New Thriller 'ELEVATOR' to Screen at American Film Market Nov. 4
Imagine being trapped high above Manhattan with eight strangers: a crooked Wall Street executive and his cronies, a Muslim security guard, a Jew who does not trust Muslims, a woman whose son was killed in Iraq, an ambitious TV reporter, a philandering playboy and the pregnant woman he dumped. And, oh yes, someone has a bomb.
Thus begins "Elevator," the claustrophobic new suspense film from Quite Nice Pictures, director Stig Svendsen ("The Radio Pirates") and award-winning writer/producer Marc Rosenberg ("December Boys"). In the movie, a cramped elevator packed with party-goers climbs higher while the mood spirals downward, as passengers who despise each other, suddenly must depend on each other to survive. Like any good thriller, just when you think you have things figured out, you don't.
"'Elevator' is made in the spirit of Hitchcock and Polanski," Svendsen said. "There are lots of twists and turns. The characters are dark and moody, but there's also a lot of humor in the film."
"Elevator" features an international cast with impeccable talent: Christopher Backus, Anita Briem, John Getz, Academy Award-nominated Shirley Knight, Michael Mercurio, Amanda Pace, Rachel Pace, Devin Ratray, Joey Slotnick, Tehmina Sunny and Waleed Zuaiter.
It is John Getz's first screen role since he played Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's lawyer, Sy, in last year's runaway hit "The Social Network." In "Elevator," Getz gives a chilling performance as Henry Barton, the amoral head of a hugely successful investment firm, whose clients lost money while he became filthy rich. With a smug, "let them eat cake" attitude, Barton is the embodiment of the corrupt capitalist mindset that thousands of so-called "Occupy Wall Street" protesters have recently demonstrated against.
"Henry is a very successful financier and imagines himself to be an avuncular sort of Warren Buffett-type," Getz said. "The only thing is that his firm, for the last few years, has been selling suspect commodities to people, and now his past has come back to haunt him."
Barton's past, it turns out, includes a very sad Jane Redding, played by the acclaimed Shirley Knight ("Our Idiot Brother"). While on her way to an elegant party at the top of Barton's ivory tower, she now finds herself confined in a small space with the man who has caused her, as well as countless others, unbearable anguish.
"Politically, I am very anti-money; I think it's immoral to have more than you need," Knight said. "Obviously, I don't think anyone should be violent, but equally I don't believe in people accumulating wealth to the detriment of others. I found that sentiment in the script very much spoke to me."
Adding to Knight's character's feeling of discomfort is the fact that a Muslim security guard named Mohammed, played by Waleed Zuaiter, reminds her of the Iraqis who killed her son. Zuaiter, one of Hollywood's top Palestinian-American actors, intentionally avoids negatively stereotypical ethnic roles. With "Elevator," he saw something deeper.
"It was one of those scripts I could not stop reading, once I started," he said. "My character is not what you would expect. For a lot of the film, he is very quiet and mysterious. You really don't know what to expect from this guy."
Whether he turns out to be good, or bad, Mohammed's ethnicity is unavoidable and becomes a source of friction between him and an unfunny Jewish comedian named George, played with cringe-worthy sarcasm by Joey Slotnick ("Nip/Tuck").
"I thought it would be really fun to play George," Slotnick said. "I feel he's a guy who is out of his element, and yet he finds a kind of strength and power and begins to work in a way that perhaps he hasn't worked before. The script made me laugh. It walks that very fine line of being really funny and dark."
Tehmina Sunny, the London-born beauty who got her start in the creepy "Children of Men" and can soon be seen in Roland Joffé's epic, "Singularity," takes a turn as a television journalist trapped in the elevator with her lover, Don, played by Christopher Backus. Also onboard is Don's pregnant ex-girlfriend, played by Anita Briem ("Journey to the Center of the Earth"), creating a tense relationship dynamic that Backus found irresistible.
"Don is trapped in more ways than one," Backus said. "He's stuck in the elevator between two women he loves, who resent each other, and of course there's the bomb. Anything could happen."
"Here you have a situation where all the characters are pushed to the limit, and you really get to see what people are made of," said Briem, an Iceland-born, London-trained actress.
Don's co-worker, Martin, is played with just the right balance of humor and angst by Devin Ratray ("Home Alone"). Ratray admits that he initially had no interest in the concept of being trapped in an elevator, until he started reading the script.
"There's an underlying tone of darkness underneath Martin, while he tries to keep a Pollyanna front, but there's no hiding it," Ratray said. "We see the deterioration of all the characters, and once all the social mores get stripped down, you really start to see their true personalities come out. It's really exciting."
Rounding out the cast are Michael Mercurio, as the mysterious bomb-maker, and twins Amanda Pace and Rachel Pace ("The Bold and the Beautiful" and "Weeds"), sharing the role of Madeline, Henry Barton's granddaughter, who is alternately sweet and precociously sinister.
"I'm really proud of ‘Elevator,'" said writer/producer Marc Rosenberg. "All the actors did a great job under grueling conditions. They were asked to spend 12 hours a day in a confined space, which added to the claustrophobic feeling of the film. They never complained; they were just so focused on turning in spectacular performances."
"Elevator" will screen on November 4 at 11:00 a.m. at the American Film Market (AFM) in Santa Monica, California. AFM is an annual event that attracts more than 8,000 industry professionals from around the world. Attendance is by registration only. For information, visit http://www.americanfilmmarket.com/.
Information about "Elevator" is available at www.Elevator2011.com.