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Carter Page (Woody Harrelson) is a well-heeled and popular socialite who serves as confidant, companion and card partner to some of Washington, D.C.'s leading ladies. These pampered women are married to the most powerful men in America, and when their husbands are too busy running the country to attend to their wives, they turn to their "gay best friend," Carter, for warmth, wit and wisdom. Carter's loyalty is tested when his dearest friend (Kristin Scott Thomas) finds herself on the brink of a scandal that could destroy her reputation and her husband's career. Offering to cover for her, Carter suppresses incriminating evidence, only to find himself the chief suspect in a criminal investigation. The third part of writer/director Paul Schrader's "lonely man" trilogy that began with American Gigolo and also includes Light Sleeper. Co-starring Lauren Bacall, Ned Beatty, Moritz Bleibtreu, Mary Beth Hurt, Lily Tomlin and Willem Dafoe.
 

 The Walker

Several years ago I was wondering what might have become of the Julian Kaye character in American Gigolo in midlife—that’s when I first got the idea for The Walker. I surmised he would probably be out of the closet, something like a society walker. His skills would have become more social rather than sexual. This struck me as an interesting metaphor. I decided to set him in Washington, D.C. because it is only one of two cities in the U.S. (the other is Salt Lake) where sexual hypocrisy is mandated. Once I put the character in D.C. he became more interesting because contradiction is the heart and soul of character development. (i.e., “I loved her so much I hit her”). It’s the essence of the character.

I never set out to make this a political film. I first wrote it the last year of the Clinton Administration but every time I went back to rewrite and update the script, I had to take into account a progressively conservative and vindictive political environment. The script became more political only because times were changing. In fact, I still don’t regard The Walker as a political film—I see it as a character study. I created a plot to try to keep the viewer interested but not so much so that the film is driven by plot.

I would not have thought of Woody Harrelson for this role. He was never on the list because he has never done anything like this. His agent called me and said, “I know you are looking for someone to play Carter Page—would you be interested in Woody?” Woody is a smart, talented actor—I would have been a fool not to hear what he had in mind. We met in London where he was doing Night of the Iguana. Woody convinced me he could do it—it was a chance for me to get a great performance out of him and for him to give one. We did our rehearsals in London. Woody was still doing the play and not completely into the Carter character. Admittedly I was a bit worried if it would work, but by the second week he just got it—it clicked. Woody is an incredibly quick study.

I knew that film buffs would make the connection between American Gigolo and The Walker—it’s fairly overt. I decided to include a dressing montage much like the montage in Gigolo—only this time it was an undressing montage which ended with Carter Page taking off his hair. This was my way of saying to the viewer “if you think this is like Gigolo you’re right...but here’s the difference.”