THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT: BROKEN BUTTERFLY WINGS 

According to Bress and Gruber, part of the initial resistance shown towards The Butterfly Effect came from the fact that the writing partners like to push the genre envelope, determined to tell stories in a way they’ve never been told before. “When we write, we ask ourselves one question and that’s if we’ve ever seen this in a film before,” says Gruber. “If we have seen it before, we dump it and rework everything from scratch. A lot of our writing process is arguing back and forth until we can both look at each other and be happy with what we’ve written for the day.” 
 
The long struggle to bring The Butterfly Effect to the screen left the writing duo with a few scars and more than a few chuckles. “It’s a “Back to the Future” type of story that deals with these harsh elements like prison rape, child abuse and child pornography, the kind of taboo dark subjects that no one wants to touch,” explains Bress. “It was so frustrating because we’d speak to studio executives who absolutely loved the script, but then they’d go upstairs and get their asses kicked and they’d come back to us looking like zombies.”  

For Kutcher, The Butterfly Effect’s young star, the film marks his first foray into serious drama and thrills after making a name for himself, and scoring at the box office, in such comedies as Dude, Where’s My Car? and Just Married. According to Kutcher, being the star and the executive producer on The Butterfly Effect is just like being a coach. The Butterfly Effect was co-produced by Roulette Entertainment, a company formed by Butterfly co-star Henson and Pearl Harbor star Josh Hartnett. “It’s like being the assistant coach of a football team,” says Kutcher who gets to wear a tuxedo in the film. “The directors, they’re the head coaches, but the producer, he’s the one who has to keep everyone focused and doing their jobs. Finally, my job is to get out of the way and let everyone else just shine and do their jobs. I see film-making as being a big part of my future. You have to be hands on if you want a long career in this business.” 

Actually, before Kutcher became involved as star and producer, many other big name young actors were considered for the role of Evan Treborn, during a point in The Butterfly Effect’s development when the project was being viewed as a big budget blockbuster. “Everyone was coming at us with money during the earlier stages of development and they would mention that they could bring in $20 Million actors like Tobey Maguire,” recalls Bress. “It was funny, because we said no, because we were very partial to this other young actor, who’ll go unnamed, who was a virtual unknown at the time. We fought tooth and nail to get this kid into the movie and his agents kept thanking us for being so loyal, but then he had a big hit film and all of a sudden the agents wouldn’t return our calls. Then they were mad at us for trying to force this actor to appear in a low budget film for relatively little money compared to what he was about to get. We never heard from that actor again.”  

Melora Walters, best known for her work in such films as Boogie Nights and Magnolia, plays Andrea Treborn, Evan’s seriously damaged mother. Standing in a doctor’s office, inside a dark institution, Walters shows the kind of dramatic range that’s made her one of the top character actresses working today. “Playing Ashton’s mother, both young Evan and old, has brought out a lot of my own maternal instincts,” says Walters. “I would describe Andrea as being a very compulsive woman who doesn’t know how to handle her young son or his problems, especially since she knows that Evan’s father went through the same kind of blackouts and was destroyed by it. Right now, I’ve taken him to the doctor who’s prescribed that Evan write down everything in this journal so, when he wakes up from his next blackout, he can find out everything, which is a really interesting idea: having to read about your own life because you don’t remember.”  

As mentioned, Bress and Gruber are two of the busiest genre writers in Hollywood with many horror and science fiction film projects in development including “Frozen,” a dark serial killer thriller that they describe as The Matrix meets “Silence of the Lambs.” “It’s kind of similar to The Butterfly Effect in that it has time travel as part of its story,” explains Gruber. “It’s about these kids who develop the power to freeze time and slip right through it. One of them grows up to become the world’s greatest illusionist and the other one becomes a great assassin. An FBI profiler discovers their link and he recruits the illusionist to help him hunt down the killer before he assassinates the President of the United States. Does that sound like it would be a good movie?”  

Bress and Gruber also wrote the aforementioned Final Destination 2 for which their efforts gained them the admiration and respect of Butterfly producer Chris Bender who became convinced that Bress and Gruber could easily handle their first directing assignment. “This is a visual rollercoaster and the guys did a great job.” asserts Bender. “This film involves lots of strange and unusual uses of the camera not to mention the bending of time which is really cool in the film. What’s going to make this film special is the unique characterizations which just build and build. There’s also some really gory visuals which we want to keep a secret. I’m not going to talk about how the porn and the rape plays into things, but you can use your imagination.” 
 
Bress and Gruber thoroughly enjoyed working as hired guns on Final Destination 2. “We hadn’t seen Final Destination when they called us and asked us for ideas,” recalls Bress. “We thought we’d hate it, but we actually liked it a lot and it was fun for dark writers like us to try and put a fresh spin on the story. The hardest part was the fact that we got rid of most of the original characters from Final Destination, except for Ali Larter’s character, Clear Rivers, and we wrote a brand new script, a brand new story, that involves a car accident instead of a plane crash. The two films intertwine in a cool way but it’s really a completely new story with a thrilling conclusion and we’re very happy with the script we wrote.”  

The makers of The Butterfly Effect have no clue as to what the film’s commercial prospects will be, but they’re confident of one thing: they’ve made a film that will have people talking long after they leave the theater. “We all wish that we could go back and relive or redo certain experiences and times in our life,” says Bress. “That’s what happens in this film, except we take it to a horrifying degree and try to ask lots of interesting questions.”




Posted on January 27, 2004 in Interviews by

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