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The Black Dahlia in our magazines

THE MOVIE: The Black Dahlia

Josh Hartnett • Scarlett Johansson • Aaron Eckhart • Hilary Swank
DIRECTOR: Brian De Palma

Hilary Swank, Josh Hartnett, director Brian De Palma and Scarlett Johansson THE CONCEPT:
After 60 years, the murder of Betty Short, aka The Black Dahlia, has remained one of the most infamous unsolved homicides in Los Angeles history. Based on James Ellroy’s novel, this film noir is a fictionalized tale of love, corruption and depravity around the brutal murder that shocked Hollywood.

U.S. RELEASE: September 15 2006, Nationwide • Rated: R


“James creates a whole noir world, and the way he tells his stories is very complex. His language is so lush. Josh was a very good barometer of what you could and couldn’t do with his work. He lived and breathed Ellroy’s complex, dark material for a decade, forcing the material into Ellroy-ese, never taking the simple route.”

JOSH HARTNETT (Detective Bucky Bleichert):
“Because the characters are so well defined in James Ellroy’s book, all we had to do as actors was develop a shorthand with each other. I think that Ellroy had done most of the work for us – all the back story. We know how we’re feeling about each of the other characters at any given moment because it’s in the book. So as actors we didn’t have to manipulate the situation the way that sometimes you do, we just had to act.”

“Luckily we had what a lot of actors don’t have which is the source, having the book. You read a script and you interpret the character’s emotions through their actions and their words, but I had the perspective of Bucky’s character looking in on Kay. So I really used that as the beginning source to find the character.”

HILARY SWANK (Madeleine Linscott):
“Madeleine was so different from anything that I’ve ever done. She comes from a high class, affluent background – (she’s) slumming along and doing whatever she wants – a spoiled, Daddy’s little girl. But behind all of that, she’s a very troubled person who is actually searching for love.”

“I’ve seen a lot of noir films. It’s fun to watch them. Films like The Maltese Falcon or Third Man. I’ve always like film noir, but some of these films are too cops and robbers for me. I like the more melodramatic Bette Davis films of that period. But there wasn’t anyone that I really based the character off of. I wasn’t trying to copy someone’s performance. Of course as a modern actor we have this movement that started in the ‘70s of realism, so it was interesting to pair that with the dialogue.”

“We shot this in Bulgaria, so we didn’t have a lot of connection to the Los Angeles of the era. There’s a certain creepiness to any true story, and a responsibility that you feel, in a way. On this particular film, it’s a fictionalized account, so as Ellroy would say, we’re just trying to honor Betty Short and her death, but it’s not trying to figure anything out. It’s a story. We can’t catch the killer.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

Visit the official The Black Dahlia site
Images above © Universal Pictures
Feature © 2006 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #675, October 2006 cover

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