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About The "Number 23" Production08 Feb 2007
By TNPihl (JCO Editor-In-Chief)
British screenwriter Fernley Phillips was first turned on to the number 23 enigma by a friend. And much like Walter Sparrow, the lead character in "The Number 23", Phillips was quickly drawn in to the mystery of the number and its meaning. Phillips devoured the vast literature and subculture surrounding the number and found himself inspired to use the enigma as the chilling backbone for a unique film.
"My friend mentioned the number 23 enigma, which led me to read authors such as futurist Robert Anton Wilson, who wrote things like The Illuminatus Trilogy," recalls Phillips, who earned his first screenplay sale with "The Number 23". "I began to open up to the numerical phenomena, as well as memory repression, hypnosis and the power of suggestion. I decided to incorporate all these subjects into a story."
Joel Schumacher © New Line Cinema
Phillips’ first instinct was to incorporate these ideas and the number 23 into a political thriller. "But I am not by nature political. I enjoy real events, real people," he says. "I came up with an idea that concerns a man who reads a book that mirrors his life and reminds him of distant images and events. I needed a title for that book, and decided to bring the ‘number 23’ into the story. I wanted audiences to start thinking for themselves about how something like this enigma could find meaning in their own lives."
Producers Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson, partners in Contrafilm, were impressed with Phillips’ script and brought it to New Line Cinema.
"This being Fernley’s first script, it was immediately apparent to us that his was an original voice that treads new territory, a unique vision," says Beau Flynn. "His originality, spirit and vigor permeated the script and never allowed this project to languish during its journey to production."
Confident they had a unique and compelling script to work with, Flynn and Vinson turned their attention to finding the right director for the project. Their search began and ended with one name: Joel Schumacher. The versatile filmmaker, who has guided such diverse fare as The Phantom of the Opera, Falling Down and 8MM, had previously worked with the producers on the critically-acclaimed military drama, Tigerland.
© New Line Cinema
"Joel Schumacher was our only choice for this material," says Flynn. "Long before I worked with him on Tigerland, I had admired his mix of stylish vision, flair for the darker side and unparalleled rapport with actors."
The producers’ instincts proved correct as Schumacher instantly took to the material.
"I loved the script immediately and thought it was totally original and very unique," says Schumacher. "It intrigued me because I’m always looking for something that everybody isn’t making and this was so original and very challenging. I didn’t know anything about the 23 phenomenon at the time, so I Googled it and saw that there was endless insanity about the number 23. There’s even a web site where people have been photographing 23’s where they see them all over the world. It’s a cult that I didn’t know existed."
But it wasn’t just the unique spin on numerology that intrigued Schumacher. What he saw in Phillips’ script was a rare piece of material that could work on multiple levels.
"Fernley didn’t start the 23 phenomenon, he just wove it into this very interesting thriller which I think is about much more than just a number," says Shumacher. "It’s about how obsession can become very destructive. And I think most of us know that in our own life. I think everybody has obsessions."
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