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'We'll Let Them Do Whatever': 'Murderball' Director Rubin Discusses Mangold's Fictional Adaptation

The quadriplegic rugby documentary Murderball, which I cherish and regard as the best documentary of 2005, was back in the news this week as director James Mangold was linked to the development of a narrative adaptation. I could not quite make head or tails of any of this until I caught up Thursday with Murderball co-director Henry-Alex Rubin, an old friend, colleague and disciple of Mangold's from their days studying film at Columbia University in the mid 1990s.

"I would say that Dana (Adam Shapiro, Murderball's other co-director) and I are pretty hopeful that it's going work as a complement to the movie rather than be a replacement for it," said Rubin, who served as Mangold's second unit director on Cop Land and Girl, Interrupted. "That's one of the reasons we both decided to go with Jim, because he seemed excited to make something that would work alongside it as a companion piece."

While TMZ reported last week that Mangold had acquired the life rights to Murderball subjects Mark Zupan (above), Joe Soares and Chris Igoe--out of whose truck Zupan was flung in the accident that paralyzed him--Rubin was reluctant to detail any story hints or specifics before Mangold had even written the script.

"I think Dana and I both agreed that we would stay out of it and let James do whatever he wanted," he told me. "Dana and I put him in touch with Mark Zupan, and they met, and they get along. And we'll let them do whatever. I wouldn't be surprised if Mangold at some point asked us our opinion, but I think the only way to really feel OK about doing something is just to give it to someone else completely. We made our film, and it represents the truth to the best of our knowledge emotionally and chronologically onscreen. Now Mangold is following a diferent process, which is trying to get the truth of the emotions that preexisted, which is going to be challenge, but which Dana and I had nothing to do with, because we weren't there. It's really all about Chris Igoe and Zupan, and hopefully they'll all be collaborating."

Rubin, who attended this year's IFP Market as a Documentary Completion Award juror, is presently casting his upcoming film Bridgewater, a blend of doumentary-style and fiction storytelling about a group of friends returned from a tour in the Iraq War. Rubin cites another chief influence, Flight 93 and Bloody Sunday director Paul Greengrass, as an influence this time around, but he reserved his strongest praise for Mangold.

"I've always been sort of obsessed with ways of capturing reality and truth and putting it on film, and Jim has continuously opened my mind as to how to tell a story well," Rubin said. "I've mostly been at the mercy of reality making documentaries for 10 years, but on the side, I was always working on his films. I got a window into a world of fiction that I wouldn't have necessarily gotten otherwise. Dana and I tried hard to make Murderball look and feel like a fiction film, and it was because of Jim that I even knew how to put together shot lists and storyboards. He's influenced me tremendously."

Posted at September 29, 2006 12:08 AM

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