CCI, Day 1 - History Lesson: David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence" Panel at CCI

Fri, July 15th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

TV/Film
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

It only takes seconds to irrevocably alter a life. In less than a minute a man can become a killer and a family man can become a celebrity. This is what happens to Tom Stahl, the protagonist of the graphic novel and soon to be released feature film "A History of Violence." Attendees at the were given a preview of the film at a special panel and a chance to meet the man who adapted the graphic novel into the film, Josh Olson, and the film's director, horror icon David Cronenberg.

The panel opened with the film's trailer. The trailer introduces viewers to Tom Stahl (portrayed by Viggo Mortensen), a diner owner, family man, and the pillar of a small town community. When two armed robbers attack Tom's dinner he is forced to act quickly to save the lives of his employees and patrons. In a matter of seconds Tom has brutally dispatched both robbers.

Tom's actions gain media notoriety and he becomes a local celebrity. However, Tom's new fame triggers some very unwanted attention. A mysterious stranger named Carl Fogaty, (played by Ed Harris) who believes Tom is an old associate and an expert killer, comes to town. Fogaty threatens Tom's family and Tom desperately searches for a way to get Fogaty out of his life.

After the trailer, writer David Poland introduced the director of "A History of Violence" David Cronenberg. Cronenberg, who followed up his trip to Cannes with his first visit to Comic-Con International, took the stage to thunderous applause. Poland also introduced the film's writer Josh Olson. Olson and Cronenberg then detailed "A History of Violence's" progress from four color page to screen.

Olson, who had read "A History of Violence" when it was originally released, became attached to the film after producer Cale Boyter called him and asked him to pitch a few ideas for the film.

Boyter liked Olson's take and commissioned him to write the film's script, which Cronenberg's agent sent to him. Cronenberg loved the script. He said, "There was something about the script. Something disturbing, resonant and quite good."

Although "A History of Violence" is based on a graphic novel, Cronenberg said he couldn't say he's had the experience of adapting a graphic novel to film. In fact, Cronenberg wasn't aware that he was directing a comic book movie until after production began. He had assumed the film's script was an original work by Olson. Cronenberg said that Olson never hid the fact that the film was a graphic novel, it just never came up.

After discovering he was working a comic book movie, Cronenberg told the audience he immediately sought out and read "A History of Violence." He discovered that Olson's script is only loosely based on the graphic novel. Olson said, "The first 15 minutes are pretty faithful to the book." However as the film progresses, Cronenberg and Olson revealed that story starts to differ greatly from its source material, explaining the book was more of a thriller and the film is more of a character piece and that the ending of the film differs from the graphic novel.

The cast they were able to get for "A History of Violence" amazed both Cronenberg and Olson. "Lord of the Rings" star Viggo Mortensen was Olson's first choice to play Tom Stahl. Olson wrote the Stahl role with Mortensen in mind after seeing the film, "The Indian Runner." The only actor in the film that Olson was unsure about was William Hurt because he did not look like the character he was portraying, but he said that Hurt delivered an amazing performance.

Midway through the program the audiences were given a clip from "A History of Violence." The clip showed Tom's sudden and violent encounter with the two-armed men trying to rob his dinner. The film examines sudden, horrific violence. "Violence can be exhilarating and cathartic, but it also can be repellant," Cronenberg said.

The panel ended with Cronenberg fielding questions from the floor about a number of his previous films. He said that he had changed his mind on the format of DVD and a fully loaded special edition of his remake of "The Fly," starring Jeff Goldblum as the lead character.

Cronenberg ended the panel by telling the audience that he wished he could have shown the audience the film right there, but he did not have a print.

"A History of Violence" is schedule to hit theaters on September 23, 2005

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