28 June 2006

Screenwriter Jason Smilovic stood by "Slevin" from concept to completion

I recently interviewed screenwriter Jason Smilovic who, in addition to prepping a new series called "Kidnapped" for U.S. television, is also the writer of "Slevin," which opens in french cinemas on 28 June.

Smilovic said he knew Scottish director Paul McGuigan was the right man to shoot his script when he first saw McGuigan's film "Gangster No. 1." Many writers peddle their screenplays to the highest bidder and then head back to the drawing board to start the process all over again. Smilovic stayed involved and worked closely with McGuigan and a stellar cast, which includes Morgan Freeman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci, Danny Aiello, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu and Slevin himself, Josh Hartnett.
Q: Did you ever imagine your story would have a cast like this?
A: The movie had been relegated to what we call “writing sample” status. It was simply going to be reduced to a calling card and hopefully get me jobs as a writer. We never dreamed of this.

Q: A lot of times a screenwriter has to sell his project and is not involved in production. What motivated you to stay attached to this project?
A: I was fortunate enough to stay involved in this film, but I always hope to get involved with people who embrace the collaborative nature of filmmaking, who feel the more people involved, the better. We made this movie with our friends.

Q: Paul McGuigan is a director who shoots entire scenes, uninterrupted. Does this style of directing help preserve your original vision and stay true to your script?
A: I think it stays true to the performance. [In the past] they only shot masters. Nowadays, everything is coverage and so many performances lack in authenticity because they feel like they are cobbled together.

New York native Smilovic got his start as writer/producer on the U.S. television series "Karen Sisco." The 2003-2004 series was based on the Steven Soderbergh film "Out of Sight," starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez.

From the parlor of a well-appointed suite in a boutique hotel, Smilovic says he thrived on fast food from Burer King's "99-cent menu" while writing the script for "Slevin" several years ago. The film that grew from his efforts was acquired by The Weinstein Company, which recently partnered with MGM. Perhaps the cheeseburger sacrifices paid off?

"Slevin" is distributed by Metropolitan Filmexports and opens in France today, 28 June. (Photo courtesy The Weinstein Company)


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