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OUT OF SIGHT

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
The how, what, why and who story of the making of Out of Sight – by a special correspondent.

The brief and unlikely encounter between Jack (George Clooney) and Karen (Jennifer Lopez) happens about 20 minutes into Out of Sight; it changes both their lives and launches a strange and engaging romance. Jammed together in an almost classic ‘spooning’ position in the trunk of the getaway car, they begin to talk, in a surprisingly casual way, about things, about movies - like people do. As Jack describes it later, "it’s like seeing a person you never saw before. You look at each other, you make eye contact and for a few seconds there’s a recognition."

"His good guys are bad guys" writer Scott Frank

"What makes these characters so poignant," says writer Scott Frank, here doing his second major Elmore Leonard adaptation (his first was the 1995 box-office hit, Get Shorty), "is that you know Jack doesn’t ever want to go back to prison. But, at the exact moment he’s going to start all over, he meets this woman. He becomes obsessed with wondering what might have happened had he not been a bank robber. And, in spite of herself, Karen finds she is attracted to Jack. The story becomes about the road not taken."

An intriguing and constantly surprising combination of action movie, heist picture and romantic comedy, Out of Sight is a film about the kind of characters only Elmore Leonard could write. "His good guys are bad guys," says Frank. "They’re loan sharks or criminals or bank robbers, but they’re all very funny. The one common denominator is that they don’t know they’re being funny." Like Get Shorty’s Chilly Palmer, they take themselves very seriously.

But, in their quieter moments, both Jack and Karen are capable of seeing their shortcomings. Jack may have knocked over a lot of banks, but he’s also been caught a lot of times. "The character I play," says Clooney, "is like the characters in some of those older films, where they’re good at what they do, yet they’re also stuck with bad luck along the way."

"One of the things that made my role interesting is that Jack is such a romantic" actor George Clooney

Adds director Steven Soderbergh: "Part of American folk-lore is the sympathetic bank robber - people like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Bonnie & Clyde or Billy the Kid. George is perfect for the role because he’s charming and laid-back, but you know beneath the surface he can pull off the action."

As for Karen, she keeps falling for unsuitable men. The irony here is that Jack turns out to be the most suitable one she’s ever succumbed to. "It’s like they’re the only two people in the world and they discover something in each other," says Lopez, whose sexy-but-tough performance is a perfect foil for Clooney’s.

The romance was the thing that made Clooney commit to the movie when it was still at the project stage. "One of the things that made my role interesting is that Jack is such a romantic," he notes. "He’s risking his life, risking jail, risking death because he’s in love with a woman he has met only once. I don’t think you can get much more romantic than that."

What really gives Out of Sight its edge, however, is the fact that the romantic attachment between Jack and Karen is so slowly and subtly established that it becomes just one of the many threads that drives the film forward. Like them, we only slowly realise what is happening.

"I don’t begin with a plot: I begin with characters" writer Elmore Leonard

What happens to start with is a bank heist, carried out by Jack with a mixture of chutzpah (he does it all without guns or gangs of associates, more or less on the spur of the moment, using nothing more aggressive than his charm) and incompetence (he makes his getaway with a bag full of money, only to find that his elderly Toyota won’t start). From there on, it’s back to jail, on to the break-out and, via a multi-layered series of flashbacks, into Leonard’s tale of obsession, revenge and grand larceny, with the location shifting from the sticky heat of Florida to a snow-blanketed Detroit.

Along the way, there are a lot of bad guys, a few good guys (Dennis Farina, who played the ruthless Ray ‘Bones’ Barboni in Get Shorty, but is the straightest arrow of all this time around, plays Karen’s father, Marshall), plus a very funny uncredited cameo by Michael Keaton reprising his Jackie Brown role as a dim-witted FBI agent who thinks he’s the sharpest thing since pins were invented.

"The most important thing I do in developing a plot is to develop my characters," says Leonard. "I don’t begin with a plot: I begin with characters. I get to know them - what they have for breakfast, what kind of shoes they wear - and they tell me what the story is about. The plot just comes along."

"This is a performance-reliant movie," director Steven Soderbergh

Which is not to say the plot doesn’t matter: the intricacies of Out of Sight are always convincing. Jack’s opening heist, for instance, for all that it ends in farce when his car won’t start, is a masterpiece of lateral thinking. "It’s amazing what people will give you," he later explains to Ripley, "if you just ask them right."

"This is a performance-reliant movie," says director Soderbergh, "and I thought it needed a certain visual style to keep it lively. I didn’t want it to be too slick or too polished. I wanted to keep it contained and I wanted a rougher feel to it. This is not a ‘crane shot’ movie: it’s a ‘pan-and-zoom-and-run-and-gun’ movie.

"And personally," he adds, "if I saw that George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Albert Brooks, Don Cheadle and Steve Zahn were in a film together, I would be fascinated, because they are all such distinct actors."

"Elmore only gave me one piece of advice - just have fun" writer Scott Frank

As for Leonard himself, his whole approach to bringing Out of Sight to the screen was every bit as laid-back as Jack’s approach to life. "Frankly," he says, "Scott is much better at adapting my books to the screen than I am."

"Elmore only gave me one piece of advice," adds Scott Frank. "‘Just have fun,’ he told me. ‘Just have fun.’"

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"Part of American folk-lore is the sympathetic bank robber. George is perfect for the role because he’s charming and laid-back, but you know beneath the surface he can pull off the action"
Steven Soderbergh

See our REVIEWS

Interview with
STEVEN SODERBERGH


"The most important thing I do in developing a plot is to develop my characters. They tell me what the story is about. The plot just comes along" Elmore Leonard


"This is not a ‘crane shot’ movie: it’s a ‘pan-and-zoom-and-run-and-gun’ movie" Steven Soderbergh


"It’s amazing what people will give you, if you just ask them right" George Clooney as Jack Foley







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