A crusade for quiet, on the set

Screenwriter Henry Bean made a big splash in 2001 with his feature directorial debut "The Believer," starring Ryan Gosling as a young Orthodox Jew who becomes a Neo-Nazi. Now Bean is back in the director's chair with the satire "Noise," opening Friday.

Tim Robbins stars as David Owen, a New York attorney who can't bear the noise of car and building alarms. His anger causes him to vandalize cars -- letting the air out of tires and cutting the cables in the engine -- for which he is arrested several times. Undaunted, he steps up his crusade for quiet, turning himself into a one-man vigilante called "The Rectifier."

There's a lot of Bean in Owen. Bean began his battle against noise over 30 years ago when he lived here in Venice near "a little wretched" park. "There was a car alarm going off behind our apartment," recalls Bean. "It was going off for 45 minutes. We [Bean and his wife] said this is unbearable. So we went to the movies, had dinner and came home, and it was still going off. So I started letting the air out of tires, breaking into the cars, cutting the cables if I could do that, climbing up on houses when the building alarms were going on for a long time and dismantling them."

But the noise reached a higher decibel level when he moved to New York. "Everything is compressed in New York," Bean explains. "So you are hearing many more alarms. One of the things that used to drive me crazy more than the sound was the thought -- how can people do this? How can people leave their car with an alarm that goes off?"

Bean got arrested in New York for his attempts to stop the noise -- he points out that these days there is a three-minute cutoff for modern car alarms. In fact, the first time Owen is arrested in "Noise" is exactly where Bean was taken into custody for cutting a cable.

Bean says that Owen has a lot in common with the protagonist of "The Believer." "He was another fanatic -- this was the comic mode instead of a tragic mode. He is a political fanatic, instead of a religious fanatic. I love that kind of character. "

-- Susan King

For The Record Los Angeles Times Tuesday, May 13, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction Henry Bean: A photograph of novelist Michael Tolkin mistakenly ran in Monday's Calendar section with an article about director Henry Bean. A photo of Bean is at right.
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