DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: Warner Bros., Oct. 21
CATEGORY: adapted, from the book “Class Action: The Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law” by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler
STORYLINE: A single mother, Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron), takes legal action against a Minnesota mining company after blatant, widespread sexual harassment against her and other women mine workers threatens their livelihood.
ABOUT THE SCRIPT: Seitzman got excited about the subject when he saw the authors discussing the book on “The Today Show.” He contacted them via their publisher, and eventually pitched his take on the story and was able to secure the rights.
Faced with a sprawling legal saga that stretched over 28 years, Seitzman had to find a way to focus the story (he created his main character, Josey Aimes, from a composite of real-life women) and make the material resonate strongly for an audience. “For me, the question of the movie was, ‘Why does this woman take on the mining company?’ It was because she had two kids to feed and she wanted to put a roof over their heads. If the only way to do it was to go to this awful place and face this awful abuse, then she would do it. So it wasn’t about politics, it was about parenting. I realized that the real issue was the one we could all relate to.”
As for the structure, Seitzman says, “I didn’t want to divide the story into two halves.” Since the trial dealt with events at the mine and in the women’s personal lives, “I treated the courtroom as a series of flash-forwards — so that we got little snippets of it, and by the end, those two timelines would intersect, and we’d have the feeling that we’d seen the trial, even if we hadn’t.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “I felt the movie needed a secret, something from Josey’s deep past, that would act as an engine to drive the story. So I came up with this tragic secret that she’s trying to keep from her son. It’s something that really happened, and did come out in the courtroom, but not in the same context.”
BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: “Having the other women (in deciding to join the class-action suit) stand up with Josey in the courtroom. I realized that the audience basically wants to stand up with them, and that’s why people get emotional at the end of the movie. That was a big revelation in the writing.”
FAVORITE SCENE: “The scene with Josey and her son on the porch where she has to reveal the big secret. How does she tell him, and how does she make it OK for him? I spent a lot of time pacing the house over that. It was the hardest scene I ever wrote.”
CHOICE LINES: “When Josey’s father (Richard Jenkins) stands up in the union hall and says, ‘The only one I’m not ashamed of is my daughter.’ For the last 13 years he’s felt exactly the opposite, so in that moment he goes over a threshold into a world in which he is a father first.”
WRITER’S BIO: Also for Warner Bros., Seitzman is adapting the space epic “The Sparrow”; Robert Ludlum’s “The Chancellor Manuscript”; and the upcoming book “Storming the Court,” which he will direct. Prior to “North Country” he scripted teen romance “Here on Earth,” starring Josh Hartnett.