|B R I E F S Y N O P S I S|
|Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron) was a drifter prostitute convicted and executed for the death of six truck drivers. Writer/director Patty Jenkins, making her feature film debut, reveals Aileen's true life story and unearths her love for Selby Wall (Christina Ricci). Despite her relationship with Selby, Aileen continues hooking, her profession only fueling an increasingly deadly rage—a fury vented with a lurid string of killings and the media's sordid designation of her as the first female serial killer: a monster. Nominated for three 2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Female Lead (Theron).|
I don't know why I made a movie about Aileen Wuornos. I really don't. And I've just finished it. Just poured my entire life and soul into it for two years. I've just dragged myself across the finish line and am finally able to retire from the constant battle to make it the absolute best it could be, and I cannot remember how this all happened to me.
I never set out to be a "lesbian, serial killer" filmmaker. I swear to god. I have no axe to grind with the men of the world. I'm not into murder. I have no agenda to lobby against the death penalty. To be honest, if I'd ever been offered the choice of what kind of film to define myself with, as a first timer, I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have chosen this one. Yet somehow here I am and I cannot imagine caring more about a film.
My involvement in Aileen's story is one of those things that really only makes sense in hindsight. I remember when her story broke in the news in 1990 as a great sensation: "Man-hating… Cold-blooded… Lesbian Prostitute murders her Johns..." She had just been caught and I had just finished a bout of teenage morbid curiosity, reading about the Bundy's and Gacy's of the world in a pursuit to understand the darkness, or at least identify it enough to avoid it in the future.
And suddenly there was Aileen in the news being described in exactly the same terms, but something was all wrong. Her eyes didn't match; they weren't the blank orbs of the cold and enigmatic. They were terrified. As I watched her sit in the courtroom, sobbing into her lap while the love of her life testified against her—as she exploded at the judge and jury upon her sentencing with the violent rage of the deeply misunderstood— throughout I couldn't shake the question: "What happened here? What happened to this person?" From the moment I saw her, something about her got to me and I never forgot her.
As the years went by people told different and riveting aspects of her story but never focused on what had initially struck me. I became a filmmaker with a long list of interests and ideas and apparently one of them (I only know from a recently discovered scribble in an old jot pad) was to make "a raging bull style character film about Aileen Wuornos." I don't remember thinking about this consciously but I guess that explains why I suddenly found myself pitching the idea in an offhand conversation I had with my now producing partner Brad Wyman. At the time I was pursuing a different project but when he randomly mentioned that a string of serial killer movies were being made I think I said something like "Oh, someone should make a film about Aileen Wuornos." He took an interest and upon further thought so did I. I began to research the story and contacted Aileen and the next thing I knew I was sucked in and wasn't spit back out until a few days ago.
Since that initial conversation, and with very little effort, I suddenly found myself deeply and personally involved with one of the most devastating stories I have ever encountered and faced with the overwhelming responsibility of meddling in a reality that ruined so many lives. Rather than celebrating my new found success I found myself faced with a death row inmate whose experience with life had been so horrific that she had a hard time trusting anyone and would live in hope that one day her story would be told fairly. I then faced the awesome balancing act that it would require to tell the extreme dichotomies of her life without letting the tone slide into the B-movie plot it easily lent itself to if slanted in either direction. Simultaneously I was constantly reminded of the innocent lives that were lost and the fact that her victims' families still lived with the horrible loss that was inflicted by the woman I was trying to humanize. Then suddenly and to everyone's shock, in the midst of my correspondence with Aileen, her death warrant was signed and four short weeks later she was executed. In the hours before her passing, Aileen's best friend Dawn lobbied her for consent to support our film. Finally, Aileen fearfully gave her blessing to open her archive of personal letters in the hopes that Charlize Theron and I would tell a truth she herself had never known how to tell.
So long story short…while I don't know how I became a lesbian-serial-killer-filmmaker, I became a most passionate one before I ever had a chance to even consciously think about it.
It's a funny thing to suddenly find yourself making a film with issues that you find "important" when you had absolutely no specific desire to do so in the first place.
One of the oddest and most entertaining aspects of the group of artists and partners that ultimately joined this project was that most of them, like me, were not the type to consciously elect themselves to making films like this. There was many a strange facial expression as the out-of-body style experience of being forced to witness your own maddeningly irrational behavior overtook us one by one. Propelled by the momentum of the story and the all too present relationship with a harsh reality, the process found all of us in one odd circumstance after another; where the most commercially minded among us vehemently batted issues of the greater good and morality over more commercially sensible choices, where producers insisted on the expensive and time consuming while artists battled their agents for the right to work for no money or credit. And many of us, to our great irritation, kept finding themselves blurting out ill-considered donations of their own fees and time back into a film that most were not likely to see a return on. And at the end of the day, I think our greatest surprise has been finding ourselves here at the end; overextended, exhausted and commiserating over the fact that it's over.
So I don't know why I made this movie but I feel eternally blessed
Making it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, long before I crossed the finish line and woke up to the reality that we had just made a movie. So when I'm asked the question "What do you want to do next?" I really don't know what to say. I've got a lot of things that I want to do but apparently that often has little to do with what will actually happen. And frankly, I'm glad.
©2004 Landmark Theatres