Director brings remake of 'Straw Dogs' to campus

Rod Lurie to participate in Q&A following pre-release screening

Director Rod Lurie knew he was trampling on sacred ground when he decided to pursue a remake of “Straw Dogs,” the 1971 thriller directed by Hollywood legend Sam Peckinpah. Still, the reaction to his soon-to-be-released film has surprised him.

“The biggest challenge,” he said, “is keeping your composure as just about every film writer and film blogger in the world attacks you for having the audacity to remake what they consider to be a classic film.”

Brandeis movie-goers will have the opportunity to judge Lurie’s much-anticipated film for themselves at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8 during a special pre-release screening at the Wasserman Cinematheque. Lurie will also conduct a Q&A with attendees. The event is sponsored by the Edie and Lew Wasserman Fund, and the Film, Television and Interactive Media Program (FTIM).

“This screening has created buzz all over campus,” said professor Alice Kelikian, director of FTIM. “Rod Lurie’s masterful remake 40 years later of the Peckinpah classic presents its own compelling ruminations on marriage, masculinity and social class.”

Lurie’s version of “Straw Dogs,” which stars James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard, opens nationwide on Sept. 16. It tells the story of an LA screenwriter who, along with his wife, relocates to his hometown in the American South. As tensions grow between husband and wife, problems with the locals arise.

Lurie isn’t giving any hints about how his film differs from the original, which was controversial at the time of its release four decades ago for its violence and debasement of women.

“Suffice it to say that I was never enchanted with Peckinpah's philosophies on human behavior or his attitude towards women,” said Lurie, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. “I don't want to talk too deeply about that because he isn't alive to defend his name, but it certainly came into the context of my making the film.”

The remake is set in the American South, far from the southwest corner of England where the original took place.

“I wanted to pick a location that Americans and people around the world could relate to,” Lurie explained. “The American South is iconic and familiar to so many. I don't understand what value I could have brought by once again setting it in a small Cornish town – a place I have no experience with and don't know of anyone personally who can relate to it.”

Lurie’s best-known work, the political thriller “The Contender” (2000), earned two Oscar nominations. He worked with Robert Redford on “The Last Castle” (2001).

The Israeli-born Lurie, 49, has followed a non-traditional path to the movies. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1984, served in the military, and became an entertainment reporter and film critic before starting to make movies.

“One of the pieces of advice I've always given to film students is to not look at film school as a sure thing to becoming a member of the film industry,” he said. “I learned everything I need to know about filmmaking by watching movies and making my first short. The rest came with the experience of actually making films. The thing that I most recommend is that people go to school to study what they want to make movies about.  I can't stress that enough.”

For tickets or more information, contact Dona DeLorenzo at 781-736-8270 or by email.

Categories: Arts

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