Along Came A Spider : Production Notes

Adapted from James Patterson's best selling first novel in the acclaimed Alex Cross series, "Along Came a Spider" finds three time Academy Award® nominee Morgan Freeman reprising his role as criminal profiler Alex Cross. Freeman first appeared as Dr. Cross in Paramount Pictures' "Kiss The Girls (1997)," co-starring Ashley Judd. Based on Patterson's Second Book Of The series, the film was released in 1997.

In this installment, the death of his partner causes Detective Cross to retreat to the peace of retirement. Renowned as an accomplished police detective, psychologist and best-selling author, Cross reluctantly gets involved in a federal case when the kidnapper leaves a piece of evidence in his mailbox

Familiar with Cross' literary success, the kidnapper, Gary Soneji, is theorized to have an ulterior motive: to be documented by Cross after committing the crime of the century. The detective (Freeman) and Secret Service agent (Potter)create a formidable team following a path of fewleads, hidden agendas, and an exhaustingransom drop, while also seeking their own redemption from past failures.

Producers David Brown and Joe Wizan re-team with actor Morgan Freeman in bringing to the screen the investigative exploits of Dr. Alex Cross, a character created by James Patterson,one of the world's best selling authors. While Freeman traditionally avoids repeating roles, he was drawn back to the detective because of the character's rarely seen qualities.

"Cross is a well-trained, well-educatedwriter as well as a policeman," says star and executive producer Morgan Freeman. "But, hisparticular strength is he's a mind hunter. It's fun to play because it's more cerebral than active."

Author James Patterson, couldn't be more pleased with the series' on-screen results, especially the actor portraying his complex detective. "When watching Morgan, he rises above everybody else, the same way you'd watch a basketball game when Michael Jordan used to play," says Patterson.

For producer David Brown, this is the fourth collaboration with the venerable star, after teaming in "Kiss the Girls (1997)," "Deep Impact (1998)," and "Driving Miss Daisy (1989), in his Oscar-nominated role as Hoke. "Morgan Freeman brings elegance to the role in whatever he does, whether it's the President of the United States ("Deep Impact (1998)") or a chauffeur," says Brown, one of Hollywood's most successful producers. "He's playing the character more than once because it interests him. That's the only reason."

Director Lee Tamahori was quite pleased Freeman returned to the role of the clever detective. "Working with Morgan Freeman is a home run," Tamahori says. "His thorough knowledge of who Alex Cross is means we didn't have to 'search' for his character. He is more aware than I am of the character's behavioral patterns so he makes it simple."

The director continues: "Another thing I noticed about Morgan is he shares a common trait with classic American actors such as Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood. Silence and still-ness. The less they say, the more we, the audience, do the work. In a thriller, this is vital."

Discussing the Alex Cross series, Brown says: "There are even more surprises in this pic-ture than 'Kiss the Girls;' surprises that stunned me when I read it. It has the primary Alex Cross character, but the piece basically stands alone."

Freeman was equally impressed with the story. "There's a lot of mystery," he says. "It'slike peeling an onion when you start trying to solve it. There are a lot of layers and twists and turns in the plot."

Secret Service agent Jezzie Flannigan played by Monica Potter, affixes herself to Cross' side to atone for the abduction taking place under her watch. For Potter, the role is an arduous change of pace, combining mental mind games with some tough police action.

Potter continues: "This character is like nothing I've ever done. She seems just one way the entire time. But, there's so much more to her. It was difficult, knowing how much to give, and how much to hold back. I'm acting within acting

While the action sequences were new to the actress, she acclimated to the adrenaline rush fairly easily. Whether it was a rain soaked pursuit, or cross-town ransom drop, Potter adjusted to the demands of the role.

With the guiding force of Morgan Freeman helping her along, Potter felt in good hands. "He's the best actor I've ever worked with," she says without a pause. "He treated me like his partner, his equal. And that was very endearing, because I was really nervous to work with him. I mean, Morgan is the type of actor that doesn't have to say a word."

"Morgan and Monica made a great team, both on and off the set," says director Tamahori. "This film represents a major departure for Monica, from light comedy to hard edged dramatic thriller, and I think she pulled it off superbly. It really extends her range, and should surprise everybody."

"The thing about Lee is he understands the piece so much, from beginning to end; he's got all the pieces figured out," says Potter. "If you ask him something, he'll go back 80 scenes, and tell you why you're thinking this at this particular time. He's an amazing director."

Along Came A SpiderCrucial to any suspense thriller is the malevolence of the antagonist, and in "Along Came a Spider," kidnapper Gary Soneji has it in spades, so much so, his own creator was proud "This is the classic James Patterson villain," says Patterson. "Gary Soneji is the baddest of the bad, the worst of the worst. When you have a character as strong as Morgan's, you must have some-body opposite of whom the audience thinks 'This is a cool match.'"

Freeman likes the nature of Gary Soneji,who presents his character with a complicated challenge. "The guy talks to Alex, and Alex talks back," he says. "They develop a dialogue. And in that dialogue they get to know each other on another level."

At the center of the sociopath is actor Michael Wincott. A diverse actor who has played some memorable villains in such films as "1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)" and "Crow, The (1994)," Wincott presents Soneji as quite multidimensional: intelligent, fiendish, narcissistic, even nice and remarkably patient.

"He's not a healthy individual," says Wincott in understatement. "He's just obsessed, and he just has to win. This is his occupation." After two of methodical planning, Soneji executes the daring abduction, spinning a confusing web for Detective Cross and agent Flannigan. Initially convincing authorities they face a conventional kidnapping, it becomes apparent Soneji has other plans of gaining infamy by committing the crime of the century.

Says Freeman of his on-screen nemesis' desire to live on in infamy, "He wants to be someone the world might admire because he commits a crime and seemingly gets away with it"

About The Production

Principal photography began in February, 2000 on location in Vancouver, B.C. and moved to Washington, D.C. in May, 2000 to shoot eleven days of Washington exteriors including the Washington Circle, The Mall, and the Baltimore MTA train system. The company also shot a subway sequence at Washington's historic Union Station

One of the film's most thrilling sequences was the desperate ransom drop in Washington in which Detective Cross races on foot through rush hour traffic to keep up with the kidnapper's detailed instructions

"We staged actual traffic jams in front of the National Portrait Gallery," says executive producer Marty Hornstein, of the shoot held during a normally deserted time of day. "It was a sight t behold."

Hornstein made a few discoveries shoot- ing the many historical landmarks in the nation's capital: "The total number of different jurisdic tions and police forces in the District is 26, so, logistically I was a bit apprehensive. But it was great, and problem free. You look at the grandeur, and the history of Union Station. It was a privilege to shoot there."

Securing a subway for an entire day would prove an even more monumental task than the traffic jams, which included filming the ransom drop from a moving MTA train. Less expensive and more convincing than green-screen visual effects, the bulky camera was rigged to the outside of the train car, but keeping within the 16-inch leeway of the external switching devices.

In Vancouver, the exteriors of Gary Soneji's boat were shot in the Georgia Straits and at the Sunset Marinas, while its interiors were all shot on a soundstage. The majority of filming was completed on practical locations in Vancouver, with the exception of one and a half weeks on soundstages

Shannon Mews, a former mansion and vast residential complex, was used for the fictional high security Cathedral School, attended by children of Congressmen and international diplomats.

The Russian Embassy sequence was shot in three separate buildings, including the historical Hycroft Mansion in the Shaughnessy section of Vancouver, the Cecil Green House on the campus of University of British Columbia, and Riverview Hospital.