Starring Julia Roberts & Clive Owen BEHIND THE SCENES
After he helmed his critically acclaimed 2007 directorial debut, Michael Clayton, writer/director Tony Gilroy decided to return to the arena of corporate dirty tricks…but this time with an eye toward
romance. He created a story filled with twists and turns, using the backdrop of a cutthroat race between rival titans vying to be the first to bring a miracle product to market. The heart of the story, however, is the emotional warfare between a pair of romantically challenged, strong-willed lovers who happen to be on either side of the corporate battle…or so it seems.
The idea for Duplicity started with Gilroy’s fascination with the intricacies of industrial espionage. His years of research as the architect of the screen- plays in the blockbuster Bourne franchise had introduced him to many people in the intelligence community, and he had noticed that many of them had recently gone into the private sector. Gilroy crafted a nimble script set in this world that combined elements of the screwball comedy with the plot reversals of a classic caper.
Of his research and inspiration for the story’s setting, he shares, "The statistics of corporate theft are somewhere between $50 and $100 billion every year. There isn’t a major corporation on the planet that doesn’t have a competitive intelligence department with some form of either defensive or offensive intelligence gathering, which are basically spy units."
The filmmaker designed a cold war between two giant corporations in which the spies are actually trying to dupe their employers. He constructed an intricate web of deceit between the rival magnates, and he inserted agents into the mix whose love is as high stakes as the scheme itself.
This star-crossed pair is ex-CIA agent Claire Stenwick and former MI6 operative Ray Koval.
Gilroy underscores that their personal entanglements are complicating their jobs, and the constant deceit makes it hard to know where they stand with one another. He says, "They never tell the truth. Everybody’s gaming everybody; everything is constantly not what it seems."
We meet Claire and Ray through a series of flashbacks that track their relationship—beginning with their first encounter in Dubai in 2003 and taking us through the plotting of their big heist in Manhattan of today. When he imagined the couple, one curious question kept coming to the filmmaker’s mind: "How do scorpions make love?" Of the idea, Gilroy elaborates: "I wondered what happens if two people fall in love who are both professional liars. It’s really hard for them; who else is there for them? They’re their own species."
The first time they meet, then-MI6 operative Ray is simply a mark for CIA agent Claire. She seduces him at a consulate party in Dubai, drugs him and then ransacks his room to steal Egyptian Air Defense codes. Elaborates Gilroy’s production partner, producer Jennifer Fox, of the setup: "Claire leaves Ray with this smile on his face. He’s both completely taken with this woman and incredibly frustrated. He needs to find her. They meet again in Rome, have a lost weekend and decide to work together and leave their jobs with the CIA and MI6 and go private…to cash in and have one big giant score that will allow them to be together."
Tony Gilroy adds, "After Dubai, they don’t see each other for a long time, and they reconnect under very unusual circumstances. The whole movie is about the two of them deciding whether they’re really in love, whether they can trust each other and whether they’re going to get rich in the middle of this corporate espionage war."
Tony Gilroy also created Howard Tully (head of Burkett & Randle) and Dick Garsik (head of Omnikrom), two giants among the pharmaceutical world whose ambition and hatred for one another is matched only by their egos. He says, "This feud between Tully and Garsik is the engine for everything that happens in the story. It’s a cold war set on Park Avenue between two huge, giant corporations instead of two countries... but fought just as bitterly and with just as much complexity."
For the movie Duplicity to be plausible, Gilroy knew the stakes for the characters had to be as high as they would be in an actual cold war. That meant imagining a race to patent a drug so hotly in demand that it would tip the market for any patent holder and render competitors impotent. The filmmaker elaborates: "We needed something everybody was chasing, in which the stakes were really high—the holy grail of everything financially."
Producer Fox agreed with his instincts. "One of Tony’s great strengths is creating characters who are strong, dynamic and smart," she notes. "I think he’s done that here with Claire and Ray.
Audiences will have fun with the film and enjoy puzzling out the story. In the same way that the characters are conning one another, Tony is playing a con game with us, and the surprises don’t let up until the last moment."
When he created his main characters for Duplicity, Gilroy imagined the two lovers as unable to be honest about anything, especially their feelings. He needed to find performers who were believable as spy rivals and romantically complicated. Julia Roberts and Clive Owen were the perfect pairing. Roberts was asked to come onto the project and play Claire Stenwick, Burkett & Randle’s assistant director of counterintelligence (secretly reporting to Omnikrom). Owen was brought on as Ray Koval, an ex-MI6 agent who now serves as Claire’s contact officer (i.e., handler) at Omnikrom.
About their on-screen pairing, Fox notes, the movie "Duplicity is reminiscent of a certain kind of glamour from films of the past, and so it was terrific to have such glamorous movie stars at the center. Julia and Clive have the kind of chemistry that no costume design, production design or location can provide." Though he’s written for and directed a who’s who of Hollywood talent, Gilroy admits casting Academy Award winner Roberts as his leading lady made him a bit nervous. "You get past your first, ‘Oh, this is Julia Roberts and I’m working with her,’" he laughs. "You watch her working, and it’s effortless. She’s such a veteran and so smart about what the camera means to her."
Julia Roberts has spent the past several years raising young children and on the big screen starring in successful ensemble pieces. The movie Duplicity marks her much-anticipated return as lead in a film. The actor was fascinated by Claire and the fact that she was so romantically lost while so laser-focused on her mission in work. She looked forward to once again working with her Closer co-star, Clive Owen, for the caper.
She explains her motivation for agreeing to the part: "Clive had first asked me to be in this movie, and then Tony had written me a letter when he sent me the script. I was really flattered to be asked to play Claire, because she’s not altogether likeable or trustworthy. But when all is said and done, she wears her heart on her sleeve in a way that was quite interesting to me. I thought it was great to play somebody who is a little more convoluted than your normal on-screen woman."
Julia Roberts’ part in the movie Duplicity marked an interesting deviation from other roles in her body of work. In Tony Gilroy’s script, Claire and Ray have brief romantic interludes in multiple cities across multiple time zones. For Roberts, playing a jet-setting superspy was an intense experience as the crew crafted scenes set in various locales from Rome and Dubai to Cleveland and Zurich.
Indeed, she felt as if she and Owen were acting in "little bubbles…little capsules that we performed within." Fortunately, her longtime friend was along for the wild ride.
"Clive is the ultimate leading man," she compliments. "He’s great in this part, and I love when he plays like he’s at a loss. His earnest qualities are so truthful, and I loved acting with him…every minute of it. He comes in really prepared and is able to enjoy the process. We have that same goal: to do a great job and to have such a good time."
From this season’s The International to such thrillers as Inside Man and The Bourne Identity, some of Clive Owen’s most notable roles have delved into suspense and theft.
He came to the movie Duplicity through the friendship of another one of Julia Roberts’ leading men, George Clooney. George Clooney introduced Clive Owen to his Michael Clayton director and recommended him for the role of Ray Koval.
"I’d written for Clive in the first Bourne movie, but I hadn’t met him," says Gilroy. "I’d been watching his work and thought he was just amazing. When George introduced us, I went right away for him for the film."
After reading the screenplay, the man whom Fox describes as full of "Cary Grant charm and charisma" was eager to work on the project. "I finished the last page of the script and grabbed the phone and called my agent and said, ‘This is the one. This is the script,’" remembers Clive Owen. "I had a very huge, strong, instinctive response. I thought the writing was brilliant and was very keen to get involved."
Working with Julia Roberts again was a carrot for Clive Owen, as was being directed by the man who envisioned the source material. "One of the huge attractions for me to do this film was to get the opportunity to say this kind of dialogue with Julia. It’s so well written that, in some ways, you don’t have to make that many decisions as an actor. You have to sit in it like a very comfortable car and just drive it, because the rhythms are all there. It’s a joy when you’ve got that kind of language to play with, and to play it with someone like Julia, who is fantastic with this type of material."
On partnering with Tony Gilroy, Clive Owen commends: "He writes brilliant dialogue. It trips along, and it’s got great rhythm. It feels natural. Within three pages of reading this script, I was excited by the dialogue and couldn’t wait to go to work. It’s all there in front of you, and it’s very clear what’s required. The advantage of a writer/director is that he’s on set and can explain his initial impulses when he wrote the script. That’s a very nice thing for an actor.
"At the end of the day, it’s funny, it’s witty, it’s very buoyant and it’s unusual," he continues. "It’s a guy and woman who are in love, but they argue a lot and they mistrust each other—as well as being crazy about each other—and that lends to a really entertaining experience for the audience."
The movie Duplicity opens with Claire’s and Ray’s employers racing toward one another on a rain-soaked airplane tarmac—preparing to beat the hell out of each other. To play Howard Tully, the Zen (yet vindictive) head of industrial giant Burkett & Randle, the production cast Tom Wilkinson. The veteran British performer, whose work with Gilroy on Michael Clayton earned him an Oscar nomination, was matched with fellow John Adams co-star Paul Giamatti, who was brought aboard to play Omnikrom’s übervengeful CEO Dick Garsik. The two, fresh off Golden Globe wins for the celebrated HBO miniseries event, brought to life what Fox calls "the tortoise and the hare" methods of ruling their empires.
Says Tony Gilroy of Tom Wilkinson: "Tom just makes life so easy. We told him about the opening fight scene, in which he would have to participate in a choreographed fight with Paul, and he was happy to do it. From the moment that he says, ‘Yes,’ if you’re the director and writer, you can immediately relax." To prepare for his role, Giamatti was asked by his director to watch Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 masterpiece, the nihilistic comedy Dr. Strangelove. Tony Gilroy felt Paul Giamatti could inform his character by seeing how George C. Scott played the unflappable General "Buck" Turgidson. Says Gilroy, "The reference I gave Paul was that he has to be a winner in this thing all the way through. I wanted his character to have that same confidence that George C. Scott had."
When it came time to play the megalomaniac Dick Garsik, Giamatti erased all the compassion he had fostered for and delivered in his portrayal of John Adams. He describes his experience on set: "Playing a corporate guy is like playing a king in a Shakespearean play: you’re master of everything. I have to switch into the mind-set of not caring about anybody around me and believe they’re just going to do whatever I tell them to do."
Of his experience with the filmmakers, he notes: "Tony’s got a great visual sense, and he works very well with Robert Elswit, the cinematographer. He’s incredibly prepared and thinking way ahead, which is all things that you would think any director would do, but they don’t necessarily. You feel completely safe that this guy knows exactly what he wants, and you still have a lot of freedom to play around in it."
Rounding out the cast stationed alongside Julia Roberts and Tom Wilkinson at Burkett & Randle’s counterintelligence bureau are Michael Clayton’s TOM MCCARTHY as Claire’s fellow agent Jeff Bauer, a man Gilroy writes is "torn between the desire to seduce and destroy," and Claire and Jeff ’s supervisor, Pride and Glory’s WAYNE DUVALL as former marine/cop/FBI agent Ned Guston. True Blood’s CARRIE PRESTON rejoins her My Best Friend’s Wedding co-star to play the firm’s naïve travel department executive Barbara Bofferd, while Charlie Wilson’s War’s CHRISTOPHER DENHAM appears as strung-out genius/inventor Ronny Partiz, who can easily be found blowing hundreds of thousands each week at a baccarat table in the Bahamas.
So his co-stars would be able to nail the tempo of their rat-a-tat dialogue, prior to shooting director Tony Gilroy spent a week rehearsing scenes with Roberts and Owen. "You’re prospecting all the time and desperate for things to happen that are not planned," he says. "It’s happened here. The chemistry between Clive and Julia is really strong, and it’s smart."
Julia Roberts welcomed the extra week to prepare for the film and slip into, as Gilroy phrases, "the wardrobe of her character." She also appreciated the luxury of time to rehearse for a role, versus jumping right into it. Both Julia Roberts and Clive Owen respected that Claire and Ray have prepared for this heist for years and were determined to have every look, nuance and minute detail in place. They will do anything not to risk losing $40 million. Indeed, it would take every minute of rehearsal time for the actors to prepare to deliver Gilroy’s lines just as rapid-fire as they were written. To put him in the mind-set of the control freak Garsik, Paul Giamatti was sent to an Upper East Side men’s barbershop for a taste of the pampered life one would expect a mogul to enjoy.
Explains Jennifer Fox: "Paul is so down-to-earth, not the guy who would be doing this on his own. We wanted him to get the manicure and have a shave in one of those old-fashioned men’s clubs—to have that pristine, corporate feeling."
The opening sequence of the film has our two CEOs racing toward one another. Wilkinson was game to rehearse the fight in a dance studio with Paul Giamatti. To set the stage, Tully and Garsik have disembarked from their private jets, have left their entourages behind and launch into a playground brawl. To prepare for this scene—ultimately shot in an airline hangar in Upstate New York—the two men grappled around comically on wrestling mats.
Recalls Fox, "We planned every move with a stunt coordinator, and we used padding on the ground. There’s this moment when Tom picks up Paul, and he’s in the air, then lands on the ground. Their fists are flying; it’s out of control and fantastic."
It was important to Gilroy for the competing companies to have a distinct look and feel. Burkett & Randle was designed to present an identity that was very clean and stark, because its counterintelligence agency was underground, dark and buzzing with activity and high-tech spy systems; it was built to feel like a clinical bunker. In contrast, the Omnikrom unit was more a collage of texture, pattern, layers and transparencies.
Says production designer Kevin Thompson of the steps he took with the filmmakers: "You start with very basic, rudimentary ideas, like Burkett & Randle is going to be white and minimal, and their theme color is going to be blue. The Omnikrom team is going to be the red team, and they are going to be much more hightech with layers of texture and grays and no white or blue at all.
Oddly enough, Burkett & Randle’s logo ended up being blue, and Omnikrom’s logo was red."
Thompson has a high regard for Gilroy’s aesthetics. "Tony’s extremely visual and very specific in what he likes: clean lines, restful compositions and fairly masculine designs," he says. "Because he’s a writer, he can articulate what he likes visually; it’s a real asset to the designer."
Burkett & Randle and Omnikrom are both headquartered in Gilroy’s hometown of New York City, while the film’s flashbacks take us into Claire and Ray’s secret rendezvous cities—from, chronologically, Dubai, Rome and London to Miami, Cleveland and Manhattan, then the company moved to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas for one week of shooting. It spent the final week of production in Rome, where Claire and Ray first fell in love and began, as Gilroy puts it, "stealing little moments." Thompson had the enviable job of creating sets in some of the most famous buildings and locations in the world.
About the decision to shoot in Manhattan, Thompson offers, "It was always important to have real New York streets and classic New York locations, but not shoot them in a traditional Hollywood way." One of the earliest scenes in the film shot in Grand Central Station, which was filmed at the pedestrian level for a greater sense of urgency. Several iconic New York buildings were used for interior and exterior shots of the rival company’s offices. For example, the roofs of the MetLife Building and Rockefeller Center were used to capture establishing shots of the Big Apple. DP Elswit and his team were especially pleased to be among the first filmmakers to lens the city with the new Panavision G-Series lenses.
"Grand Central Station was important, as was the big shopping scene in Lord & Taylor where Clive finally catches up with Julia," Thompson says.
"Being on Fifth Avenue in midtown, Central Park, the Chase Manhattan Bank Building, the top floor of the Citicorp Building, Lever House, the Seagram Building… these are the most beautiful, classic pieces of architecture we have in the city, and we shot in them."
One of the more challenging locations to secure was space in the Seagram Building. The production intended it to serve as the power center for the head of Burkett & Randle. Producer Kerry Orent explains: "The Seagram’s location allowed Tony to position Howard Tully’s office at the center of the Midtown Manhattan canyon of corporate and financial power. The location gave Tony the opportunity to present Tully’s office within a certain distance to his archrival’s Omnikrom building. At the time of filming, it was very difficult to find empty office space in midtown, especially in famous architectural icons like Seagram’s. After months of searching, Kevin Thompson found a rare, empty space in that building. With Tony’s support, Kevin transformed an unfinished space that had wires hanging down and Sheetrock falling over into a perfectly designed office for Tully."
A two-time Academy Award-winning costume designer, Albert Wolsky was charged with dressing the leads and setting a visual tone for the characters through their wardrobe. "Contemporary films are much harder than any period films for many reasons," he explains. "My job is really about storytelling, with the adjunct being the costumes. In other days, it was easier to tell who a person was, what class they were and where they were coming from. But today, it’s totally eclectic. You can’t tell who’s rich, who’s poor; I can’t even t e l l who’s we l l dressed anymore."
Since her unforgettable walk down Rodeo Drive in the movie Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts has shown remarkable sophistication in style. Her longtime collaborator on such films as The Pelican Brief, Runaway Bride and Charlie Wilson’s War, Albert Wolsky designed the look of a gorgeous and brilliant spy who takes no prisoners. Albert Wolsky describes how he achieved the classic, look
Tony Gilroy and the producers desired for the leads: "Tony wanted the film to be glamorous and sexy, and yet, we couldn’t have Julia Roberts walking around in strapless evening dresses. We had to find a way to do that whole look, which is really about not getting caught doing it. In Julia’s case, it was all very slick and formfitting. I felt from the beginning she should wear extremely high heels, which she didn’t mind. It gave her another stance, and it’s sexy."
Albert Wolsky believes that the first time the audience sees the characters is the most crucial time for clothing to be perfect. As he designs, he asks the questions of "What do you see first? Who are these people?" He notes, "Julia Roberts is totally corporate, and she’s a very black figure in the beginning. Clive Owen is in this suit, shirt and tie—immaculate and in gray tones. The beginning of the film is full of grays and blacks. Tom Wilkinson is in black, and his whole world is in gray."
Choosing the right color palette involved many conversations between Gilroy and Wolsky, as well as coordination with production designer Thompson on the color scheme he imagined for the rival companies. Thompson says, "When you discuss color in the frame and the controlled use of color, Albert and I were coordinated with what the characters were wearing, what the walls looked like and how we could help each other. We discussed eliminating color from particular scenes, or making them lusher. The scenes have a real discipline to them."
The colors and costumes (such as Owen’s mpeccably tailored Armani suits) depended not only on location, but the time period of a particular scene—whether it was told in flashback or in present day. Explains Wolsky: "During one of the flashbacks, when Claire and Ray meet in Rome, I wanted color. Then we go forward to this presentday world, which has more grays, blacks and whites. Dubai, which is also a flashback scene, has a lot of color: lights, tans and beiges and summer. The story gave me a lot of control."