"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
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.
- 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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
League of Their Own, with Madonna and Genna Davis.
& 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
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
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.