Flash of Genius Production Notes - Visual Hollywood

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Flash of Genius Production Notes - Visual Hollywood

Though the designer had initially hired expensive lawyers to try his case, when Ford came backwith settlement offers in the multiple millions, he turned them down. The fiery professor with aneveryman sensibility was committed to receiving credit for his invention and receiving anapology from the company that took away his dream of manufacturing the “Blinking Eye” withhis family. Kearns was no longer just an inventor who had a brilliant idea. His focus changed tocrusader against injustice.His story, despite the fact that he did what no one before him could have, is a tale of the price ofvictory. His persistence was the source of both his success and his undoing. It was never aboutpersonal gain for Dr. Robert Kearns; it was about fighting exploitation by those with moremoney and power. He fought to the end with enormous personal cost to his family, career andsanity. In the end, the jury found that Ford did infringe patents held by Kearns and awarded himmore than $10 million. Three years later, he was awarded $18.7 million from the ChryslerCorporation.When this case first went to court, the most Ford had ever paid anyone for a patent was 11 centsper unit. Toward the end of the family‟s lawsuit, inventors were slapping Kearns on the backbecause they were receiving an unheard of two dollars per unit. Not to mention the fact that,today, the auto industry still uses Kearns‟ “Blinking Eye Motor” mechanism for the windshieldwipers installed in most cars.To this day, nothing works better.About The ProductionRobert Kearns‟ lengthy travails with automotive giants and patent law were chronicled in JohnSeabrook‟s 1993 article for The New Yorker titled “Flash of Genius.” Producer Michael Lieberwas fascinated by the story, optioned Seabrook‟s article and brought screenwriter PhilipRailsback onto the project to craft the script. In 1998, they approached veteran producer MarcAbraham.Abraham remembers that he was touched by the family‟s plight: “I read the article John wrote. Ijust loved everything about it—the American Dream, the experience, the disappointment, thefact that Bob was a professor. I was a producer at the time, but I said to Mike, Phil and John,„Just so you know, I‟m planning on directing this movie. I don‟t know when and I don‟t knowunder what circumstances, but I‟m going to direct it.‟ And, in the end, that‟s what actuallyhappened.”The director saw all the elements of a film with which he would make his directorial debut inFlash of Genius. “Marc‟s eyes lit up,” recounts Lieber. “Here was a family man living theAmerican Dream who risked everything to go up against the big system for a principle hebelieved in. The most amazing thing about Kearns is that he was not particularly interested inmoney. He wanted justice.”Throughout the next decade, the project would gel as Abraham continued to produce critical andcommercial successes—from Spy Game, starring Brad Pitt and Robert Redford, and the surprise


The performer was keen to not simply paint Kearns as an infallible hero, but a father and ahusband who made some very difficult decisions on behalf of his family, some of whichdevastated them. “This was a story worth telling, a fight ultimately worth fighting,” he notes.“Even if you were watching him go through this, there are moments where you want to stand upand say, „Bob, snap out of it!‟ But he goes through this battle, and you ultimately respect him forit.”Of Kinnear‟s appeal and why he felt he was the right fit for the project, Abraham surmises:“Greg allows himself to go to certain extremes that a lot of actors are afraid to. He‟s comfortabletaking risks and playing both the greatest guy in the world, as well as a guy who may havecrossed a line. This makes him attractive as an actor and empathetic to an audience. He gaveevery last ounce of blood and talent to the role, and we were so in sync about what we admireand appreciate about Bob.”Lauren Graham was cast as Phyllis Kearns, the long-suffering teacher and Kearns familymatriarch who watches as her husband‟s obsession with legal retribution pulls their family apart.Of his decision to work with Graham, Abraham reflects: “Phyllis‟ character is critical, and weneeded an actress who the audience could relate to and therefore understand the choice shemakes at a time in history when it was more difficult. She also had to have the bearing andwillingness to completely invest in a character who has six children. Lauren‟s a really smart,well-trained and committed actress who had the skill and talent to manage all of these elementsbeautifully.”The actor offers why she was intrigued to portray a woman who struggled so much, and sheoffers the counterpoint that many in the Kearns family felt as they were in the midst of hell:“There are pieces of this movie that I feel could be about almost any addiction. What starts as hisbelief that he‟s fighting for what‟s right turns into an obsession with getting everyone to say,„This was yours; we stole it from you, and we were wrong.‟“It‟s a classic David and Goliath story,” continues Graham, “man against the machine. Ratherthan see the big picture and understand he may not get everything he wants, there‟s no room forcompromise for him. What begins as something that the family is behind, that they‟re a team in,turns into his singular obsession—a vision that goes from something they‟re all championing tosomething that‟s disruptive and difficult.”Flash of Genius‟ supporting cast includes Dermot Mulroney as Kearns‟ friend and businesspartner, Gil Previck. Previck initially supports Kearns, but quickly realizes that if he hopes to dobusiness in Detroit for the next few decades, he cannot and will not take on Ford. ExplainsMulroney of his character‟s actions: “When Bob decides to take the automotive companies tocourt, that‟s when Gil has to say, „As a businessman, I‟m out of it.‟ He separates from Bob so hecan still do business in Detroit with other car products.” Abraham said of the performer: “Dermotis a deceptively complex actor. He has a casual demeanor that makes what he does appear easy. Iloved the idea of him playing a tough, pragmatic businessman and so did he.”Veteran actor Alan Alda was asked to portray Gregory Lawson, a lawyer who verses Kearns inthe fine art of justice in America‟s courts. Discusses Kinnear of Lawson‟s role: “As his attorney,


The second step was collaborating with Abraham and the Kearns family. The productiondesigner commends: “Marc was specific about his vision and picked a great group of creativepeople to bring that vision to life. Each of the Kearns have been invaluable by sharing details oftheir home, anecdotes and family eccentricities.”The filmmakers believed they could achieve the best lighting by lensing the new Kearns‟ homeon location. Indeed, they found a similar house in Toronto to the one in which the family hadlived in Detroit. As Kearns had surrounded his clan with the paraphernalia of his dreams, their“new home” was designed to create a natural and realistic portrait of an obsessive, middle-classengineer within a chaotic setting.Dante Spinotti was just the man Abraham wanted for the job of director of photography. Thedirector doesn‟t disguise his excitement at landing the well-respected filmmaker: “From themoment I realized we were actually making this film, I thought only of having Dante by my side.He‟s a true artist and an even truer man. Working with him was one of the greatest joys of mycareer.”The renowned DP offers that story always dictates the angle with which he decides to shoot. Histechnique involved lensing a scene with two cameras rolling the majority of the time. “I like thedynamic of having two cameras, especially when you have good performances,” Spinottiprovides, “because it makes your coverage much more dynamic, and you capture whatever‟sgreat that‟s coming from the actors.”Spinotti used both Panavision‟s high-end digital camera, the Genesis, as well as traditional filmstock to shoot Flash of Genius. The Genesis has proven itself in a variety of difficult locationsand delivered portability, sensitivity, depth-of-field control, range and color that made shootingmultiple rain sequences easier. “We used the Genesis for interiors and technically complicatedsequences [like rain] and used film for exteriors,” Spinotti explains. As for the differencebetween digital and film: “I take a different approach mentally and technically, although thefundamental concept is the same.”Costume designer Luis Sequeira kept the wardrobe realistic and moving from one period offashion to the next between 1969 and 1982. He worked with Kinnear to give Bob Kearns a verylimited wardrobe over the course of those 13 years. Costuming challenges on this film alsoincluded dressing 12 kids at various ages through the years. One fashion Lauren Graham wasglad to see has not withstood the test of time is the liberal use of synthetics made popular in theera. She laughs of the challenge offered by Sequeira, “I learned that polyester doesn‟t breathe,and the A-line shape of a tent dress makes it a hard thing to wear.”The true test of design accuracy came when the Kearns family visited the set; they agreed thatthere was an overwhelming feeling of coming home. Dennis Kearns was particularly floored byhow much his father‟s laboratory looked like the actual basement where he and his siblingshelped their dad solder circuit boards.Robert Kearns passed away on February 9, 2005, from complications due to cancer. He was 77years old. Best summarizing his family‟s feelings about having their journey translated for screen


is Mrs. Kearns. She concludes: “I never would have thought that people would care that muchabout our story. When it sank in that this was really going to happen, I thought, „Wow, peoplecare about what happened.‟”It was as moving for the cast and crew to grasp that they were telling a very unexpectedAmerican success story that was four decades in the making. Summarizes Greg Kinnear: “Justmeeting the family and seeing their reaction to Bob‟s story being realized in a movie wassomething I won‟t forget. The idea that we all worked in tough conditions and long hours to tryto get a story out there that has real meaning. I loved being a part of that.”The final words go to our director: “Bob fought a battle that somehow has lived on. I‟m abeliever that everybody‟s life is important and as long as they do their job well, they deservetheir dignity. He did something important because he fought for a principle that he believed in. Idon‟t know what‟s more important than that.”Universal Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment present Greg Kinnear in Flash of Genius, starringLauren Graham, Dermot Mulroney and Alan Alda. The music supervisors are G. Marq Roswelland Adam Swart; the music is by Aaron Zigman. The film‟s costume designer is Luis Sequeira;the film is edited by Jill Savitt, ACE. Flash of Genius‟ production designer is Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski; its director of photography is Dante Spinotti, ASC, AIC. The drama‟s executiveproducers are Jonathan Glickman, J. Miles Dale, Thomas A. Bliss and Eric Newman. Flash ofGenius is produced by Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Michael Lieber. It is based on TheNew Yorker article “The Flash of Genius” by John Seabrook. The film is written by PhilipRailsback and directed by Marc Abraham. © 2008 Universal Studios and SpyglassEntertainment Funding, LLC www.flashofgenius.netCASTGREG KINNEAR (Bob Kearns) continues to build upon his already impressive resume withroles in the most diverse of projects. The busy Academy Award® nominee recently starred in thecomedy hit Baby Mama, alongside Tina Fey, and will soon be seen in the comedy Ghost Town,with Ricky Gervais, and Universal Pictures‟ Green Zone, with Matt Damon.Kinnear gave memorable performances in the indie hit Little Miss Sunshine and the romanticcomedy Feast of Love, then segued from beauty pageant and romance to the gridiron and starredopposite Mark Wahlberg in Disney‟s Invincible, and then on to Richard Linklater‟s Fast FoodNation. Kinnear starred in the dark comedy The Matador, with Pierce Brosnan and in Bad NewsBears, opposite Billy Bob Thornton; lent his voice as Ratchet in the highly successful animatedfilm Robots; and starred in Auto Focus, the critically acclaimed biopic of actor and comedianBob Crane. Kinnear starred opposite Mel Gibson in the feature We Were Soldiers, focusing onthe Vietnam War battle of La Drang Valley, and lit up the small screen as well in the emotiondrivenNorman Jewison HBO movie Dinner With Friends, alongside Toni Collette, DennisQuaid and Andie MacDowell.Kinnear‟s other credits include the romantic comedy Someone Like You, with Ashley Judd andHugh Jackman; the Farrelly brothers‟ comedy Stuck On You, in which he co-starred with Matt


Damon; Sam Raimi‟s supernatural thriller The Gift, alongside Cate Blanchett and Katie Holmes;and director Neil LaBute‟s black comedy Nurse Betty, opposite Renée Zellweger, MorganFreeman and Chris Rock. Kinnear starred alongside Jack Nicholson as his unfortunate neighborSimon in James L. Brooks‟ Academy Award®-nominated film As Good As It Gets. Hisperformance garnered him an Academy Award® nomination. Kinnear made his feature filmdebut in the Sydney Pollack-directed remake Sabrina, co-starred in Nora Ephron‟s hit romanticcomedy You‟ve Got Mail and Mike Nichol‟s What Planet Are You From? and appeared in acameo role as Captain Amazing in Mystery Men. Kinnear first gained prominence as theanimated, wisecracking host of E! Entertainment Television‟s Talk Soup in 1991, for which hegarnered an Emmy Award and rave reviews and established a cult-like following. In 1994, afterthree successful seasons with Talk Soup, Kinnear left the show permanently and became the hostand executive producer of his own NBC late-night talk show, Later With Greg Kinnear.LAUREN GRAHAM (Phyllis Kearns) is best known for her critically acclaimed portrayal ofLorelai Gilmore on Gilmore Girls. She received Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild andTelevision Critics Association awards and became a producer on the series.Graham was recently seen in Universal‟s hit romantic comedy Because I Said So, opposite DianeKeaton and Mandy Moore, and alongside Steve Carell in the comedy Evan Almighty. Graham‟sadditional feature film roles include the dark comedy Bad Santa, opposite Billy Bob Thornton;The Pacifier, opposite Vin Diesel; The Amateurs, opposite Jeff Bridges and Tim Blake Nelson;Sweet November, starring Keanu Reeves; the thriller Nightwatch, starring Patricia Arquette andEwan McGregor: and as Renée Zellweger‟s best friend and confidante in the Meryl Streep dramaOne True Thing. In addition to Gilmore Girls, Graham‟s list of television credits includes partsin Caroline in the City, NewsRadio, Law & Order, Seinfeld, 3rd Rock from the Sun, ConradBloom and Townies.DERMOT MULRONEY (Gil Previck) will soon be seen in Burn After Reading, starringGeorge Clooney and Brad Pitt, and Jolene, directed by Dan Ireland and based on the E.L.Doctorow story. Mulroney also just wrapped an indie titled Run for Her Life, directed byIcelandic director Baltasar Kormákur, in which he stars opposite Diane Kruger. His most recentfilm credits include roles opposite Elisabeth Shue in the independent drama Gracie, directed byDavis Guggenheim, and David Fincher‟s Zodiac, which also starred Jake Gyllenhaal and RobertDowney Jr.Additional credits include roles in The Family Stone, Georgia Rule, Must Love Dogs, TheWedding Date, Undertow, About Schmidt, The Safety of Objects, My Best Friend‟s Wedding,Lovely & Amazing, Griffin & Phoenix, Trixie, Goodbye Lover, Where the Money Is, Copycat,Living in Oblivion and How to Make an American Quilt.Mulroney‟s earlier work includes critically acclaimed performances in Longtime Companion;Where the Day Takes You; Samantha, with Martha Plimpton; Staying Together, with StockardChanning; Peter Bogdanovich‟s The Thing Called Love; Young Guns, with Kiefer Sutherland;Point of No Return, with Bridget Fonda; Blake Edwards‟ comedy Sunset; and CareerOpportunities, opposite Jennifer Connelly.


His television work includes a multi-episode guest-starring role on the hit NBC comedy Friends;the Lifetime Network movie-of-the-week The Memory Keeper‟s Daughter; the HBO film LongGone; ABC‟s four-hour drama Family Pictures, with Anjelica Huston; and the TNT feature TheHeart of Justice.ALAN ALDA (Gregory Lawson) has the distinction of being nominated for an Oscar®, a Tonyand an Emmy Award—as well as publishing a best-selling book—all in the same year (2005).His Emmy Award nomination was for his role on The West Wing. Alda also received a TonyAward nomination for his role in the Broadway revival of David Mamet‟s Glengarry Glen Ross.On film that year, he appeared in Martin Scorsese‟s The Aviator, for which he received anAcademy Award® nomination and a BAFTA Award nomination.In 2006, Alda received his 32nd Emmy Award nomination and won his sixth Emmy for hisappearance on The West Wing (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series). He has earnedinternational recognition as an actor, writer and director. In addition to The Aviator, Alda‟s filmsinclude Crimes and Misdemeanors; Everyone Says I Love You; Flirting With Disaster;Manhattan Murder Mystery; And the Band Played On; Same Time, Next Year; California Suite;The Seduction of Joe Tynan, which he also wrote; and The Four Seasons, Sweet Liberty, A NewLife and Betsy‟s Wedding, all of which he wrote and directed.On Broadway, Alda has appeared as the physicist Richard Feynman in the play QED. He starredin the first American production of the international hit play Art. In addition to his nominationfor Glengarry, he was also nominated for the Tony Award for his performances in Neil Simon‟sJake‟s Women and the musical The Apple Tree. Other appearances on Broadway include TheOwl and the Pussycat, Purlie Victorious and Fair Game for Lovers, for which he received aTheatre World Award.Alda played Hawkeye Pierce on the classic television series M*A*S*H and wrote and directedmany of the episodes. His 32 Emmy nominations include one in 1999 for his performance onER. In 1994, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. Alda hosted the award-winningseries Scientific American Frontiers on PBS for 11 years, interviewing leading scientists fromaround the world. Other television performances include Truman Capote‟s The Glass House andThe Caryl Chessman Story, for which he received an Emmy nomination for his portrayal ofCaryl Chessman, an inmate who spent 12 years on death row.His first memoir, “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I‟ve Learned,” became aNew York Times best seller, as did his second, “Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.”DIRECTORMARC ABRAHAM (Directed by) makes his directing debut with Flash of Genius. Abraham,president of film production company Strike Entertainment, has produced many major motionpictures over the past 20 years, most recently Alfonso Cuarón‟s Children of Men, the three-timeAcademy Award®-nominated film that offers a searing glimpse into the future, starring CliveOwen, Michael Caine and Julianne Moore. Other motion pictures produced by Abraham includeUniversal‟s hit Dawn of the Dead, a successful remake of the cult favorite; The Rundown,


starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Seann William Scott and Christopher Walken; Spy Game(produced with Douglas Wick), starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt; The Emperor‟s Club,starring Kevin Kline; and Tuck Everlasting, starring Oscar® winners Sir Ben Kingsley, WilliamHurt and Sissy Spacek.In 2000, Abraham produced the summer blockbuster Bring It On, starring Kirsten Dunst, as wellas The Family Man, starring Nicolas Cage and Téa Leoni. He also produced A Thousand Acres,based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange and JenniferJason Leigh. Abraham has executive produced many films, including the action thriller Air ForceOne, starring Harrison Ford; The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington and directed byNorman Jewison; and For Love of the Game, starring Kevin Costner.Prior to founding Strike Entertainment, Abraham was a founding partner and president ofBeacon Communications, the successful financing/production company founded in 1990.Abraham also spearheaded the formation of Beacon Records, which released five soundtracksthat sold more than four million units worldwide.Abraham has several new projects in development, including Trouble Is My Business, anadaptation of Raymond Chandler‟s detective-noir classic, starring Clive Owen, and a remake ofthe Universal Pictures‟ classic Creature From the Black Lagoon.

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