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Excuse me, there's a hit man in 23C

June 26, 2005|Mark Olsen

Where many writers become irritated by having their work boiled down to a simple schematic, writer Carl Ellsworth has no problem with hearing his script for "Red Eye" described as " 'Phone Booth' on a plane."

"It's absolutely fair and accurate," he says. "Several years ago, even before the movie came out, a buddy of mine slipped me the script for 'Phone Booth,' and I have to say it was probably the initial inspiration. So many things turned me on about that script."

Starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy and directed by Wes Craven, "Red Eye," which opens Aug. 19, is about a hit man who threatens the life of a woman on an airplane and makes her his unwilling accomplice as he carries out a much larger crime. Ellsworth said he was drawn to the idea of "a hostage on board and nobody knows it."

A native of Louisville, Ky., and self-described "child of 'Star Wars' and 'Die Hard' " Ellsworth, 32, moved to Los Angeles some 11 years ago, and after spending a brief time as a production assistant, he landed staff writing jobs on a number of television shows.

When the TV work dried up, he finally sat down to work on a kernel of an idea he had been kicking around for years.

"I've always been fascinated by the space between your good guy and your bad guy," he says. "And I thought, 'Can it be this simple?' Is it possible to sit your good guy next to your bad guy and sustain that, keep it interesting? And how the heck do you make that work?

"Close to two-thirds of the movie occurs on the plane and with the two characters sitting next to each other. From the original script we opened it up a little more to explore the geography of the plane -- we do get out of the seats a few times. Other characters enter into it, but for the bulk of the movie, what I'm very excited about now is, the tension builds just to the right moment when the audience is like, 'OK, we're ready to get off the plane.' It's the cork that's ready to explode."

-- Mark Olsen

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