Studio: Sony/Columbia (released Nov. 3)
Category: Adapted (from Marber’s play)
Storyline: Dan (Jude Law), a failed writer living in London, finds love — and material for his first novel — when he meets Alice (Natalie Portman), a younger woman with a troubled past. Months later, Dan falls for Anna (Julia Roberts), his book-jacket photographer. Dan and Anna begin an affair, but only after Dan unwittingly sets Anna up with Larry (Clive Owen), a doctor. When Dan and Anna decide to make their relationship public, Larry determines to get his revenge.
About the script: For a script with no explicit sex or violence, “Closer” — which became an international sensation soon after its 1997 award-winning debut on the London stage — is a startlingly brutal, unsettling examination of love, betrayal and self-destruction. “I wrote the play when I was in my early 30s and in a state of absolute, and deep personal misery,” says Marber, who credits helmer Steven Soderbergh’s caustic and funny “sex, lies, and videotape” as his inspiration. “It was only the second play I had written, and I found the writing very difficult; there was this constant feeling that everyone was going to think I was a lunatic. But I knew that the writing was best when I was most scared of it.” In adapting the play to the screen for director Mike Nichols, Marber kept the structure, but cut about 30% of the dialogue and varied the locations. “Mike never wanted to make it less visceral than it was, and I love him for that,” he says.
Biggest challenge: “To keep going and not flinch from the uncomfortable feeling it generated in me,” comments Marber. “Years later, when Mike and I were working on the adaptation, the biggest challenge was to hold our nerve. We knew we were making a film that had a lot of dialogue and long scenes, and that it wouldn’t appeal to everyone.”
Breakthrough idea: “I had toyed with the idea of creating a third couple who are happy, who comment on the angst and pain of their friends,” says Marber. “But things didn’t really come together until I decided to drop that. It would have softened the whole texture of the story.”
Standout scene: When Dan, pretending to be Anna, “meets” Larry in an Internet chat room. After exchanging comically explicit sexual fantasies, Larry agrees to a rendezvous with Anna at the London Aquarium, one of the real Anna’s favorite haunts.
Choice lines: Larry, to Dan: “Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist wrapped in blood.”
Writer’s bio: Marber began his career as a stand-up comic. After working with acclaimed British comic Steve Coogan on the British radio series “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” he began writing plays, beginning with “Dealer’s Choice,” in 1995. Next up is an adaptation of Zoe Heller’s novel “Notes on a Scandal” for “Closer” producer Scott Rudin.