Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks co-star in the American version of a 2008 French thriller about a schoolteacher who devises a plan to break his wife out of prison. The original was Pour Elle released with the English title Anything For Her. The Hollywood adaptation, by Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis is called The Next Three Days.
College professor John is stunned and their young son is frantic when wife and mother Lara is dragged out in handcuffs, accused of murdering her boss. Convicted on circumstantial evidence, she is sentenced to life in prison. Refusing to believe that Lara did it, John pursues every possible appeal, but to no avail.
"Forget that Lara is your wife. Look at the evidence."
"I've seen the evidence. She is innocent."
"It doesn't matter what we believe; Lara is not getting out."
With only three days before her transfer from the local jail to a high security prison, John sets out to break Lara out and reunite their family …even if they have to be on the run.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because we have no other choice."
Russell Crowe stars as the distraught and determined husband.
"He has obviously got an unshakeable belief in his wife," explains Crowe, "and that transfers into how he researches what he needs to research and then when he hits those hurdles and things don't work out properly, the mere fact that he keeps going …the transformation, if there is one, is in his persistence.
"One of the things I liked about the film is you see him go through the process of the research," Crowe adds, "thinking that maybe some of this stuff isn't going to come in handy or useful or whatever. Then he does certain things and you realize he really thought this out. This plan is multi-layered and I think that is one of the things that energizes that last act. Also, there's that thing of stepping over a certain line and stepping into a sort of a darker side of life and not fully realizing that comes with a certain level of commitment."
An academic, John researches the jailbreak plan as he might for a scholarly thesis. Writer-director Paul Haggis says that parallels how he found details for the plot on the Internet.
"I do search around a lot and when we started to figure out how to do this movie that's what I did. I just went online and said 'he's a teacher, I'm a writer …how would I break my wife out of jail?' The first thing I do is go to the Internet and search; and everything you see in the movie I found in the first day. It's all there. You can learn how to do all of these things. It's amazing what you can find on the Internet," Haggis said.
"From the time you make the call, the police can have the center of the city sealed tight in 15 minutes. Within 35 minutes they can have cops at every toll booth on the interstate (highway)."
"What if you can't get out? Thirty-five minutes is not a lot of time."
"Then surrender, because they will shoot you on sight."
"We all think 'Russell Crowe - action, larger than life' because of Gladiator, Robin Hood and maybe two or three other films," notes the director, "but you look at the body of his work which is complex characters [and] he plays an 'everyman' so beautifully. That's why I knew when casting him that you throw those preconceptions out three minutes into the film and you go 'oh, he's never going to be able to pull this off.' That's why you cast Russell Crowe in the movie."
Haggis cast Elizabeth Banks as Lara. As a mother in real life, Banks says she understands John's motivation is more than just a loving husband desperate to save his wife.
"The stakes of the movie are so much higher. It is not just a love story," says Banks." It's a story about a man who has a motherless child and needs to figure out how he is going to get his son's mother back."
John never questions Lara's innocence; but filmmaker Haggis wants audience members to make up their own minds.
"It is about the nature of trust and belief and his character completely believes in her innocence," Haggis says. "We have to look at that and go 'I think he's a little mad' because everyone, including her own attorney, looks at the same evidence and says she is guilty. So it is up to the audience to decide."
"I don't care what you say or how you say it. I don't believe you did it and I never will. I know who you are and I promise you this will not be your life."
The Next Three Days also features Liam Neeson as a prison break expert John consults in his research. Rap star plays a shady character that helps him get what he needs for the plan. The film was shot on location in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.