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Paul Giamatti (Sideways) stars as George Gattling, a Gainesville, Florida auto upholsterer who attempts to transcend his mundane life by training and taming a wild, red-tailed hawk. He chases his passion while simultaneously caring for his autistic nephew Fred (Michael Pitt, Last Days) and becoming caught up in an abstract and uneasy relationship with Betty (Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain), a young psychology student. Written and directed by Julian Goldberger (Trans), based on the novel by Harry Crews. Co-starring Rusty Schwimmer, Robert Wisdom and Ann Wedgeworth.


 The Hawk Is Dying

A month or so before we started pre-production on The Hawk Is Dying, I took the opportunity to spend some time alone on location in Gainesville, Florida. My plan was just to reconnect with the town and the environment, and to do some preliminary scouting. I also needed to get out of Los Angeles (and my head) and begin the process of opening myself to more oblique creative strategies. I knew once we started production, our 24-day shooting schedule would hardly allow for serendipity to dictate the course of the day.

After checking into my hotel, I was reminded that a hurricane was heading directly towards Gainesville. This was the 2004 back-to-back hurricane season. I had about 12 hours till the eye would pass through town. I didn’t feel like driving up to Atlanta. I was going to ride it out.

In my room I started making notes on my failed attempt, earlier in the day, to hike through Payne’s Prairie, one of our known locations. I lasted about a half-mile on the trail before the mosquitoes showed no quarter and drained most of my blood. I had had enough and turned back. During my manic retreat, I noticed a young boy, about eight or nine. He was crouched down next to some palmettos, perfectly still, entranced by several deer feeding in the distance. I blew past him, swatting at the air. Further up the trail I passed his parents, having an argument about whether or not they were going to stop at the fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A. Only after I got into my rental car and the air conditioning hit me full blast did I realize the relevance of what I had just experienced. I was making a film about man’s disconnect from the wild. The A/C was gravy.

Later that night I made a run over to Eckerd Drugs to buy some food and supplies in preparation for the hurricane. It was raining pretty hard and I could barely see the road ahead of me. I had the radio on and stumbled across a local station playing an NPR-type talk show on dreams and the divine. I pulled over to the side of the road to listen. Something in my mind became unhinged. I couldn’t tell if it was all the talk about dreams and Jesus or the haunting quality of the overhanging Spanish moss, but the mystery of the place was continuing to reveal itself. Hearing the closing music of the show took it even a step further. I had been desperate to find music to help me go deeper into the film and this was it, delivered to me on the radio dial. When I made it back to the hotel, I called the station and found out what they were playing. That music made it into The Hawk Is Dying, not literally, but it’s in there, as are the mosquitoes, the Spanish moss, that kid on the trail, his parents, the voice and fury of the hurricane, as well as a myriad of incidental inspiration, all buried in the soil of the thing.