Following its publication in June 1994, John Grisham’s
fifth novel, The Chamber, spent 20 weeks on the bestseller list,
mirroring the success of the author’s other popular books
such as The Firm, The Client and The Pelican Brief. Louise Keller
reports on the filmmaking process.
"I thought The Chamber had this identifiable quality
about it, something that every person could relate to," says
producer Brian Grazer. "And that something is the journey of
this kid, played by Chris O’Donnell, who is in so much pain
over his family’s history. What makes it thrilling and
compelling is how through this process of defending his
grandfather he learns about himself."
"There is a magnetic
pull that is natural between relatives." James Foley, director
The Chamber is director James Foley’s eighth film as
director and calls it "a thriller with a broad, universal
theme about families in love. It is a realistic portrait of this
young lawyer, this heroic figure, who reunites his family. It is
not simply about someone being executed, but about a grandfather
dying, and his grandson’s frightening circumstance of trying
to win both a legal victory to save him and an emotional victory
to reach him."
Foley said: "There is a magnetic pull that is natural
between relatives. And so a grandfather and a grandson, even if
they’ve never met, and have nothing in common, are still
going to have that primal pull towards each other. It’s
their discovery and evolution of that feeling that becomes the
most powerful emotion in the movie."
"This film could not
be made, and we would not have made it, without Chris
Grazer says of the cast, "This film could not be made,
and we would not have made it, without Chris O’Donnell. We
needed someone the moviegoing public knew, with boxoffice
recognition, who was intelligent and forceful. He looks like a
kid who has everything, but he can also show the vulnerability
and the pain."
"The film is about a
young man, very alone in the world, connecting with his
grandfather and trying to understand who he is." Chris O’Donnell
O’Donnell says: "The film is about a young man, very
alone in the world, connecting with his grandfather and trying to
understand who he is. Adam has a lot of skeletons in the closet,
and I don’t think he really feels he’s ever going to be
free of the past. So, he’s made it a mission, ever since his
father died, to get to the truth and put an end to all his
grandfather has done to destroy his family."
"It’s hard to
believe anyone else could capture this character like
" In addition to Chris being perfect for Adam,"
Foley continues, "there were really only a few major actors
who could play the role of the grandfather: it’s hard to
believe anyone else could capture this character like Gene."
Two-time Academy Award winner Gene Hackman shed 30 pounds for
his role and endured an extensive, yet imperceptible, make up
applications designed by Oscar winner Kevin Haney, to wither the
66 year old to match the character’s decimated look as
conceived by Grisham in the book.
fascinating character to play for an actor," Gene Hackman
"He’s a fascinating character to play for an
actor," Hackman declares about the death row inmate.
"Sam is, make no mistake about it, a terrible man. I thought
it would be interesting to play as much of the human element of
the man as I could so that we see behind this kind of monster.
This guy has done such terrible things that I didn’t want
the audience to have sympathy for him. But, there is a human
being there, a man who might have been decent had he not been so
dreadfully conditioned. He’s so full of anger and hatred,
but also has a kind of repressed feeling of love for his family
that he can’t admit. By the time he does, it’s too
"I thought it would be
interesting to play as much of the human element of the man
as I could so that we see behind this kind of monster." Gene Hackman
O’Donnell is happy to be acting his own age (26) after
years of playing younger characters: "It was pretty
intimidating that first day on the set. But Gene was great. And
Faye is unforgettable, a very talented actress. I think she gives
a great performance in a very tough role."
"It was an incredible
experience to turn around and see his face come through the
Dunaway on working with Gene Hackman
Faye Dunaway’s first day on set was the demanding scene
of her first meeting in 15 years with her condemned patriarch,
played by Hackman. "It was an incredible experience to turn
around and see his face come through the door," Dunaway
recalls. The reunion marked their first onscreen work together
since their unforgettable collaboration on Arthur Penn’s
1967 Oscar winner, Bonnie and Clyde, in which Dunaway played
"It was great fun
working with Faye again," Gene Hackman
"It was great fun working with Faye again," Hackman
enthuses. "We had this wonderful emotional scene to do our
first day together. It had been almost 30 years since we’d
worked together, so that was really interesting. Since then, of
course, she’s seen me in films and I’ve seen her in
films, so it’s almost like we hadn’t been apart that
"Chris is absolutely
magical," Faye Dunaway
on co-star Chris O’Donnell
"Chris is absolutely magical," Dunaway declares.
"He’s one of the only young ones who has that
particular kind of grace, very lovely, very true with a real
sense of kindness. He’s a real natural."
Baseball and football legend Vincent (Bo) Jackson makes his
motion picture acting debut in the film, as the tough, sensitive
death row guard, Sgt. Packer. In preparing for his debut, Jackson
trained with former death row guard Bobby McFadden , who spent
ten days putting him through the drills of working in a prison.
"Physically, he (Jackson) was a dead-on match for the way
Grisham described the character in the book", Foley remarks.
The Chamber was filmed on location in Jackson, Indianola and
Parchman, Mississippi, Chicago and on the Universal Studios