Phillip Noyce Talks Salt Gender Change

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Dark Horizons got a chance to talk to director Phillip Noyce about his new action-thriller Salt that was originally supposed to star Tom Cruise but was changed for Angelina Jolie to star in. He also talks about his other projects in the works and what is not happening. Here are some highlights from the interview:

*On Tom Cruise’s Involvement: Tom Cruise was approached in May 2008 with Kurt Wimmer’s script in which the lead was Edwin A. Salt. “We discussed the film with Tom, we had a table read with various actors, including Samuel L. Jackson, who kindly played one of the parts, just so we could hear the script read” says Noyce. That read lead to Sony wanting to make the film, but “Tom wasn’t prepared to commit to the script as it was – I mean, his main fears were that the character was too close to Ethan Hunt, being a rogue spy, with extraordinary abilities”. As a result over many months they “tried to twist and turn the story to differentiate the character of Edwin Salt from Ethan Hunt” but it still didn’t work out.

* On Jolie’s Involvement: Pascal suggested Jolie and sent the script to her. In September last year, Kurt Wimmer, Noyce, and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura went to Jolie’s home and spent several days “discussing our mutual visions for what the film could be, and how, if a male character was to be turned into a female character, how that would be achieved”. Brian Helgeland “did a character pass, or dialogue pass on the film” based on the script and notes that came out of those discussions with Jolie. Then she committed.

*On The Script Revisions: Despite the lead’s gender change, “The locomotive of ideas that drive the movie are the same. An undercover CIA operative is accused of being a Russian mole, and has to go on the run to defend themselves. That’s been the same since day one.” The tone however has changed – “Following the trend in action-adventure spy movies, it has evolved into a story where we hope at all times that the audience take seriously the emotional interplay between the characters, and are very, very involved on an emotional level with the story. As well as getting enormous thrills and spills, and all the other popcorn elements that you’d hope to see in a summer movie”

* On the “Mary, Queen of Scots” project with Scarlett Johansson: “That film was being financed by a company that essentially went broke… the finances went bankrupt early last year.”

* On “American Pastoral”: The Philip Roth adaptation once had Evan Rachel Wood slated to star in years ago, but “she’s too old now”. The project however remains in his sights – “We could never find the right actor to play the lead, who could get the film made. I remain attached to it, and hope to make it. So, you know, that’s one like “The Quiet American”, which was in development with me for seven years. It’s one that I’ll come back to”

* On what’s next? “The next film I am trying to make is “Dirt Music”, the Tim Winton novel set in western Australia”.

For more, including Noyce’s take on Jolie’s work so far, click here.

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