Oren Moverman has been a screenwriter for more than ten years, but it was always his desire to direct. “That was always the goal,” he tells senior editor Daniel Montgomery, “I just took the wrong turn.” He was able to correct course with “The Messenger,” his 2009 drama about casualty notification officers in the US military. Moverman, who co-wrote the film with Alessandro Camon, took the reins after previously attached directors (including Ben Affleck and the late Sydney Pollack) left the project, and the first time was the charm. Moverman and Camon were Oscar-nominated for their original screenplay, and Woody Harrelson earned a Best Supporting Actor bid for his role as an alcoholic Army captain.
This year, Moverman released his second film, “Rampart,” which had an Oscar-qualifying run in November in advance of a wide release on Jan. 27. Harrelson was the director’s first choice to play Dave Brown, a corrupt LAPD officer swept up in a department scandal. And it was Harrelson, says Moverman, who helped attract such an impressive supporting cast, which includes Sigourney Weaver, Ned Beatty, Robin Wright, and Steve Buscemi, among others: “They all wanted to work with Woody, so they said yes pretty quickly.”
Harrelson’s Dave Brown joins a storied list of corrupt cops in the movies, from Harvey Keitel in “Bad Lieutenant” to Denzel Washington‘s Oscar-winning turn in “Training Day.” Moverman was conscious of that history of iconic film characters and strived to set his film apart through its subjective point of view. “It’s so strictly in his head,” he says of his paranoid main character. “It becomes a relentless, unhinged exploration of a man’s journey to the point where you don’t really know … what is really happening and what is not.”
Whether “Rampart” is poised to follow in “The Messenger’s” Oscar footsteps is yet to be seen. Harrelson received a Golden Satellite nomination for his performance and contends against fellow Oscar hopefuls Michael Shannon (“Take Shelter”), Demian Bichir (“A Better Life”), Ryan Gosling (“Drive”), and Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) for Best Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards, which will be handed out on Feb. 25.
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