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Filmmaker Atom Egoyan Talks About "Where the Truth Lies"

One on One with Writer/Director Atom Egoyan


Filmmaker Atom Egoyan Talks About

Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon in "Where the Truth Lies"

© ThinkFilm
"Where the Truth Lies" - The Story: In "Where the Truth Lies," critically acclaimed writer/director Atom Egoyan tells the story of a performing duo from the 50s whose partnership dissolves after a beautiful young woman is found dead in their hotel room. Decades later, an ambitious female reporter sets about to discover what actually happened during the last few hours of the deceased woman’s life and how the comedy team is connected to the deadly events of that fateful day.

Based on Rupert Holmes’ novel, “Where the Truth Lies” stars Colin Firth, Kevin Bacon, Alison Lohman, and Rachel Blanchard and was given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA ratings board for some explicit sexuality.

Atom Egoyan on How the NC-17 Affects "Where the Truth Lies:” “You know, I’ve never been in the situation before so I’m really guided by what my distributors have told me. My understanding is it severely limits the distribution, the wide release of the film. It means certain newspaper chains won’t advertise the film and it means that certain theaters won’t show it, as well. I don’t have direct experience with it having never been there before, but it seems to be a real issue. I’m very disappointed as a result.”

Atom Egoyan on the Appeal Process: “We presented two different versions because we wanted to have an R rating. In fact, contractually I was obliged to present an R rated film. But you know, we trimmed it and tried to accommodate them but the crucial scene in question couldn’t really be altered. It was shot as a master and there were no alternate sort of angles, and I couldn’t remove that scene.

My distributor agreed that it was essential to the movie so we ultimately have had to go out unrated. The good side of that is that we’ve been able to also reconstruct the film. It’s in the original form and nothing has been removed. But it does mean that it will probably be a limited distribution.”

We Can Chop Up Bodies and Blow People Away But Can’t Show the Human Body in a Sexual Manner... “It’s incomprehensible to me. I don’t understand it. No one is going to watch this film and feel that it’s extreme. It’s dramatic, you know? I think those are very dramatically loaded moments, but I don’t think they’re shot in an exploitive way. For the life of me I can’t answer that. It’s been very frustrating. There’s nothing else we can do at this point. You can’t appeal the decision after it’s gone through this process.”

The Only Upside to the Whole Ratings Fiasco: Egoyan was able to put out the cut he wanted audiences to enjoy, but that’s really the only advantage to emerge from the whole ratings affair. Egoyan says, “I firmly believe that this shouldn’t have ever been an issue. Yes, it’s a relief that it finally gets to be my cut, but I also think it’s a shame that not as many people will see it as the film was intended to be made to be seen by.”

Atom Egoyon on the Process of Adapting “Where the Truth Lies:” “I think that the main thing is to identify what moves you about the story, and to also give yourself the license to reformat or to maybe enhance certain aspects that you think will really identify those themes. In this case, this idea of our relationship to celebrity and how we both admire but also want to [expose the real person].

[Alison Lohman’s character’s] relationship to these two figures in the book was very much rooted in the present. This idea of having Karen as a young girl on the telethon was not in the book. Her whole relationship as a young girl to them, adoring these two figures, was something that was an invention. But I gave the first draft to Rupert and he was very excited about that. He felt that that really did give it another dimension. So you have to give your permission.

In my case, having done three adaptations now, I’ve always sought the writer’s approval. Many directors wouldn’t do that, but I just have a real respect for the world that they created. I’ve wanted to celebrate that, but I’ve also felt in each of those cases that there was something else that I needed to explore. Often the writer may not agree until such time as they see the film in its completed form.

I remember, for instance, with ‘The Sweet Hereafter,’ the whole use of the Pied Piper as a narrative devise was something that Russell [Banks] really didn’t get at the script level. But when he saw the final film, he was very pleased with that. I’ve always tried to keep a relationship with the writer because I’ve got such a profound respect for what they’ve given as a gift. And so you want to serve the book but also serve your own instincts.”

PAGE 2: Atom Egoyan on the Telethon Scenes, the Characters of "Where the Truth Lies," and Changing One of the Main Players from American to British

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