About The Production
FROM PAGE TO SCREEN:
THE FOREIGNER'S JOURNEY
Based on acclaimed crime writer Stephen Leather's 1992 novel, "The
Chinaman," The Foreigner gets a present-day update by screenwriter David Marconi
(Enemy of the State, Live Free or Die Hard). While the novel was set in the
during "The Troubles" - the period when the IRA were bombing the UK and Northern
Ireland - the film's producers felt that the main themes could be equally
powerful in a
Producer Wayne Marc Godfrey recruited Marconi to adapt Leather's novel, given
Marconi's track record of success in action thrillers. Producer Arthur
subsequently gave the script to Martin Campbell as a potential directing
Together they worked with Marconi revising the script. STXfilms, a division of
Simonds' STX Entertainment, later optioned the script from Godfrey and
with Chan attached to play Quan. STXfilms' then head of production Cathy
oversaw a new draft of the screenplay, focusing on designing it as a "two
Quan and Deputy Minister Hennessy were battling similar demons based on their
shadowy backgrounds. Schulman suggested that Hennessy's role be fine-tuned to
attract Schulman and Campbell's mutual friend and collaborator Pierce Brosnan.
"While we were working on it, we knew that Jackie Chan would be playing Quan
and we had Pierce Brosnan in our sights too," says screenwriter David Marconi.
when I was doing the script, it was with these actors in mind."
It was a lengthy process, which included contributions from director Martin
Campbell, once he came onboard the film. "We worked on the script together for
four or five months," recalls Marconi. "We had a great working rapport which is
essential, and Martin's ideas were spot on. Martin elevated the script to
his notes and suggestions were very clear. He was as concerned about character
"This is a story of revenge where the main character is a man who's had a
past. Two of his daughters were killed in terrible circumstances several years
his wife dies soon after they have established a new life of safety in the UK,
and now 15
years later, his only daughter is killed, so he has nothing left to live for,"
Marconi. "His journey of revenge ultimately becomes one of redemption. It took
about 2 1/2 years of writing and rewriting. I had to break the book down.
a very good book that I was able to do an adaptation from."
"One of the biggest challenges was updating it from the 90s to present day.
was very important to take the issues of today and put them into this novel that
in the past. We had to reinvent and update certain things so the technologies
threats were more contemporary," says Marconi. "I didn't want to make the IRA
guys, because they've made peace. But there are upstarts in the organization who
haven't signed up to peace that are out there still trying to do things. I had
to find the
different shades of the villains and try and present all sides so the bad guys
one color and the good guys weren't all one color. It's about various shades of
because the world that we live in is a very grey world. You have to get inside
of all the characters, including the villains, so you can understand why people
The Author Stamps The Foreigner's Passport for Journey to The Silver Screen
"I wanted to do a story about a man who was underestimated by people," says
novelist Stephen Leather. "A man who nobody took seriously, who isn't considered
threat." All too often, screen adaptations of novels bear little resemblance to
material, leaving authors disgruntled. Thankfully, that isn't the case. Although
has shifted the story to the present day from its early 90s setting, the
and foundation remain. "It's my book and it's the filmmakers' movie," says
"David is a brilliant writer and he's done such a great job of writing the
changed a lot of elements. We had to update the technology. And it's very true
story and to the characters I wrote. So, I'm very pleased that David's given it
edge. Martin's action scenes improve it. And he's put more intensity in it. I
brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And to be on set surrounded by 100 people
filming a story
that I wrote in my little room 25 years ago is thrilling."
COMPLEX MEN WITH TROUBLED PASTS:
CASTING THE LEADING MEN
From Action Star to Dramatic Actor: Another Side of Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan is legendary for his explosive martial arts action sequences and
larger-than-life performances, so playing a character with the quiet, almost
intensity of Quan was an exciting new challenge for Chan. "I wanted a change,"
the action legend. "I don't always want to do the same kind of film - Chinese
an Indiana Jones-type film, Shinjuku is a tough film, Skiptrace is a comedy - so
year, I try to do something different. I want to be an actor so this is a big
change and it
will give audiences a chance to see another side of Jackie Chan."
Even more than the action, it was the heart-rending poignancy of the story
appealed to Chan. "Quan is a lovely father," he says. "After the terrible
tragedy of his life
in Vietnam, having seen his two daughters kidnapped and raped by Thai pirates,
then his wife dies when their youngest daughter, Fan, is born in London, his
life is all
about loving her and protecting her. When she is killed, he has nothing left. He
desperate for revenge, not only for Fan's murder, but for the innocent who are
Chan embraced the opportunity to break out of his typical action-hero persona
and tackle a serious dramatic role. "He immersed himself into the character of
a character we haven't seen him play before. We all expect Jackie to come in and
'kung fu-ing' everybody, but Jackie's approached the character from a cerebral
perspective," explains Lumpkin. "The character is all about thinking through his
he meticulously plans how he's going to approach his antagonists, he plans how
going to get revenge for his daughter, he meticulously looks for justice. And
you can see
that in his mind as the character develops."
"He is obviously completely and emotionally wrecked by the death of his
daughter. And he very quietly goes to the police to ask who did this. He is a
with a simple life; he makes a living from his Chinese restaurant. He is
Campbell, discussing Quan's journey for justice, "He even, at one point, in his
offers the police chief all his life savings in order to at least get a clue- a
who could have done this atrocity."
"Quan has a history. He was a Nung fighter in Vietnam, so he worked with the
US soldiers, in training, in guerrilla warfare, so he's got a real history of
how to be a badass,"
adds Lumpkin. "He knows how to defend himself; he knows how to protect
himself; and he knows how to find the answers. And that's really his mission: to
answers and to seek justice."
After being dismissed by Hennessy when he asks him who killed his daughter,
Quan realizes he must draw on the skills and training from his secret past to
Hennessy to take him seriously. "Quan does little things - he puts small bombs
office and in his car which are not meant to hurt or maim - but Hennessy knows
wants to, he can kill his whole family," says Chan. "Quan just wants Hennessy to
him the name of the bombers. He's stubborn and he wants revenge." As Quan's
frustration increases, so do the demonstrations of his capabilities. As Campbell
"Quan has nothing to lose. And he doesn't think for a minute he is going to live
this," states Campbell. "And he doesn't care. It's just morally what he has to
"The most surprising thing for me with Jackie was how quickly he became Quan,"
adds Producer Jamie Marshall. "We were a little anxious about Jackie, who has so
much energy and youth, playing an older man but after hair and makeup and three
hours of rehearsals with Martin, he came in on the first day of shooting as Quan.
blown away. And he's brilliant to work with, a lovely man with a very generous
me, no one else could have played this role." The result is a complex and
performance, which may surprise audiences and Jackie Chan's fans alike.
Chan also gets to show off some serious acting chops. "In the opening scene
when the bomb goes off, you really feel that shock in Quan as he's blown across
car," says Lumpkin. "He gets up with glass in his face, and there's smoke and
blood everywhere. And watching the scene where Jackie's holding his daughter, it
really moving. Jackie really brought his A-game for this role. Even watching the
Of working with Chan, Brosnan says, "I was a huge Jackie Chan fan and am
even more so now having worked with him. He's just one of these legends of the
cinema, someone who has fantastic comedic timing, wonderful alacrity on his
for him I think this movie is a great departure and one that will surprise the
love him. We had a good time. I'm really proud to have worked with him. I love
'I'm working with Jackie Chan.' It always brings a smile to people's faces."
"Jackie Chan is single-handedly one of the coolest people I have ever met in
life!" says Lumpkin. Campbell recalls the story of visiting Jackie in his
dressing room, "I
remember the first day of shooting, I went to the makeup trailer, and there he
sweeping out the trailer. You know, like cleaning it out. And that's just
Stephen Leather concurs: "Jackie Chan is great. It's a side of him we've
seen before. We're used to seeing the Kung Fu and the slapstick fighting, but
acting with depth and emotion and it's superb! A lot of the time he doesn't even
Jackie Chan - the way he moves his face, how he talks, is so different. And you
raw emotion the guy's putting out. It's a great bit of acting."
Campbell states it more succinctly: "He's simply excellent."
Pierce Brosnan: From Secret Agent to Government Agent with Secrets
Playing Liam Hennessy, the former
is Pierce Brosnan. For Lumpkin, Brosnan is a man who "oozes class. He was
James Bond, he was Remington Steele, and he's everything that we have always
wanted to be when we watch a movie. Pierce brings a sense of balance, coolness
class to the character of Hennessy. You look at Hennessy at first and you think
classy cool guy.' But he's got a dark past. And there's really no one else who
that role like Pierce."
Says Brosnan of his character, "He's someone who was born of war, really, he
grew up in The Troubles in Ireland. He's very bright, very articulate, and
is trying to hold onto his own position in government and within his own people
north of Ireland."
Reuniting Martin Campbell with his former Bond was an easy sell. "Well first
all, Pierce is Irish, which helps. I think this one of the best things he's ever
Campbell. "He threw himself into that role. I remember him saying to me [he] was
worried about the IRA, being Irish and doing a story like this. However, he went
with his eyes open. And for once, I got some rehearsal time with him before we
so that helped. I think the character he finally came up with is absolutely
"Hennessy is as we would expect a politician to be, withholding answers and
information," says Lumpkin. "He sees Quan as simply a foreigner and doesn't pay
any attention - until Quan shows what he's capable of. Hennessy realizes this is
serious, but he has a lot of other things going on. He's got to build up his
which is beginning to dwindle. He's got to handle [former IRA colleague] McGrath
his rogue forces. Pierce does a fantastic job of playing Hennessy. He's got a
sense of style in what he brings to the role. Hennessy is completely believable
- he's got
a great charm at the beginning, but slowly he reveals how much of a bad-ass he
Jackie Chan was also thrilled with his co-star, both personally and
"I'm honored to work with him," says Chan. "He's one of the biggest movie stars
he's so good. He helped me a lot on set, not just with my acting but my English
I wasted a lot of time because my English is not so good, and also, I have to
a British citizen - and he helped me a lot. He was very patient. At the end of
he gave me a painting he had painted, he's a true artist."
"Pierce is fantastic," agrees Marconi. "Martin and Pierce had worked together
Goldeneye and for Martin to bring him on was a tremendous choice. He brought a
gravitas to Hennessy. This is one of the strongest roles I've ever seen him do."
Leather was also very happy with the finished product. "I couldn't ask for a
director. Jackie Chan in the lead role - you couldn't ask for anyone better. And
Brosnan - when I wrote the book 25 years ago, I had Pierce Brosnan in mind for
Morrison, the Irish guy who gets called over from the United States to hunt down
It's funny that 25 years later he's grown into the role of Hennessy, who is the
character in the book. So, I'm absolutely thrilled that he was in it."
As Hennessy's wife, Mary, Orla Brady is a ticking time bomb of frustration.
a role the actress found appealing for a number of reasons. "I was very
intrigued by the
notion of a vengeful woman," she says. "A woman who, instead of internalizing
disappointments and accepting them, turns her fury outwards and lashes out at
person who she sees as the object of her pain and distress: her husband. I've
played women who destroy themselves, and they're all interesting to play, but I
unleashed fury of this role."
Brady did a lot of research into the role, reading first-hand accounts of
who went on hunger strikes during the height of "The Troubles." "Martin really
find the truth of this woman," says Brady. "He wasn't interested in creating
stereotypes. He's very interested in story and the fact that good people can
moments and bad people can rise above themselves sometimes. In other words,
isn't such a thing as a good or bad character. A lot of people become very
and Mary is certainly compromised. She begins to see her husband isn't the
leader she hoped he would be and she feels the cause has been betrayed, so she
The film's leading men and director were major reasons Brady was drawn to the
project. "I very much wanted to work with Jackie Chan. It's been revealing
play a very dramatic role, with no comedy at all, and his performance will
audiences. He's the moral heart of the film really whereas my character is the
she's a venal person who is compromised, who is about an ideology rather than
compassion. Pierce Brosnan and Martin Campbell were also incentives. "Pierce is
of a legend - especially in Ireland - and Martin Campbell has an extraordinary
sensitivity around the subject matter, so with all these elements, I really
couldn't say no!
Pierce makes it as easy as it can possibly be to be on set. There was a scene
am talking to him on the phone. A lot of actors will take a break if they're not
going to be
in the scene and do the call from their trailer but Pierce stayed in the room
and that was
really great. And he did it without any hoo-ha."
RORY FLECK BYRNE
Rounding out the leading cast is Rory Fleck Byrne as Sean Morrison,
Hennessy's nephew and a former member of the Royal Irish Regiment who is brought
back from New York to track down Quan in the Irish countryside. "Morrison
loss. He would have lost the majority of his family along the way during "The
And Liam Hennessy took him under his wing and looked after him over the years
it's become this father-son relationship," explains Byrne. "There is trust and
that's what makes it such a great and complex relationship, because as the story
unravels, you realize there's some hidden secrets there."
The actor was immediately impressed with the script. "I could see the story
head and it was visually stimulating. And the idea of intertwining IRA themes
someone like Jackie Chan was very unusual - I'd never seen anything like that
The producers had to find the right actor that could handle the physical and
emotional integrity needed in the scenes between Quan and Morrison. Marconi
there are two people who really connect, it's Quan and Morrison, because of
shared past as soldiers. Quan sees Morrison as a kindred spirit, as both men are
conflicted: Quan because he switched sides during the Vietnam War, and Morrison
because he's an Irish Catholic who fought with the British army in Iraq."
Byrne also bonded with Pierce Brosnan in an unexpected way. "Pierce is
fantastic - he just operates on another plane somewhere. I had only met him once
before and as we were preparing for a scene he just started telling me about his
and my jaw dropped because I wasn't expecting him to say something about himself
openly. We're both only children, a bit of a dying breed, so we high-fived about
can't help but want to listen to him. You can't help but want to lean in. He's
got a little
glint in his eye. It's just magic working with him."
Michael McElhatton was cast as Kavanagh, Hennessy's fearsome consigliore. "I
thought it was a great script," says the actor best known for "Game of Thrones."
very much in the classic genre revenge movie, but there's lots of things that
towards the end of the story that turn it into something other than a
narrative. And I wanted to work with Martin Campbell, who's a fantastic
Campbell and McElhatton spent a good deal of time discussing Kavanagh's
backstory. "Martin wanted Kavanagh to be a kind of consigliore to Hennessy, a
ally as much as a heavy," says McElhatton. "Kavanagh has probably been with
Hennessy for quite some time, all through "The Troubles" in the 1970s, and
now on the legitimate side of the IRA. And he has adjusted accordingly. But as
the movie progress and things start closing in around Hennessy, he relies on
more and more and we realize that Hennessy hasn't quite changed as much as his
public persona suggests."
McElhatton also relished working alongside Jackie Chan. "All my scenes with
Jackie are action scenes and that's pretty exciting for me," says the actor.
"But he's not
just doing action here. He does the action guy and also the very submissive,
guy and he does both incredibly well. He's such an instinctive actor and it's
been fascinating to watch him."
It was also a pleasure to work with Martin Campbell: "He's so accomplished,"
says McElhatton. "Every day on the set, he would be completely running the show.
has his shots worked out, he knows exactly where the cuts will be, he would tell
actors where the cuts would be, which is incredibly helpful because it means
asking where the camera is or why it's being shot in a particular way. He knows
what he wants and he's great in the detail and he gave us great notes. He's also
fast and his energy is quite infectious so he's an absolute joy to work with. I
has brought a great degree of tension and drama and excitement to this movie.
story has lots of complexities and plot twists, so it'll have a very broad
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