Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "Titanic") and two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks ("Philadelphia," "Forrest Gump") engage in a game of cat and mouse in "Catch Me If You Can," under the direction of three-time Academy Award winner Steven Spielberg ("Saving Private Ryan," "Schindler's List").
Frank W. Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) worked as a doctor, a lawyer and as a co-pilot for a major airline-all before his 21st birthday. A master of deception, he was also a brilliant forger, whose skill at check fraud had netted him millions of dollars in stolen funds. FBI Agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) had made it his prime mission to capture Frank and bring him to justice, but Frank is always one step ahead of him, baiting him to continue the chase.
"Catch Me If You Can" also stars Academy Award winner Christopher Walken ("The Deer Hunter"), Golden Globe Award winner Martin Sheen (TV's "The West Wing"), Nathalie Baye, Amy Adams, James Brolin, Brian Howe, Frank John Hughes and Golden Globe winner Jennifer Garner (TV's "Alias").
Steven Spielberg directed "Catch Me If You Can" from a screenplay by Jeff Nathanson, based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Frank W. Abagnale with Stan Redding. The film was produced by Steven Spielberg and Walter F. Parkes ("The Ring," "Men in Black II"), with Barry Kemp, Laurie MacDonald, Michel Shane and Tony Romano executive producing.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
The plot of "Catch Me If You Can" might have seemed a bit far-fetched even by Hollywood standards…were it not for the fact that it is based on a true story.
"Things that happen in real life are sometimes a hundred times more fascinating than anything a person could make up off the top of his head," remarks Leonardo DiCaprio, the actor who portrays the subject of the story, Frank W. Abagnale, Jr.
"Catch Me If You Can" is based on Abagnale's autobiography of the same name, which chronicles how he-as a runaway teenager, without so much as a high school diploma-managed to pass himself off as an airline pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, and a college professor, all while cashing millions of dollars in fraudulent checks.
Frank Abagnale offers, "It begins with my parents' divorce and its dramatic effect on me. I ran away and suddenly found myself a teenager alone in the world. I had to grow up very quickly and become very creative in order to survive. But what started out as survival became more and more of a game. I was an opportunist, so when I saw an opening I asked myself, 'Could I get away with that?' Then there was the satisfaction of actually getting away with it. The more I got away with, the more of a game it became-a game I knew I would ultimately lose, but a game I was going to have fun playing until I did. "
A bestseller, Abagnale's autobiography has fascinated millions of readers, including director/producer Steven Spielberg. "I was like the many people who fell under the seductive influence of the real Frank William Abagnale, Jr. , just through his book. And when you meet him, you understand in a second how he could pull the wool over your eyes and convince you that he was a doctor or a lawyer. I was fascinated by the unique way he came of age. I really believe he was very strongly affected by the divorce of his parents. There are all sorts of ways kids act out against divorce, and Frank just happened to act out in a way that was so original, it was worth making a movie about. Personally, I have always loved movies about sensational rogues, like the Newman/Redford classics 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' and 'The Sting. ' They were breaking the law, but you had to love them for their moxie. "
Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson first learned of Abagnale's story when co-producer Devorah Moos-Hankin, who serves as president of executive producer Barry Kemp's production company, sent him a tape of Abagnale talking about his life. Nathanson recalls that, like Spielberg, the story reminded him of one of his favorite film genres. "It was the kind of feeling I got watching films like 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' or 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'-films that focus on people who are working on the wrong side of the law or going against society; yet you can't help but root for them because they're so incredibly charming. That's what I got out of just this 20-minute tape, so I thought it might make a good movie. "
Producer Walter F. Parkes was also instantly taken with Abagnale's escapades, saying, "Any one aspect of Frank's story seems so extraordinary that you could hang an entire movie on it. But then you cap it off with the fact that it is true, and it becomes irresistible. "
Others had agreed with that opinion in the years since the book Catch Me If You Can was first published in 1980. Although the book had been previously optioned, Abagnale admits, "I never dreamed it would ever really be a movie. How do you condense five eventful years of a life into a two-hour movie?"
Parkes acknowledges that the answer to that question did not come without challenges. "What was both exciting and tricky about 'Catch Me If You Can' was that it falls between several genres. There are times of searing drama, but at its heart, it is more of a comedy. So it was a challenge, both in the writing and in the execution of the movie, to somehow encompass all of those facets. "
"As a writer, that made it all the more interesting," Nathanson says. "It's a cat-and-mouse thriller, but at the same time it's a coming-of-age story, and then very much a family drama. I like stories that cover different parts of life: there's laughter, there's heartbreak… 'Catch Me If You Can' gave me the chance to explore all of that through one remarkable period of Frank Abagnale's life. "
The period during which Abagnale was able to pull off such elaborate scams was the decade of the 1960s, and both Parkes and Spielberg attribute at least some of Abagnale's success to the innocence of the times. "I think it was the naiveté of those days that allowed Frank to get away with what he did for so long," Parkes states. "It was a time before the counterculture, a time when we actually believed that the clothes made the man, that a uniform connoted a certain stature in the world. Frank intuitively understood that and was able to exploit it. It provided him the way to become this exceptional imposter. "
Spielberg adds, "It was a time of tremendous trust, when you never locked your doors, but felt safe. " Interestingly, the director was coming off a film set in a future ruled by mistrust, the sci-fi thriller "Minority Report. " The about-face was one of the aspects of directing "Catch Me If You Can" that appealed to Spielberg. "I had just finished shooting 'Minority Report' and was in something of a dark place. I thought this would be a breath of fresh air for me. I enjoy that whiplash sensation of going from a film like 'Jurassic Park' to a 'Schindler's List,' and now from 'Minority Report' to 'Catch Me If You Can. ' Selfishly, it was also an opportunity to work with a young actor I've always admired. "
That young actor is Leonardo DiCaprio, who had already been set to star as Frank Abagnale. "I have been a huge fan of Leo's, dating back to his work in 'This Boy's Life' and then 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape,' which was a phenomenal performance," Spielberg says. "Leo is a very inventive actor and has a lot of ideas. He is also his own best critic. There were times I'd accept a certain take, and Leo would say, 'No, no. I think there's something I haven't found yet; let me do it again. ' And he would invariably come up with something that was just brilliant. "
DiCaprio appreciated that Spielberg not only accepted, but encouraged his contributions. "That's the wonderful thing about working with Steven Spielberg. He is so open-minded-not just to me as an actor, but to people in every department. I think that is part of what makes him such a great director; he brings out the best in you, and gets everybody working like a well-oiled machine towards a common goal. "
Long before he was cast in the role of Frank Abagnale, DiCaprio was a self-described "huge fan" of the book Catch Me If You Can. Years later, when he was sent Jeff Nathanson's script, he jumped at the chance to portray the quintessential con man. "For an actor, it's all about the art of misdirection…how, for example, Frank is able to make somebody concentrate on being asked out to dinner as opposed to the phony check he's about to pass. I think those are fantastic elements for an actor to play," DiCaprio states.
The actor did have an opportunity to meet with the real Frank Abagnale and relates that he still caught glimpses of the one-time con man's innate ability to disarm you. "To look at him, you wouldn't think he could steal a postage stamp. But he has an almost unconscious way of engaging you with his eyes, with his energy and with his intelligence. "
While DiCaprio offers that those subtle traits were something he tried to bring to his portrayal, he was intent on not trying to create an imitation of the real-life Abagnale. "At a certain point you draw enough information from the person, and then you have to go off on your own and create that character and let the character have a life of its own. I didn't want to take away from the spontaneity of the young Frank going out in the world. I wanted the audience to be carried along with him on his journey of self-discovery, to see the sparkle in his eye the first time he sees a pilot looking like a movie star and being treated like royalty, or to watch his first mistakes as a pilot or as a lawyer… I didn't want to be too perfect, because I believe Frank gets by more on his personality and charm and his ability to misdirect, rather than on being perfect at impersonating people. I think that has a lot to do with the ego of this cocky kid who thinks he can defy everyone, including the F. B. I…. and, in fact, does. "
Frank Abagnale's defiance notwithstanding, the FBI has other ideas and assigns Special Agent Carl Hanratty to track down this elusive "paperhanger. " Tom Hanks stars in the role of Abagnale's dogged pursuer Carl Hanratty, whom he describes as "an FBI agent who takes great pride in working areas like bank fraud, forgeries and check kiting. "
"Tom Hanks brought such authenticity to this part. He has a bureaucratic quality I had never seen in him before," Spielberg says.
The two agents assigned to work with Carl don't share his penchant for bureaucracy and can barely hide their boredom and disdain. But, unfortunately for Frank, Hanks says, "Carl Hanratty loves that stuff; he lives and breathes it. So when he comes across this paperhanger, as they're called, who is remarkably intelligent and certainly an above-average check forger, Carl makes it his life's mission to, well, catch him if he can. "
That is easier said than done because, as Spielberg notes, "In any good cat-and-mouse story, the mouse keeps winning for a long time and the poor cat is so frustrated. It's a vicious circle with the cat chasing a mouse who is much more clever than the cat. But what our FBI agent does have is tremendous patience and resolve. He is just tenacious and as patient as the day is long. "
However, the part of Carl Hanratty serves as more than just the cat in this cat-and-mouse tale, a fact the filmmakers realized early in the development of the script. Walter Parkes explains, "When you have all these terrific but separate incidents of a kid impersonating a doctor in the E. R. or a pilot who flies all over the world, it makes for a very episodic script. The key to turning these episodes into a complete story was the character of the FBI agent. At some point we said, 'That's what it is: It's the story of a kid who leaves one father and finds a different one. ' I mean, imagine this kid who can intuitively change roles, has all the women in the world and is making millions of dollars. Then there's this FBI agent, the least charming person in the world, who has somehow been put on this earth to not only catch this guy, but to perceive just what kind of genius he is. There was something about that dynamic between Carl and Frank that captured Tom's imagination. "
Hanks attests, "Carl is so impressed with the style and panache of his quarry that he's doubly astounded to discover how young he is. Carl suddenly realizes that he is just a kid, incredibly gifted but ultimately a child, who is in the midst of an adventure that is bigger than he is. Carl comes to feel almost protective of Frank. I mean, he treats him like a criminal-he's going to arrest him and send him to jail-but at the end of the day, he sees a fragile human being who is worth trying to redeem somehow. "
DiCaprio comments, "Carl Hanratty eventually becomes the only person who Frank Abagnale trusts, which is ironic given the fact that Carl is the one who is aggressively trying to put him in jail. There is a certain element of Carl becoming something of a father figure to Frank because he ends up being the only real guidance that my character has. "
That being said, no one could ever take the place of Frank's real father in his eyes. Frank Abagnale, Sr. was the greatest influence in his son's life, and Frank Jr. 's devotion to his father remained steadfast, arguably driving him to do much of what he did. "The key person in Frank's life was his father," Parkes affirms. "In our film he is a kind of modern Willie Loman. He's an extremely charismatic man whose attempts to grab onto the American dream elude him every time. There is great poignancy in that. "
Christopher Walken, who was cast in the pivotal role of Frank Abagnale, Sr. , remarks, "It was a wonderful opportunity to work with Steven Spielberg and Leonardo. I play his character's father, and I guess you could say that I encourage him in his pursuits because I'm a little bit of a crook myself. "
It was Walter Parkes who first suggested Christopher Walken for the role. Spielberg recalls, "I have been a great admirer of Christopher Walken and have always had a desire to work with him. So the minute Walter said, 'Have you ever considered Chris Walken?,' everything came into focus about who should play Leonardo DiCaprio's father. "
For DiCaprio, the awe in which he held Christopher Walken translated perfectly into the respect his character holds for his father. "Frank has an unwavering faith in his father; anything his father does is just the most brilliant, ingenious thing. I think my own admiration for Christopher Walken really helped me to portray my character in relationship to his father. As an actor, just to be in a scene with Chris was a great experience for me, both professionally and personally. "
The filming of one particular scene with Walken resonated not only for DiCaprio, but also for everyone involved. Parkes remembers, "We were filming the scene in the restaurant between Leo and Chris where Chris is talking about his wife, Frank's mother, leaving him. We get to the close-ups, and halfway through the speech, his eyes well up, his voice breaks and he starts to weep. Steven and I looked at each other like, 'Where did that come from?' It was so real and so immediate, and it changed the essence of the scene to one of heartbreaking emotion. That kind of non-mechanical, genuine acting is what you pray for, and it's what you get with Christopher Walken. "
Every time Frank reunites with his father in the film, it is in the blind hope that he can somehow use his ill-gotten money to bring his father and mother back together. Frank's father had regaled him from childhood with stories of how, as a young GI, he had swept this beautiful, young Frenchwoman off her feet and brought her to America as his wife.
To stay true to the part of Frank's mother, Paula Abagnale, Spielberg was determined to cast a French actress. He enlisted the aid of a friend who just happened to be living in Paris at the time, director Brian De Palma. "I sent Brian the script and asked if he would help," Spielberg says. "He did tests with different actresses, including Nathalie Baye, whom I knew from her work in the François Truffaut film 'Day For Night. ' She was the one I wanted for the role. "
"There was a particular quality Steven was going for," Parkes offers. "Frank's mother is full of contradictions: she adores her son, yet she is a pretty self-involved woman. It was a very complex character to depict in a very few scenes. "
Nathalie Baye observes, "I don't think she's a very good wife, and she is not really a good mother. She met her husband when she was 18, so she feels she missed something in her life. She smokes a lot, drinks a little, and she has another man. She is not, how you say, politically correct. "
After he leaves home, Frank has other women in his life. Taking on the persona of an adult opens the door to relationships with older women, including a one-night stand with a model-turned-call girl named Cheryl Ann. Jennifer Garner makes a cameo appearance in the role of the beautiful woman who sells her services to Frank…or so she thinks.
Spielberg had seen Garner on her hit series "Alias," in which she is the one playing different characters from week to week. "The first time I saw Jennifer, I immediately said she would be the next superstar. I knew she was locked into the series, but I wondered if she would do this small role. She came in and worked for just one day and was simply remarkable. "
Recalling how she got the part, Garner laughs, "It was so like a dream that it'll sound ridiculous. My agent called and said, 'You have been offered a small role in a film…and Steven Spielberg is directing. ' I thought, 'How can that be possible?' But it was, and it turned out to be an amazing experience. "
Not all of Frank's female encounters are so casual. The loneliness of his illusory lifestyle finally catches up with him when he meets a sweet and innocent young woman named Brenda. "As fantastic and colorful as Frank's life was, at the end of the day, he really had nobody," DiCaprio says. "He finally finds a girl he feels he can settle down with, but he soon learns there can be no picturesque, idealistic family life for him. "
Amy Adams won the role of Brenda over numerous other hopefuls following a casting search that Spielberg says lasted for months. "I was blessed because I had one of the most resourceful casting directors I've ever worked with in Debra Zane. She brought me a lot of potential Brendas, but when she brought in the tape of Amy Adams, I could tell she had somebody she really liked. She was so excited and she was holding the tape like it was the Rosetta Stone of the whole movie," he recalls. "I loved Amy's test. Then when Leo came in that afternoon, I told him, 'Leo, I'm going to show you eight or nine different actresses. ' When we got to Amy, he said, 'Go back. Who's that?'. "
"Amy was as fresh and honest as anyone we'd seen, and honesty is very important in this part," Parkes notes. "The great irony of Frank's relationship with Brenda is: here is Frank who's living the biggest lie you could imagine, and in that lie, he meets the one honest, true thing he's ever known and falls in love with her. Yet the relationship is totally based on deception. It was very important that the actress playing Brenda be able to convey that simple purity, which is in stark contrast to what Frank's life has become at that point. "
Amy Adams agrees that Brenda does possess a certain naiveté, but adds that there is more to her than meets the eye. "I understand why Frank is taken with Brenda. She is very open and honest with him, and that must be attractive to somebody who has had to live a lie for so long. She's also, of course, completely enchanted by him. Who wouldn't be? He's darling. Brenda is naive and innocent, but at the same time, she has this raw energy and passion, so it was really fun to play that innocence just bordering on losing control. "
Frank meets Brenda at the hospital where she works as a candy striper, and in that moment, he changes his identity from Pan Am co-pilot Frank Taylor to Doctor Frank Conners. After proposing to Brenda, he goes with her to her parents' New Orleans home to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Brenda's father, Roger Strong, is the New Orleans District Attorney, so as quickly as he became Dr. Conners, Frank adds Attorney at Law to his resume.
Spielberg wanted Martin Sheen for the role of Roger Strong, and fortunately, the actor's schedule on the hit series "The West Wing" did not preclude him from being available to do it. "Martin brought an immediate power and solidity to the role-maybe helped a little by the fact that we now know him as the President of the United States," Walter Parkes jokes. "Seriously, he has that kind of intimidating presence, which is very important in that it gives Frank a certain amount of anxiety to deal with. "
Frank's welcome into the Strong's home is the closest thing he has had to a family in years. It causes his relationship with them to be, in some ways, more honest than any he has had, with the possible exception of Carl Hanratty. However, it is too late for Frank to start over with his new family, regardless of how much he wants to.
Martin Sheen offers, "Frank is genuinely in love with my daughter, and we are overwhelmed by his charm, intelligence and charisma. Of course, it ends badly, but his heart was in the right place. There is no question that he's sincere. I mean, he could never pull off the frauds that he does if he didn't come from a foundation of honesty. At heart, he's a good and decent young man, and that's why I think the audience is going to be pulling for him from the first frame. "
A COLORFUL TIME
The title "Catch Me If You Can" could just as easily be applied to the film's shooting schedule as to its story. The movie was filmed in just 56 jam-packed days, utilizing more than 140 sets on locations in and around Los Angeles, New York, Montreal and Quebec City. Spielberg states, "It was a lot of moving around-sometimes three locations on a single day-and I have never worked faster in my entire life. But I think, in this case, moving so fast kept the momentum going for the entire cast and crew. "
Leonardo DiCaprio confirms, "That was the fastest paced film I have ever worked on. We were constantly moving, but that's what was good about it. It was like a theatre group; we were always creating new things and then moving to the next location. I think the frenetic pace gave the entire production so much life and energy. "
The speed of the production was also reflective of the 1960s period in which the story is set. "This was the age of the jet set," Tom Hanks says. "Literally, you could get on a jet plane and be on the other side of the world in a matter of hours. For my generation, it was the height of glamour: colors looked cooler and everything was very bold and stylish. "
To capture the bold, colorful style of the times, Spielberg assembled a creative team that included his longtime collaborators: director of photography Janusz Kaminski, editor Michael Kahn and composer John Williams. Working for the first time with the director were production designer Jeannine Oppewall and costume designer Mary Zophres.
Given the pace of the shooting schedule, Parkes points out that the shorthand that has developed between Spielberg and Kaminski was especially crucial. "The thing about Janusz is he's very quick, very intuitive, and he and Steven have an unspoken communication that is like nothing I've ever seen. "
"Janusz and I have the greatest working relationship," Spielberg agrees. "I set the camera, I block the scenes, but it is Janusz who paints every shot. He is a master of light. 'Catch Me If You Can' is a very upbeat movie, so we didn't want to go with a low, dark half-light. It's very bright and very colorful, which is a huge stylistic departure for us in our work together. "
Kaminski adds, "The visual approach was really very simple: Let's have fun; let's create a world that's slightly idealistic, and not too serious. The lighting reflects that. It's like a glass of champagne. "
Despite that approach, the sheer number of locations and the speed at which the company was moving through them made the actual task of lighting the sets anything but simple. Kaminski notes, "We were not on soundstages. We were filming in existing buildings and on existing streets, so we had to work around certain limitations. We didn't have the luxury of removing walls or windows and putting the lights or the camera wherever I wanted. We had to compromise occasionally, but compromise is good because it forces you to be innovative. You could look at it as a disadvantage or as a great challenge. I happen to like the challenge. "
The extensive location sets-all of which had to be in the style of the period-posed an even more daunting challenge to production designer Jeannine Oppewall and her team. Oppewall attests, "I thought 'L. A. Confidential' was difficult because I counted 93 sets in 40 or 50 locations. When I first broke down the 'Catch Me If You Can' script, I counted well over 100 sets, and then I couldn't count anymore because I started to panic. "
Of all the many locations, perhaps the greatest coup for the production was being able to film in the historic TWA Terminal at New York's JFK Airport, which opened in 1962 and was nicknamed by many "the bird building. " Now standing empty, the landmark terminal was designed by Eero Saarinen, which gave it special meaning for Oppewall. "I used to work for Charles Eames, and Eero Saarinen and Eames were best friends," she offers.
Interestingly, Oppewall's connection to Charles Eames was also the thing that first connected her to Steven Spielberg. "Jeannine is a wonderful designer and has done extraordinary work, but then I heard that she had worked for Charles Eames. Growing up, I had an Eames chair; I did all my homework in that chair. I think he is one of the greatest designers of all time, so I was starstruck," Spielberg confesses.
On the opposite coast, California's old Ontario Airport doubled for Miami International Airport, where Frank evades the FBI by surrounding himself with a bevy of beautiful stewardesses. In Canada, an abandoned prison in Montreal became the French prison where Carl Hanratty comes to extradite Frank back to the U. S. ; and a square in Quebec City doubled for the French village of Montrichard, where Frank is cornered in a scene that features a cameo appearance by the real Frank Abagnale. Just a few of the other widely varied location sets included: a Victorian house in Altadena, California, which was used as the Strong family's New Orleans home; an old Boeing factory in Downey, California, which was used for the offices of the FBI; and the Ambassador Hotel and Union Station, both in Los Angeles.
The most logistically challenging location was in front of the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue, right in the middle of busy New York City. The constant flow of traffic had to be stopped, and replaced with vintage cars and taxis that filled the street. Everything and everyone had to appear as they would have about 40 years ago.
"It was really a guerilla operation," Spielberg laughs. "Jeannine had a commando crew who went out and got their hands on anything they could possibly need to make everything look absolutely '60s-perfect. "
"The '60s did have a certain flavor," Oppewall suggests. "It was a time when people felt a little more frivolous, a little more able to burst out in wild colors. "
The production designer notes that she and costume designer Mary Zophres used color as more than a sign of the times. It also signaled the emotional arc of the story. When we first meet Frank, he is living an ordinary, relatively bland existence, so his environment is equally bland and slightly monochromatic. However, Oppewall illustrates, "As he gets better and better at his game, the color palette gets wilder and wilder. When he is at the top of his game, we were able to play with vibrant colors like orange and yellow and red and pink. Then towards the end, as he is totally blending in with the bureaucracy, everything is again relatively monochromatic. It's a fascinating way to watch the character evolve. "
"It was fun to do all the different looks for Leo," Zophres agrees. "At first, I had the impression that he was going to be in his Pan Am pilot's uniform much of the time. Then I read the script again and realized he would have about 100 wardrobe changes. "
Parkes comments, "When you think about it, Frank is a man who is able to impersonate people and enter into different worlds by virtue of the clothes he wears on his back. So this was one of those times when costuming was tied to the very essence of the story. Mary Zophres not only handled the many logistical challenges of the day-to-day production, but also the fact that her costumes were the externalization of the character more than in most movies. "
In contrast to DiCaprio's ever-changing wardrobe, Tom Hanks wears virtually the same suit day after day. Zophres remarks, "Tom could have worn 20 suits in this movie, and no one in the audience would know if he wore 20 or just one, because it's essentially the same silhouette from one to another. We actually went to a lot of effort to tailor suits that had the same exact details: the same shape, the same shoulders, and the same buttons. Only the fabric is slightly different-one is navy, one is a bit lighter navy, one is brown-but they are all fundamentally identical. And he always wears the same style shirt and narrow tie with the diagonal stripe. It was basically the 'uniform' of the FBI in those days. They lightened up in the '70s, but in the '60s, it was all very regimented. "
Zophres was able to get much more creative with the wardrobe of some of the supporting characters and even the extras, particularly those 1960s stewardess uniforms, which range from prim and proper to bright and kitschy. As outlandish as some of them are, they are all modeled after actual uniforms that Zophres came across during her extensive research.
When it comes to fashion, everyone knows the cliché "Everything old is new again. " However, one thing that defines an era perhaps more than anything else is its music. In a rare move for a Steven Spielberg movie, "Catch Me If You Can" features a number of popular songs that are evocative of that time, including Frank Sinatra's classic rendition of "Come Fly With Me," which was a particular favorite of Spielberg's.
The songs are interspersed with a score by John Williams. "Catch Me If You Can" marks Spielberg's 20th film collaboration with the composer, but marks something of a departure for them. "John did something he's never done before," Spielberg says. "He wrote music in the idiom of progressive jazz, which was very popular in the 1950s and '60s. "
"In my past work with Steven, we have had large orchestras and broad themes," Williams notes, "but on this particular film, we don't have that kind of canvas. It's more intricate. The story is light and amusing, but is also about a serious subject, so the music had to have different shades. It's comedic one moment, and then tense as the FBI closes in on Frank. "
In composing the score for "Catch Me If You Can," Williams drew on one of his earliest inspirations. "One particular figure who I think dominated the American film music scene in the 1960s was Henry Mancini," he states. "He typified the best of that stylish, jazzy approach to films that we now associate with that period so nostalgically. I actually was the pianist in Henry Mancini's orchestra at the beginning of both of our careers. I played on the Peter Gunn recordings and on 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' and was very close to him personally, as well as musically. 'Catch Me If You Can' has been a wonderful opportunity for me to revisit that part of myself that's been lying dormant for a few decades now. It was a kind of regression, and one I enjoyed very much. "
Coming full circle is a theme for several people involved in the making of "Catch Me If You Can," beginning with the real Frank W. Abagnale. "My story is not just about someone being very young and getting away with a lot. I got caught and served time in prison, but I paid my debt and have worked for my government for 25 years. I also have my own successful consulting business. People ask me all the time, 'What was the most incredible thing you ever pulled off?' But to me, the greatest thing I have been able to do is to take those experiences and put them into the business I have today. "
"In a way, Frank's life was his graduate school," Walter Parkes says. "The great irony is that after all his attempts to reinvent himself, he finally succeeded by becoming himself. There's something redemptive about the end of the movie that suggests that you really can start over. "
Spielberg adds, "Part of the inspiration of 'Catch Me If You Can' for me is that it shows you can turn your life around and make something better of yourself, but it's also a story that is pure, unadulterated fun. It has tremendous joie de vivre, which is reflective of who the real Frank Abagnale is to me. "
The director goes on to reveal, "I could also relate to him in a way. When I was first trying to become a movie director, I became a 16-and-a-half-year-old executive. I put on a suit and tie and carried a briefcase, and walked right past Scotty at the main gate at Universal Studios every day during summer vacation. Five days a week for three months, I walked on and off that lot…and was, for that one moment, Frank Abagnale. "