Movies:Movie Profiles:Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition
Photo: ©2002 DreamWorks Pictures Photo: Francois Duhamel

Director(s): Sam Mendes

Writer(s): David Self

Cast: , Tyler Hoechlin, Paul Newman, , , Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Liam Aiken

Release Date(s)

Jul 12, 2002 - Wide

Read our review.

Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition explores the relationships between fathers and sons. It looks at the love, the loyalty, the trust and sometimes, the disappointments. Tom Hanks, who plays mob hit man Michael Sullivan, says,“The message from Michael the father to Michael the son is that you get to choose the road you’re on in this life, but don’t choose what I have chosen…the road I’ve been on all my life. Somewhere in my past, I made the choice to go in a certain direction, and it leads right to perdition.”

Funnily enough the film’s production had a father/son theme to it as well. Producer Dean Zanuck read the graphic novel written by Max Allan Collins. After reading it, he told his wife, “I think something special is going to happen with this.”

He sent the book off to his father, producer Richard D. Zanuck, who read it and was instantly attracted to the material. David Self was then hired to flesh out the screenplay. With that in hand they needed a director that they felt could do the project justice. They turned to American Beauty’s Oscar®-winning director Sam Mendes, who seemed perfect for the task. As Dean Zanuck put it, “The way he spoke about the story and his plans for the film, we felt the movie elevating before our very eyes. He had an extraordinary grasp of the material.”

Tom Hanks had been sent the graphic novel as well and had asked to see a script when it was completed. “I thought this would be the kind of genre movie that would be very familiar to me, but three pages into it, I didn’t know where I was or what was going to happen next. I remember thinking that here is this movie that should be predictable but is utterly unpredictable. That, coupled with the realities of what it was going to take to make this period piece, I wondered who they could get to do it justice. It turned out to be Sam Mendes. Chatting with him, I knew we would be in the hands of someone who could tell the story the way it needed to be told.”

Screen legend Paul Newman was the next piece of the puzzle. The veteran actor admired the arc of his character. “He goes through an interesting progression in the film. He starts out robust and powerful and full of vinegar, and becomes a man beaten down by tragedy. It’s a marvelous part.”

Teaming up with the two veterans in the pivotal role of Michael Jr. is newcomer Tyler Hoechlin, who won the role over 2000 other young actors. According to Dean Zanuck recalls, “We were looking at tape after tape and no one was hitting the mark. Then Sam called me into his office and said, ‘Dean, I want to show you something. I think we’ve found our kid.’”

Jude Law, who is catching the attention of critics and audiences alike was then cast in the role of Maguire, a press photographer who moonlights as a hit man. His is one of the few characters outside the whole father/son dynamic, which is appropriate for a character who seem to operate soley by his own rules.

With such a group of talented performers, you could probably just get away with turning on the camera and just ketting them do their thing. However, the production team play an equally importnat role. The cinematograhy, the set design and the costumes all lend to the powerful look and feel of this film.

Read our review.