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Commentary; Spy Game

By producers Douglas Wick and Marc Abraham

Wick: Brad always liked the torture business.He thought he went a little short on it.He was ready to really see himself tortured over several days.He had read about the reality of torture. He was willing to subject himself to a lot more than he actually did.

Abraham: The truth is…we had countless and endless discussions about the proper methods and so forth,and Brad really enjoys doing the stunts.He enjoys getting beat up in this scene right here(when Bishop gets shocked).One of his favorite parts is coming up here…when they took him away from the shock.(A Chinese guard beats him)Ooooh,he liked that a lot!

Wick: One of our experts had suggested-a guy we got rid of-that the best torture scene would be to see Brad in a prison,held down while he watched 10 or 20 Chinese guards rape his lover.That is luckily something you won’t have to watch in the movie…

Abraham: When it comes to Brad and all the details of…the earwig…or the medicine it would require to get his heart beating again…anything like that,he’s meticulous about research.Some actors are the opposite and just want to intuit.Brad can’t get enough information.He always wants to know what really happened,what really took place,how they really tortured,what was the exact way someone would react if they were shocked.

Wick: Brad had a wicked sense of humor,too.By the time we started shooting this movie,Marc and I had spent two intense years of this movie almost getting started.We were going to shoot in Israel,the fighting started and we pulled out.We scrambled for another locations.So,by the time we started shooting in Oxford,we were both pretty whipped.And one night I finally snuck away in a little dinner and I get a message saying Brad needed to see me urgently on the set.Marc, why don’t you continue the story? It was your sick joke.

Abraham: It was hilarious,because what it happened was…there’s a scene that’s not here where Brad spoke Chinese.And he was studying and studying and somehow it eluded both Doug and I to tell Brad that that scene was going to be cut for time.So Brad is on the set,studying his Chinese (Wick laughs) and we suddenly realize no one has told him that scene was cut.So,finally,there wasn’t any choice.Doug was gone and I actually chickened out a little bit and lean on Jim Skotchdopole and he went and told Brad.And Brad was a great sport and said,"I’m glad! Who cares!I don’t want to learn these Chinese anyway!"But we pretended that he was furious that he spent all this time studying and studying and now he’d had it,this was just so unprefessional and he wasn’t going to put up with this kind of behavior.So we called Doug up and pulled him away and told him that we had a huge problem more or less.That we had really screwed up with Brad, and the only person he wanted to talk to and listen to or anything was Doug. And Doug came scrambling back going,"What happened?" We told him and I said,"He won’t listen to me,it’s only you." So Doug,being the trooper,explained to Brad the situation.He told him why it had happened and then he didn’t want me to feel bad so Doug pulled me over to participate in the conversation. And Brad went all the way through it and didn’t let on.Doug finally apologised for our oversight and Brad just let it go.Tell them what happened,because it was funny.

Brad walked off and Doug went,"Man,that was a real screw-up." Brad said,"This can’t happen!This is bullshit!This can’t go on,and,if you guys can’t get it together,,then we have a real problem." Doug was explaining us what he had said and so forth and then Brad crept up behind Doug at that moment listening in to Doug’s description.Thank God,Doug didn’t say,"Man,what a jerk!" He was saying,"No,he was right!" And Brad then,at that point, revealed to Doug that it was all a big joke.

Wick: Well,there’s that early stage in the movie,when you’re sort of feeling out who’s going to be an asshole or how difficult someone actually will be.And I was glad to learn that Brad was actually a pretty good guy.

Abraham: He was great,and he loves practical jokes.

(During the Vietnam sequence)

Abraham: I was discussed that Bob[Redford] and Brad had worked together, but only as director and actor.Bob had directed Brad in one of hisearlier pictures,in…you know…A River Runs Through It,that Bob had done a great job directing. Brad and he had respect for each other,but they never had worked together as actors. So, it was very interesting for both of them.

Wick: Well,yeah…that’s largely how we got Brad,which was…you know…Almost before he read the script,I said,"You want to co-star with Bob Redford?" And he admired Bob so much that it really helped get him for us.We got him pretty easily,given how difficult he is normally to get to do a movie.

Abraham: It’s a good thing Brad was a good shot here

(Bishop shoots the helicopter)

(During the Berlin sequence)

Abraham: This is fun,seeing Brad play so young, and it’s amazing he can do it. He is such a young-looking guy and the naiveté this character has in the scene(Bishop talks to Muir)…I always thought it was so well-acted.
Wick: Redford is like a mentor for him in real life, so he brought in that true chemistry to their relationship.

(Bishop is vomiting)

Wick: See,here goes more chemicals and…(chuckles)…I think that Brad does that very well.Almost like he’s done it before.

Abraham: Yeah,on an occasion.

(Bishop lets go off the Russian guy)

Abraham: Brad’s really good in this scene.He really gives it up.

(Confrontation of Bishop and Muir on the roof of the FUJIFILM building)

Wick: We always wanted a crash noise when that chair was thrown over.

Abraham: And then cut to a couple of guys unconscious on the street. Yeah, the CIA comes to town!

(The CIA conference room after the Berlin sequence)

Wick: When you’re dealing with Redford…he’s been on top for 40 years and seen sp many kinds of scams,so many glad-handers and he really cuts through it pretty quickly.You’d better be very clear and precise,or he just gets that look and tunes out.

Abraham: And he knows the process.Like you say,he’s done it all,so…

Wick: He’s been hustled well and poorly,dealt with very talented people and phonies and he’s got a pretty good antenna.

Abraham: For that matter,so does Pitt.

Wick: Yeah,yeah…You have to survive and stay on top.A lot of people try to hustle you to do shlock stuff.

Abraham: And you forget how long Brad’s been doing it,being successful at it,because he seems to youthful.But,in fact,his career has gained some real longevity now. He’s got,same way,very strong antenna.We had a great tome working with them. Both these guys were really enjoyable.

Wick: Yeah,really talented.

Abraham: (…) Stacey Snider,the chairman of Universal Pictures and,actually, the entire Universal these days,who was just a great supporter of the movie.(…) She said to Doug and I one day,and she’s great: "Brad always likes to get roughed up,"which,of course,he does.And she said," Please,make sure there are moments where Brad Pitt looks as handsome as he really is. Because he’s one of the classic young guys on the screen,maybe the handsomest;" She said: "Please,have a couple of really clean,handsome moments in here." Doug and I said:"We promise we will have that."And,you saw in Brad’s face how beat up he was during the torture sequences.So,we got a photograph of Brad with his face completely destroyed,drinking out of a Starbucks cup with a big smile on his face.I would just say with his face just absolutely pummeled. It looked just like a piece of raw meat,and sent it to Stacey in a package that said: "We remember you wanted Brad to look movie-star handsome in some scenes.Just to let you know and assure you that’s the case,here it is." That’s what it said on the outside.Stacey was all excited, she opened it up and there was that horrific picture of Brad with the Starbucks.

Abraham: It’s funny!Both he [Redford] and Pitt have wicked senses of humor. Pitt loves-which is too long a story-but Pitt loves doing practical jokes.He’ll go to unbelievable lengths to do a practical joke.Which really gives an insight into how,you know,the guy is willing to have fun,not take himself too seriously.All of which is a pleasure when you’re stuck in,not stuck,but working in…When you’re stuck I should say,because Casablanca is a dump.

Wick: It’s a rough town.

Abraham: Brad also does a lot of jokes that play off people’s expectations that he’s an asshole movie-star.So he loves to sort of play off that,you know,an everyone presumes he’s much more spoiled than he is.

Wick: My young daughers who are all addicted to FRIENDS were so excited thatI was going to be working with Jennifer Aniston’s husband.

Abraham: Yeah,he loves doing that stuff (practical jokes e.t.c.)

Abraham: (…) But she [Catherine MacCormack] really is an actress,who, like Brad and Bob,is not concerned about the looks.More concerned about the character. They will do anything with the way they look and use their physical-ness as a tool to tell a story…

(Bishop and Hadley meet in the post office scene)

Wick: Around here,in the script,we had several "meet cute" scenes including the one that was written after this post office scene to show how the chemistry between Brad and her started. And both of them were so apalled by just another romantic comedy scene in this hopefully tough movie that we just pulled it out,and hoped that audience could make the jump that something off-screen had happened between Brad and Catherine.(…)

(Bishop’s character takes pictures while Hadley’s character gives stuff to the kids in the camp)

Wick: Brad had a great eye.He actually did a book of the photographs he shot here on the streets.

Abraham: He wanted to.He’s humble about it,but he’s a great photographer.

Wick: He loves photography.

Abraham: Architecture.

Wick: We have to bad-mouth him more.It’s seeming too nice again.

Abraham: He’s got a lot of interests.

Wick: Yeah,probably someone else took them.

Abraham: Maybe you’re right…I remember once,coming out of his trailer,he didn’t say," Hi" to me.

Wick: I heard about that.

Abraham: I said,"Hi",he didn’t say "Hi" at all.

Wick: Yeah,that’s not right.

Abraham: I think he said,"I want wheat toast with the eggs." Of course, I said,"Yes,no problem."

Wick: He was surprised when you called his agent and his manager and he got a call across the world saying: "Marc is hurt you didn’t say ‘hi’ to him."

(Back to the conference CIA office)

Abraham: Brad took a lot of photographs.He promised to send us a bunch of them,and I’ve never received any of mine.

Wick: I got a beautiful bound book.You’re kidding,you didn’t get one?

Abraham: I knew it.He always liked you better.

Wick: I think I was a little politer.

(Beirut: Muir is shaving when Bishop meets him)

Abraham: I always wondered,and I never asked.I assume that Bob didn’t actually have a blade in that [scene].That’s just movie shaving,isn’t it?All the movies I’ve been involved with…

Wick: Brad actually went into his bathroom and it was really shaving…(……)

(Bishop and Muir meet a doctor in the restaurant and try to convince him to kill the sheik)

Abraham: (…)But you watch it,a little goes a long way.Especially with actors like Brad and Bob.Where just an expression can tell more than you…

Wick: This shows that Brad’s love affair was fraying their relationship,because, of course,CIA guys aren’t supposed to get emotional.

(Bishop,Hadley and Muir meet in the restaurant)

Abraham: I always liked the way Brad…how he gives a little lead right there as an actor and also as a character to let him know how he had explained him to his girl. Good writing.

(Bishop and Hadley fight out of the restaurant)

Wick: When we were shooting this sequence the press picked up some story that Jennifer Aniston was visiting Brad and we wouldn’t allow her on the set because she would distract him.I never figured out where that came from.

Abraham: I think it came from Ton[Scott,the director]. He gave bad information to people.

Wick: Here’s Brad doing a great job of showing the human in the spy.

Abraham: There was another take of this scene.Where he asked Brad,"Is it hard to take a life?" and Brad says,"No".And there’s a beat,and then Brad says,"But it’s hard to live with it."And I remember when Brad first… I ran into Brad when we were writing the film and he said to me… Because he’s such a meticulous actor,he remembered every line in the movie that he’d done.He said to me,"Marc,which answer did Tony go with on that?Did he go with,’Yes,it’s hard to take a life’ or ‘No’?" I said I was so excited, I thought that performance was so good I said,"We went with that great moment when you say: ‘Yes,it’s hard,’ and it’s so emotional,so touching,it was really wonderful!" Brad looked at me and went,"Oh,really?I always liked it when I said,’No'[Both chuckle] He said,"I always liked the other version."

(Bishop reveals his true identity to Hadley)

Wick: With Brad and Catherine,a lot of writing…we went back and forth for several months and we finally came up with this most minimalist progression of their love story(…)

(Bishop and Hadley take their separate ways in the airport)

Wick: Each actor’s pretty good at talking with his face,too.

(Bishop and Hadley are saved)

Wick: (on BraThat’s one of the best-looking movie stars in the world.

Abraham: Ending the movie with his face…as tenderloin.

Wick: And the punctuation in this moment coming up off this close-up of Brad to this close-up of Bob just shows you what real actor star power is.

Abraham: Here’s the payoff.(………)

Wick: Watch from this close-up to Redford’s close-up.there’s a lot of star juice on screen. A lot of acting.A lot of magnetism.

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