Grant sees the film less as a medical mystery and more as a
thriller which deals with real-life moral issues. "It
happens to start in a hospital but it soon leaves that
environment and becomes a more wide-ranging thriller." Grant
says. "New York is our field….Thousands of homeless
people live underground in New York: it’s a whole other
city. We’ve set a lot of our film there."
Grant and Hurley had actually thought that Simian Films might
steer towards familiar comedic ground and had not planned on a
thriller being their first production.
"I still can’t decide
exactly where I stand on the ethical issues." Elizabeth Hurley, producer
It was Hurley who heard about Extreme measures at her first
meeting with Castle Rock Entertainment executives, after Simian
Films was established. She was fascinated by the premise and read
Tony Gilroy’s script straight away. "I found the moral
intricacies of the script so complex that even now, nearly two
years after reading the first draft, I still can’t decide
exactly where I stand on the ethical issues."
"It was just the kind of
thing I was looking for after having done four or five comedies
in a row." Hugh Grant
Although at this stage the lead role was not all right for
Grant, Hurley met with Gilroy to discuss various directions to
take the script. Gilroy came back with a new draft which Hurley
showed Grant. "What I read was a superbly written, exciting
thriller with a deeply unsettling moral dilemma at its
heart," says Grant. "It was just the kind of thing I
was looking for after having done four or five comedies in a
"Hugh is playing much more
himself in this film than he ever has before," Elizabeth Hurley
Grant and Hurley continued to work with Gilroy and Castle Rock
on the script, particularly on Grant’s character Guy Luthan,
an English doctor running the Emergency Room of a New York City
Hospital. "Hugh is playing much more himself in this film
than he ever has before," says Hurley. "Guy is an
inadvertent hero. He is the average man on the street, not a
seeker of adventure. But when he discovers something terrible
going on, he finds himself intervening," she continues.
"I think that people will be surprised by Hugh when they see
him in this movie."
"I think that people will
be surprised by Hugh when they see him in this movie." Elizabeth Hurley
With the script in hand, Grant and Hurley started to look for
a director who could get full value from the thriller aspect of
the script while simultaneously highlighting the disturbing moral
issue at the film’s premise. Having long been admirers of
Michael Apted’s work, they knew that his talent, both as a
feature film director and a documentary film maker would give
exactly the right balance to the film.
In addition to his ability to film compelling real-life
stories in fictionalised settings such as Coal Miner’s
Daughter and Gorillas in the Mist, Apted is also the acclaimed
documentary director of 7 Up, a world-renowned series of
documentaries which chronicle contemporary British life.
"Having directed several films centering around
women," Apted says, "I thought it was time for me to
make a change and do a boys picture…. And it is a strong
thriller with a powerful level of reality to it." He
continues, "As I come from the documentary world, my main
agenda is to make it believable: to place it in a recognisable
"There isn’t a more
powerful actor in America than Gene Hackman." Michael Apted, director
The part of Nobel Prize winning Dr Lawrence Myrick required an
actor with formidable presence, intelligence and danger - all of
which made Gene Hackman the ideal choice. Apted says: "There
isn’t a more powerful actor in America than Gene
"This was something that I
could maybe do in a way that might be interesting for me" Gene Hackman
Hackman was most intrigued by the role of Dr Myrick. "I
think, finally, it always has to do with material for
actors," says Hackman. "This was something that I could
maybe do in a way that might be interesting for me. I’ve
played doctors before and….they have a kind of mystique
about them. It’s about life and death. The power to save
lives or to let them drift away. And I’m fascinated by that
kind of power, the godlike beings that hold that power.
They’re mystical creatures, really."
"I think a thriller stands
or falls on the quality of its villain." Michael Apted, director
"Although Myrick is the villain," Apted says,
"He’s an authoritative villain….and I think a
thriller stands or falls on the quality of its villain."