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‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ Needs Your Love

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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?

“This was eighteen years ago,† says producer Kathleen Kennedy, “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.†

“We had taken it to Paramount,† adds producer Frank Marshall. “Sherry Lansing really believed in this story.†

“Ironically, David Fincher – on his own – had read an early draft of the script about twelve or thirteen years ago,† mentions Kennedy. “It really wasn’t until Eric Roth came on board and did a draft that David said I want to do this.†

“There were people, department heads, who actually sat and turned down work for three or four years to do this movie,† says Kennedy.

“We were going forward,† Marshall explains, “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.†

How does Hurricane Katrina affect a story set on the east coast?

“Originally, they looked at filming it where Fitzgerald originally set it,† says actress Julia Ormond, “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.†

Some extra poignancy may have been just what F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original story needed, according to screenwriter Eric Roth.

“I read the short story. I really wasn’t wild about it to be honest with you,† Roth admits.

“It’s a great conceit,† says Roth, adding, “not that I disliked it but I just said, ‘What do I do with this?’ It’s a little farcical for my taste. But the core idea is so magnificent. What are the implications of somebody who ages backwards?†

So when the actors first read the script, what was their initial impression?

“I’ll never get this part,† actor Jared Harris deadpans.

“It’s true, mate,† says Jason Flemyng. “You just read it and went, ‘This is an amazing film that I’m not going to be in.’†

Beyond the moving storyline, did the actors think this complex film would be technically possible?

“Well, Finch says, you know, how do you eat a whale? One bite at a time,† Flemyng says, very matter of fact.

“I remember reading the script and going, ‘This is just enormously so ambitious.’ How do you — I don’t know how you do it but you’re not suppose to,† reasons Harris. “You don’t need to.†

Actress Taraji P. Henson plays Benjamin’s adoptive mother. Her character ages considerably and Henson spent many hours in prosthetic make-up.

  

“I have a new found respect for Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy and Tyler Perry, these guys who do this all the time,† 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.  

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.  

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.  

  

Born in Illinois. Living in California. I contribute to this site, as well as Campus Circle.

3 Comments

  1. Michelle

    January 14, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Its brilliant! I’d love to see Fincher and the film win Best Director and Best Picture Oscars at this yrs Academy Awards. I’ve seen it twice at the theater and it was so much better the second time around. What an elegant score by Alexandre Desplat. And how funny was Jared Harris’s turn as Capt. Mike! Not many are brave enough to hop off the Slumdog wagon. Cheers to you, Nick, for cheerleading the movie on.

  2. coffee

    January 18, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    it was a little weird to see an old version of Brad Pitt’s face pasted onto a kid’s body, but i guess that’s why they call it a “curious case”

  3. Pinky

    January 27, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    This movie was good, but I don’t know that it deserved the slew of Oscar nominations it received.

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