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DOMINO – STORMING THROUGH DOORS

Domino Harvey had told filmmaker Tony Scott that “storming through doors with a shotgun in her hand was the biggest adrenaline rush she’d ever had and it helped to quell the voices in her head” Scott has made a film based on that sensibility, dedicated to her memory. (Pic, Tony Scott with Jacqueline Bisset; Photo by Michael Caulfield, WireImage)

Director Tony Scott has had a lengthy history with Domino. He first met his muse, Domino Harvey, more than ten years ago after his business manager, Neville Shulman, sent him an article from what Scott refers to as a “rag newspaper” in London. The article depicted the life of a young woman who had decided to become a bail recovery agent and follow the seamier side of life, both personally and professionally. But what really piqued both men’s interest was the fact that this young woman was actor Lawrence Harvey’s (The Manchurian Candidate) daughter, from a privileged and gentrified background.

Scott immediately got in touch with the then-20-year-old. He invited her to his office and a week later, the two were in discussions to put a version of her life story on screen. The director always planned to begin with an outline of Domino’s life, but from the start never intended to produce a strictly biographical piece. In some cases, he even shied away from using people’s real names “because I was misrepresenting what had actually happened in their lives,” the director says.

"the biggest adrenaline rush she’d ever had"

Over the years Domino became a surrogate daughter to Scott. He attempted to watch over her and her comrades as best he could, but even the most concerned and involved father cannot always dissuade his children from foolhardy pursuits and destructive behavior.

“I kept telling Domino, ‘You’re crazy,’” Scott recalls. “She was into lots of dangerous things other than bounty hunting, and I said, ‘Watch out. You’re gonna kick down one too many doors.’ But she said storming through those doors with a shotgun in her hand was the biggest adrenaline rush she’d ever had, and it helped to quell the voices in her head, so there was nothing I could say or do that would change her attitude.”

“When I met Domino, she was living at home in Beverly Hills with her Mum and stepfather, Peter Morton, the famous restaurateur. She’d leave her guns in the garage and pick them up when she went on these bounty hunting missions. She was living two distinctly different lives.”

“I also met with Domino’s team,” recounts Scott. “They were infamous even ten years ago when there weren’t that many bounty hunters around. They used her as a cover or as a carrot, whichever the situation warranted. But make no mistake, bounty hunting is a tough, dangerous business.”

Several different screenwriters took a stab at the story, but to Scott’s dismay, they were more interested in writing a very straightforward portrayal of Domino’s life that Scott describes as “solid, but way too linear.” When Scott gave the same assignment to Richard Kelly, he got more than he bargained for.

“I read Southland Tales and I saw Donnie Darko, and thought Richard had an interesting voice,” says Scott. “He takes an unusual and very imaginative approach in terms of his comedic elements and his darker, almost sci-fi side. He manufactured the story but left the characters as real, breathing people.”

Kelly came up with the thread for his fictional story while sitting at a Santa Monica Department of Motor Vehicles office attempting to correct a snafu with his driver’s license. The DMV acts as the conduit for all of humanity; it is the source of all information and the nucleus of each story within the film. Kelly also uses the shortcomings of the DMV as an allegory for America’s poor overall health care system.

“The DMV is a mess,” says Kelly. “All of these people are processed through a system that is flawed, just like our health care system, which is a disaster. Ultimately the thieves, followed by the would-be bounty hunters, the Mafia, the FBI and some other thieves all have to go through this institution for the money they’re searching for.”

"It’s a huge jigsaw puzzle"

“It’s a very complex story,” Scott admits. “It’s a huge jigsaw puzzle. The audience has to pay attention in order to stay with all the beats of the story. We play it in forward and we play it in flashback. But for me the story is really about a girl who lives in the house on the hill and dreams of being a bounty hunter and then escapes that dream by the skin of her teeth – time stood still for that period – and that was the real Domino.”

Throughout the film Domino flips a coin in the air. Heads, you live. Tails, you die. “She flips the coin, wondering where it’s going to land. That’s a running theme in the film. And in the end, it always landed just right for her,” says Scott. “And just like a coin, she had two distinct sides; she was an adrenaline junkie and a wounded bird, but she always lived life with the throttle wide open.”

When Scott was certain he had a film to make, he called upon longtime friend and associate Samuel Hadida (True Romance, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Resident Evil) to produce the picture. “Sammy has always flown my flag,” says Scott. “He trusts me, and trust was paramount in terms of making this movie because it’s dangerous material. The box office appeal is not necessarily readily apparent, but he let me do my thing, for better or worse, and believed that I was going to come through.”

Samuel Hadida and his brother, executive producer Victor Hadida, were only too eager to work with Scott again. Samuel had produced the director’s True Romance, which although critically praised, was a film released before its time and so was not the box office success everyone had hoped it would be. But that outcome did not deter the French producers who gravitate to more artistic, less conventional projects.

Hadida first heard about the Domino project during a dinner party at Scott’s house. Inquiring as to what was next for the director, Hadida became privy to Scott’s long-standing pet project about Pancho Villa, as well as a newer idea based on an article Scott had read about a young woman who worked as a bounty hunter. Knowing how long it can take for an idea to become a viable script, Hadida did not revisit the discussion for several years.

In 2002 Hadida met Richard Kelly. “I first became acquainted with Richard when we were distributing Donnie Darko, which he’d written and directed,” says Hadida. “We were talking one day and he told me he was writing a script for Tony Scott. I couldn’t believe it when he told me it was the screenplay for Domino. It had been ten years since I’d first heard Tony’s plans, so I told Richard I would love to read it once he was finished. Next thing I know, Tony is calling me, telling me that he was trying to get the movie done, that he has a small window of opportunity because Keira Knightley is only available from October to December and asking would I be interested?”

The next day Scott sent Hadida the newest script, his latest BMW commercial and a ripomatic (an edited video trailer of sorts utilizing images and clips from past movies, commercials and television shows to suggest the proposed look for a project in the works, used more in the commercial world), he had put together so that Hadida could get a feel for the look and tone Scott envisioned for the film. He also sent a print of Man on Fire, which had yet to open in Europe. Hadida spent the evening in his Paris office looking over the materials and called Scott with his decision the next morning. He was in.

“The ripomatic gave me a sense of the story and gave me a visual,” Hadida remembers “It began with a girl’s voiceover and up came a beautiful model, a gun, a coin flipping in the air; it was a cool blueprint of an idea that gave me a sense of the cinematic experience working in Tony’s head.”

"it was emotional and took you for a ride"

“The script was very edgy,” he continues. “There was a darkness to it and humour, it was emotional and took you for a ride, but the character was still believable and three-dimensional. It wasn’t the same old idea; I felt we were treading on some new ground. I like when I open a script and I can read to the end without putting it down. When it holds my interest, when I begin thinking like the characters as I read, when I become a little worried and nervous about how we’re going to make the film, that’s when I am attracted to a project, because I like challenges. The strong female lead and the action also reminded me of True Romance, which was a great experience. Richard’s script for Domino not only had all the dramatic elements, it was incredibly textured and layered so that you never knew where it was going next.”

Published December 1, 2005

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Tony Scott with Jacqueline Bisset at the LA premiere(Photo by Michael Caulfield, WireImage)

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The real Domino Harvey


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