'Omen' Remake Is a Sign of the Times


At a special screening of "The Omen," director John Moore was all set to chat about his film with journalists over some wine and cheese -- until he threw his back out.

The unfortunate mishap is one of a long series of mysterious accidents that occurred during the production and release of the 1976 horror classic remake. In October, half of the crew fell ill with food poisoning even though the food had tested clean. In addition, several key shots were filmed and printed but never seen again. As the bad luck and coincidences piled up, it's easy to interpret these incidents as signs.

"You're a little more sensitized to it," acknowledges producer Glenn Williamson. "I went to work on the film and I filed for an extension on my income taxes. When I got back from Prague in January, I got my California state refund, and it was $666. I cashed the check, but I Xeroxed it [first]."

Of course, the most potent symbol surrounding this film is its release date: 06/06/06. Although Williamson claims that the date wasn't the sole reason to do the remake, the timing was too perfect to pass up.

"We'd be fools not to take advantage of it," he says. "John actually, when he heard about it [from Fox], embraced the idea of the remake because of the way things are today."

In the update, relatively recent global events such as the 9/11 attacks, the Asian tsunami disaster and Hurricane Katrina are presented as the fulfillment of prophecies from the Book of Revelations foretelling the coming of the Anti-Christ and Armageddon.

"The movie was always scary. I feel it's grounded in a psychological reality," says Williamson. "The big selling point for that are the actors because you have to believe that these people are experiencing what's happening. John Moore said, 'It's a little bit like doing Shakespeare: Be true to the text, but do your own thing.' There's been a real sense in the century that good times or bad, there's a reason why all this happens."

The basic story remains the same: diplomat Robert Thorn (Liev Shreiber) secretly adopts a motherless newborn in order to pass him off as the baby his wife Katherine (Julia Stiles) just lost in childbirth. All goes well until young Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) turns five and gruesome events start to happen, beginning with the public suicide of his nanny. Things just get worse when the new nanny Mrs. Baylock (Mia Farrow) arrives on their doorstep.

Unlike director Richard Donner's '70s film, the current Baylock isn't an obviously evil minion of the devil sent to serve Damien.

"Something that's different is the Mia Farrow character," says the producer. "You look at the original, and you can't depict the nanny the way Billie Whitelaw did then. You wouldn't have believed in her. She has to be sweet so you don't see it coming. That's how [Mia] kind of grabbed that and ran with her character. We wanted to show that there's a public side and there's a private side to her. She looks quite beautiful when she's feeding strawberries to Damien."

Finding the perfect son of the devil was also a serious undertaking, requiring a boy who appeared to overflow with evil with just a look. Throughout the film, Damien glares at everything: a church, monkeys in an exhibit and even his poor mother.

"There's not a lot of dialogue, so it was very important that whoever we cast as Damian could convey a lot non-verbally, just the way he can hold a look or expression," explains Williamson. "Seamus did it the best. It was a bonus that he was a good actor that could convey a lot."

In contrast, Stiles' almost childlike and innocent face was essential for her character, not only because she's depicted as an angelic victim to Damien's scheming, but also to provide a likable character for parents in the audience to relate to.

"The women who have young children who have seen the film really connect to this notion that, 'What if something is wrong with my child?'" says Williamson. "They seem to really connect with Julia's plight, an extreme version of a parent's worst nightmare."

"The Omen" will arrive as foretold nationwide, on Tuesday, June 6.

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