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Cathy Schulman

Crash (with Don Cheadle, Bob Yari, Mark Harris, Bobby Moresco, Paul Haggis)

Genesis: “It’s something that Paul had been working on, on and off again, for years and it made its way to my company, Bulls Eye Entertainment, when frankly everyone else on the planet had already passed on it. The criticism I consistently heard, to be honest, was that racism had ‘been done,’ or was passé, and that was the most shocking part — it was as if this issue didn’t seem as critically forefront to the Hollywood community as it has seemingly been to the actual audiences.”

Attraction: After reading the script, Schulman says, “I immediately saw it and felt that it was this incredibly brutal and honest examination of fear, more than anything else. I thought, my god, the fear that we have in our most intense interpersonal relationships is mind-boggling and if it’s this bad from person to person, what’s it going to be like from community to community and country to country?”

Building blocks: “I think our breakthrough idea was bringing the project to Don Cheadle … (who) became a magnet to attracting additional talent, and then came on board as a producer and helped us put the movie together from a casting standpoint.”

Despite assembling a cast that included Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillipe, Terrence Howard, Brendan Fraser and Thandie Newton, the project got shut down three times before filming began, until the final cast member fell into place, says Schulman. “Frankly, it wasn’t until Sandy Bullock came on board that we were able to conclude the financing.”

Greatest challenge: “Figuring out how to shoot this complex a movie with this many movie stars on such an incredibly short schedule and mini budget. I remember saying to Paul when I first read the script: ‘You have written this intimate, fabulous independent film with all these intersecting stories except the connective tissue is a bunch of car crashes. How the heck are we doing this for cheap?’ So in the process of making the movie, you’ll notice that our car crashes all turned into fender benders or puffs of smoke.”

Setback Setback & solution: solution: Haggis suffered a heart attack with more than a week left of the 35-day shoot. “We had to shut down for three weeks and, among other things, we lost Brendan Fraser to his next job, which meant we had to rewrite and reconceive his work. We couldn’t bring all the actors back in three weeks so we had to shoot in a series of additional pickups. It was a scheduling and insurance nightmare.”

The setback wasn’t permanent, however. “The doctors told Paul, ‘There is no way you can finish this movie,’ and they and the insurance told me that I had to find a replacement director. Paul told the insurance company and the doctors, ‘If you keep me from directing the rest of my movie, I will surely die.’ ”

After a short period of recuperation, Haggis was back on set. “We rolled him, a hospital bed and a nurse into the set and he finished it up.”

Career Mantra: Dare to be different.

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