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Mystic River - Preview

Preview by: Jack Foley

CLINT Eastwood is not usually a name you would associate with independent movies. Yet his latest directorical opus - which marks his 24th outing behind the lens - has a strictly indie feel, given the reluctance of many major studios to get behind it.

The film in question is Mystic River, a psychological suspense thriller that tells the story of three childhood friends - Sean (Kevin Bacon), Dave (Tim Robbins) and Jimmy (Sean Penn) - who lose touch with each other after Dave is kidnapped for four days during their youth.

The estranged friends, who have never really addressed the incident, find their lives intertwined once again 25 years later, after the brutal murder of Jimmy's daughter.

According to BBC Online, which caught up with the film in Cannes, both Robbins and Bacon, as suspect and detective, give solid support, but it is Penn's picture - and talk of an Oscar nomination has already begun.

With such heavyweight talent behind the movie - it also stars Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney and Spaghetti Western veteran, Elli Wallach - it might seem strange that Eastwood had a problem getting it distributed.

But the weighty subject matter - murder, child abuse, etc - has reportedly put many people off, with many execs suggesting to the veteran star that he should be doing more light-hearted stuff.

Defiant as ever, however, Eastwood told a Cannes press conference that he now felt he was beyond making 'lightweight films' and added: "I like to think there's an audience for serious adult stories. I like a good adventure film as much as the next man, but I'm too old to make comic books."

As for the story itself, which is based upon the novel by Dennis Lehane, Eastwood told Cannes: "It's very difficult to say what attracts you to a certain project. Every project has its obstacles to overcome, and I think the more obstacles it has, the more intense and interesting the drama becomes, as far as I'm concerned.

"Unforgiven had a lot of interesting things to overcome. As for the hero, you had to read through half the script before you found out who was going to be the protagonist of the film.

"This film here was just a wonderful ensemble. I've always been very curious about the victims of crime, and victims of child abuse – child abuse is, to me, one of the most hideous crimes that we have on the planet – and how it affects people's lives and all the lives surrounding. It was a very interesting tale to tell, thanks to Dennis Lehane and Brian Helgeland."

Eastwood also paid tribute to his cast, stating: "As far as they [the cast] are concerned, I was very, very lucky that this particular cast was not only available, but also enthusiastic. I think that almost all the players were all without exception first choices."

But then, given Linney's comments, it was hardly surprising that casting was so easy. As she told Cannes: Laura Linney confided: "I think most of us would read the phone book for Clint.

"There are certain directors who, if you're lucky enough to work with them and they ask you to come on board once again, you jump at the chance. At least for me, I knew that I didn't even have to read it. If Clint wanted me for something, I'd be there under any circumstance!"

And talking about the difficulty in getting the project financed, and his eventual collaboration with Warner Bros. Studios, he added: "A lot of studios didn't want to do this project. I had a lot of studios, where even people I know, say: 'We're more interested in another type of movie'.

"This was a very inexpensive film, by today's standards. This wasn't 'Mystic River Reloaded' (laughs). We had the advantage of people being more concentrated on the financial aspects of the stock of the studio than we were.

"We were definitely an independent film. The film was financed partly by Warners, partly by Village Roadshow. I hope they're glad they came aboard now. At the time, I'm sure they weren't so sure."

The film is due to open in America on October 3, after which we will bring you the critical reaction...

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