Hitman: Videogame to Movie, Starring Timothy Olyphant

Based on the top-selling, award-winning videogame franchise, “Hitman” is a genetically-engineered, elite assassin known only as Agent 47. His hallmarks are a lethal grace, unwavering precision, and resolute pride in his work. But even 47 couldn’t anticipate a “random equation” in his life of exactitude: the unexpected stirrings of his conscience and the unfamiliar emotions aroused in him by a mysterious Russian woman.

Timothy Olyphant (“Live Free or Die Hard”) stars in the title role, a mysterious and complex man of profound contradictions: He was bred from the world’s deadliest criminals, but raised by an exiled brotherhood of the Church. His very existence seems to be a sin, but he wages a quiet war to rid the world of evil. He’s brilliant, charismatic and charming–yet reveals little about himself, has no name, and is known only by the last two digits of a barcode tattooed on the back of his head.

“Hitman” is the second feature from director Xavier Gens (Frontier(s)), who imbues the film with a look of a graphic novel rich with religious iconography. Gens’ approach to the material is, like its protagonist, stylized and cool. The producers are Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, Charles Gordon and Adrian Askarieh.

The screenplay was written by Skip Woods (Swordfish). Hetman’s behind-the-scenes team includes Frontier(s) cinematographer Laurent Bars and Oscar-nominated production designer Jacques Bufnoir (Indochine).

“Hitman” was filmed during 12 weeks on location in Sofia and at Boyana Film Studios in Bulgaria, with a second unit shooting in South Africa, Istanbul, St. Petersburg and London.

“Hitman” began its journey from game console to big screen when producers Charles Gordon and Adrian Askarieh, along with co-producer Daniel Alter, brought the property to Twentieth Century Fox. EuropaCorp, whose partners include filmmaker Luc Besson (“The Professional,” “La Femme Nikita”) and producer Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, later joined the project. At the time, EuropaCorp was in post-production on Frontier(s), from young French director Xavier Gens. Besson and Le Pogam were so impressed by Gens’ debut feature that they suggested that Fox executives take a look at some scenes from the film.

In addition to Gens’ work on Frontier(s), which had its North American premiere at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival, the producers were impressed by Gens’ extensive experience in other production capacities–from runner to first assistant director on several large-scale action films. Gens has a genuine and contagious enthusiasm for films and filmmaking.

“Xavier is totally passionate about movies,” says Le Pogam. “He is in love with all of the tangible elements of filmmaking and with getting the best from actors. He’s interested in the journey of a character from start to finish. Like other very talented people, he also has a gift for attracting a team of equally creative people in every department to work with him.”

Timothy Olyphant credits Gens with his decision to take the title role: “Xavier is a real cinephile. Sitting down and talking to him about his ideas and what kind of movie he thought this could be was the closer for me. He got me very excited about the project.”

An avid gamer, Gens was thrilled to direct a film based on one of his favorite games: “Hitman,” from Eidos Interactive. As a gaming enthusiast, Gens wanted to remain faithful to the game’s unique style and spirit. As a filmmaker, he was determined to avoid the pitfalls of the videogame-to-film adaptations. “We wanted the movie HITMAN to tell an original and exciting story,” says Gens, “and not just turn the game into a movie. Our goal was to make something real out of an imaginary universe while respecting all of the iconic aspects of the game, which has a lot of devoted fans.”

Gens and screenwriter Skip Woods retained much of the game’ mythology and imagery, including 47′ elaborate weaponry, sartorial choices, and trademark fleur-de-lis. “kip wrote a great script from the source material,” says Le Pogam. “It’s a totally different approach but he kept all the beauty and the basic elements of the videogame and its main character: black suit, white shirt, red tie, bald, and barcode. The psychological ambiguity and the mystery of the Hitman are still there–where he comes from, what kind of education he received to develop his impressive skills.

“Agent 47 is a killer who doesn’t take any pleasure from killing,” Le Pogam continues. “He is a professional. He just does his job. And this is why he is so enigmatic. We are always considering why he does what he does.”

Armed with Woods’ script, an expert production team and a stellar international cast, Gens drew his inspiration from other films far removed from the computer game genre. “What attracted me to HITMAN was the originality of the different characters and the atmosphere–the graphic universe in which the movie is set,” he says. “I thought I could make something really dark, a combination thriller and action movie.”

In creating the title character Gens and Woods looked to the compelling loners more associated with Westerns or the solitary spies of Cold War-era thrillers. “I wanted 47 to be a lone hero,” he says. “He has a profound loneliness and an almost mythical quality.”