Game”—it’s a huge visual effects movie—it’s going to take us 6 months to do those anyway, why don’t you throw “Crank 2” in there and let’s get it done and “Crank 2” is fantastic. And it is what it is.
It’s coming out in November.
Gary Lucchesi: No, “Crank 2” is coming out next April.
I was going to ask you though, when do you think we’re going to finally…a lot of fans want to see some footage from “Game”, so when do you think…?
Gary Lucchesi: Oh I think soon.
Gary Lucchesi: Oh yeah, they’ll have something at Christmas I would think.
What are these great big visual effects that take so long?
Gary Lucchesi: “Game” is a sim-world movie, you know so you have a young kid who is controlling an avator and there’s lots of visual effects.
Neveldine & Taylor have talked about–and some of the people I’ve interviewed in the movie—have talked about the craziness of the camera angles, just what they’ve done with the film and what have you found for them as filmmakers? I mean they seem like some pretty crazy guys. What’s it like to work with them?
Gary Lucchesi: They’re fantastic. You know they came out of commercials and out of doing 2nd unit and Mark Neveldine was a hockey player which made him really good on roller blades. So he’d pick up these cameras and he’d go down the street with the roller blades and somebody would be pulling him on a motorcycle and he’d be getting these wild and crazy shots, so it’s….they’re visually aggressive. Okay, that’s what they are.
I wanted to know, they shot “Crank 2” on HD cameras.
Gary Lucchesi: Yes.
How did they present that to you and say we’re going to shoot our movie…
Gary Lucchesi: We did tests. We did tests.
Oh, so it was…
Gary Lucchesi: Oh yeah. We shot on 2 types of HD cameras. We shot on this Canon H1A that….I saw the movie the other day. It’s fantastic, okay. It’s wild, you know. It opens up with….it opens up and Crank he falls out of the sky and you think he’s dead and his heart beats, so it opens up with these guys shoveling him up and putting him in a van and they take him to this operating room where they remove his heart because they say that Chellio’s heart is such a strong heart, so he’s going to be transplanted into this other body and he comes out and one of the Asian guys comes in and he sees him in the operation taking out the heart and he’s smoking a cigarette and he blows the smoke in Statham’s face and he’s kind of half-awake and then he takes the ashes and sort of puts it in the open cavity and all the doctors going ahhh. That’s how it opens, but it’s just outrageous, aggressive fun, you know.
I heard it’s 3 months later when he finally gets up or 2 months later.
Gary Lucchesi: Yeah, 2 months later, yeah.
Let me do a different question, not on “Crank.” I wanted to know what’s going on with “Fame”?
Gary Lucchesi: We start shooting it November—mid-November.
Oh so it’s definitely still moving?
Gary Lucchesi: Oh yeah. We’re testing actors tomorrow…Monday.
I was going to say he said they were going to try to cast the summer and are you still going to film in NYC?
Gary Lucchesi: We’re going to film in
And saying mid-November, we keep hearing that the studios don’t want to start movies until the actors thing is settled…
Gary Lucchesi: We’re going to start this one.
Will you get a waiver if…?
Gary Lucchesi: We’re going to start this one. We’re gonna start it.
Kevin (the director of the FAME remake) talked about wanting to cast unknowns.
Gary Lucchesi: Yeah, mostly unknowns. The teacher’s will be known but the kids will be unknowns.
Anybody from the first one?
Gary Lucchesi: No. No.
None of the teachers, the kids there?
Gary Lucchesi: Not that I can think of.
And I’ll do one other question. What other projects are you guys working on besides “Fame” and the upcoming feature especially with this whole question mark with the strike?
Gary Lucchesi: Well, we’ve got “Ugly Truth” that we’re doing. That’s coming out next April. That’s actually Jerry Butler and Katherine Heigl as well and Robert Luketic directed and that’s finished. And we’re working on a movie called, “The
And who’s starring in that?
Gary Lucchesi: Can’t say yet.
Gary Lucchesi: No, I can’t say yet.
It was a best seller. That’s like his best book.
Gary Lucchesi: It’s fantastic.
I think the last time I interviewed Tom he talked very passionately about that project.
Gary Lucchesi: Yeah, we’re going to start it early next year.
Is that the other project or is there anything else you guys are…?
Gary Lucchesi: That’s the one—that and “Fame” are the 2 and then we’re working on a couple of other….you saw about “Thundercade,” I think you read about that.
And “Lincoln Lawyer” will be a franchise with the character then going…?
Gary Lucchesi: Yes, yes. There’s a new book coming out at Christmas. Michael Connolly’s got a sequel to it.
So you bought the rights to all future….?
Gary Lucchesi: We bought the rights to Mickey Haller. When you buy the rights to the first book, you retain the character rights.
You mentioned foreign sales with “Fame”. When you have a property like that that’s much more well known, is it a bigger budget for you guys? How big are the production…like the musical numbers? I mean, what kind of movie is this going to be?
Gary Lucchesi: This is going to be, you know, $25 million-$30 million movie. It’s not small. It’s not $60 million, but it’s….
Gary Lucchesi: You can’t do that with unknown actors. It doesn’t make any sense.
It’s interesting though because sometimes a lot of people talk about when you have a lower budget but lesser known actors you have a lot more freedom to tell the story you want to tell because actors aren’t being as…the director has a little more control or maybe the production company, I don’t know.
Gary Lucchesi: Well, you know we have a script that everybody likes and it’s about young kids at a performing arts high school in
And it’s set today.
Gary Lucchesi: It’s set today and they come from…
And they’re not using the old score. They’ve got all new songs?
Gary Lucchesi: All new songs except we are going to use the Fame song. Not in the body of the movie probably, but we do have the rights to that …
In the credits or something?
Gary Lucchesi: Yes, and we want to do a big thing with that. That’s an iconigraphic song,right? But Kevin, if you’ve met him, he’s the perfect guy.
Yeah, he talked about wanting to do a really strong staging of the musical numbers and one camera stuff. He mentioned, I forget the name of the film maker, from the…
Gary Lucchesi: Fosse.
Gary Lucchesi: Why not? If you’re going to do a musical Bob Fosse was the best, right?
He was throwing out some pretty serious names. He sounded like he really knew what he was doing.
Gary Lucchesi: Oh yeah, he knows what he’s doing. He’s a
It’s interesting because he does have that rapport with those people and the question becomes you want to have the unknowns because you want people to believe in the people they see on-screen, but at the same time it’s easier to sell a movie when you have a star element or star song.
Gary Lucchesi: Well, but then well we’re going to have….by the time the movie comes out the songs will be….the songs are really good that we’re working on, you know, with big producers and there’ll be hot songs. But the other side of it too is if you have known actors trying to become famous, the audience would look at you and say this is fake. They want to see unknown people…
Gary Lucchesi: Absolutely. Right?
Yeah, I think that’s a great idea but a lot of studios have apprehension about not having that star or…
Gary Lucchesi: Here’s the way studios look at it. Right now they’re sitting there saying do we have a pre-branded title, okay? So that’s why you’ll see….you know you could say that Robert Downey, Jr was a star, but he hadn’t been a box office star for a long time. But he was a very fine actor and “Iron Man” was a pre-branded title, okay? So at the same time, too you’d say well is Channing Tatum a big star? Maybe, maybe not, but him in “G.I. Joe”, it’s a pre-branded title. That’s the way they’re thinking right now.
You’ve got somebody hot, who can act, who critics like…
Gary Lucchesi: And they’ll take bigger chances because the title is pre-branded.
Sure, you’ve got your built in audience. Every kid’s who’s grown up and every kid that’s out there is going to want to see it.
Gary Lucchesi: Please, God. I hope you’re right.
They’ve been flocking to “High School Musical”. We’ve got a 3rd one coming, so..
Gary Lucchesi: They sure have. They sure have.
But what’s the difference between “Fame”….
Gary Lucchesi: “Fame’s” real. It’s real. You know we went to
They closed the other one didn’t they?
Gary Lucchesi: Well, no here’s what it is. The LaGuardia one, which was what the original “Fame” is built on, is now called the
What was your turn out….I’m sure you did open casting. Was it like every student in
Gary Lucchesi: Tons, tons. And we went to this dance audition where we must have seen a thousand kids. But it’s interesting, “Fame” asks for multi-faceted talent. It asked for a dancer who can act. It asked for a singer who can act. Sometimes when you ask them to do 2 or 3 things that’s a harder thing. There are a lot of great dancers, but there aren’t that many dancer/actors.
How was Kevin in the audition process? Was he right there saying, you know, can you do this?
Gary Lucchesi: Kevin’s on top of it completely. He reminds me of J.J. Abrams who I met years ago when I did “Regarding Henry”. If you know J.J. he’s really quick, really sharp, right on top of it 100% devoted to the art.
“Regarding Henry”, the Harrison Ford movie….
Gary Lucchesi: Yeah, I did that when I was President of Production at
Gary Lucchesi: Yeah, I know. I remember we got this review from Time Magazine said you want to be a good person, you should be shot in the head. That was not so good. What are you going to do? That’s life, right? We all have movies that work and don’t work.
Albert, I have a question for you. I wanted to know what else you’re writing right now or what’s coming up?
Albert Torres: I just sold a pitch to Warner Brothers for
What’s it called?
Albert Torres: It’s called “Bootlegger” right now, but it’s a period piece about prohibition for Leonardo DiCaprio’s company, so I’m working on that and I’m working with my friend Francis Lawrence, who did “I Am Legend”, we’re working on adapting Chuck Palahniuk’s novel “Survivor”.
He talked about that at the “I Am Legend” junket.
Albert Torres: Yes, I gave him a lot of trouble because he just said “a friend” and I’m like dude—throw me a shout-out. Throw the name around a little bit. He’s working on it with a friend. So I’ve been working on that for a little bit. We started actually before “I Am Legend” and he went off and disappeared for 2 years and then since he’s been back we’ve been kind of molding—I don’t know if you’ve read the book—it’s a very complicated…and Chuck doesn’t write linearly so you kind of have to dismember it and then put it back together in film terms.
Gary Lucchesi: It’s going to be a big movie for you.
Albert Torres: If we can get it going it’s going to be fun.
When are they going to announce the casting for “Lincoln Lawyer”?
Gary Lucchesi: Hopefully in a month.
I want to jump back to “Survivor”. Do you think this is going to be Francis’ next project or how is it with the studio? Like where are you in cracking the screenplay?
Albert Torres: We don’t have a studio at the moment. The thing’s been developed with a couple of producers name of…they run a company called Thousand Words. They did like “Pie” and “Requiem for a Dream”, these producers. They own the rights to the book at the moment…what was the original question though?
I’m just curious about if you think that’s going to be his next project or he’s still…?
Albert Torres: No, I mean we’re close. We’re close to getting it into the….we’re really cautious with it because it’s such a strange story and we just want it to be told in the best way possible and in a way that’s it’s very accessible.
You think he has a little juice right now Francis.
Albert Torres: Little bit.
Albert Torres: We’ll see. It’s hard to say until, you know there’s so many moving pieces that have to come together to get a movie going. We’re this close to kind of being ready to move forward, so it’s just a matter of finding the time to get those final pieces in place.
Albert Torres: We’re excited about it. And the other thing about a movie like that, you have to make it fiscally responsible. I don’t think it can be $100 million movie budget wise. You have to make it for a responsible number.
They made Choke pretty low and they were able to get if off the ground.
Albert Torres: Yes, exactly.
Big Sundance sale.
Albert Torres: Yeah, exactly. I just saw it actually a couple weeks ago.
I’m just curious if it’s going to be like that? Like if he’s going to try to make it cheap and get it off the ground like that, you know?
Albert Torres: Well, based on his past I doubt it. I think he’ll do everything he can to make it as big and exciting as it should be, you know?
I hope so.
Albert Torres: Thank you guys.