The last five years have been an incredible journey; one of many ups
and downs, hard work, perseverance, and luck. As anyone who has made
or worked on a movie knows, you do need some luck.
It began in 1999. At that time, I experienced the devastating loss
of Alan J. Pakula. He had died unexpectedly in a tragic car accident.
He was a remarkable man, a gentleman, and the gifted director of such
classics as Sophie’s Choice and All
the President’s Men.
I had the privilege of collaborating with Alan on two films. He encouraged
me to start directing. He believed in me, and showed me it was possible
to make the transition from producing to directing successfully. When
he died, I was confronted with a deep sense of loss. To produce and
direct had been a dream of mine since I graduated from film school.
I felt it was now or never; I owed it to Alan.
I had heard and read about a kidnapping case that captivated my native
Holland in the mid-eighties for the better part of six months. By all
accounts, it was an absolutely horrific ordeal. I wondered what it must
have been like for the family. How does one respond to and deal with
a situation like that? What happens when the very foundation of your
life is brutally knocked out from under you?
When researching the case, I decided it lent itself to a dual storyline
structure. The story of the wife and her children “trapped”
inside their own house in the presence of the FBI as they conduct their
investigation juxtaposed against the story of the kidnapper, the kidnapping
itself, and the effects and consequences it had on everyone involved.
I am a great fan and admirer of the American thriller genre, particularly
the ones that were made in the seventies. I watched and studied many
great films including Alan Pakula’s Klute,
John Boorman’s Deliverance, Francis
Ford Coppola’s The Conversation and
William Friedkin’s The French Connection.
These were some of the great films that were a continuing source of
My years of experience working as a producer with many gifted and talented
filmmakers have taught me many invaluable lessons. Two of these are:
1) know what you don’t know; 2) a good script can attract a good
cast, and a great script, if you’re lucky, may, just may, attract
a great cast.
I knew I was not a screenwriter, so I knew what I had to do next: find
myself a writer. With some help from friends, and friends of friends,
I found Justin Haythe, and he found me. Together we developed the screenplay,
and for two years he wrote countless drafts until we were both satisfied.
It was an extraordinary collaboration, which has led to a terrific friendship.
I wanted to cast the female lead first. The story is told from her
perspective, and the film’s emotional impact completely depends
on the humanity of her performance. We sent the script to Helen Mirren’s
agent, and she read it and responded enthusiastically.
Soon after, Robert Redford came on board. Meeting and talking to him
about the script was both a nerve-wracking and exhilarating experience.
Here I was, a kid from Holland, in the same room with the Sundance Kid!
His comments and questions about the script and about his part were
extremely perceptive and incisive, and his suggestions to improve the
screenplay were invaluable. He could not have been a more generous and
With Helen Mirren and Robert Redford aboard as Eileen and Wayne Hayes,
I truly couldn’t believe my luck. The search for Arnold Mack,
the man who kidnaps Wayne Hayes, was on. Then, Willem Dafoe presented
himself to us. He had read the script and wanted to meet. He knew that
he was the one, and I knew it too. As they say, the “movie gods”
smiled upon us and I knew I was the luckiest first time director in