An arrogant New York publicity agent is forced to confront the lies of his life when a sniper traps him on a Manhattan street. Alan Silverman has a look at the new film thriller Phone Booth.
Stu Shepard is a master manipulator who can maneuver in and out of the tightest spots while delicately tap dancing around the truth. He's clever enough to use a pay telephone to call his girlfriend so his wife won't see the number on his cellular bill; but when the phone in the curbside booth rings, Stu answers it.
The unseen sniper is in one of the thousands of skyscraper windows that surround him. Trapped in the Phone Booth Stu learns that his tormentor knows about his infidelities and casual dishonesty; and with a rifle aimed at him, this is one situation he may not be able to talk his way out of.
Colin Farrell stars as Stu and the Irish-born actor says the themes in Phone Booth can be relevant in any life, public or private.
"Ambition at the wrong time in a person's life for the wrong reasons can be a very destructive thing; and it's good to have friends, because the sniper is kind of a friend of his," Farrell explains. "I never thought of it like that. Like a friend, he kind of gives him a slap around the head and says 'wake up kid, you're going to be a bad, bad man.' Stu Shepard is kind of going down the road where, with success, he could become quite ruthless within 10 or 15 years. The sniper pulls him back a little bit, puts the mirror up and goes 'how cool do you think you are?'"
Kiefer Sutherland is the voice of the unseen sniper who takes deadly aim on innocent bystanders during his siege on the Phone Booth.
"I think of the killing as a metaphor in the concept of the picture. What this guy is doing is basically saying 'I've been a normal Joe my entire life and I've been held accountable for everything I've had to do," says Sutherland. "You people are now going to be held accountable too.' This guy is a guy who says 'no, you're not a bad guy; but you are going to be held accountable for what you've done in your life."
"You're going to be held accountable for the way you've behaved, for the way you treat people and for your dishonesty.' The worst part of it was that as I was doing the picture I liked the character more and more. I also saw more of myself in Colin Farrell's character, which was the other really disturbing part," he adds.
Phone Booth has a long history. Originally planned as a project for the late mystery director Alfred Hitchcock, it spent decades in development and was finally filmed in 2000. First set to come out in late 2001, it was delayed after the 9/11 terror attacks; the studio postponed a 2002 release date when the Washington-area sniper murders occurred.
Phone Booth director Joel Schumacher believes the film taps into universal urban fears. He kept his actors on their toes by filming simultaneously with multiple cameras and by shooting the entire film in less than two weeks, instead of the two or three months a feature film usually takes.
"I think all the limitations worked for us," says Schumacher. " We had no time to shoot it. No time to do any Hollywood shenanigans. There are four cameras going all at once. The cast is on all the time. They have little earpieces so they can hear each other. We had two weeks to rehearse and 10 days to shoot it; and I think a lot of the kinetic, visceral energy of the film is because we were under that pressure, too. I think if we had a lackadaisical, privileged, pampered way to make the movie it would have hurt it."
Phone Booth also features Radha Mitchell as the trapped man's unsuspecting wife. Katie Holmes plays his would-be mistress. Forrest Whitaker is a police detective determined to bring the mid-town crisis to a peaceful conclusion.