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The Reeler Blog

Sleuth Sorts it Out in Chelsea

By Ben Gold

A crowd gathered outside the Chelsea West Cinema last night for Variety / Museum of Moving Image's preview of Sleuth, a psychological-thriller/comedy (not necessarily in that order) starring Michael Caine and Jude Law as two men engaged in a mind-bending battle for possession of the same woman, all taking place in a weird postmodern house. The line extended down the sidewalk, with clusters of women queued for their chance to catch a glimpse of three generations of British heartthrob -- Law, Caine and director Branagh -- set to make an appearance. Alas, disappointment extinguished the fire in their loins: Jude Law would not be appearing. Sighs were heard as far as the Meatpacking District.


"I made you -- I can break you!" Michael Caine has it out for Harold Pinter as (L-R) moderator David Schwartz and director Kenneth Branagh look on (Photo: WireImage)

Disappointment subsided, however, once Branagh and Caine made their way to the front of the auditorium following the film. Among their first points: Don't call this a remake. Yes, there's the 1972 version starring Caine and Laurence Olivier, and yes, they're both based on Anthony Shaffer's play. But the Sleuth of 2007 claims a good deal the other cannot, namely a script by Nobel laureate Harold Pinter. Caine was reluctant to star in the re--, er, new Sleuth until he learned of Pinter's involvement. "Jude (also a producer) came and said, 'How do you feel about remaking Sleuth?' " Caine told the crowd. "I didn't want to be rude, so I said, 'That sounds like a good idea.' We were having dinner and nearly at the end of the meal; I thought I could hold him off for dessert and be OK. But then he said he had a script by Harold Pinter, and I said 'Aah -- that's different."

It turned out that Caine's desire to work with Pinter wasn't exactly new. "I knew Harold," Caine continued. "He was an actor, and he eventually wrote a one-act play called The Room, which I did. And then for 50 years he wrote all this great stuff and I was never offered a single part! I felt like saying, 'I made you -- I can break you!' "

One of the most important characters in Sleuth, though, didn't have any lines: the architecturally adventurous house where the film is set. "The house is an extension of Wyke's personality," Branagh said of Caine's character. "All the art you see on the walls? All of that is to try and create this gladiatorial environment in which the actors could be very real, [and] create an atmosphere where the audience was in the game."

There is another silent character as well: the woman around whom the conflict revolves. And though she never appears on screen, it didn't keep Caine from creating his own image. "I always thought it was Nicole Kidman," he said.

Posted at October 4, 2007 7:12 AM

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