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Lucky Number Slevin and an Interview with Jason Smilovic

When writing a screenplay, the first thing you need as you stare at the blank page or a flashing cursor on the computer screen is an idea.

JASON SMILOVIC: The whole idea emanated from this concept of this guy who had really bad luck.

MUGGER: Give me your wallet.

SLEVIN: Am I being mugged? [SFX punch]

Meet Slevin, the creation of writer Jason Smilovic and the unlucky title character of the new film, Lucky Number Slevin .

JASON SMILOVIC: Slevin, the way I described Slevin was the type of guy who walks down a street and a piano falls from the sky and just misses him and he shrugs.

Slevin has bad luck but that doesn't phase him. Take his trip to New York. It begins with getting mugged, punched in the face and mistaken for his friend Nick Fisher who apparently owes a lot of money to some local gangsters.

SLEVIN: You know this isn't the first time this has happened.

LINDSEY: You mean this isn't the first time a crime lord asked you to kill the gay son of a rival gangster to pay off a debt of a friend whose place you're staying at as a result of losing your job, your apartment and finding your girlfriend in bed with another guy.

No, that's the first time that's happened, but it's not the first time Slevin has found himself in a tight spot. So when two mob bosses mistake him for Nick Fisher, Slevin simply goes with the flow.

RABBI: You must be Mr. Fisher.

SLEVIN: Must I because that hasn't been working out for me lately.

RABBI: But I'm afraid you must

SLEVIN: Well if I must.

Jason Smilovic says Slevin was inspired by the film noir anti-heroes played by Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum.

JASON SMILOVIC: (0625) It's a movie where the protagonist is heroic without showing a great deal of physical capability for a lot of the film. I mean you watch these old movies about detectives and cops and these guys spend the first 90% of the movie getting beat down. And I've always been attracted to that quality in a hero is somebody who stays on a case as a result of their dogged determination not because they have some kind of exceptional physical prowess. (:25)

Slevin's not a detective but he is dogged in unraveling a mystery, and he does have to deal with a cop.

COP: Who are you?

SLEVIN: Philosophically speaking?

COP: Name?

SLEVIN: Rank, serial number?

COP: You should really play ball kid

SLEVIN: Really you think I'm tall enough. [SFX punch]

JASON SMILOVIC: You see these guys who just can't get out of their own way.

COP: What is your name

SLEVIN: Oh yeah I remember, Sleven.

JASON SMILOVIC: Danger is so imminent and they are in such physical jeopardy and they just can't see their way to passing up the quick verbal jab.

As Slevin, actor Josh Hartnett delivers the verbal jabs with cool precision. He's just one in a snappy ensemble cast that Smilovic is thrilled to have reading his lines. The writer enjoyed adapting dialogue to actors such Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman and Sir Ben Kingsley who plays a gangster called The Rabbi.

JASON SMILOVIC: Sir Ben is word perfect, he does not change a word. If you write 'and but and' he says 'and but and.' And he says quite frankly I'm a classically trained actor I will make the text work.

RABBI: People are never happy with what they have.

SLEVIN: Kind of like a rabbi who would rather be a gangster, what sort of thing is that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence thing. I mean how do you justify being a rabbi and a gangster?

RABBI: I live on both sides of the fence, the grass is always green, where's my money?

The Rabbi's mob rival, known only as The Boss, is played by Morgan Freeman.

JASON SMILOVIC: Morgan brings something to it that is more of a memorize then forget kind of thing so obviously when it's one question that provokes an answer that provokes a question, you're locked into a schematic but he will certainly within the interior of the language will add words.

THE BOSS: I'm the boss.

SLEVIN: They picked up the wrong guy.

THE BOSS: The wrong guy for what.

SLEVIN: For whatever it is you want to see me about.

THE BOSS: Do you know what I want to see you about.

SLEVIN: No.

THE BOSS: Then how do you know I have the wrong guy? Maybe I want to give you $96,000, in that case do I still have the wrong guy?

Slevin may be the wrong guy but Smilovic is definitely the right one. He endows Lucky Number Slevin with a tight, intricate plot and sharp banter.

LINDSEY: What were you thinking?

SLEVIN: I'm thinking of a new option

LINDSEY: You just going to go over to him and say, 'Hi my name is Slevin and some bad dudes think I'm someone that I'm not and this someone owes that someone and now I'm gonna have to take you out or they're going to take me out and I was just wondering do you want to talk about it?'

SLEVIN: I can't do that.

LINDSEY: You think?

SLEVIN: He's got bodyguards. Aside from that you're pretty much dead on.

And delivering a script as entertaining as this one has nothing to do with luck, it's all about hard work and talent. -----

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