Director Jon Cassar Talks About His New Film, “Forsaken” and the Possible Return of “24”

You may know the name Jon Cassar from his Emmy Award winning association with the popular television series, “24.” But when he’s not putting Jack Bauer through his paces, he’s taking the reigns of one of the best Westerns of the past decade.

“Forsaken,” which Mr. Cassar directed, boasts a strong script and an even stronger cast, including Donald and Keifer Sutherland, who star as father and son. Mr. Cassar took some time out to talk to me about “Forsaken,” the return of the Kennedys and what may be next for “24.”

MIKE SMITH: What attracted you to “Forsaken?”
JON CASSAR: Actually I was there when the project was born. A few of us were sitting around on the set of “24” talking, waiting to set up a shot when we started asking each other, ‘what would be a great thing to do once “24” ends?’ Eventually we all decided, ‘let’s do a Western together.’ So that’s really where it started. Once we decided on that Keifer came along. He wanted to do a film with his father so everything just worked. I’m happy to say that I was there at the inception. We got a brilliant writer (Brad Mirman) who not only wrote us a classic Western but also a touching father/son story. So by then I had Keifer, I had a great script and THEN I get Donald Sutherland? There’s no way I wasn’t going to be involved!

MS: Any trepidations about taking on a Western? They seem to be so hit and miss these days.
JC: Yeah, of course. I mean you do worry about it. I mean at one point it was the most popular film genre’. The most popular television genre’ also. I mean, it’s amazing how many popular television shows were Westerns. But it did, of course, begin to fall out of favor, all though it is making a little bitty comeback over the past few months. But you’re right. But I knew I had a great Western story. And I knew I had a great father/son story that people could connect with. I knew that relationship was really the heart of it and if we did it right I knew if would connect. And it’s fun doing something that isn’t a true CGI film. It’s fun doing something where the effects are more simple.

MS: What was it like as an observer to watch Keifer and his father work together?
JC: It was great. I’m very fortunate to have had a front row seat to watch Keifer and Donald working together. From the first time it was fantastic. They are both veteran actors and, in my opinion, two of the best actors of our time. To watch them work together was a pleasure. As it was watching all of the actors. Demi Moore. Brian Cox. Michael Wincott. They are all so experienced. I was very lucky to have a front row seat and watch them work.

MS: Keifer. Michael Wincott. Greg Ellis. You used quite a few of your “24” company in the film. Was that because you already had a good familiarity with them and their work?
JC: Absolutely. First of all, you have to know that all of the actors in the film were basically my friends. I didn’t have a studio dictating who was going to play what part. We actually got to pick who we liked. A lot of them were Keifer’s friends. And of course, by having done “24,” they knew me so it made the connection easier for sure.

MS; The recent return of “24” was very successful. I’ve heard rumors that Fox is considering re-booting the show. Is that something you plan to be involved with?
JC: Nothing is official yet. I am involved and we have talked. I can say that if it goes forward I won’t be involved in the pilot but I do hope to be involved in the series. However, at this point I’m not.

MS: What else are you working on now?
JC: A few years ago I did a mini-series called “The Kennedys,” which was an eight-part mini-series that starred Greg Kinnear as JFK and Katie Holmes as Jackie. We’re doing a sequel to that, called “After Camelot,” based on a book. It will deal with what happened to the Kennedys after John and Robert died. It’s mostly the Jackie story and it follow her during her marriage to Onassis as well as John Jr. and Ted Kennedy. It will encompass all of that history. We shoot that soon in Toronto. It will run on the Reelz Channel. It’s actually a fun project for me to do because we’re re-creating all of the history that we all grew up with.

Film Review “Forsaken”

Starring: Keifer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland and Demi Moore
Directed by: John Cassar
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 30 mins
Moving Pictures Media
Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Here’s a little trivia for you. Donald Sutherland and his son, Keifer, have appeared in two films together. One is A TIME TO KILL though they did not share a scene together. The other is MAX DUGAN RETURNS, which came out in 1983. The bad news is that it took the father/son duo more than three decades to team up on the big screen again. The good news is a new film called FORSAKEN.

“Your mother’s dead.” These are the first words that Reverend Clayton (Donald Sutherland) speaks to his son, John Henry (Keifer Sutherland) as he returns home after a 10-year absence. John Henry left home to fight in the Civil War but wound up a notorious gunslinger. He has come home to reconcile with his father, and the townspeople, who view the “new” John Henry warily. He has also come home to find that one of the town’s leaders, James McCurdy (Brian Cox) is using force to make people “want” to sell their farms and leave town. Those who don’t sell soon find themselves dead. McCurdy has hired notorious gunfighter Dave Turner (a very subtle Michael Wincott) to oversee the townsfolk and their migration. One of Turner’s men, Will Pickard (Landon Liboiron, in creep mode) enjoys violence and goes out of his way to belittle John Henry, who no longer wears a gun. That is, of course, until he has to.

FORSAKEN borrows from some of the best westerns of the past 30 years, including SILVERADO, UNFORGIVEN and HBO’s “Deadwood.” Both Sutherlands are in fine form and it is a genuine treat to see them together on screen. Their scenes together, especially those strictly devoted to being loving father and estranged son, are brilliant. A lot of people think of Brian Cox as a smooth character actor, but they never remember that he was the original Hannibal Lecter in the film MANHUNTER. While not as creepy here, his performance is strong and commanding. Wincott is also smooth and southern, obviously embracing the role of gunslinger as much as John Henry is trying to distance himself. As the woman he left behind, now married, Demi Moore makes a rare appearance and is also solid. Production values are well done and director Cassar, one of the driving forces behind television’s “24,” keeps the story moving smoothly. If you’re a fan of the genre’ you won’t be disappointed by FORSAKEN.


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