‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ Needs Your Love
A Short Story That Took A Long Time To Make It To The Big Screen…
‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ finally hit the screen after two decades of development. What was the genesis of the project?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This was eighteen years ago,Ã¢â‚¬ says producer Kathleen Kennedy, Ã¢â‚¬Å“it was initially bought by Ray Stark. There was an early incarnation when Steven [Spielberg] and Frank [Marshall] and I had Amblin, they brought it to us and Steven toyed with it for a bit and several years after that Frank and I formed our own company. This was near and dear to our heart and no one was doing anything with it, so we acquired the rights at that point for ourselves and continued the development process for eighteen years.Ã¢â‚¬
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We had taken it to Paramount,Ã¢â‚¬ adds producer Frank Marshall. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sherry Lansing really believed in this story.Ã¢â‚¬
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ironically, David Fincher Ã¢â‚¬â€œ on his own Ã¢â‚¬â€œ had read an early draft of the script about twelve or thirteen years ago,Ã¢â‚¬ mentions Kennedy. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It really wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t until Eric Roth came on board and did a draft that David said I want to do this.Ã¢â‚¬
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There were people, department heads, who actually sat and turned down work for three or four years to do this movie,Ã¢â‚¬ says Kennedy.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We were going forward,Ã¢â‚¬ Marshall explains, Ã¢â‚¬Å“and then Zodiac came along and they wanted to do that first and then getting all the schedules right, so we postponed and these people who were ready to go on Benjamin waited. And then Hurricane Katrina happened.Ã¢â‚¬
How does Hurricane Katrina affect a story set on the east coast?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Originally, they looked at filming it where Fitzgerald originally set it,Ã¢â‚¬ says actress Julia Ormond, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Baltimore. That proved to be too expensive but then they went to look at New Orleans and decided to film it there. Then Katrina hit, so they thought well now what do we do? How do we incorporate it into the story? To what extent do we work it into the story? I think it adds an extra poignancy to it.Ã¢â‚¬
Some extra poignancy may have been just what F. Scott FitzgeraldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s original story needed, according to screenwriter Eric Roth.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I read the short story. I really wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wild about it to be honest with you,Ã¢â‚¬ Roth admits.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great conceit,Ã¢â‚¬ says Roth, adding, Ã¢â‚¬Å“not that I disliked it but I just said, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhat do I do with this?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a little farcical for my taste. But the core idea is so magnificent. What are the implications of somebody who ages backwards?Ã¢â‚¬
So when the actors first read the script, what was their initial impression?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll never get this part,Ã¢â‚¬ actor Jared Harris deadpans.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s true, mate,Ã¢â‚¬ says Jason Flemyng. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You just read it and went, Ã¢â‚¬ËœThis is an amazing film that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not going to be in.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬
Beyond the moving storyline, did the actors think this complex film would be technically possible?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Well, Finch says, you know, how do you eat a whale? One bite at a time,Ã¢â‚¬ Flemyng says, very matter of fact.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I remember reading the script and going, Ã¢â‚¬ËœThis is just enormously so ambitious.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ How do you — I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how you do it but youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not suppose to,Ã¢â‚¬ reasons Harris. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to.Ã¢â‚¬
Actress Taraji P. Henson plays BenjaminÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s adoptive mother. Her character ages considerably and Henson spent many hours in prosthetic make-up.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have a new found respect for Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy and Tyler Perry, these guys who do this all the time,Ã¢â‚¬ Henson says.
So, here we are in January. ‘Benjamin Button’ is doing a good bit of business at the box-office. It is having a slow climb to to reach its production budget, though it will make it. And then some.Ã‚
It is a wonderful film, and a true theater going experience. If you haven’t seen it, well, there is just no excuse. Buy a ticket.Ã‚
And no slight against Danny Boyle and his sweet ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ but David Fincher should have won that Golden Globe for direction. ‘Button’ is a monumental film and a project that not many directors could have tackled.Ã‚