“In the Valley of Elah” writer-director Paul Haggis and star Charlize Theron talked shop as part of Variety‘s Screening Series at the Arclight Theaters in Hollywood.
In 2005, agents told “Crash” writer-director Haggis that he wouldn’t be able to get the politically-charged “Elah” made. “I took it around Hollywood for about 7 months,” he said, “and people said ‘oh yes, we really want to be in business with you, we hear “Crash” is really good’…,” but no one wanted to commit to producing the Iraq war-themed film. He continued: “I figured I needed some clout, since I didn’t have it on my own, and I called up Clint Eastwood, because I can do that now. How cool is that?”
Haggis also feels some people are incorrectly reading “Elah” as an unpatriotic film. He showed the completed film to over 500 military personnel and the response was “remarkable” with troops offering “overwhelming support” to the film. “That’s what we wanted,” Haggis said, “If we made a movie that troops would look at and say ‘that’s not our expeience,’ then we would’ve failed. But they didn’t. That’s the experience. I think it’s a patriotic film and it’s pro-military”.
Theron, a native of South Africa who is now an American citizen, said: “I find myself so unbelievably patriotic and that’s why I question and that’s why I was I was so interested in this material. I never felt like this film really carried a polical agenda. The reason why I wanted to tell this story with Paul was because I thought that for the first time in a long time we brought back a human connection — something that we completely lost. We can all sit around having a really smart conversation about this war, but we forget that real people — and young kids — are over there fighting this war, and for us not to ask questions and for us not to care I think is the most unpatriotic thing we can be doing.”
“In my heart I love living here,” she stated, “and I love this country and that’s why I want to do material like this. I want to remember at the end of the day that part of me is an American now, and therefore I really care. And when you care you have to ask those questions.”