Dread Central hit The Lovely Bones press conference in Beverly Hills, CA, where director Peter Jackson, along with the film’s stars Stanley Tucci, Saoirse Ronan, Rose Mclver, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon and Rachel Weisz, talked up their cinematic incarnation of Alice Sebold’s best-selling novel.
Centering around lead character ‘Susie Salmon’ (Ronan) who is murdered by child-rapist and killer ‘Mr. Harvey’ (played in the film by Tucci), The Lovely Bones’ source material is at times a challenging read in its portrayal of violence, particularly in the first chapter. The tome though at its core focuses on the effect of the crime on the victim and her relatives, as Susie watches them from a hallucinogenic limbo while struggling with her feelings of vengeance towards her killer and her empathy toward the plight of those that remain. Jackson, whose previous efforts include the rather fantastical The Lord of the Rings trilogy and 2005’s King Kong, addressed the film’s focus on the latter.
“There are artistic, moral and practical reasons which I should talk about,” explained the now-svelte Jackson as to why they shied away from the more sensational and lurid moments of the source material. “We made a film about a teenager who is murdered and goes into an after-life, and we wanted to make a film that teenagers could watch, so to speak. (Producer) Fran (Walsh) and I have a daughter that is very similar to (the character of) ‘Susie’s’ age, and there’s a lot of positive aspects to this film, and it’s not something I wanted to have to shield our daughter from. So it was important for us not to go into R-rated territory. Also, I never regarded the movie as being a film about a murder, and if we ever shot any aspect of that particular sequence in any way, then it would stigmatize the film.”
Jackson expounded of his Dreamworks’ feature, which opens wide on December 11, “Movies are such a powerful medium with music and acting and effects and editing and lighting and camerawork that to show a fourteen-year-old girl being murdered in any way, even briefly, would completely swing the balance of the movie, and frankly it would make it a film I would not want to watch. You know, every movie I make is a film that I’d want to see – it’s important to me. There’s a positive aspect (to the film we did make) in the sense that she’s immortal – in saying that there’s no such thing as death. These themes interested us, and not the murder. I mean I’ve shot some pretty extreme things in my time with Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles and Brain Dead, and there’s a certain style and a sense of humor that I believe you can do to get away with that – but to do anything that depicted violence especially against a young person in a way that was serious would be repulsive (to me).”
Nonetheless, actor Tucci found his role challenging, even with the toned-down violence.
“It was hard in every respect,” said the actor. “I was very reticent to take the part at first. I have kids, and I don’t like to read anything or watch anything about kids being harmed, or about serial killers. There is so much serial killer information out there – so many documentaries, but a lot of it is sort of gratuitous and almost pornographic. This (The Lovely Bones) was not that . This was a beautiful story about the exploration of loss. I felt very safe with Pete, and felt that there would be nothing here that would be gratuitous, and that we were going to create a person together in here in (my character of) ‘Mr. Harvey:’”
As for his approach to fleshing out the human monster, Tucci explained that, “The more real he is, the more subtle he is; and the more banal he is, the more terrifying he is. At the beginning it was very hard to leave (the character) at the end of the day, particularly when you are fresh off your research and your research is repulsive, but eventually once I understood who he was and found him, I could drop him at the end of the day. There’s no doubt though that this was the most difficult thing as an actor I’ve ever done, and I looked forward at the end of each day to going into the makeup trailer and taking everything off and having a martini.” Joking wryly, “And one at the beginning of the day too.”
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