The Writer/Director of “Like Minds”
Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas wrote and sold his script “Basic Instinct” within thirteen days, but Gregory Read took ten years to turn his script into celluloid. But as the documentarian cum filmmaker tells CLINT MORRIS his case was much more about merit than money – so making some quick cash was never the plan.
“I developed it as a doco, and I just really wanted to explore the idea of psychopathy in children and young adults – and what is psychopathy?” says Read, who worked as a producer on such films as Sample People (2000) and Ned (2003). “Is it something you’re born with, or is just something that you garner later on?”
Read discovered that it’s both. “You are born with it, in some ways, but it’s also what happens to you in your formative years that creates you the way you are”.
It was actually in a meeting with a salesperson, one in which Read was trying to sell his documentary, that the idea of a feature length film on the medical condition arose.
The sales person was intrigued by the subject of Read’s documentary and thought it would “really work well as a dramatic piece”.
Read agreed. It could make for such an intriguing premise. After all, he says, “Three percent of society are sociopaths according to the American psychiatric institute. That’s three in a hundred!” [read more here]
With a fresh ribbon in his typewriter, the filmmaker set out on a journey that would really put his fortitude and willpower to the test.
The film tells of Seventeen-year-old Alex Forbes (Eddie Redmayne), a young boy who is placed in a juvenile remand centre after he is charged with the shotgun death of his schoolmate Nigel Colby (Tom Sturridge). With mounting pressure from Alex’s influential father (Patrick Malahide) to have the murder charges dropped. Detective McKenzie (Richard Roxburgh) appoints forensic psychologist Sally Rowe (Toni Collette) to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to find Alex culpable.
The script itself “took about six weeks”, says Read, but getting the film off the ground took “much, much longer”.
Over a period of ten years, the film was financed about four or five times – and every one of those times, the financing fell through. “It was only when [Producer] Piers Tempest, who did Oyster Farmer, saw the script, about two years and a half years ago, and came to the conclusion that it would make a good co-production – which he’d do with Jonathan Shteinman – that it really began to live”.
Before that, says the writer/director, the film had crossed many laps.
“We had a lot of partners – I can’t even tell you how many; it may have been as many as ten or fifteen partners. And if any one of those elements fell over, we were going to be belly up again”, he says.
A key ingredient in getting the film up was the attachment of stars, Toni Collette and Richard Roxburgh.
Though Roxburgh didn’t sign for the film till later, Collette came on board early in pre-production, “When things were looking positive, and we had some money coming in from the U.K – so we could actually go to her and show her that it was a film that was financed. I guess you could say we had Potential money. You see, you can’t approach someone like Toni without money being in place, so it was a bit tricky”, says Read, adding that the Australian actress was always his first choice for the role of Sally Rowe. “She was doing In Her Shoes at the time. Her agent called and said that she’d just read the script, and she really wanted to meet me. So two weeks later I met up with her in Sydney – and after the meeting, she said ‘I’ll do it’”
Collette’s interest in the script really revved up production.
While some of the finance was already in place, Collette’s attachment to the film “continued the financing”, says Read. “Financing was in place as long as we got actors of a certain calibre. They really liked the script, but said ‘If you can get the actors to go with the script, then we will leaver the finance’.
The kids – played by Eddie Redmayne and Tom Sturridge – were harder to find. “We just kept mixing and matching the two kids until we found the right combination”, says Read. “We actually found Eddie in a play; one he was in for only about ten minutes. He was just brilliant in it. And of course now, he’s gone on to even bigger and better things. He did ‘The Good Shepherd’ with Angelina Jolie and Robert De Niro, he did ‘The Golden Years’ with Cate Blanchett, and just did a film with Julianne Moore – so he’s done very well. I’m just really pleased because the guy’s a fantastic actor and nobody had given him a break in film. It was going to happen sooner or later, but I was just lucky enough to be the first one there.”
The film was shot in Adelaide, around North Terrace and in the South Australian Film Corporation Studio. “We also shot five days in Cessnock, which was all the train sequences.”
Those train sequences – and the fights of which take place on there – were done by merely “rocking the trains. They weren’t moving… we used wind machines.”
Since the film is set in the UK, a couple of shots of Britain were indispensable.
With the production designer, Read worked off a “beautiful book that listed all these beautiful locations in Yorkshire” to find his locales.
One of major locations they had to find was the school in the film, but “as this school didn’t really exist, each element of the school was a different location”, he explains, saying, “The dining room was one school. The front was another school. And part of it was part of a mental institution”.
Though “Like Minds” has been getting rave reviews all year, where its been playing at festivals, it was a thumbs up from producer Lee Daniels that really assured Read that he’d done a good job.
“He’s offered me a film for next year”, a joyous Read says of “Izzy’s yearbook”, a film he says will go into production in Philadelphia late next year. “I’m also developing, with a few other studios and producers, some other projects which I hope will go earlier next year.”
Sounds like the start of a beautiful career – or at least, another chapter of one already in progress.
LIKE MINDS Commences Thursday