Unknown: From Page to Screen

What if you knew, deep down, who you really were, but couldn’t prove it? And what if someone else—someone you didn’t know—claimed to be you, and everyone believed him? That is the dilemma at the center of “Unknown.”

Who or what determines who we are? Is it our friends…our memories…where we come from…a piece of paper…? Where is the proof?

Based on the novel by Didier van Cauwelaert, “Unknown” explores exactly that as Dr. Martin Harris, played by Liam Neeson, races through the cold streets of Berlin in order to take back his life, while dodging the men who are hot on his trail and trying to kill him. Though he has no idea why.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra offers, “My favorite films are those Hitchcockian thrillers that have that mysterious atmosphere, where the audience is as much in the dark as the characters, and you don’t really know where the story is going to take you.”

Producer Joel Silver states, “I love a nail-biter, a real edge-of-your-seat movie, and that’s what I liked most about this story. You don’t know if Martin Harris is the good guy, or if he’s gone slightly insane and is making this whole crazy thing up.”

It was producer Leonard Goldberg who brought French author van Cauwelaert’s book to

Silver. “When I read the novel, I thought it would be a perfect vehicle for Joel and I to produce together, because it was such a unique thriller and the ending totally surprised me,” Goldberg says. “Happily, Joel was as intrigued with the story as I was.”

“Leonard was right; it had such an interesting hook to it, I couldn’t put it down,” Silver confirms. “We developed the screenplay with two great writers, Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell.”

To direct the film, Silver looked to Jaume Collet-Serra, with whom he had collaborated on two prior films. “Jaume has a great style and understands how to let a mystery unfold. I was eager to work with him again.”

“I loved the idea of this man waking up one day and discovering that he has been replaced in the world,” Collet-Serra says. “And there was the added drama of another person being able to prove he was him, while the protagonist could not. It was the first of several great twists in the tale, and even with all these great clues sprinkled throughout the script, I liked that I could not figure it out.”

The star of “Unknown” was pulled into the story from the start. “For me, it’s always the script, and this was a real page-turner,” Neeson asserts. “My litmus test is this: if I can get to page 50 without stopping for a tea break, then it’s a very good sign. This was such good material that I had to read it all in one sitting.”

Producer Andrew Rona agrees. “This was one screenplay I truly couldn’t put down. It was such an exhilarating read; I couldn’t wait to see how it would translate to the screen.”

“‘Unknown’ is a freight train, it just grabs you and goes,” Joel Silver says. “And you may think you know where it’s going, but I don’t think you’ll see this one coming.”