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Proof of Life

Terry Thorne

What it's about:

An action-adventure love story based on the Vanity Fair article "Adventures in the Ransom Trade" by William Prochnau. "Proof of Life" tells the story of a hostage negotiator who flies to Colombia and, in the process of obtaining the release of a U.S. corporate executive, falls in love with the man's wife.

Also stars: Meg Ryan (Alicia Bowman), David Morse (Peter Bowman), David Caruso (Dino), Pamela Reed (Peter's sister), Alun Armstrong, Michael Kitchen, Daniel Lugo, Pietro Sibille, Mario Ernesto Sanchez, Diego Trujillo (Eliodoro), Vicky Hernandez (Maria), Gottfried John

Director: Taylor Hackford

Screenplay: Tony Gilroy

Locations: Poland, Ecuador and London

Castle Rock / Bel-Air Entertainment (Distributed by Warner Brothers)

Release dates:
USA, Japan: December 8, 2000
Israel: February 1, 2001
Australia, Netherlands: March 1, 2001
Italy, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, March 2, 2001
Denmark, Norway: March 9, 2001
Ecuador: March 12, 2001
Sweden: March 16, 2001
Argentina: March 29, 2001
France: April 4, 2001
Austria, Brazil: April 6, 2001

Available on DVD and video Buy it HERE.


(No spoilers; All information subject to change in the final version of the film.)

Terry Thorne is a world-weary hostage negotiator for a powerful worldwide company specializing in retrieving kidnapped executives. The film begins with a lengthy action sequence in which we see him risking his life to save a client. Terry is described as 43, English, working class meets British Special Forces. (We already know the nationality will change, since Russell will be speaking with his natural Australian accent.) Terry may seem ready to call it quits, but he's the kind of guy who can't not care. He also happens to be very good at what he does.

Cut to Telacca, the standard-movie Latin American country in which most of the action takes place. We're introduced to the two other main characters in Proof of Life: Peter and Alice Gehrig. Peter (played by David Morse) is an American engineer heading a dam-building project in the Telaccan jungle. He's constantly agitated, yet it's clear his nervousness comes from the pressures of his job. And then there is Alice, Peter's loving, passionate, free-spirited wife.

Holding powerful men for ransom is common in Telacca, which is war-torn, of course. By chance, Peter becomes the next victim, and Terry reluctantly is dispatched to the country to negotiate his release.

Terry's attraction to Alice is almost immediate. Alice represents much of what is missing in his life -- family, love, stability. Meanwhile, Terry becomes a source of strength and encouragement for Alice. He's done this before, and knows all the rules. He won't let her down.

Beyond that, it's tough to be objective about the screenplay, or its cinematic possibilities. The problem is the script reads more like an outline of a great film, and desperately needs to be fleshed out.

The relationship between Terry and Alice, for example, is the central element of the movie. But it's the least-developed element in the script. We never get a real sense of why their relationship turns romantic. Terry has surely been in this situation before: That is, comforting the young, attractive wives of his kidnapped clients. Meanwhile, Alice, though clearly neglected by her workaholic husband, is nonetheless devoted to Peter and more than anything wants him back. The only real explanation we get for her eventual sexual relationship with Terry is a well-timed blackout. Or, maybe the heat made them do it.

Director Taylor Hackford has assembled a strong cast of seasoned actors to help him fill in the blanks. Naturally, Russell and Ryan could play these characters in their sleep (and, if the rumors are true, apparently they were).

The scene-stealer will probably be David Caruso, as Terry's friend and fellow hostage negotiator Dino. First, he gets all the funniest lines. And second, even before he became a star on NYPD Blue, Caruso was the consummate character actor. His drollness usually makes him a standout in even the most forgettable movies.

Still, it's Morse who has the hardest job. Morse, whose face is probably more familiar than his name, has never given a bad performance. More importantly (or unfortunately for Russell), he can play sympathetic like nobody's business. That's whether he's playing a sweet, lovable doctor on TV's St. Elsewhere or a no-nonsense prison guard in The Green Mile. The real trick will be making Peter likable enough so that moviegoers want him home safe, and yet -- when you think about it -- he must be UNLIKABLE enough that we want Terry to get the girl.

Proof of Life both plays by and breaks the rules of standard Hollywood filmmaking. It's a mix of action, drama and romance, but at its core is a simple human story that aspires to be wonderfully mature in emotion. Given the track record of those involved, they'll probably be able to pull it off. One problem, however, that'll probably be fixed by the time the film hits theaters: Without giving it away, the final scene is a big disappointment. We've all seen it before, only this time it has beer. Yes, we said beer.


Russell will speak with his natural Australian accent in the film. It will be his first time doing so in an American production.

He also trained with a female five-time karate world champion from Melbourne to prepare for the role.

Meg Ryan co-starred with Denzel Washington in Courage Under Fire.

Early in her career, Meg was a player on the soap opera As the World Turns. But her big break came in 1986 as the wife of Navy pilot "Goose" in Top Gun.

Although she's primarily known for her work in romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally, Meg has garnered critical praise for dramatic performances in movies like Courage Under Fire, When a Man Loves a Woman, and Promised Land.

In a recent magazine interview, she worried that she "was out of her league" working with Russell and Taylor.

Meg, who is guarded about her personal life, married actor Dennis Quaid on Valentine's Day 1991. They have a young son.

David Morse played Jodie Foster's (Flora Plum) father (yes, father!) in Contact. He also co-starred in The Negotiator with Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential).

"Proof of Life" is the third collaboration between director Taylor Hackford and writer Tony Gilroy. They last worked together on Devil's Advocate, which starred Al Pacino (The Insider) and Connie Nielsen

The two also made Dolores Claiborne, the Academy Award-winning film featuring David Strathairn (L.A. Confidential) and Christopher Plummer (The Insider). It co-starred Jennifer Jason Leigh, reportedly one of Russell's favorite actresses.

More six degrees of Russell: Gilroy wrote the screenplay for Extreme Measures starring Gene Hackman and is executive producer of Bait, featuring actor Nestor Serrano (The Insider).

The song featured in the closing credits is "I'll Be Your Lover Too" by Van Morrison.

Photo: Filming in the streets of Quito, Ecuador. Vistazo Magazine, April 2000 (Thanks to Saadin)

(Photo: thanks to Francesca)

Russell on Proof of Life:

"Ironically, I've just decided to do a movie with Taylor Hackford . . . where I play an Australian. It's taken a long time, but now I get to play a serious, tertiary-educated, sentient character who speaks with my native accent in a big-budget Hollywood film." (Vancouver Sun, 10/99)

"It's a pretty similar situation to the other scripts that I read and end up doing in that something within the story is new or fresh. There is a lot of information in this story that we havenât seen before, the fact that K&R is such a huge business and how it directly affects Americans."

Russell on Terry Thorne:

"He's got a very good bedside manner. He's very calm and reassuring to the client, but there is a distance. He has his business sincerity level but at the same time what happens in our story cuts through his ordinarily objective persona where he is affected more emotionally by the people involved."

Taylor Hackford on the love scene:

"Hackford admits he filmed a more explicit love scene but that it has been exorcised from the final print.

'This was completely my decision,' the director says. 'There was no pressure from Meg or Russell for that matter -- and certainly not from the studio.

'I screened the film with and without the love scene and had to go with the version that worked best for audiences . . . . Too much romance detracts from the action-adventure.'

'If I wanted to be sensational I could have inserted the scene, but it would have detracted greatly. I wanted the relationship between the characters to be tenuous and ambiguous.'" . (Thanks to Marilyn)

Proof Of Life: Images
More photos!

Proof Of Life: In Print

Proof of Life:

Proof of Life: Promo

Read "Adventures in the Ransom Trade"
(The article this film is based on)

(To see a full version of this photo, click here)
Castle Rock Entertainment in association with Bel-Air Entertainment, Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Photo by Ralph Nelson
(Thanks to Marla and Warner Bros.)

(Photo: thanks to Sigrid)

Photo: Ciak Magazine (Italy)
(Thanks to Elisa)

Read fan reviews

Related Links:

Castle Rock Entertainment

Official site
Includes trailers, photos and much more!

William Prochnau, the award-winning writer and journalist, and writer of the article "Adventures in the Ransom Trade," has also written "Proof of Life: A Writer's Notebook." an ebook which includes the inside story and on-location background of the making of the movie in Ecuador. You can find the ebook (and more information) at (Special thanks to Mr. Prochnau!)
(More news, cast notes, etc.)

Script review (Some spoilers)

with Russell (Thanks to Caroline)

David Morse: and

Russell and Meg Ryan with the US ambassador in Quito.

According to the magazine, this is the only known photo of the actors due to the secrecy surrounding the shoot. Russell was very gracious with the fans, granting autographs and talking to them while Meg Ryan preferred to stay away. They were seen together in a restaurant in Quito quite cozy with each other.

Vistazo Magazine (April 2000) issue.

(Thanks to Saadin)

Russell, Meg Ryan and Taylor Hackford
Diario El Comercio (May 28, 2000) Photo: by Paul Rivas (Thanks to Maria!) (See also script notes photo)

Maria reports that both photos were taken during the filming in San Francisco, which is one of the main and most beautiful colonial churches of Quito, Ecuador ... and Latin America. The filming in the colonial city took place April 12 - 13. During these two days, the nearby streets and churches were closed from 6:00 to 21:00, causing a lot of chaos because no one was aware this was going to happen and because important buildings, such as City Hall and the Presidential Palace, are located only a few blocks away. Most of the filming took place inside the church, but some parts were also shot outside, so they hired the people that work there to act as extras.

Buy Proof of Life on DVD and video, books and music from the film HERE.

The DVD includes:
Behind the scenes documentary The Making of Proof of Life
Feature-length commentary by director Taylor Hackford
Original Theatrical Trailer
Cast/Filmmaker Career Highlights
Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio
16X9 Widescreen format (Panavision 2.35:1)

If anyone has any photos or information to share, let us know. Any cast, crew members or extras out there? We'd love to hear from you. You can contact us , see home page.

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