About The Production
As hopeful as it is harrowing, The Jacket, a mind-bending drama that melds elements of a thriller, romance, murder mystery and time-travel fantasy, is a film that defies easy categorization-which is precisely what made it so appealing to director John Maybury.
"What interested me about it is that was kind of genre-less," says Maybury. "In a way, different audiences impose a genre on the film. I hope no one comes up with a label for it because for me, the fact that it slips between the cracks of various genres makes it interesting as an experience."
Just as Maybury's most recent film, Love Is the Devil, about artist Francis Bacon, was an unconventional biopic, The Jacket is an unconventional romance-fraught with suspense, tension, and an undercurrent of dread, but ultimately buoyed by optimism and a belief in the transcendent power of love. Not one to shy away from a challenging narrative, Maybury, who began his career as an artist, experimental filmmaker, and music-video director, embraced the story's temporal shifts and the opportunity to bring his visual flair to the kinetic depiction of Jack Starks' disorientation and bewildering flickers of memory.
Mandalay Pictures, lead by former studio head and longtime producer Peter Guber and Section Eight, the production partnership between Academy AwardÂ® winning director Steven Soderbergh and actor-director George Clooney, then partnered to develop the script and to put the film together.
Section Eight partner Steven Soderbergh, who was greatly impressed by Love Is the Devil, sought out Maybury to direct the film. But getting Maybury, who was not accustomed to overtures from Hollywood, on the telephone took some effort. "I got a call from somebody claiming to be Steven Soderbergh which I didn't believe," Maybury recalls. "But when they called back and insisted that it really was Steven Soderbergh, I kind of believed him."
Shortly afterward, when Soderbergh met with Maybury in London and described his and George Clooney's vision for Section Eight, Maybury was intrigued. "He said he wanted to bring filmmakers like myself, Todd Haynes, Harmony Korine-filmmakers who are kind of on the fringes not just of mainstream filmmaking, but on the fringes of independent filmmaking-and to bring us into the mainstream, to give us access to Hollywood studios, star actors and stuff like that," says Maybury. "It seemed like an incredibly attractive proposition, so I asked him to send me some stuff and I'd see if there was anything I liked. The first thing they sent me was the screenplay for The Jacket, which was the first script I'd read from cover to cover in a long time."
To prepare for the shoot, Maybury studied several films from what he refers to as "American New Wave cinema," the late 1960s and early 1970s, including The Parallax View and McCabe and Mrs. Miller. His origins as a visual artist also prompted him to delve into the pre-sound era. "I watched a lot of silent cinema, particularly Eric Von Stroheim's stuff, because he was doing experiments in the teens and 20s that for me still haven't been resolved," notes Maybury. "I come from the experimental avant-garde in England, so I have an awareness of a whole area of cinema that doesn't usually impact on mainstream cinema. And that's something I've tried to bring into play. I'd like to think that we've been able to employ various languages of cinema in this film, and hopefully seamlessly enough that they're not so self-conscious heavy-handed that the audience will even be aware of that."
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