From the Set: An Oral Pre-History of ‘Prisoners’


Everyone on the set of Prisoners looked exhausted. Some of that was makeup, but some of the drain and fatigue was quite real. When I visited the production, it wasn’t working on a constructed set, but in a location. A real hospital, complete with physical dimensions that aren’t all that friendly to wide lenses and large groups of film crew, was the site of the shoot towards the end of the film’s schedule back in March.

The location wasn’t helping the mood, but it wasn’t just cramped quarters that was grinding down the cast and crew. Prisoners, scripted by Aaron Guzikowski and directed by Denis Villeneuve, is not a cheery film. It follows two families whose children are abducted on Thanksgiving, and examines the different coping mechanisms employed by the two adult couples as they wait for any news. Ironically it was quite nice outside on the day of our visit, but Prisoners is the sort of movie that retreats from sunshine. When the weather got good, the crew shot indoors.

The couples are played by Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello, and Viola Davis and Terrence Howard. Garbed in realistic costume and styled like people rather than movie starts, several looked like they’d been put through the wringer. Slightly more energized was Jake Gyllenhaal, playing the detective who takes charge of the missing persons case. In conversation, each outlined their approach to the difficult material, and after the break you’ll find a lightly edited oral pre-history of Prisoners, assembled from their comments.  Read More »


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He went from Westeros to the Nine Realms and now Game of Thrones and Thor: The Dark World director Alan Taylor is going past Judgement Day. He’s just signed on to direct the new, rebooted fifth Terminator film, which is set for a June 26, 2015 release. He reportedly beat out Ang Lee, Rian Johnson and Denis Villeneuve. Read More »


Summer only officially started a few days ago, but for those who don’t want a long procession of super-powered tentpoles, summer movie fatigue is here in full force. If you’re in that crowd the fall festival season may seem like a great promise on the horizon, and one of the first films in that season is Denis Villeneuve‘s Prisoners. The story follows a family (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) whose daughter is kidnapped; Terrance Howard and Viola Davis play another couple whose child is also missing. Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, and Jake Gyllenhaal factor in to the plot, too.

We just saw one fairly heavy trailer for the film a few weeks ago, but now there is already a second. Like the first look at the movie, this positions Prisoners as a tense and very promising fall entry.  Read More »


The films of Denis Villeneuve stick with people. Movies like Incendies, Polytechnique, and Maelstrom demonstrate a knack for plunging recognizable characters into difficult situations (some based in reality, some purely fictional) and exploring the outcome in ways that most audiences won’t readily forget. His work is strong enough to attract an incredible cast to Prisoners, a drama in which two young girls go missing, shattering the complacent lives of their parents.

Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Paul Dano are the core cast, and the film was shot by the stunningly talented Roger Deakins. This first trailer for the movie is very intense, but may also give away more than you’d like to know. (Or it gives that impression, at least; I bet there’s a lot more than we see here.) I stopped watching 2/3 through, but what I saw was enough to confirm the September release as a must-see. Check out the footage below. Read More »

Looks like that film Prisoners we talked about the other day, starring Hugh Jackman with Denis Villeneuve directing, is going to have to keep waiting to be made. Villeneuve has signed to make an indie called An Enemy, based on the novel The Double by Jose Saramago.

The film follows a history teacher who discovers that he has a double out in the world, and tries to find the other man. As one might expect, there are some repercussions for that. Now Jake Gyllenhaal has been cast in both of the lead roles. Read More »

The revenge film Prisoners is in a weird position: it seems like very familiar territory to those who closely follow projects in development, but for those who don’t get too interested in films until they’re shot, it might be a total unknown.

In short, Aaron Guzikowski‘s script landed on the Black List in 2009, after which it was briefly set to be a Bryan Singer film with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, before those two actors dropped out and it even more briefly became an Antoine Fuqua and Hugh Jackman movie. Leonardo DiCaprio was interested in it, too, and Michael Fassbender was rumored at one point. In 2011 Incendies director Denis Villeneuve was attached, and he’s finally going to get the movie made, it seems. And he’ll do so with Hugh Jackman in the lead, as the actor just signed on. (Again.) Read More »

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The history of the development of the film Prisoners is convoluted. Suffice to say that the Aaron Guzikowski script hit the Black List in 2009, was briefly set to be a Bryan Singer film with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, before those two actors dropped out and it briefly became an Antoine Fuqua and Hugh Jackman movie.

But that version never happened, either. Leonardo DiCaprio almost looked like he was going to star, but eventually it was back to square one and a number of other possible directors were floated. Now, with his film Incendies opening in the US this weekend, Denis Villeneuve is looking like the new Prisoners director. Read More »

Incendies premiered at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals to extremely positive reviews, but with such a limited audience, it hasn’t had a chance for much buzz to spread. Of course, its recent nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars should change all that.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Maelstrom), this Canadian film tells the story of two twins who, upon hearing their mother’s last wishes, journey to the Middle East in search of their tangled roots. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s acclaimed play ‘Scorched’, the movie is described as a “powerful and moving tale of two young adults’ voyage to the core of deep-rooted hatred, never-ending wars and enduring love”. It was also featured on Peter’s list of Best Movies of 2010 That You Probably Haven’t Heard Of. Watch the trailer after the break. Read More »