Knowing: Proyas’ New Actioner

A single father, desperately trying to defend his only child, and an old encoded message written by a young schoolgirl are the only things that stand in the way of impending global disaster in the sci-fi thriller Knowing. From the moment they heard Ryne Douglas Pearson’s (Mercury Rising) idea for the screenplay, producing partners Jason Blumenthal and Todd Black knew they had a good story to tell.


“We spent eight years developing the script, recalls Blumenthal. “We bought it as an original pitch. Ryne had an idea that started with a time capsule that was buried in the 1950s and unearthed in the present day. The capsule contains a series of predictions that would come true. We knew immediately we had something very special.”


For the last five years, the partners have been working with Alex Proyas, the director of “I, Robot,” to develop the idea into a feature. “With a pitch, you never know how the final screenplay is going to turn out,” says Blumenthal. “The story has changed in small places, but the larger overall themes have always remained the same. The idea of the time capsule and the predictions was such an intriguing and unique idea that we knew we had something to build on. It’s as exciting to us today as it was eight years ago.”


Visionary Proyas


Proyas was chosen to direct “Knowing” based on the singular filmmaking style he has honed since his 1994 breakthrough film, “The Crow.” “We knew we found the right director in Alex,” says Blumenthal. “His vision for this picture far surpassed anything that we could ever realize on the page. He brought in a whole host of scientific, spiritual and philosophical ideas that helped bring the script together.”


For Blumenthal, real-life events of the past eight years have caused a shift in what he sees as the most compelling aspects of the film. Initially he was intrigued by the concept of the time capsule: “I remember hearing about them as a kid. It sounded so sci-fi and out there, and when I realized that it was something that was going to be opened many years from that date, I was hooked. When I’m looking at ideas I want to develop, I look for things that have an emotional connection for me, and that one did it for me.”


Becoming a Father


Then during the development period, Blumenthal’s life changed dramatically. “Eight years ago I was not a father. I have two young children now. And at its core, the movie has become a parent and child story. That central family issue is very important to me and many other people on this film.


“Knowing is a psychological thriller with special effects that are going to blow your mind,” he says. “But it’s more than that. This movie poses the ultimate question: How far would you go to protect your child Would you be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice That’s an intense idea.


It’s an emotional roller coaster that leaves you guessing at every turn. It’s a story that people will want to talk about because it poses many questions that will stay with them when they leave the theater. And for me, those are the best stories to tell.”


For Proyas, that meant finding a balance between the over-the-top action and visual effects of a top-flight thriller and the nuanced emotional journey of his characters. “For me, every film is a big film,” he says. “I, Robot was a hugely complex technical exercise, but every film has its own levels of complexity. The great thing about Knowing is that is it has this bedrock of emotions and human interaction. Reality is what this story is all about what. We don’t ask you to suspend disbelief. Everything that we’ve addressed in this could possibly happen.”


Actor Nicolas Cage, who plays Professor John Koestler, compares the script to an enduring American icon. “The script reminded me of one of Rod Serling’s ‘Twilight Zone’ teleplays, and the powerful feeling that those shows had,” he says. “It’s a science fiction-mystery-thriller, but there are also some intensely dramatic moments.”


Rose Byrne, the actress who plays Diana, agrees that it is hard to place Knowing in a single genre, a quality she sees as one of the film’s strengths. “The storyline unfolds really cleverly and the time capsule is fascinating. This is not just a straight thriller or a straight horror or a straight science fiction film. It’s a dead-even combination of those things.”


It’s a movie that has the ability to change people’s minds,” says Cage. “I remember seeing ‘The China Syndrome’ as a boy and it made me very aware that nuclear energy was a power to be respected. This calls people’s attention to issues that we can all affect in some way. “The end of the world is on people’s minds,” he goes on. “We have the power to do it ourselves. The question is, what do you do with that responsibility”


Movies with apocalyptic themes are particularly resonant with audiences because of the environmental issues the world is dealing with, says Byrne. “It’s a constant human desire to want to understand as much as we can about how long we’re going to be around,” she says. “People have been trying to figure it out forever. And whether it’s Mayans or Muslims or Hindus, everyone has a theory on what’s going to happen.”