Speaking at MIPCOM at the international launch of his new Tim Kring/Fox sci-fi drama Touch, Kiefer Sutherland revealed that screenwriter Billy Ray has all but completed the 24 script.
But the process of condensing the storyline into a movie format was more complex than anyone originally thought.
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“We have worked very long and hard over the past two years on a screenplay but it was actually much harder to take this idea that was told in 24 hours and condense it into a two-hour movie,” he said.
Sutherland was in Cannes with Kring and Fox Entertainment Group president Kevin Reilly to talk about his return to television in Touch, the midseason Fox drama about a father whose autistic son seems to be able to predict the future.
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Drawing on the ideas of quantum entanglement and the interconnectivity of matter and consciousness at the quantum and human levels, Kring’s follow-up to Heroes is not shy of addressing enormous themes.
Viewers will get a window on such mathematical concepts as the golden ratio, the Fibonacci sequences and the recurrent patterns of the Mandelbrot numbers found so frequently in nature – all wrapped around a father/son tale of alienation and reconnection.
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Sutherland said he had been “blown away” by the concept after being urged to look at the script by Peter Chernin and Reilly.
“After 24 I didn’t expect to be back to television quite as quickly as I have. It was an incredible experience and I really wanted some time to digest it and there was more to digest than I thought. There were films I wanted to do” Sutherland said, but once he read the story, he couldn’t let it go.
“I got to about page twenty five and I remember I put it down and just said ‘shit’ there’s no way around it, I have to do it.”
The story of a father who can’t touch or reach his autistic son but desperately wants to find a way to communicate with him gave him range to play a whole set of emotions that he had never expressed in his near-decade long performance as Jack Bauer.
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“When I talked to Tim [Kring] about what he wanted to accomplish he said he wanted it to be about the emotion. My job in 24 was to keep all the emotion back, so for me to hear that as an actor was such an open door for me.”
Just as in Heroes, Kring is on a mission to push boundaries in Touch — both in its intellectual, scientific and spiritual themes – and also in the way that the story is told in four countries. Actors in Ireland, Iraq and Japan tell different aspects of the story, keeping foreign-language dialog where relevant among the actors.
“I have had one theme in my writing for the last decade, that we live in a truly interconnected universe that I just keep going back to,” said Kring. “I wanted to elevate that this time. This is an entertainment show, but I also feel that I am at a certain point in my career when I want to make sure I am using whatever I have to put a message out that I believe in.”
Sutherland is also passionate about the theme of not underselling to audiences and challenging them.
“There is something that really does bind us together and I think it is an unbelievably positive message, and the fact that you can use something that is a really interesting theoretical science to send that message out is really powerful.”
And Sutherland isn’t not worried that the message will go over viewers’ heads.
“In America we have this terrible habit of underestimating the audience. If you actually give an audience the best you’ve got and you don’t underestimate them, the return is unbelievable.”