You are hereHereafter - a film by Clint Eastwood
Hereafter - a film by Clint Eastwood
Matt Damon (“Invictus,” the “Bourne” films) stars in “Hereafter,” directed by Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Unforgiven”) from a screenplay by Peter Morgan (“Frost/Nixon,” “The Queen”).
“Hereafter” tells the story of three people who are haunted by mortality in different ways. George (Matt Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie (Cécile de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus (George McLaren and Frankie McLaren), a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might—or must—exist in the hereafter.
The film also stars award-winning Belgian actress Cécile de France and twins George and Frankie McLaren. The international cast also includes Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard, Marthe Keller, Thierry Neuvic and Derek Jacobi.
Behind the scenes, Eastwood reunited with his longtime collaborators, including director of photography Tom Stern, production designer James J. Murakami, editors Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach, and costume designer Deborah Hopper. “Hereafter” was filmed entirely on location in Paris, London, Hawaii and San Francisco.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
A massive tsunami tears through a small beach town in Indonesia, dragging a French journalist under the waters and into a fleeting death. On the streets of London’s harsh projects, an accident causes a young twin to be cut off forever from the brother that has always guided him. And across the world, in San Francisco, a man disconnects from life to shut out the voices of the dead.
What happens after death? How can someone so close just disappear? How can those left behind continue to live? “Hereafter” is a drama that explores three characters’ search for answers about their own lives in the face of what lies beyond.
“We don’t know what’s on the other side, but on this side, it’s final,” says director Clint Eastwood. “People have their beliefs about what’s there or what’s not there, but those are all hypotheticals. Nobody knows until you get there.”
“I think we all want to believe that there’s something beyond and we’re not sure what that might be,” adds producer Kathleen Kennedy. “It sounds funny to look at it this way, but I think life is often defined in the face of death.”
“Death touches the three characters in this film in ways most people don’t experience,” says producer Robert Lorenz. “But, in one way or another, we can all relate to the core emotions of the story—love, loss, loneliness and connection. These are things we all experience.”
Matt Damon, who stars in the film, agrees, noting, “The point isn’t to sit there and be a lonely nihilist. The point is to reach out to the other people that are here on the planet with you. And I think that’s ultimately a very life-affirming message.” Peter Morgan wrote the screenplay for “Hereafter” shortly after having lost a dear friend in an accident. It forced him to mull the question everyone considers at some point in their lives. “He died so suddenly. So violently. It made no sense. His spirit was still so alive around us, at his funeral I was probably thinking what everyone else was: ‘Where has he gone?’” poses the screenwriter, who also served as an executive producer. “We can be so close to somebody, know everything about them, share everything with them, and then they’re gone and suddenly we know nothing. I wanted to write a story that asks some of those questions. There’s kind of an epic quality to that search.”
GEORGE IN SAN FRANCISCO
“Hereafter” unfolds through the eyes of three individuals in different parts of the world. Though their lives ultimately converge, they begin their journeys alone. Matt Damon plays George Lonegan, a reluctant psychic medium trying to break free from the desperate people seeking one last moment with loved ones that have passed on.
After working with Damon on “Invictus,” Eastwood hoped to cast the actor in the film, a desire Damon echoed. “I originally thought that my schedule wasn’t going to permit me to do it because I was on another movie when Clint called me,” Damon remembers. “I said, ‘Did you just call me and say you have a Peter Morgan script that you’re directing? You want to offer me the part and it’s going while I’m working on another movie? I’d rather be tortured than get that call,’” he deadpans. “But it worked out, luckily, because Clint is so flexible. I love working with Clint and his whole team.”
Since the story is comprised of three separate storylines in three countries, Eastwood was able to shoot the film in a way that accommodated Damon’s schedule. “I thought, why not just do the two stories and then do Matt’s story when he’s available?” Eastwood recalls. “So, that’s what we did. I’m obviously a fan of Matt’s and knew he could really play the character’s conflict.”
“I think Matt is emerging as one of the most important actors that we’ve had in a long time, when you look at the body of work and the array of roles that he’s taken on,” Kennedy comments. “And one of the reasons he loves working with Clint is that there is always going to be something that he can learn from him in terms of acting or directing.”
The actor describes his character as “a very lonely guy. He has, within the last three years, made a big life change because of this ability he has to talk to people that have passed on. It’s something he doesn’t want, that he looks at more as a curse than a gift. It interferes with his ability to be intimate with anybody because of what he experiences when he makes any kind of physical contact with them.”
Though George is genuinely gifted, he is aware that the field of psychics and mediums is rife with phonies and the pseudo-scientific. “We try to show the legitimacy of what he does,” Eastwood notes, “as opposed to the charlatans out there. Whether there are some who are legitimate and others who are not is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak, but the story does touch on the existence of people that take advantage of those who want to make contact with what might be out there.”
“George’s demon is that he literally can see people’s souls,” Kennedy explains. “He can very quickly tap into things that they feel only they know. And oftentimes what he’s revealing, what he’s uncovering, are things that people don’t necessarily want to reveal to other people.”
The one place George has always found refuge is in CD recordings of the works of Victorian novelist Charles Dickens, read by English actor Derek Jacobi. “George realizes that he’s connected to this writer who’s got all these ghosts in his head that are there with him all the time,” Damon remarks. Seeking to leave his past behind, George embarks on a pilgrimage to Dickens’ London home. “George is searching for a way to get beyond this situation he’s been stuck in for so long,” says Lorenz. George’s journey leads him to the London Book Fair and on a collision course with the story’s two other lost souls. “I think all the characters in this film are trying to re-engage in life,” Damon observes. “And George needs to come to understand the value of this gift that he has.”
MARIE IN PARIS
Marie Lelay, a popular French anchorwoman and political journalist, begins her journey in a small seaside town in Southeast Asia while on a holiday with her boyfriend, Didier.
Marie is played by Belgian actress Cécile de France, who offers, “Marie is a strong, wealthy businesswoman who is in love with her job and passionate about always telling the truth in her reporting. It’s why she’s a good journalist and why she’s so popular. She is in a relationship with the producer of her show, and theirs is the love of extremely busy people. They’re not very attached to what is happening in their hearts at the beginning of the story.”
Marie’s life is forever changed when she leaves her hotel to look for gifts for Didier’s children in the street market. In the distance there is a roar and she turns to see a devastating tsunami thundering towards her, destroying everything in its wake. “She is absorbed by this killer wave,” de France says. “She fights to catch her breath but is dragged under. And while she is actually dying, she experiences this vision. Everything becomes quiet and completely dark; a distant light catches her eyes. Time stands still, and the light in the distance comes closer and closer. There is no sense of linear time or emotion. It’s all-knowing, all-sensing.”
The sensation doesn’t last, and soon Marie is gasping for breath and regaining consciousness. Eastwood says, “After that near-death experience, she goes back to Paris and back to work, but this event has disturbed every aspect of her life.”
Marie’s loneliness and search for answers drives her to begin writing a book about her own experience. Her frustrating quest for information eventually leads her to a hospice in the Alps. Veteran Swiss actress and contemporary opera director Marthe Keller plays Dr. Rousseau, who has studied the phenomenon and now administers to patients in a hospice in the Alps. “Dr. Rousseau is a scientist who has spent her life researching what’s considered somewhat of a taboo subject in science: that there are people all over the world who have experienced death and come back to life,” says Keller. “People don’t want to talk about it because the concept itself can be so terrifying. But Marie has written this long letter, opening up and telling her story. Marie not only wants to understand, she wants someone to listen. She needs to be understood.”
Marie’s pursuit of the truth will eventually lead her to London, where she will find herself face-to-face with someone who will finally hear her.
MARCUS IN LONDON
Twin brothers George and Frankie McLaren were cast as the centerpiece of the film’s story of loss. Jason and Marcus are twin brothers from London’s working class council estates. Their mother, Jackie, played by Lyndsey Marshal, is struggling with addiction, and the boys are one social worker visit away from being sent to a foster home. “Jackie loves her children but she can’t really cope on her own,” Marshal describes. “She’s quite young, doesn’t have a lot of money, and she’s fallen into drugs. The boys really feel a need to repair her, and cover for her when social services visit their flat. There’s an absolute wisdom beyond their years from having to cope with the situation.”
Born 12 minutes earlier, Jason is the more confident twin and looks after both his mother and brother. “They’re close because they don’t have many friends,” says Frankie McLaren. “They always stick by each other because they’re all each other has.”
On an errand for his mother, Jason is struck and killed by a car, leaving Marcus to face the unimaginable alone. “Marcus is sort of the weaker of the two, and when his brother is tragically killed, he is set adrift, unsure of what to do next or how to go about life,” Lorenz comments. “He’s really lost and searching for answers.” Adding to Marcus’s isolation is the fact that the accident results in him being taken from his mother and placed in a foster home. “He’s very young and wary of the world and wary of us,” says Irish actress Niamh Cusack, who plays his foster mother. “He needs to feel that Jason is still with him. That is his only security.”
In an attempt to reestablish a connection with his brother, Marcus goes on an odyssey through the internet’s community of psychics and mediums. “He goes around and talks to people to see if there’s anybody who can contact Jason, and he runs into all these charlatans who say they can talk to the afterlife, but they can’t really,” says Eastwood. But his search ultimately yields a name, and the name a face: George Lonegan. So, Marcus sets out on his own to find the one person he believes can help him find the answers he needs.
ON LOCATION IN HAWAII, PARIS, SAN FRANCISCO & LONDON
Assembling his loyal team of key collaborators and artisans, Eastwood commenced production on a film that would make a sprawling footprint, from London and Paris to San Francisco and Maui.
“The ideas in this movie are universal,” says Damon. “It deals with questions that people are grappling with all over the world and always have been and always will be. So, I think it’s great that it’s a big story with such an international feel, and that we went to all these different countries to capture that.”
Because the action would be interconnected, Eastwood worked with production designer James J. Murakami to ensure the audience would know where they were at any given time. “Clint wanted each story to have really unique, identifiable settings,” Murakami says. “So, it was important to capture the modern, sleek look of Paris, and the middle class feel of San Francisco, and then the distressed look of Marcus’s London. The places in many ways mirrored the character whose story is being told.”
A particularly striking location was the Charles Dickens Museum, the only surviving London home of the Victorian novelist, where he wrote two of his most famous books, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. The museum allowed Eastwood and company to shoot Matt Damon in the sequences in which George joins a small group touring the narrow house. “They were very cooperative about having us in there,” says Eastwood. “And we were very respectful in taking our time to not damage anything.”
Here, George glimpses the portrait called “Dickens’ Dream,” which depicts the author asleep at his desk with characters from his novels floating in the air around him. “When George sees it, he realizes that he’s connected to this guy who has got all of these ghosts in his head, who are there with him all the time,” Damon reflects. “It was pretty amazing to be able to do that scene in the actual place with the actual portrait.”
THE FINAL MIX
Eastwood, who is known for composing and being closely involved in the creation of his film scores, put together the soundtrack for “Hereafter.” The Australian conductor Ashley Irwin conducted a 22-piece orchestra with Eastwood, Lorenz and Cox in attendance. Eastwood wove Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto into the score, as well as two simple and elegiac themes the director himself composed for the film. Also on hand on the scoring stage was pianist Gennady Loktionov, from Carmel, California, to arrange Eastwood’s compositions.
“Clint sits down and writes the music, creating a feeling of what he wants in the overall movie,” says Cox. “He’s a jazz person, so he wants that freeform, to let it flow. He likes his scores to be sparse; it’s there to support the story.” The same can be said about Eastwood’s touch in the entire process of making the film. While he is clearly in charge of his production, he orchestrated this massive international shoot with his characteristic light touch and good humor. “As a director for 40 years, he knows what kind of environment to create for his crew,” says Damon. “He knows a lot about the various jobs, and how to make it easier on everybody. And as a result, everybody really feels like they get to do their best work, and in a really fun atmosphere, too.”
For Cécile de France, working with Eastwood for the first time was a revelation. “I felt he totally trusts you, so you feel ready to give him all your energy and potential,” the actress says.
“He wants everything to unfold naturally, in terms of letting the actors be spontaneous and moving things along,” says Lorenz, who has worked with the director for over a decade. “He trusts the people that work for him, and creates this fantastic working environment with his presence. It all emanates from him.”
“When you approach a scene in a movie, your intuition is to do it a certain way,” Eastwood offers. “I like to embrace the stories and let them unfold naturally by getting to know the people. In this film, each of the three main characters has something the other one needs, not necessarily answers, but a starting point to get on with their lives. They’ve all just got to do the best they can while they’re here.”
Hereafter is in UK cinemas from Friday 28 January 2011