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THE CLIMB
PRODUCTION NOTES

 
The Climb Production Photo

"The Climb is the best script I've read in 10 years" says director Bob Swaim."

"It's intimate, funny, moving and deceptively simple. It's a people-movie about strong, wonderful characters - with a universal theme which will appeal to audiences of all ages."

The Climb tells the story of 13 year old Danny who dream of climbing a 203 Ft. tower, but breaks his arm before he can do it. He meets his new neighbor, Chuck Langer, a chain smoking, whisky drinking man of the world, who has come home to die. Langer devises a wild and dangerous scheme that will get the boy to the top.

It's the old man's chance for one last spectacular achievement, and it becomes Danny's passage into manhood and the true meaning of bravery.

Although set in Baltimore in 1959, The Climb was filmed entirely in New Zealand, where the natural beauty of the unspoiled countryside was very close to the look of  late fifties Baltimore. It stars John Hurt, Gregory Smith and David Strathairn, as Danny's father, a widower who is branded a coward by some people in the neighborhood because he didn't fight in the war.

The Climb is an international co-production between Ellipse and Isambard. The partner in the venture were Ellipse (France), Isambard (New Zealand) and Spellbound Pictures Ltd USA LLC (USA)

Bob Swaim - director: Bob Swaim, seasoned producer and director of over a dozen movies, including Masquerade, Half-Moon Street and the multi-award winning La Balance, spent several months in New Zealand, Europe and North America seeking the perfect cast and locations for writer Vince McKewin's wonderful heart warming story of a young boy's passage into manhood.

"I think they saw me as bridging the gap between cultures and countries. I believe this sort of international co-production is an exciting, visionary one. It's how many movies will be made in future - film is such an international language." he says.

Vince McKewin - writer: Vince McKewin says he always wanted to tell a story about the essence of male bravery.

"Danny and his father are at a crossroads because the boy thinks his father is a coward. He wants to climb the tower to prove he himself is brave." he says.

"The old man has great insight because of his years on earth, and because he's dying. He senses the boy is trying to prove something with the climb, and he's dying. He sense the boy is trying to prove something with the climb, and he's just enough of a rebel to help him. In his own selfish way, helping the boy takes his mind off impending death. But he tells the boy you don't have to fight in the war to brave."

Vince wrote the script in four weeks, and much of it is autobiographical. He grew up in Baltimore, and tried to climb a tower when he was a boy, and got stuck half way up. "I've been afraid of heights ever since. And even though my father didn't come to save me, he was the only man in the neighborhood who wasn't in WWII. There was always talk behind his back about that."

"Part of the joy of writing film is seeing who does in fact get cast. It's almost never who I imagine, but that's part of the collaborative process of film. I couldn't be happier with the cast".

Vince began his career as an actor, earning over fifty theatre, film and TV credits. He co-wrote the critically acclaimed Carroll Ballard film, FLY AWAY HOME. Vince has screenplay "doctored" many a project, including DUMBO DROP, MURDER AT 1600, MONEY TALKS and RUSH HOUR. His football comedy script, THE REPLACEMENTS, starring Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman, will start production this summer.

John Hurt - actor: casting John Hurt to play the part of Chuck Langer, a cantankerous hard living man of the world, was a coup for The Climb says director, Bob Swaim, who'd always admired the British actor enormously. ‘There are few actors with the presence, subtlety and charisma of John. He's formidable. And an absolute joy to work with."

"The big gamble was putting the immensely gifted John with a relative newcomer, Gregory Smith," says Producer, Mark McClafferty, "a 13-year old Canadian, who hadn't had much experience. But it turned out to be an inspired choice."

"John's performance is stunning and worthy of an Academy Award Nomination," says Producer, Pamela Edwards McClafferty. "We can only hope that enough people see John's performance in order that that his brilliant work will be acknowledged."

As one of the cinema's most versatile actors, John Hurt has made millions of people believe him as an outstanding assortment of characters, from Caligula to the Elephant Man, from Quentin Crisp to Max, the emaciated drug-ridden inmate in Sagamalcilar prison in Midnight Express.

His illustrious career also includes Scandal, Alien, The Naked Civil Servant, and more recently, Wild Bill and Rob Roy.

On his role as Chuck Langer in The Climb Hurt says, "The relationship between a young boy and an older, quite wild and unconventional man, is complex and has to be handled fairly sensitively to make it ring true. Gregory is extraordinarily mature for his age - it was amazing how he fit into the role and seemed to get it right every time."

Hurt also praises McKewin's script. "It's extremely well crafted - there's not a single line that could be cut, and I don't say that easily. However, the script is always the springboard for one's imagination. It's rather like a musical score, it's there to grab hold of and hopefully produce something which may even surprise the author. Often you don't know what's going to happen until you're on the floor - and there's that spark which creates magic. That's way I love making this sort of film - about relationships. I'm always more interested in content over form, and The Climb is a rich story about relationships."

Gregory Smith - actor: And how does 13-year old Gregory react to acting opposite John Hurt, one of the legends of the British film industry? "Well you know, everyone's saying, wow, you're so lucky, he's so wonderful, but he seemed like just a regular guy, another actor. He was very good to work with. I really enjoyed."

"For someone so young, Gregory has an unusual richness and depth," says Pamela McClafferty.

Vancouver-born Gregory, whose previous cinematic appearances have included Small Soldier's and Harriet The Spy is a young actor with his feet firmly on the ground. He likes to do his own stunts, and says one of the highlights of the filming was when he got to swing off the tower with his arm in a sling, with a fake storm blowing around him.

"I like that risky, physical stuff - although my mom doesn't always approve. I enjoy acting, and I don't mind all the hanging around - usually I play card or watch videos. But I'd probably like to be a professional baseball player when I grow up."

David Strathairn - actor: David Strathairn, who plays Gregory's father - a widower with a few ghosts in his past - says he grabbed the opportunity to appear in the movie. "When I read the script I said immediately, yes, yea, yes please! I love stories like this. It reminded me of My Life as Dog and What's Eating Gilbert Grape - there's a warm eccentricity, in a real life situation.

"Then I heard it was going to be shot in New Zealand, and with John Hurt - I couldn't believe my luck. In fact, I actually get to say only a few lines with him!"

Strathairn started acting by accident in 1980 when his friend John Sayles cast him in Return of the Secaucus Seven. Since then he has been in over 20 feature films, and numerous Broadway and off-Broadway shows.

Among his most recent are Midsummer Night's Dream, L.A. Confidential, River Wild, with Meryl Streep, The Firm with Tom Cruise and A League of Their Own, with Madonna and Genna Davis.

Mark McClafferty & Pamela Edwards McClafferty - Producers:

We had a dream to create an international consortium to produce modestly budgeted film for the family. When we read THE CLIMB we knew we had found our first film.

Our partners agreed and we set our sights on New Zealand as the perfect location for Baltimore 1959. Auckland has that wonderful nostalgic look about it, reminiscent of an America triumphant after World War II and ready for new beginnings.

We cast the major roles in the States over an eight day period with the help of Karen and Mary Margiotta Casting. John Hurt's manager, John Crosby, was asked about Hurt's availability. Crosby said, "If the material is good, John might be interested." We received the same word from David Strathairn's representative at UTA. The material by Vincent McKewin was indeed good. In fact, it was much more than good. Vincent McKewin is a master of character and dialogue."

Margiotta Casting brought us Marla Sokoloff (The Practice) a consummate professional who has an uncanny instinct for seeking out the sarcastic and turning it into a comedic moment; Seth Smith, (Home Alone 3 & Jack) an up and coming star, who has a naturalness about him that's extremely alluring. Then there was Matthew Ness, who plays Gregory Smith's (Danny's) best friend in THE CLIMB. Matthew has a very dry wit; and Sara Buxton (Sunset Beach) who played the part of the neighbor's (John Hurt's) sexy daughter-in-law who "reveals" herself "innocently" to a priest; and Stephen McHattie (Midnight Flight & The Highwayman) rounded out the cast with an intense performance as Jack McLastin.

The Kiwi Crew was incredible. Kim Sinclair, the talented, highly competent production designer, flew to the States to research Baltimore 1959. It was well-worth the trip. Kim and his team had to convert a suburban New Zealand street into Baltimore in the 50's. Arimu Street in Papakura, Auckland, turned out to be "almost perfect" but two of the houses had to have complete facelifts to American turn-of-the century facades. There were additional challenges with building of three different renditions of the tower in model and actual life-size form - a 1:20 scale model, a 1:25 scale model and a full metre high model made of aluminum, weighting 1 ½ tons, set in 9 tons of concrete foundation.

As a prize winning Director of Photography, Allen Guilford worked his magic all the way through those cloudy rainy days. And Bob Swaim? He held it together as we jump-started production more than once before the production machine started rolling. Bob's vision and his gifted direction were essential in the making of THE CLIMB.

Mark McClafferty, who began his career in Delaware Politics, worked for Senator Joe Biden. Formerly President of Eddie Murphy Productions at Paramount Studios, Mark is a creative executive, having written and produced numerous videos and T.V. Shows, one of which, What's Alan Watching, was awarded the Television Critics Best Comedy Special. Mark also produced and Executive Produced the awarding winning movie,THE CLIMB. Hollywood Outlaws is his latest feature production.  Presently, he is co-founder and Chairman of Spellbound Pictures Ltd., USA LLC and co-founder of On The Mark, Inc. 

Pamela Edwards McClafferty, who began her career as a singer, is a best selling novelist, "Inherit the Storm", and former President of Pamela Edwards Enterprises Inc. where she created and manufactured her courtier clothing line, sold out of 7th Avenue to over a hundred stores. Besides being presented in WWD's the Best of New York, she is an award winning producer of The Climb Today, she is President of On The Mark, Inc, and co-founder of Spellbound Pictures Ltd., USA LLC.  Hollywood Outlaws is her most recent feature production.

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