- Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 November 2013 07:46
- Written by Lupe Haas
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Novelist and screenwriter Donald E. Westlake’s iconic anti-hero, Parker, debuted in 1962 in the best-selling crime thriller, The Hunter, the story of a brutal professional thief who operates under his own stringent code. Over the next 46 years, Westlake went on to publish two dozen popular thrillers featuring the character, developing a worldwide following for the hardboiled noir series.
When he first conceived the character, Westlake figured Parker was doomed by the literary conventions of the time to become a one-hit wonder—a charismatic bad boy who would get his just desserts in the first novel’s final pages. But after reading the finished manuscript, Westlake’s editor came back to him with an unusual request: Allow Parker, a ruthless criminal with a passion for revenge, to escape justice in the first book, leaving the door open for a sequel or two.
“In those days, a criminal had to die at the end of the book,” recalls Abby Westlake, the writer’s widow. “Donald had followed tradition and killed off the character, but he was convinced to keep him alive for another book.”
Les Alexander, producer of the movie Parker and long-time member of Donald and Abby Westlake’s inner circle, remembers the shock of the first book’s ending. “Back then the bad guy had to die,” he recalls. “But the truth was, readers found themselves rooting for Parker even after he killed people, because he’s smarter than most of the people around him and he has a code of honor that is impeccable.
“Not killing the guy off at the end of the first book was a brilliant stroke,” he adds. “It was pure serendipity, which is often how the best things happen.”
And so began an almost five-decade run for the mysterious “heister,” as Parker refers to himself and his colleagues in the books. Westlake, a prolific writer who published more than 100 novels and non-fiction books under his own name and a number of pseudonyms, eventually authored 24 books about the career criminal using the nom de plume Richard Stark. Readers were enthralled by Westlake’s minutely detailed capers involving ultra-high-stakes robberies, as well as by Parker’s personal code: never steal from those in need, kill only if you have to, and always get even with your enemies.
“He wrote about 17 books and then took a break between 1974 and 1997,” says Abby. “He always said the character just went away. He just didn’t have access to that character anymore, so he moved on. But one day, Parker came back. The seven books that followed were very rich, and Donald was proud of all of them.”
The character had already built a huge international following through the first books, but something essential seemed to have shifted in him that made the new Parker even more intriguing, according to Alexander. “Parker had changed during the hiatus,” he says. “The later books have more richness, warmth and humanity to them, while the early novels are more cold, classic noir.”
Parker is adapted from Flashfire, the first book Westlake published after his 23-year break from the character. While several earlier films, including Payback (with Mel Gibson) have borrowed story lines and ideas from the series, Parker marks the first time that the Westlake estate has allowed filmmakers to use the character’s name in a movie.
The producer says that the Westlake estate selected Flashfire to be the first movie to put the Parker character on screen because it includes all of the most important elements. “We chose to start here because this story has everything,” explains Alexander. “It has Parker’s unrelenting quest for vengeance when he is wronged, as well as his devotion to his girlfriend Claire even when tempted by another woman, which humanizes him. I really think it is the best Parker story.”
The script, written by John McLaughlin (who also penned the screenplay for Black Swan and Hitchcock), stays true to the essence of Westlake’s honor-bound criminal while updating and expanding the story. “John McLaughlin did a brilliant job on the script,” says Alexander. “There’s a big difference between a translation and an adaptation. A translation means to just copy the book down. John really adapted it. He found the character’s spirit and captured what is magical about him.”
McLaughlin’s script attracted the attention of one of Hollywood’s top producer-directors: Oscar winner Taylor Hackford, who has helmed such acclaimed films as Ray and An Officer and a Gentleman. “There’s only one thing that attracts me to a project and that’s the script,” he says. “I read this and I was sold. It is an intelligent action picture, full of intrigue, and strong characterizations, which are important to me.”
Like so many readers before him, Hackford found himself unexpectedly charmed by the character’s peculiar psychology. “The wonderful thing about Parker is that he has an unshakable code of ethics,” the director says. “He is completely unapologetic about what he does. He’s a thief, he is capable of extreme violence, but he’s not a psychopath. In fact, he lets people know right off the bat that if they do what he says, they won’t get hurt. He only steals from people who can afford the loss. He is somebody with integrity who has chosen a criminal path. And if he’s going to do something with an accomplice, there is a bond. If he’s crossed, as he is in this movie, he’ll go to the ends of the earth to get even.”
But Hackford resists the temptation to compare him to other charming rogues made famous by films. “I would never call him a gentleman,” Hackford says. “He’s not debonair like Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief. He is a realistically tough professional who believes in honor among thieves. Without that, there’s only chaos. And as he says very clearly in the script, no one likes chaos.”
Hackford added his own personal touches to McLaughlin’s screenplay, finding dialogue that helped further define the players. “He gave each character some gems that condensed their essence,” says Alexander. “It’s a much richer script for having him involved with it. You need characters with clear motivations to allow the audience to see the spider weave the web.”
Film noir is one of the few genres Hackford has never tackled in his decades-long career. “Taylor embraces challenges with great enthusiasm,” says Alexander. “He said he was going to make the best genre film he could. Taylor knows his film history better than anybody and he knows what the rules are. He made an even better film than we had hoped.”
With scores of Parker fans around the world awaiting the character’s big-screen debut, the filmmakers took their responsibility to stay true to Westlake’s creation very seriously. “We are basically following in Donald Westlake’s footsteps,” says Hackford. “He created the characters and we have to deliver based on that. All we could do, because Donald’s no longer with us, was read the material, try to stay true to it and, and pay it respect. I wish he were here to see it. It will be up to all those millions of fans out there to tell us if we have or we haven’t done him justice.
“There is a good reason that this is the first adaptation that’s ever received permission from the estate to use that character’s name,” he adds. “Donald Westlake received the ultimate compliment when he was called the modern inheritor of Raymond Chandler, and John McLaughlin fit right into Westlake’s style. He utilized the most important elements and then built on others in a wonderful way that maintains the integrity of Donald Westlake and, at the same time, made it more of a film project. He has wit and added a little piquancy of his own. It was sanctioned by Abby, so you know it’s true to the original author.”
THE PERFECT PARKER
With Taylor Hackford at the helm, the filmmakers began casting and found themselves with a wealth of talent that was ready and willing to join the production. “Obviously, Taylor made huge contributions to this movie,” says Alexander. “One of the most significant was his ability to attract a world-class cast. He then got performances out of them that are nothing short of amazing. Jason Statham, who plays Parker, shows a completely new side of himself that will shock and please his fans.”
Statham’s impressive combination of physical prowess and fierce intelligence fitted the character to a T, according to Hackford. “I first saw Jason in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” the director says. “The surprising thing about him is that he’s got so much humor. When he became a real action star, it would have been easy for him to fall into the stereotype of the strong silent man. He is perfect as Parker because he combines the qualities of an Everyman with authentic physicality. Jason doesn’t have 14 stuntmen jumping in for him. He was an Olympic-level diver and he knows how use his body in the most artful way.”
Statham was drawn to Parker’s unusual, black-and-white moral code. “Westlake gives this thief an unusual sense of sanity and thoughtfulness,” says the actor. “It’s a great character with a lot of layers and he’s got a sense of humor that appeals to me. He’s a man who does anything to put things right. Sometimes he steps over the law, but I think he sees all business as corrupt, so what he’s doing is just taking his piece of the pie. While he could bulldoze his way through most situations, he prefers to do things in a mild-mannered way. But if you cross the line, he’s capable of doing something quite horrific.”
The actor and the director found working together a satisfying experience. “Jason approached the role quite seriously,” says Hackford. “He collaborated every step of the way and never said no to anything, because he saw the potential in this role. With Parker, he’s taken a real step up as an actor. Of course, he’s already a star, but here he is pushing himself to grow, which is deserving of enormous respect. People who love Jason Statham movies are going to see just how much more this guy is capable of.”
“Taylor is a true filmmaker,” says Statham. “We had hours and hours of conversations about Parker. He was brimming with details and left no stone unturned. He had backstories for all the relationships. I think because of that it has a bit more heart than a typical film noir. And it’s quite funny at times.
“It was a big privilege to work with someone who is so detail oriented and cares so much about what he’s putting on screen,” he adds. “The pressure was on Taylor to get this right for Westlake. He was a real talented chap with a following and his own Academy Award for the screenplay of The Grifters. We had to respect that pedigree.”
The movie’s story hopscotches through Memphis, Houston and New Orleans, before settling in for a huge caper in Palm Beach, Florida. “Parker butts up against another fantastic character when he gets to Palm Beach, a woman named Leslie,” says Hackford. “She’s not a professional like he is. She’s a real-estate agent, but her life is in ruins, she’s reached the end of her line, and suddenly she finds that a little larceny may be the solution to her problems.”
Played by Jennifer Lopez, the Leslie character is divorced, pushing 40 and trapped in a no-win situation. She has had to move back to West Palm Beach with her mother, a retired Cuban hairdresser played by legendary Broadway diva Patti LuPone, and the two are at odds as Leslie tries to rebuild her life.
“She’s selling real estate in Palm Beach, one of the wealthiest enclaves in the United States,” says Hackford. “So every day she drives across the bridge from West Palm, which is a nice, normal kind of town, to sell real estate that she will never be able to live in. She’s not a glamour queen or a diva. Leslie’s real and Jennifer is real in the role. She’s a fantastic actress, and not since Out of Sight has she played a character this down to earth.”
Leslie meets Parker when he comes to town posing as wealthy Texas oilman looking for a house on the island. She pins her hopes on him, first as a client who can help her make a big score, and then as a possible white knight who can save her from the life she’s living.
“I thought the relationship between Leslie and Parker was complicated and quite realistic, which made this more interesting than just another action movie,” says Lopez. “In our first meeting, I asked Taylor why he wanted me to play this character. She’s not exactly like people think of me. And he told me that was exactly why he wanted me. The image that people have of me from my music or ‘American Idol’ or the romantic comedies I’ve done is very different.”
Hackford wanted to tap into Lopez’s considerable determination and spunk. “Leslie is a person who seems like she has reached the end of the road but she still refuses to give up,” he says. “I think that is very definitely Jennifer Lopez. Jennifer comes from the Bronx, she has had highs and lows, but she has moxie. She will survive. That’s why I chose her for the role.”
When Parker’s secretive demeanor raises Leslie’s suspicions, she senses an opportunity and wants in on whatever he has going. But she quickly realizes she’s out of her depth. “Leslie is not a criminal,” says Hackford. “She’s just desperate. She’s looking for a way out, but she’s not aware of how serious this is. This isn’t a love story—they become partners. A hardened professional and a novice, both with strong personalities, come together and it’s a fascinating character study. Jennifer and Jason create true interest and electricity together.”
Statham gives his co-star high marks for her work. “Jennifer is so normal and accessible, but she is also stunning,” says Statham. “People across the board can relate to her and she can stop traffic. It’s rare find those things together. Taylor was looking for someone that had all that and is a great actress to boot.”
Working with Statham was equally satisfying for Lopez. “It was a lot of fun,” she says. “He’s both a super-badass, action guy and a really good actor. We had a great time pushing each other acting-wise. I don’t think even he and I realized how much of a journey these two characters were going to go on together until we went through it. They learn to really trust each other and to care about each other.”
Hackford sought out legendary actor Nick Nolte for the role of Hurley, Parker’s best friend and mentor. “I’ve always liked Nick,” he says. “I had wanted to work with him for years. His presence now is very different than when he was a young hunk. He’s become an old bear. His voice is amazing; it’s a distinctive kind of croak. You feel the experience when you hear him speak. You can feel the miles on him.
“He’s a wonderful actor,” the director adds. “When he came on the set, there was a feeling of ‘what is this guy going to be like?’ And everybody loved him, the crew and the cast. He added immeasurably to this.”
Hurley understands Parker in ways that no one else in the world can. “He humanizes Parker,” says the director. “He’s the only person Parker completely lets his guard down with. And Hurley embraces Parker like a son.”
The two share an ex-military background and discipline that they have adapted perfectly for a life of crime. “Hurley is pretty much retired, but he helps guide Parker to jobs,” explains Nolte. “They have specialized knowledge and experience that they use in their work. Hurley sets Parker up for the State Fair job, and when it goes wrong, he feels like he has to straighten things out.”
The actor found that he and Hackford were very much on the same page about the character and the story. “Taylor guided me right down the same track I was heading,” he says. “I have been involved in pieces like this in the past and I thought this was done really well. And I like what Jason has done with Parker. It reminds me of some of Steve McQueen’s best work in the way it combines action, comedy and character.”
The Melander gang, the crew that Hurley sets Parker up with for the daring Ohio State Fair heist in the film’s opening sequence, is a crew of career criminals with ties to the Chicago Mob. Each member of this quartet of miscreants has specific and well-defined place in the job. “It’s a caper movie, an action movie and a film noir,” says Hackford. “You have to have some bad guys. To me, those characters are always some of the most interesting. They don’t have to be nice, but I like them to be intelligent. Parker cannot live up to his potential unless he comes up against someone forceful and strong, so it was my job to make sure that the four characters in the Melander gang were worthy opponents. I was lucky enough to have some terrific actors to work with.”
Melander, the team’s leader, is played by Michael Chiklis, an actor who won critical acclaim for his work as the pragmatic Detective Vic McKay in the television series, “The Shield.” “I have great respect for Michael Chiklis,” says the director. “He is an extremely intelligent and dynamic actor. You know you’re up against somebody substantial and dangerous and smart when you see Michael.”
Wendell Pierce, who has worked with Hackford on three previous films, including Ray, plays Carlson, the group’s most vigilant and forward-thinking member. “Wendell is a fabulous actor who also appeared in ‘The Wire’ and ‘Treme’ on HBO,” says the director. “He carries a certain presence, so you know he is not just an everyday criminal. He’s somebody who has thought everything out in detail.”
As Ross, Clifton Collins, Jr. gives the team’s muscle quiet intensity and a hair trigger. “I love Clifton’s work,” Hackford says. “He blew me away as Perry Smith in Capote. Without saying a word, he brings danger into the room with him. He has a way of carrying himself, he’s an expert with weapons and woe be to the person that tries to stand up against him.”
The fourth member of the gang is Hardwicke, played by Micah Hauptman. “He’s not really part of this gang,” according to Hackford. “He’s the guy who is going to make the deal happen. He is the nephew of a big mafia don and can use his family connections to fence the loot, but he’s not a made man. Even though he’s very intelligent and very ambitious, he’s a bit of a screw up. From the get-go you know that he is the weak link in the chain. Parker recognizes that immediately.”
For the crucial role of Claire, Parker’s live-in love, the filmmakers launched an extensive search. “She is vital to the story,” says Hackford. “She’s the person that Parker has chosen to be with, although he does not share much of his past or professional life with her. He knows that if she knows too much, it will hurt her. They had to be able to communicate a lot in very few words.”
Actress Emma Booth, an Australian native, plays Claire. “She has a perfect American accent and fantastic talent. She doesn’t gush or need to go for glamor,” says Hackford. “She just has something real. And all of us, including Jason, immediately knew she was the one.”
Parker is Booth’s first foray into the action-film world. “I was really excited by that prospect, especially with Taylor directing,” she says. “Then, of course, Jason was starring in it, so the combination of cast, director and the script itself was great.”
Statham says that having someone like Hackford in the lead was crucial to putting together a cast capable of working at this level. “Taylor has an ability as a filmmaker to put great people in movies and everyone wants to work with someone like that. People are interested in working with talented filmmakers and they just turn up when Taylor picks up the phone.”
IN THE REAL WORLD
Parker follows its protagonist’s quest for revenge from the sunny optimism of the Ohio State Fair to the honky-tonk bars of Bourbon Street to the opulent allure of Palm Beach, with stops in between in the violent neighborhoods and industrial wastelands where the character learned his trade. “In this film, the locations are also characters,” says Hackford. “It’s mostly exterior shooting and we have some sensational settings that aren’t often seen in movies.”
Much of the action was shot in and around New Orleans, even the scenes set elsewhere. “We used it as Kentucky, as Tennessee, as Texas,” Hackford says. “There’s one Bourbon Street location, but aside from that, Louisiana and especially New Orleans stand in for all these other places. The city has fantastic locations besides the ones we are used to seeing in films. It is an amazing backdrop for the movie and you’re not going to believe how much of it was shot in New Orleans.”
The action starts at the Ohio State Fair, which is the largest state fair in the United States with close to a million attendees during its 12-day run in 2012. “It’s where the common man goes to have a good time,” says Hackford. “The fact that we were able to shoot there was incredible. The people were so gracious. We have 40,000 or 50,000 extras in the scene. We couldn’t stop the fair, so it continued on around us. We could never have paid for that kind of production value. It’s fantastic.”
For the actors, the real-life action of the fair made shooting those scenes especially intense, according to Micah Hauptman. “Everything was on the fly,” he says. “When you’re shooting in the midst of all these real people, you never know what’s going to happen, which was a lot of fun.”
But the bulk of the film’s action takes place in what may be the richest place in the United States. “The Melander gang’s big caper is planned for Palm Beach,” says Hackford. “It’s a community that has been legendary since its first days. The richest of the rich in the East went down early in the last century and built a Xanadu for themselves on what is essentially a tropical island. It reeks of wealth. There are more mansions and clipped ficus in Palm Beach then you have ever seen in your life and it gives the film incredible style.”
Getting the permits and permissions they needed to shoot in Palm Beach was not easy, however. The city put a moratorium on filming there in the 1990s in order to preserve the privacy of its elite residents. But Hackford was determined to shoot the film in the location intended by the Parker author. “Donald Westlake set his story in Palm Beach for a reason. It was essential to the movie. Where else would you have an auction of $50-$75 million of jewelry? There, it happens all the time.”
The production eventually got unprecedented cooperation from both West Palm and Palm Beach. “The Palm Beach County Film Commission was fantastic, as was the Town Council,” says Hackford. “Did they give me permission to do everything I wanted? No. But I did get what I needed of Palm Beach in this film. You see the main roads, the neighborhoods, the famous bridges, which are integral to the story.”
The climactic robbery takes place in a magnificent mansion overlooking the water. “Many people are going to think we shot at Mar-A-Lago, which is the most famous estate in Palm Beach,” says Hackford. “In fact, the big mansion where the culmination of this heist takes place is clear across Florida in Sarasota.”
That scene takes place at the John Ringling Museum of Art. “At the turn of the century, the Ringling Brothers were gigantic,” Hackford explains. “Forget all the Broadway impresarios and the Hollywood moguls—they were real entertainment. John Ringling was one of the richest men in America and he built this incredible terracotta mansion on the water in Sarasota and we used that as the site of this auction.”
Hackford replicates the gritty realism of Westlake’s novel with the film’s utterly believable action, stunts and fights. “I wanted the action and the violence to be very real,” Hackford says. “I did not want a kind of fantasy element to that part of the film. I appreciate that kind of movie, but that’s not what we went after in Parker. I want audiences to look at him and say, this guy is the real thing. When he gets hit, he feels it. When he’s put in grave danger, we know it. At the end of the film, he’s debilitated. He’s hurt. At the same time, that refusal to give up comes through. I wanted to deliver a film so real that it’s on the knife’s edge.”
In Statham, Hackford had a consummate, physical actor, with extensive experience in creating the kind of explosive action he was looking for. “He wants to do all his own stunt work, which was a gift to me as a director. He’s very smart, so he doesn’t risk things unnecessarily, but when he knows things are right, he does them. There’s a sequence early in this film where there’s a shootout in a car. When Parker jumps out of that car, Jason is doing it. He jumps out at full speed. It was a very tough stunt.”
Statham says it may not have been the most dangerous stunt he ever did, but it was up there. “Parker was in the back of an SUV with the motley crew of robbers and they’re all armed to the teeth,” he explains. “He has to get out of the car and stay alive. It was very tricky. I had to get out of a moving vehicle through the window. The many years I spent as a diver came in handy. I was able to slot myself right out of the window hole.”
The actor says he finds a great deal of fulfillment in doing his own stunts. “I don’t think that will ever leave me. I always want to do what I think I’m capable of doing. But it’s difficult to create sequences we haven’t seen before and keep the action centered on the character, so it doesn’t become like a video game. It takes a great deal of preparation and a good team of people to keep it safe. I have an outstanding stunt team that I like to work with. We’ve had some good results and developed a shorthand.”
That team includes stunt coordinator Mike Massa, who worked with Statham on The Expendables and second-unit director David Leitch from The Mechanic. “It was my first time working with Mike and Dave and they were absolutely terrific,” says Hackford. “They are both incredibly accomplished people in their field and great collaborators. We took every precaution and then we went for it.”
In a stunning scene set on the 26th floor of a high-rise hotel, Parker has to fend off a vicious assassin sent by the Melander gang’s Chicago connections. “The actor had to be somebody of substance to keep it real,” Hackford says. “Daniel Bernhardt is a terrific actor who has headlined some pretty terrific action films himself. He’s very serious about his work. Both he and Jason are doing their own stunts in this scene and let me tell you, that fight is brutal. They take the blows. By the end of the fight, it is clear that Parker is truly hurt. He’s like a wounded lion as he heads off for the final confrontation. Having collaborators like Mike and Dave was vital because it gave the actors the confidence to go all the way.”
Adds Statham: “Taylor was fixated on not doing anything that wasn’t driven by the character. That made for a great fight. The heroic characters I have played in the past have been super efficient in hand-to-hand fights and you never see them really get hurt. Taylor insisted on having us take a realistic beating. He wanted Parker to barely survive to add to the tension and the drama. Will he make it to the end? Can he really succeed in what he wants to do? The stakes are that much higher because of that.”
ABOUT THE CAST
JASON STATHAM (Parker) is an international film star best known for a string of successful, hard-hitting action thrillers. Most recently he was seen in The Expendables 2 alongside Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Statham also stars in the forthcoming thriller Hummingbird, the directorial debut of screenwriter Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises), and Gary Fleder’s Homefront opposite James Franco, Winona Ryder and Kate Bosworth.
Statham’s other recent credits include The Mechanic (2011), in which he starred as professional hit man Arthur Bishop, originally played by Charles Bronson; Killer Elite (2011), co-starring Clive Owen and Robert De Niro; and Safe (2012), directed by Boaz Yakin. Statham received strong notices for his performance in Roger Donaldson’s The Bank Job (2008), the critically acclaimed true story of the notorious 1971 Baker Street bank robbery.
Born in England, Statham was one of the top divers on the British national team and eventually placed 12th in the world. While training at the famed Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London, he was pursued by film crews and photographers and eventually met the executive producer of an upcoming film. Statham then met with the film’s director, Guy Ritchie, which led to his feature acting debut as Bacon in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998).
Statham went on to work with Ritchie again in Snatch (2000), starring opposite Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro. He was then cast by French film impresario Luc Besson in the starring role of Frank Martin in The Transporter (2002); starred as Handsome Rob in the blockbuster remake of The Italian Job (2003); and kept moviegoers’ hearts racing as Chev Chelios, the adrenaline-compromised action hero who powered Crank (2006).
Statham returned as Frank Martin in Transporter 2 (2006) and Transporter 3 (2008). He also toplined the action remake Death Race (2008), starring opposite Ian McShane and Joan Allen. Next, Statham reprised the role of Chev Chelios in Crank 2: High Voltage (2009) and teamed up with some of the world’s biggest action stars in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables (2010).
JENNIFER LOPEZ (Leslie) is one of the most powerful and celebrated artists working in entertainment today. In 2012 Forbes magazine named her the most powerful celebrity in the world. With an unmatched global appeal, Lopez has racked up more than $1.4 billion in worldwide box-office receipts.
Lopez has sold more than 75 million records worldwide and starred in multiple hit movies. In 2001 The Wedding Planner was the nation’s top-grossing film while her album “J.Lo” was No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart. The simultaneous honors made Lopez the first woman in history to have a No. 1 movie and No. 1 album in the same week.
Most recently Lopez starred in the romantic comedy The Back-Up Plan, alongside Alex O’Loughlin, and joined the ensemble cast of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. She also lent her voice to the character of Shira, a saber-toothed tiger, in the animated smash Ice Age 4: Continental Drift.
In 1995 Lopez made her feature film debut in the highly acclaimed drama My Family (Mi Familia), which garnered her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her role as young mother Maria Sanchez. Lopez earned great acclaim for playing the title role in Selena, which brought her a Golden Globe Award® nomination. In 2002 Lopez was named ShoWest Female Star of the Year and in 2006 she received the Women in Film Crystal Award. Additionally, the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino advocacy group in the nation, named her Entertainer of the Year at the American Latino Media Arts (ALMA) Awards.
Other film credits include Robert Luketic’s Monster-in-Law, opposite Jane Fonda; Lasse Hallström’s An Unfinished Life, with Robert Redford; Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, alongside Sean Penn; Wayne Wang’s Maid in Manhattan, opposite Ralph Fiennes; Joseph Ruben’s Money Train, with Woody Harrelson; Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack, with Robin Williams; Bob Rafelson’s Blood and Wine, opposite Jack Nicholson; Luis Mandoki’s Angel Eyes, alongside Jim Caviezel; Tarsem Singh’s The Cell, with Vince Vaughn; Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, opposite George Clooney; Michael Apted’s Enough, with Billy Campbell; and Anaconda, alongside Ice Cube.
Playing dual roles as actress and producer, Lopez also starred in El Cantante, about salsa legend Hector Lavoe, and Bordertown, a crime drama co-starring Antonio Banderas.
Nuyorican Productions, Lopez’s film and television production company, allowed her to step into the role of television producer with the reality show “Dance Life” and the drama “South Beach Tow.” In development are film and TV projects that include a remake of the ’80s hit Overboard and the romantic comedy Taming Ben Taylor, in which Lopez will star as a top-notch real estate agent who wins over a rugged vintner. Also in the works are “Help,” for ABC; Sweet Little 15, which tells a young Mexican girl’s coming-of-age story as she plans her quinceañera; and comedy series “Amigas Sweet 15 Club,” which will follow five teens in Miami who run a quinceañera business together.
An award-winning TV personality, Lopez recently served as a judge on “American Idol” for two seasons. She also launched the groundbreaking series “¡Q’ Viva! The Chosen,” along with choreographer Jamie King and Marc Anthony.
Lopez recently won Best Latin Artist of the Year at the American Music Awards and Glamour magazine named her “Woman of the Year.” In 2011 Lopez released the album “LOVE?” and its first single, “On the Floor” (featuring Pitbull), became a worldwide phenomenon. The song shot to No. 1 in 18 countries and became the most downloaded song of her career. Lopez also set a Vevo milestone for female artists as the music video racked up 100 million views in record time. With a staggering 600 million views, and counting, “On the Floor” became the most-watched music video by a female artist in the history of YouTube.
Lopez’s dedication to assisting children in need and to the empowerment of others is far-reaching. The Boys & Girls Club of America has named her their first female national co-chair, alongside Denzel Washington. Her commitment to making a difference is also highlighted through The Lopez Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the level of medical care available to women and children. In association with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the foundation is working on a “telemedicine” program that will bring state-of-the-art technology and top doctors to underserved communities around the world. The first telemedicine center opened in Puerto Rico in 2010 and recently added a new center in Panama.
MICHAEL CHIKLIS (Melander) stars as gangster Vincent Savino in the CBS drama series “Vegas,” opposite Dennis Quaid.
Chiklis recently wrapped production on Pawn, a crime thriller produced under his Extravaganza Films banner, in which he stars opposite Forest Whitaker, Ray Liotta and Nikki Reed.
Previously, Chiklis starred in the Marvel Comics adaptations Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer as Ben Grimm, aka The Thing. Other film credits include Eagle Eye, Rise, The Tax Man, Last Request and Body and Soul.
A native of Lowell, Massachusetts, Chiklis began entertaining his family with celebrity imitations when he was just 5 years old. He has been acting professionally since age 13, when he earned his Equity card while appearing in regional theater. Chiklis later graduated from the Boston University School of Performing Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. His first screen role came in the controversial Wired, in which he played John Belushi. He auditioned for the role just days after his college graduation.
Widely known for playing Detective Vic Mackey on the groundbreaking FX Network drama “The Shield,” Chiklis earned numerous awards and accolades for his portrayal of this morally compromised police officer. He won the 2002 Television Critics Association Award for Individual Achievement in Drama as well as 2003 Golden Globe and Emmy® awards for Best Actor in a Drama Series.
In addition to his critically acclaimed acting on “The Shield,” Chiklis also assumed the role of producer and director for many episodes. His other television credits include starring roles in the series “No Ordinary Family” (which he also helped produce), “The Commish,” “Daddio” and television movie “The Three Stooges.” His guest-starring roles include appearances on “Murphy Brown,” “Wiseguy,” “Miami Vice,” “L.A. Law” and “Seinfeld.”
After his role on “The Commish” wrapped, Chiklis went to Broadway, starring in the one-man show “Defending the Caveman.” Written by Rob Becker, the play has been seen by more than 8 million people in 45 countries.
A musician when he is not acting, Chiklis recently released two singles he recorded with the Michael Chiklis Band.
CLIFTON COLLINS, JR. (Ross) has nurtured an impressive body of work on his way to becoming one of Hollywood’s most versatile talents. His career continues to evolve with exciting and challenging projects. Collins received many accolades for his portrayal of Perry Smith in director Bennett Miller’s Academy Award-nominated drama Capote. For this performance Collins also received an Alma Award nomination for Best Actor.
Collins’ passion for the art of acting draws him to both studio and independent features. As one of Hollywood busiest actors, he has starred in films that embrace both comedy and drama. Most recently, he filmed a role in Terrence Malick’s feature Knight of Cups, opposite Christian Bale. He can next be seen in the $100 million sci-fi actioner Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro and co-starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Charlie Day.
From an early age Collins was encouraged by his actor grandfather to pursue his artistic talents. This presented an opportunity to immerse himself in the acting community. Born to a Mexican mother and a German father, Collins realized his diverse background coupled with strong intellect would provide for a quality seldom seen on screen.
Even at the beginning of his career Collins found himself working with many of the town’s brightest young filmmakers. Collaborations included the Hughes brothers’ Menace to Society and Dead Presidents, John Singleton’s Poetic Justice, Kevin Reynolds’ 187 and Antoine Fuqua’s The Replacement Killers. In Traffic, directed by Steven Soderbergh, Collins played the unforgettable role of assassin Frankie Flowers opposite Benicio Del Toro.
More recently Collins starred alongside Amy Adams and Emily Blunt in the Sundance hit Sunshine Cleaning. The film opened to the best per-screen average of any film released in 2009 and matched the per-screen openings of hits such as Little Miss Sunshine, Sideways, About Schmidt and The Wrestler. That same year Collins played the Romulan Ayel as a member of an all-star cast in the summer blockbuster Star Trek, directed by J.J. Abrams.
Other film credits include Joel Schumacher’s Tigerland, with Colin Farrell; Roger Avary’s Rules of Attraction, with James Van Der Beek; Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s Crank: High Voltage, alongside Jason Statham; Jim Sheridan’s Brothers, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman; Mike Judge’s Extract, with Jason Bateman; and Troy Duffy’s Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, with Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery.
No stranger to the small screen, Collins shot a starring role in 2010 in NBC’s drama “The Event,” an emotional, high-octane conspiracy thriller. The series ended after 26 episodes in early 2011.
Collins received an Emmy nomination for his role in the highly acclaimed miniseries “Thief,” in which he starred alongside Andre Braugher. He has also played recurring characters on some of primetime’s top-rated shows, including “24,” “The Shield” and “Alias.” He can next be seen starring opposite Radha Mitchell in the new ABC drama “Red Widow,” created by Melissa Rosenberg. The series centers on Marta Walraven (Mitchell), whose husband was killed for his involvement in organized crime and she must continue his work to avenge his death and protect her family.
Also a gifted director, Collins helmed the video for Zac Brown Band’s single “Chicken Fried,” which debuted on CMT to rave reviews. The video won a CMT Award (USA Weekend Breakthrough Video of the Year) and was nominated for another (Group Video of the Year). It also netted a Bronze Prize for Overall Video and Editing at the Telly Awards. Collins subsequently directed music videos for the Zac Brown Band’s follow-up single “Whatever It Is,” currently No. 1 on CMT, and Jamey Johnson’s “High Cost of Living.”
Collins currently resides in Los Angeles.
MICAH HAUPTMAN (Hardwicke) has seen his acting career take off in just a short time. He has several projects in development as an actor, producer and writer. Hauptman is set to star in a film he wrote, D Is for Detroit, featuring Omari Hardwick, Aisha Hinds and Annika Marks. The project will also mark his directorial debut. Additionally, Hauptman can be seen in the forthcoming film I Am I, starring Simon Helberg and Jason Ritter.
Raised in Philadelphia, Hauptman studied theater at West Chester University, where he was a three-time Irene Ryan Award finalist. He earned an undergraduate degree in theater and was accepted into the MFA program at the prestigious Actors Studio. Hauptman then toured the country with New York Theater for the Performing Arts, doing a stage adaptation of “The Outsiders” before moving to California to try his hand at screen acting.
Hauptman began screenwriting as well and was signed by CAA on the strength of his feature spec Less Than Kind. The script caught the attention of producers and directors all over town and was quickly optioned by Oscar-nominated director and producer Lee Daniels.
Hauptman began splitting his time between acting, writing and producing. He popped up in supporting roles in such films as Iron Man, Sundance hit Finishing the Game and SXSW fave A Bag of Hammers, opposite Rebecca Hall and Amanda Seyfried. Hauptman gained further attention with the acclaimed short film The Mushroom Sessions and his guest appearances on “The Glades,” “Supernatural” and “Lie to Me.” He also appeared in the film sequel S.W.A.T.: Firefight, opposite Gabriel Macht and Carly Pope.
Hauptman produced and starred in Brian Crano’s play “12th Premise” from Tony Award®-nominated director Kristin Hanggi. The play workshopped in London (with Rebecca Hall and Hugh Dancy) and New York City before making its world premiere in Los Angeles for a critically acclaimed run.
WENDELL PIERCE (Carlson) is universally hailed for his portrayal of Detective Bunk Moreland on all five critically acclaimed seasons of “The Wire,” HBO’s classic crime drama. He currently stars as Antoine Baptiste on “Treme,” reuniting him with HBO and the core creative team behind “The Wire.”
Most recently Pierce was seen in Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part Two for director Bill Condon. Prior to that he starred in the hit comedy Horrible Bosses. Other recent credits include the intense festival feature Four, Stephen Frears’ Sundance premiere Lay the Favorite and the much-anticipated biopic Bolden, co-starring Anthony Mackie.
For his work on “The Wire,” Pierce is a three-time NAACP Image Award nominee for Best Actor in a Television Drama. He won the 2008 Image Award for Best Actor in a Television Movie for HBO’s “Life Support” (opposite Queen Latifah) as well as the Women’s Image Network “Win” Award. He was the recipient of five Los Angeles Emmy Awards for his narration of “Golden Days, Purple Knights: 50 Years of the Los Angeles Lakers.”
Film credits include Ray, Love Ranch, Angst & Alienation in America, Hole in One, Fighting Temptations, The 24 Hour Woman, Brown Sugar, Volcano, Abilene, Bulworth, Get on the Bus, Sleepers, Waiting to Exhale, It Could Happen to You, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Malcolm X, Husbands and Wives, A Rage in Harlem, Bonfire of the Vanities, Casualties of War, Family Business, Ishtar, Patty Hearst and The Money Pit.
Pierce’s early TV credits include “The Weber Show,” “The Gregory Hines Show,” “Maloney” and “The Brian Benben Show.” More recently, he has played recurring roles on series such as “Numb3rs,” “Law & Order,” “Third Watch,” “New York Undercover” and “I’ll Fly Away.” He appeared in the miniseries “With Two Lumps of Ice” and “Advocate’s Devil,” the CBS telefilm “Never Give Up: The Jimmy V Story,” and the HBO movies “Strapped” and “Vietnam War Story.”
A 2010 Obie Award winner, Pierce starred in the world premiere of “Queenie Pie” at the Kennedy Center. Broadway stage credits include “The Piano Lesson,” “Serious Money” and “The Boys of Winter.” He has appeared in Off Broadway productions “The Good Times are Killing Me” and “Psychoneurotic Phantasies” for Playwrights Horizons as well as “Tis a Pity She’s a Whore,” “Cymbeline” and “Two Gentleman of Verona” for the New York Shakespeare Festival.
Pierce received rave reviews for his performance in “The Cherry Orchard” at the Classical Theatre of Harlem (nominated for a VIV Award in the lead actor category). He followed up with a production of “Waiting for Godot” set on a rooftop surrounded by water in post-Katrina New Orleans. In 2006 Pierce co-starred with Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett in August Wilson’s “Fences” at the Pasadena Playhouse. Earlier he performed the Oedipus plays in the ancient Odeon of Herod Atticus at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece (in association with the Washington DC Shakespeare Theatre). In 2009 he starred in the New York premiere of the award-winning play “Broke-ology” at Lincoln Center.
Pierce appeared as himself in Spike Lee’s documentary When the Levees Broke, telling his family’s story of loss during Hurricane Katrina. A native of New Orleans, the actor is striving to rebuild the neighborhood in which he was raised. Pontchartrain Park Development Corp, a nonprofit he created to build 500 affordable and environmentally friendly homes, is committed to honoring the community’s character and helping longtime residents return to their neighborhood. His work was featured on CNN in the documentary film “New Orleans Rising,” with Soledad O’Brien. Pierce has also been a featured guest on CBS Morning News, NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” and “Money Matters,” as well as a host of other national outlets.
EMMA BOOTH (Claire) is one of Australia’s leading young actors in film and television. Most recently she was seen alongside Jason Clarke and David Lyons in the crime drama Swerve, directed by Craig Lahiff. Her feature credits include starring roles in Joel Schumacher’s Blood Creek, Karl Golden’s independent feature Pelican Blood and Scott Hicks’ The Boys Are Back, opposite Clive Owen, which premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. Booth also appeared as Germaine Greer in the dramedy Hippie Hippie Shake opposite Cillian Murphy and Sienna Miller.
Booth made her feature film debut in Cherie Nowlan’s Clubland (aka Introducing the Dwights), which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Her performance earned Booth the Best Supporting Actress Award at the 2007 Australian Film Institute Awards and the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards. She was also named Best Australian Newcomer at the 2008 Movie Extra FILMINK Awards.
No stranger to the small screen, Booth recently appeared in “Jack Irish: Bad Debts,” opposite Guy Pearce. In 2011 Booth starred as Rose Pickles in the acclaimed miniseries “Cloudstreet,” directed by Matthew Saville and based on the novel by Tim Winton.
Other television credits include Rowan Woods’ miniseries “Three Acts of Murder” and the telefilms “Underbelly: The Golden Mile,” “The Shark Net,” “Small Claims,” “The Circuit” and “All Saints.”
PATTI LUPONE (Ascension Cienfuegos) is a legendary performer who has left an indelible mark on the world of musical theater. She has built an impressive career on the dramatic stage as well as concert stages, nationally and internationally. Her film credits include Nancy Savocca’s Union Square, Michael Caton-Jones’ City by the Sea, David Mamet’s Heist and State and Main, Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam, Bruce Beresford’s Driving Miss Daisy and Peter Weir’s Witness. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Patti LuPone: A Memoir.
LuPone is perhaps best known to television audiences for her starring role as Libby Thacher on the ABC series “Life Goes On.” She has made guest appearances on “Glee,” “30 Rock,” “Law & Order,” “Oz,” “Ugly Betty” and “Will & Grace.” She received a 1998 Emmy nomination for her guest-starring role on “Frasier.” Other notable television credits include the Emmy-winning broadcasts of “Passion” and “Sweeney Todd,” “Great Performances: Candide” and “An Evening with Patti LuPone,” all airing on PBS.
LuPone is a highly decorated stage performer. For her performance as Rose in the most recent Broadway production of “Gypsy,” LuPone won Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress in a Musical as well as the Drama League Award for Outstanding Performance of the Season.
Other musical theater credits include now legendary performances as Reno Sweeney in “Anything Goes” (Tony nomination, Drama Desk Award), Eva Peron in “Evita” (Tony and Drama Desk awards), and Rosamund in “The Robber Bridegroom” (Tony and Drama Desk nominations).
LuPone created the role of Lucia in the musical “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” for which she was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards. For her performance as Mrs. Lovett in John Doyle’s production of “Sweeney Todd,” LuPone received Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations while winning a Drama League Award for Outstanding Contribution to Musical Theater.
LuPone was the first American performer to win the coveted Olivier Award in London for her performances in “The Cradle Will Rock” and the original production of “Les Miserables,” playing Fantine. Lupone created the role of Norma Desmond in the musical “Sunset Boulevard,” receiving another Olivier Award nomination.
LuPone has enjoyed a long association with writer and director David Mamet, appearing in his plays “The Water Engine,” “Edmond” and “The Woods.” She was recently reunited with Mamet when she starred opposite Debra Winger in the Broadway production of his latest play, “The Anarchist.”
A graduate of the first class of the drama division of New York’s Juilliard School and a founding member of John Houseman’s The Acting Company, LuPone’s early dramatic stage credits include Dario Fo’s “Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” Israel Horovitz’s “Stage Directions,” Terrence McNally’s “Master Class” (both on Broadway and London’s West End) and Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off.”
A beloved concert performer, LuPone has thrilled audiences in “Patti LuPone on Broadway,” “Matters of the Heart” and three solo concerts at Carnegie Hall. She has appeared on Broadway and on tour opposite her “Evita” co-star Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.”
LuPone premiered her newest one-woman show, “Far Away Places,” to critical acclaim. The show was the inaugural presentation of New York club 54 Below and was recently released by Broadway Records as a live-performance CD.
Her previous recordings include “Patti LuPone at Les Mouches,” the 2008 Broadway cast recording of “Gypsy,” “The Lady with the Torch,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Patti LuPone Live.” Lupone’s “Matters of the Heart” was named one of the best recordings of 1999 by both Time Out/NY and The Times of London.
NICK NOLTE (Hurley) is a three-time Oscar nominee with the proven ability to masterfully portray a wide range of roles. He has sustained a discernible level of integrity throughout his career.
Most recently Nolte starred in the mixed martial arts drama Warrior, for which he received Academy Award, Screen Actors Guild and Broadcast Film Critics nominations for Best Supporting Actor. He was also seen in Ben Stiller’s Hollywood spoof Tropic Thunder, Mark Waters’ The Spiderwick Chronicles, Hans Petter Moland’s The Beautiful Country, Olivier Assayas’ Clean, Victor Salva’s The Peaceful Warrior and Joshua Michael Stern’s Neverwas. Nolte also voiced the character of Vincent the Bear in the animated feature Over the Hedge.
For his performance in Paul Schrader’s Affliction, Nolte received Academy Award, Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best Actor. Additionally he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor and earned an Oscar nomination for his work in The Prince of Tides, opposite Barbra Streisand.
Nolte, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, played college football before he discovered theater and began his acting career at the Pasadena Playhouse. He then studied briefly with Bryan O’Byrne at the Stella Adler Academy in Los Angeles. Nolte traveled for several years, performing in regional theaters, before landing his breakthrough role in the legendary television series “Rich Man, Poor Man.” Following its success, Nolte made his feature film debut starring in The Deep opposite Jacqueline Bisset and Louis Gossett Jr.
Diversity of character became Nolte’s signature in roles as a drug-smuggling Vietnam veteran in Who’ll Stop the Rain; as a disillusioned football star in North Dallas Forty, which he developed with author Peter Gent; as free-spirited beat-era writer Neal Cassady in Heart Beat; and as a reclusive marine biologist in Cannery Row.
Nolte continued to challenge himself with such character roles as the philosophical vagrant in Down and Out in Beverly Hills, a tough cop in 48 Hours, an American photojournalist in Under Fire and a determined lawman in Extreme Prejudice. In Weeds, he created another unique character as an ex-con turned playwright.
Other film credits include Hotel Rwanda, The Good Thief, The Hulk, Northfork, U-Turn, Afterglow, Jefferson in Paris, Blue Chips, Three Fugitives, Farewell to the King, New York Stories, Q&A, Everybody Wins, I Love Trouble, I’ll Do Anything, Lorenzo’s Oil, Cape Fear and Investigating Sex.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERSTAYLOR HACKFORD (Director) is an Oscar-winning filmmaker with a diverse and acclaimed body of work. In 2005 Hackford completed his 15-year quest to tell the life story of Ray Charles. Ray, which he directed, produced and co-wrote, was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Director and Best Picture. The film won two Oscars, one for Jamie Foxx as Best Actor and another for Best Sound. The film’s soundtrack also garnered two Grammy Awards® and a host of other accolades. More recently Hackford directed Love Ranch, starring Academy Award winners Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci.
Hackford graduated from USC in 1967 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations and economics. He was a Trustee Scholar at USC and in his senior year served as the university’s student body president. In 2010 Hackford received USC’s most prestigious alumni award, The Asa V. Call Award.
From 1968 to 1969 Hackford served as a Peace Corps volunteer in La Paz, Bolivia. In 1969 he began his entertainment career at KCET, the Los Angeles public television affiliate. There he pioneered the presentation of uninterrupted rock ‘n’ roll performances on American television. In addition to creating several award-winning documentaries for the station’s cultural department, he also served as an investigative reporter in the news division. Hackford received an Associated Press Award, a Peabody and two Emmy awards for his journalism work.
In 1979 Hackford won an Academy Award in the category of Best Live-Action Short Film for his first dramatic effort, Teenage Father. The following year Hackford began production on his feature directorial debut The Idolmaker, starring Ray Sharkey and Peter Gallagher. The tale of a talented rock ‘n’ roll songwriter and manager who lived vicariously through the teen idols he created, The Idolmaker has become a classic of its genre.
An Officer and a Gentleman, starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger, was Hackford’s second film and became a commercial and critical hit in 1982. It received five Academy Award nominations and brought home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Louis Gossett, Jr. as well as the Oscar for Best Original Song (“Up Where We Belong”). In addition Hackford was nominated for the DGA’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement Award.
Hackford has functioned as both director and producer on all his subsequent films. Among them are Against All Odds, starring Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward and James Woods; White Nights, starring Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gregory Hines, Helen Mirren and Isabella Rossellini; Everybody’s All-American, starring Dennis Quaid, Jessica Lange and John Goodman; the acclaimed documentary Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, featuring Chuck Berry and Keith Richards, which was selected by both the Toronto and New York film festivals; La Bamba, the Richie Valens biopic that launched Lou Diamond Phillips’ career; Blood In, Blood Out, which earned Hackford the trophy for Best Director at the 1993 Tokyo Film Festival; Dolores Claiborne, starring Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh, which was selected for screening at the 1995 Venice, Deauville and Tokyo film festivals; and Proof of Life, with Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe and David Morse.
Hackford formed New Visions Pictures to produce modestly budgeted movies with other directors. Some of his producing credits include the much lauded The Long Walk Home, directed by Richard Pierce and starring Sissy Spacek and Whoopi Goldberg; Mortal Thoughts, directed by Alan Rudolph and starring Demi Moore, Glenn Headley and Bruce Willis; Defenseless, directed by Martin Campbell and starring Barbara Hershey, Mary Beth Hurt and Sam Shepard; and Queens Logic, directed by Steve Rash and featuring an ensemble cast that included John Malkovich, Kevin Bacon, Joe Mantegna, Jamie Lee Curtis and Linda Fiorentino.
In 1996 Hackford discovered unreleased documentary footage of the legendary 1974 Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman title fight in Zaire. He restructured the footage, conducted present-day interviews with Norman Mailer, George Plimpton and Spike Lee, and added footage of the original fight to create feature-length documentary When We Were Kings. It was a hit at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival and won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Hackford has been a dedicated member of the Directors Guild of America for more than 35 years and was elected DGA president in 2009.
JOHN McLAUGHLIN (Screenplay) recently gained acclaim for his work on the screenplay Black Swan, a psychological thriller set in the competitive world of New York City ballet. Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the film was nominated for five Oscars and garnered a Best Actress win for Natalie Portman. Just out for McLaughlin is Sacha Gervasi’s biopic Hitchcock, starring Anthony Hopkins in the title role opposite Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson. Recently he wrote the A&E miniseries “Coma,” starring Lauren Ambrose, Ellen Burstyn, James Woods and Richard Dreyfuss.
McLaughlin is currently working on a variety of projects including Kung Fu, to be directed by Bill Paxton; “The Deep,” a miniseries for A&E; “Blind Eye,” for HBO; “Seeds,” a television pilot for Hitchcock producer Tom Thayer; “Private,” a television pilot based on James Patterson books; and the feature Fresh Tears, produced by Mick Jagger, Victoria Pearman and Tom Thayer.
Outside the screen medium, McLaughlin just completed work on a graphic novel, 7 Holes For Air. He has also been writing Image Comics’ rerelease of the popular “Youngblood” series.
Previous television credits include “Point Pleasant,” for Fox; “Carnivàle,” for HBO; and a television adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” McLaughlin’s first project with Tom Thayer. His first film credits were Death Collector, a low-budget sci-fi action film, and The Last Good Time, for actor and director Bob Balaban.
The Brooklyn-born writer currently lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
DONALD E. WESTLAKE (Author) was an acclaimed American writer with more than 100 novels and nonfiction books to his credit. He specialized in crime fiction, especially comic capers, with an occasional foray into science fiction or other genres.Before his passing in 2008 Westlake was one of only two writers to win Edgar Awards in three different categories: Best Novel, Best Short Story and Best Motion Picture Screenplay (for 1990s The Grifters). In 1993 the Mystery Writers of America named Westlake a Grand Master, the highest honor bestowed by the society. Under the pseudonym Richard Stark, Westlake wrote 16 novels about the relentless and remorseless professional thief Parker. Published between 1962 and 1974, the novels depicted Parker as a ruthless career criminal with almost no traditional redeeming qualities aside from efficiency and professionalism. His first name is never mentioned in the novels, and there are many details about the character that remain unknown. Several Parker novels have been adapted for the screen, though each of them changed the protagonist’s name: 1967’s Point Blank (based on The Hunter), starring Lee Marvin as Parker (character name changed to Walker); 1968’s The Split (from The Seventh), with Jim Brown as Parker (changed to McClain); 1973’s The Outfit, with Robert Duvall as Parker (changed to Macklin); and 1999’s Payback, a second film adaptation of The Hunter, with Mel Gibson as Parker (changed to Porter). The author was born Donald Edwin Westlake on July 12, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York. He attended three colleges, all in the state of New York, while serving two and a half years in the United States Air Force. He once said that he knew he was a writer when he was 11 but that it took the rest of the world about 10 years to begin to agree. Until then his audience was mainly limited to his father, who was encouraging and influential.
LES ALEXANDER (Producer) has served as executive producer on more than 50 television movies, miniseries, pilots and series. His 1990 Hallmark Hall of Fame telefilm “Caroline?” starring Stephanie Zimbalist, brought home an Emmy. Earlier in his career Alexander’s “Apology” received a CableACE Award nomination for Best Movie or Miniseries and won for Maurice Jarre’s original music. “Family Pictures,” starring Anjelica Huston and Sam Neill, received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Miniseries as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Huston.
Feature film credits include Next of Kin, starring Patrick Swayze and Liam Neeson; Jorge Montesi’s action film Outside the Law, with Cynthia Rothrock; the family-drama Rain, starring Susan Dey; and Who Do You Love, a drama about legendary record producer Leonard Chess and a music label instrumental in popularizing blues music in the late ’50s.
The producer enjoyed a three-decade friendship with the late, great writer Donald E. Westlake, whose name opened the door into the world of publishing. Currently Alexander has several feature films based on Westlake’s characters that are being readied for production.
Alexander spent his early years on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn before moving to Scarsdale, New York, at age 5. He graduated from Scarsdale High School and then Columbia College.
The producer lives in Los Angeles and has two grown sons.
STEVEN CHASMAN (Producer) produced The Transporter trilogy (2002, 2005, 2008) in collaboration with award-winning filmmaker Luc Besson. The internationally successful action franchise starred Jason Statham as Frank Martin. Chasman is currently prepping the remake of William Goldman’s Heat, to be directed by Simon West in collaboration with prolific action director and fight choreographer Cory Yuen. He is also working on the biopic Dalida, in collaboration with QUAD Productions.
Following his undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania, Chasman attended Emory University Law School in Atlanta and earned his law degree in 1991. Initially drawn to the practice of contract law, he worked for a few years in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore at the law firm Whiteford, Taylor & Preston. However, the world of commercial law was no match for the dynamic and interesting world of entertainment. In 1993 Chasman joined International Creative Management (ICM), where he worked as an agent representing leading actors, directors and athletes.
After six years at ICM Chasman’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to start Current Entertainment, a management and production company. Chasman and Current recently produced Killer Elite (2011), starring Jason Statham, Robert De Niro and Clive Owen; and Blitz (2011), based on the novel by Ken Bruen, also starring Statham. Chasman collaborated with Charles Roven and Atlas Entertainment on Roger Donaldson’s The Bank Job (2008), based on the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery, with Statham in the lead role.
Chasman’s productions with Luc Besson include three films starring Jet Li: War (2007), Unleashed (2005) and Kiss of the Dragon (2001). Chasman and Besson also collaborated on Taxi (2004), with Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon.
Other film credits include DOA: Dead or Alive (2006) directed by Cory Yuen; The One (2001), starring Jet Li; and Chaos (2004), with Jason Statham and Ryan Phillippe.
While producing The Transporter in France, Chasman had the good fortune to meet French film actress Nadia Farès. They were married shortly thereafter and together made their most important productions to date, daughters Shana and Cylia. Chasman and his family currently split their time between Los Angeles and Paris.
SIDNEY KIMMEL (Producer) is a veteran producer who is the chairman and CEO of Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based motion picture financing and production company. Active in the motion picture industry for more than 30 years, Kimmel’s passion as an independent producer throughout the 1980s and 1990s led to the founding of Sidney Kimmel Entertainment in 2004. The company develops, finances and produces three to five features per year, working with esteemed filmmaking talent to create quality commercial films.
Prior to his success in filmed entertainment Kimmel founded Jones Apparel Group in 1975, which has since grown into a $4.5 billion fashion industry empire. He also created the Sidney Kimmel Foundation and its subsidiary, the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research, which is one of the nation’s largest individual donors to cancer research.
Kimmel is extremely involved in philanthropic endeavors benefiting Jewish education and his hometown of Philadelphia. He oversaw the opening of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, home of the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra. He is also a partner in Cipriani International, the acclaimed restaurant and catering establishment. Kimmel is a part owner of the NBA championship-winning Miami Heat.
Since its inception Sidney Kimmel Entertainment has co-financed, produced or co-produced more than 35 motion pictures. Most recently Kimmel executive produced the Oscar-nominated drama Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. He also produced the hit thriller The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe and William H. Macy. Upcoming releases include Stand-Up Guys, directed by Fisher Stevens and starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, as well as The Place Beyond the Pines, directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes.
Kimmel financed and produced, both independently and with studio partners, Adventureland, Greg Mottola’s critical darling starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart; Synecdoche, New York, the directorial debut of Academy Award-winning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman; the remake of the 2006 British comedy Death at a Funeral, with co-writer and co-producer Chris Rock leading an all-star ensemble cast; the Oscar-nominated drama United 93, directed by Paul Greengrass; and Breach, starring Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe and Laura Linney.
Prior Kimmel releases include Marc Forster’s The Kite Runner, based on the acclaimed novel of the same name, and Craig Gillespie’s Oscar-nominated dramedy Lars and the Real Girl, starring Ryan Gosling, Patricia Clarkson and Emily Mortimer.
JONATHAN MITCHELL (Producer) is a film and television producer whose credits include music-industry drama Who Do You Love, directed by Jerry Zaks.
Mitchell comes from a film production family. His maternal grandfather made motion pictures from the 1920s to the late 1950s, including the first production of Frankenstein as well as later films Roman Holiday, Quo Vadis and Ben Hur. His last assignment was to run Cinecitta Studios for MGM.
It was while living with his grandparents in Rome that Mitchell appeared briefly in the 1959 production of Ben Hur. Six years later he joined Beneficial Standard Life Insurance Company, founded by his paternal grandfather in 1940. Beneficial became the fourth-largest California-based insurance firm before it was sold to CalFed in 1984. Mitchell served on the board and was the president of the company’s real estate subsidiary, where he was responsible for the development of nearly 15 million square feet of commercial and industrial properties.
In 1985 Mitchell became president of Benequity Holdings, a New York Stock Exchange company that sold to a foreign enterprise two years later. Next Mitchell spent time as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. In 2000 he began acquiring private companies engaged in diverse industries in the U.S., Australia, China, Israel and Japan.
Mitchell then met producer Les Alexander and loaned him funds for numerous made-for-television movies. They later formed Alexander/Mitchell Productions and embarked on the development and production of feature films. In 2008 their collaboration Who Do You Love was a Gala Premiere film at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival.
Mitchell co-founded a chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization and is now a member of the World Presidents’ Organization. He serves on the board and finance committee of the UCLA Foundation and is a life member of the Board of Governors of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He is also on the board of Jewish Life Television (JLTV).
Mitchell has been a national officer and director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and is a trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). In addition to receiving several local and national awards from major charities, he holds a seat on numerous charitable boards. Mitchell is board chairman for the Edward D. and Anna Mitchell Family Foundation.
Mitchell has five children and lives with his wife in Beverly Hills.
JAMES MICHAEL MURO (Director of Photography) is an acclaimed American cinematographer and independent film director who received a BAFTA Award nomination for his work on Paul Haggis’ Oscar winner Crash (2004). More recently he has served as director of photography on such television series as Showtime’s “Shameless,” TNT’s “Southland” and A&E’s “Longmire.” He has also directed episodes of all three series. In 1986 Muro began his career by directing the low-budget cult classic Street Trash. He then became James Cameron’s Steadicam operator of choice, working on The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies and Titanic. Muro did Steadicam and B-camera operating on Kevin Costner’s Academy Award-winning epic Dances with Wolves, contributing to Dean Semler’s Oscar win for Best Cinematography. In 2005 Muro made his debut as director of photography on Costner’s Open Range. Additional credits as D.P. include Mark Mylod’s What’s Your Number?, Paul Weitz’s Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, Brett Ratner’s Rush Hour 3, Bob Shaye’s The Last Mimzy, Michael Mayer’s Flicka and the pilot episodes of “The Black Donnellys” and “Detroit 1-8-7.”
MISSY STEWART (Production Designer) has collaborated with director Gus Van Sant on a number of projects including Good Will Hunting, Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho and To Die For. Her first credit as production designer came on Van Sant’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. With a background in studio art, Stewart approaches each film with a painter’s eye for creating a three-dimensional background in which actors and camera can work. She embraces the challenge of bringing multiple elements to bear in the creation of a total environment that breathes life into the characters while also reaching the director’s imagined potential for the script. Stewart is a graduate of Bennington College with a degree in fine arts and literature. She also took courses in architecture and painting, prompting her to paint and pursue an arts career until the late ’80s. During that period her interests began to shift toward the cinema. She found the collaborative and narrative aspects of film very appealing while the visual side was stimulating and not so dissimilar to painting. Stewart moved to Portland, Oregon, and began to work in earnest with a group of independent filmmakers, one of whom was Gus Van Sant.
MELISSA BRUNING (Costume Designer) is a respected costume designer whose film credits include Friends with Kids, Let Me In, Kill the Irishman, Love Ranch, Five Dollars a Day, Super Troopers and Kissing Jessica Stein. Currently, she is designing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for 20th Century Fox. In addition to her work in features, Bruning has had the opportunity to design for more than 150 commercials, collaborating with such high-profile directors as Erich Joiner, Marcus Nispel, Craig Gillespie and Joe Pytka. After graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with an M.F.A. in costume design, Bruning quickly ventured beyond theater and opera into film. Her many designs for the stage have ranged from the hit musical “Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara,” directed by Taylor Hackford; to “Mindgame,” an Off Broadway play starring Keith Carradine, directed by Ken Russell; and “Anoush,” an Armenian opera produced by the Michigan Opera Theater. MARK WARNER (Editor) is a top film editor who received an Oscar nomination for Bruce Beresford’s Driving Miss Daisy and shared in an Emmy nomination for the HBO miniseries “And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself” (2003). Most recently he edited Alister Grierson’s action adventure movie Sanctum, executive produced by James Cameron, and Jay Russell’s family film The Water Horse, starring Emily Watson. Warner’s many film credits include The Devil’s Advocate, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Dolores Claiborne, Big Trouble in Little China, 48 Hours and Rocky III.