Before Sundance #1: Matthew Chapman

We would like to present you a series of interviews with filmmakers who will present their latest features at upcoming Sundance Festival (Jan 20-30, Park City, Utah). Our first conversation is about THE LEDGE – philosophical thriller with Charlie Hunnam, Terrence Howard, Patrick Wilson and Liv Tyler in main roles. The movie is directed by Matthew Chapman. Matthew has written, among others, Alan J. Pakula’s „Consenting Adults” and Gary Fleder’s „Runaway Jury”. He also directed several movies, but THE LEDGE is his first feature since 1988.

Atop a high-rise building, Gavin, a young hotel manager, is about to end his life. Hollis, a detective whose own world has just been turned upside down, is dispatched to the scene. As Hollis tries to persuade Gavin not to jump, each man begins to open up about his past, and we discover that neither of them is convinced that his life is worth living.[]

THE LEDGE is described as „philosophical thriller”. Could you explain what covers behind that description? In other words what your movie is about?

It’s about an atheist forced by a fundamentalist Christian to choose between his life and the life of another. If he kills himself, someone else will live. The film is a thriller about a test of non-faith.

How the whole idea was born? What were your inspirations during writing the script?

I am fascinated by how people believe so deeply in various Gods, when there’s no evidence that any of them exist and certainly they’re all so different they can’t all exist. And yet people die every day because they have „faith”. I find this unhealthy and sad.

Although the movie is independent, the cast seems pretty mainstream. Can you tell us about the cooperation with such notable actors? Did you write the script and create the characters having these specific actors in mind?

To answer your last question first, I never write with specific actors in mind because it leads me to write to what they’ve done already rather than finding a real character that an actor has to make real in a fresh way.

The actors fell in love with the script and were great allies in the process. Obviously there are fights, disagreements, and disappointments, but as a non-actor I am always impressed with the skill and courage of actors. Out of respect comes trust, out of trust comes confidence.

What’s your personal opinion on suicide? Cowardness? Solving of all problems? Maybe something else?

Going to war is suicide, but it’s celebrated. I believe there are other heroic forms of suicide. There are also cruel and selfish suicides, but basically I find it hard to judge anyone at this extreme – except for the suicide bombers for whom I have contempt as well as pity.

Do you have any ideas for another movie?

Yes, but it’s a secret!

And last quesion – probably you’ve heard it 1000 times, but did you ever think about making a movie about Charles Darwin[Matthew is Darwin’s great-great-grandson]? I think that regarding your family ties, your movie could be very authentic and personal.

I’ve never found a way. The Beagle days are too expensive for a film maker like me, and the two decades leading up to the publishing of Origin of Species too internal.
Thank you for the interview!

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