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‘Be true to yourself’

Dante Harper is currently working on adaptations of Jacques Becker’s Touchez Pas Au Grisbi and Thomas Perry’s Metzger’s Dog.  

He started out as an independent filmmaker, directing The Delicate Art of the Rifle before going on to work as a producer and editor on many other indie projects and documentaries. Dante Harper has come a long way since Cat Dancers and You’re Gonna Miss Me before Dreamland, a film project based on the life of Tim McVeigh, which was accepted to the Sundance Screenwriter's Lab.

Professional screenwriting soon became something he couldn’t live without doing. And now his first spec script, All You Need is Kill, which was listed as the 2010 Black List Top Action Screenplay will be released this summer as Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and directed by Doug Liman.

“I began working on All You Need is Kill when the producer of the film sent me the novel of the Japanese writer, Hiroshi Sakurazaka,” Harper says over the phone. “I read it. My initial response was that there’s no way one could make a film out of it. It was too complex. It wasn’t something I could work on at the studio so I chose to risk it, without taking a pay for eight months, and when it was finally ready, I really didn’t think they’d like it but as destiny would have it, they did. But from there on, we had a lot of editing and reworking to do, many changes were made, other writers worked on the project extensively, turning All You Need is Kill into Edge of Tomorrow as the project came to life as a much larger scale film. Chris McQuarrie, a screenwriter known for such films as Jack Reacher and Valkyrie, finally came in and made everything work so beautifully.

“The film unfolds in a near future in which an alien race hits Earth in an inexorable assault, unbeatable by any military force in the world.”

While he points out that the original role was written for a young soldier, he thinks “Tom Cruise has more than done justice to the role. His impeccable acting skills combined with his natural sense of humour did his role enormous good. He is very serious about his job so his performance is just marvellous. I don’t quite think anyone could have pulled it off better.

“The way Doug has handled the war scenes is just so unique. It is truly a wonderful delivery of everything that went into the making of the film.”

There has been speculation that All You Need is Kill and his other work, Forever War are similar. Harper however, begs to differ. “They’re both sci-fi war stories but that’s as far as the similarity goes. The former is quite comical and is action packed. The latter is heavy, introspective and serious.”

Reflecting on his career so far, he says: “The journey has been everything from wonderful and exhilarating to terrifying and sad, but all in all, very gratifying. Each project has its own share of unique challenges. John Hughes has been my biggest inspiration to take up filmmaking and what I’ve learnt over the years is that in order for you to be successful you’ve got to be true to yourself. Listen to your own voice.”

Speaking of how he starts working on a screenplay, Harper says: “Usually material comes to me and when it just doesn’t leave me I know I’m onto something. I spend as little as six weeks and as much as two years on a project. Studio work comes with a deadline of three to six months.”

“My job involves a lot of rewriting, several times at that. I keep rewriting but I find it perfect only after the project is submitted and the deadline passes,” he laughs.

Ask him what he’s working on now and Harper responds: “I’m currently pursuing another novel. I’m working on some studio material too. Apart from rewriting, I’m also working on an original screenplay for a Hollywood production. One of the films I’m working on could possibly be shot in India!”

When he takes a break from work, Dante Harper enjoys yoga and squash. As he waits for Edge of Tomorrow to release in June, the L.A. based screenwriter is currently working on adaptations of Jacques Becker’s Touchez Pas Au Grisbi and Thomas Perry’s Metzger’s Dog.


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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 7:51:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/be-true-to-yourself/article5867783.ece

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