‘Lookout’ challenges celebrity 

Can a man with a damaged mind have enough brains to outsmart a gaggle of cold-hearted bank robbers? It’s the premise behind "The Lookout," a new thriller from screenwriting titan Scott Frank ("Out of Sight").

Frank, who makes his directorial debut, delivers a film that has solid characters and a powerful story.

"Usually when I read a script, the problem is evident really early on and it makes me put it down and never look at it again," says headliner Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who starred in "Mysterious Skin" and "Manic." "But this one engaged me from the very beginning. I was scared. It made me laugh. It’s just very rare for a piece of writing to do that."

Gordon-Levitt, best known for his role in the NBC hit "3rd Rock From the Sun," morphs into a brain-damaged twentysomething in "The Lookout," playing a one-time hockey pro hopeful whose dreams are shattered after a grisly car accident. Tormented mentally and emotionally, he finds occasional solace through his blind-yet-optimistic roommate (Jeff Daniels, who turns in one of the most powerful performances of his career).

The film also stars Matthew Goode ("Match Point") in a career-defining role as a ruthless crook who lures Gordon-Levitt’s character into darker waters.

"It’s a great character," Goode says of the role, "and being English and not terribly established, I thought, well, they are not going to go with an Englishman but I really learned to trust my instincts [with the director]. I’ve bumped heads with directors but I never had to do that here. When I came up with ideas, Scott Frank said, ‘Let’s try them,’ rather than shooting them down. I felt incredibly safe."

Frank made a dent in Hollywood by penning a string of gripping tales ("Dead Again," "Get Shorty," "Minority Report," "The Interpreter"). He came up with the idea for "The Lookout" in the late-1980s, but it sat in development limbo for nearly 20 years.

Ironically, the film debuts at one of the most challenging times for screenwriters in Hollywood.

"It’s not a healthy time," Frank notes. "As a storyteller, the culture’s obsession with celebrity hurts the stories because there is not any mystery behind the people you are watching."

The film’s main stars agree. They say they’ve made it a point to veer away from "celebrityhood" by carefully choosing their film roles.

"I am so anti-celebrity," Goode says. "I understand why people embrace it, although I think that’s one thing that helped me in London — you are not part of this whole side show in L.A., where people want to get photographed. You know, where they send their managers to contact the press and they’re going to be sitting outside of the Ivy."

"The trials and tribulations of Hollywood get real easy, if you just ignore it and not pay attention to it," Gordon-Levitt adds.

Frank is to the point: "For me, it’s much more interesting when you don’t know everything about the actors; who they are sleeping with or what drug habit they have. Iwant to get lost in the movie."

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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