Oliver Platt watches with a look of deep concern. Dornan keeps yelling “clear!” as he frantically tries to resuscitate young Aiden Longworth, or more accurately, Louis Drax, the title character in Alexandre Aja’s latest feature film currently shooting in Vancouver.
Based on Liz Jensen’s bestselling novel, The 9th Life of Louis Drax tells the story of a young boy who falls from a cliff on his ninth birthday, landing in a coma under the care of pediatric neurologist Allan Pascal (Dornan).
The scene currently unfolding under the struts of the Bridge Studios is part of the climax, but writer-producer Max Minghella says the movie plays with form as it attempts to unseat the viewer, and meddle with the audience’s mind.
“My dad wanted this to be his Sixth Sense,” says Minghella, the son of late, great director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley). “He originally optioned the book with Sydney Pollack … then I came on board as producer two years after he passed.”
Known as an actor for his work in The Social Network and The Internship, Minghella says he had never taken on the challenge of a screenplay before, and while he pushed through it, he says it was a test.
“It’s a very lonely, alienating process,” he says “It made me kick myself for not being more observant around my father.”
Though it was a first attempt, the cast says it was the writing that piqued their interest — from Dornan (The Fall, Fifty Shades of Grey), to Platt (Chef, The West Wing), to Sarah Gadon, the soaring Canadian star of Dracula Untold, Belle and Enemy.
“Great scripts and great characters are about connecting to the human condition, and this one had it,” Gadon says.
“It was different,” Dornan says. “Lots of mystery to it.”
Though the many twists and secrets of the plot will remain sealed until the theatrical release of the film next year, director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D, Horns) says the whole plot is a twin thriller that relies on psychological terror more than classic horror, which has typically been his mainstay.
“It’s very exciting to have this opportunity. I fell in love with the script and these characters,” he says.
“I’ve tried to do something different with every movie … Sometimes I think the best thing that ever happened to me as a director was to fail. My first movie was such a failure (Furia) I never thought I would get the chance to make another, so to get a second chance makes me grateful for every challenge … and grateful to Max for believing in me.”