Studio: Newmarket Films (released Dec. 24)
Category: Adapted from Fechter’s play
Storyline: After 12 years in prison for child molestation, Walter (Kevin Bacon) begins the hard work of building a life: getting a job, meeting a woman (Kyra Sedgwick), winning back his family’s trust. He also must convince suspicious local cop Detective Lucas (Mos Def) — and himself — that he has the strength to resist preying on kids again.
About the script: Blown away by Fechter’s play, Kassell approached him about adapting it for the screen. Together, they transformed the story into a less talky, more internalized character study of a haunted man struggling to build a normal life. “I was more ruthless than Nicky was cutting my work,” says Fechter. “The idea was to show the story in pictures as much as possible.”
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Biggest challenge: “Avoiding the pitfalls of making him too sympathetic or too evil,” Kassell says. “Some people wanted to know why he became a pedophile. That didn’t interest me as much as the problem of here’s somebody who is guilty and has served his time and is haunted by his demons, and what is going to happen, and how are we as a society going to react?”
Breakthrough idea: “Nicky’s idea to put it into a lumberyard,” says Fechter. “It had great visuals and sounds. Also the lumberyard is a place where a diverse group of young men work and there’s this rough camaraderie going on there, which highlights Walter’s isolation.”
Standout scene: “The scenes with Lucas are really charged,” says Fechter. “Walter is seen as being the predator, but now he’s the victim. You really see his vulnerability.” Kassell says, “At the same time, I felt sympathy for this cop, and to feel sympathy for him was amazing, to realize he’s seen horrific things and his point of view is entirely valid.”
Choice lines: Walter telling his therapist what he considers normal: “Normal is when I can see a girl, be near a girl, even talk to a girl and not think about … That’s my idea of normal.'”
Writers’ bios: “The Woodsman” is Kassell’s debut feature. While at NYU Film School, her short “Jaime” won the 1999 DGA female student filmmaker award. Her “The Green Hour” screened at Sundance 2002. She plans to direct an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s “The Ride Down Mt. Morgan,” starring Michael Douglas. Fechter’s plays have been staged widely and one of them, “The Last Cigarette,” was published in 2000. This is his first film.