ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
"I was not interested in making a 'creature' movie. I was not interested in making a sci-fi movie or even a supernatural movie. I describe it as a psychological mystery with naturally surreal overtones. "
- Mark Pellington, director
"Mothman Prophecies, The (2002)" is based on the events chronicled in John A. Keel's 1975 book of the same name. It is author Keel's personal account of the occurrences which took place in and around the small town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia for the thirteen months leading up to a tragedy that made headlines around the world in December of 1967.
Told here as contemporary story, the film stars Richard Gere as John Klein, a Washington Post reporter who, following a terrible loss in his own life, becomes caught up in some very extraordinary events affecting the lives of very ordinary people. As Gere describes it, "This story we're telling is really psychological. My character has gone through a horrendous loss, losing his wife in the beginning of the movie. Everything that happens for him relates to that event, that trauma. So we have our own universe being projected all the time. I think one point we're trying to make in the film is everyone sees something different. It's not like every drawing is exactly the same. Some people hear something, some people see something, and some people feel something. It's the interpretation of reality based on one's mental make-up, one's emotional make-up. "
It is the psychological aspect of the story that attracted director Mark Pellington to the project. "Richard Hatem, the original screenwriter, did a fantastic job taking this book and putting it into a movie form," Pellington says. "By creating the character of John Klein as the pole by which all of these events revolve around, he established a hero for the story. " Of his personal approach to this story, Pellington says, "This is difficult territory, and it's really easy to veer into melodrama or wackiness. It's really kind of unbelievable so you have to go deeper, to a metaphysical, naturally surreal, enigmatic, mysterious emotional place with this material to make it work. Otherwise it's ridiculous. "
Though the movie will retain the basic overall detail of the book, executive producer Richard S. Wright gives Pellington credit for keeping the focus of the film on the human story and maintaining the psychological impact. "People have been trying to make a movie of "Mothman" almost since Keel's book was published," Wright says. "There are a number of writers who took various cracks at it but it's a difficult subject to get right. Mark Pellington is the guy who figured out how to do it. " Wright further explains, "We decided early on to stay away from UFOs but kept events we found more interesting, such as people seeing strange lights in the sky and getting phone calls featuring strange voices. We're looking at Mothman as a presence. We're not going for the full latex 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' version. Ours is much less obvious and more creepy. " As Pellington described to the crew as production began, "We never say 'creature' or 'monster. ' It is never manifested in the same way to any one person, although there are similarities. "
Lakeshore Entertainment president and producer Gary Lucchesi has been with this project for a long time. It is the believability of the story that convinced him it should be made. "I'm a producer who believes 'If it can happen to me, I'm interested," he says, continuing: "If you think of the great Hitchcock movies - if you think of 'Rear Window' and Jimmy Stewart sitting there with a broken leg and he's a witness to a murder - you say to yourself, 'Well, that could happen to me!' and I find that intriguing. It's very Hitchcockian. It's what happens when sane reasonable people are faced with the unbelievable. In this case the unbelievable is the harbinger of fate, the harbinger of death. "
For producer Lucchesi, having worked on four previous films with Gere, his casting decision was an easy one. He explains, "Richard is a populist movie star, a man who is very appealing to wide audiences. He was perfect for John Klein. " Of the choice to cast Gere as John Klein Mark Pellington says, "He's a great choice. You've got to have a guy that you're going to believe when people tell him that they saw these things or when he says, 'I got a call from an entity named Indrid Cold,' otherwise you'd have to laugh. " Pellington went on to say, "Across the board you have to find that perfect person for each part and our mission was to do just that. The material drew the people. It was not hard to get a cast of this caliber and that's a testament to the material. "
When talking about the material Lucchesi observes, "What we have always tried to achieve in this script is to create a character in John Klein who is a total pragmatist. He's a writer for the Washington Post. His entire life has been about finding facts. Now he finds something that he can't quite put his hands around, that the most logical side of him knows can't exist so it becomes a question of whether he can believe in something supernatural or metaphysical or more spiritual. "
Mark Pellington describes John Klein as, "A very clear rational man, but emotional trauma made him vulnerable, intuitive. He is a loyal thinker, sensitive to events around him. "
Gere expands on this idea, saying, "I think there's an openness that this character starts to approach where he doesn't have to have proof of things anymore. " What his character ultimately realizes, Gere observes, is something on a very human plane. "I think in this process we have a lot of people on various levels healing themselves and helping each other, which I find valuable in this work. These are people who wouldn't normally even come into contact with each other. My character and Gordon, played by Will Patton, for instance, would never have any relationship outside of what happens in this story and I think a very strange kind of friendship evolves from that. " Gere's character and Laura Linney's character Connie also form an unusual bond.
Commenting on Laura Linney in the part of Connie Parker, Gere says, "I loved working with her on 'Primal Fear (1996)' and I thought she was perfect for this. She's believable as a small-town person - smart, open. She would be someone in this town people would trust. Laura's had a life, like we all have, and that comes through her work. "
Director Pellington also found Connie to be a source of strength for others in the story. As he describes the character, "She had to be strong, you had to feel like there was a backbone to her. You had to feel that there is a sense of fair play and strength and she could jack you up against a wall if she needed to but you have to get the sense, most importantly, that she's a good listener, that she'd be fair. " Putting Linney in that part, was an easy choice for the director. "Within five minutes of meeting her I'd seen a range of emotion that just told me I was sitting across from Connie," Pellington explains. "I think she bridges the gap between being a character actor and being a leading lady much like Meryl Streep or Jessica Lange who are also very attractive, but their looks never overpower their believability. "
Linney was enthusiastic about the project, not only for the opportunity to play a very different part - that of a small town police officer - but also for challenge of the story itself. She explains, "It's a very risky project which is one of the reasons I wanted to do it, other than working with Richard again, which is the main reason I did it, and the producers who I've known for a long time. I think Mark Pellington is so visually interesting that he brings something to it that will be a little more unusual. "
History Of The Mothman
The first Mothman sighting came in early 1964. A woman, prominent in civic affairs in the town of Point Pleasant, was driving along Route 2 near the Ohio River with her father. As she neared the Chief Cornstalk Hunting Grounds, a large man-shaped figure walked out onto the road. Not knowing if he needed help, the woman slowed her car, when the figure spread two large wings and took off.
Ironically, neither reported the incident, explaining, "who would believe us anyway?"
The first sighting which received publicity, though not as the Mothman, was one in 1965. A woman living near the Ohio River related how her son had told her one day of seeing "an angel" outside. She thought nothing more of it until about a year later.
In the summer of 1966, a doctor's wife in the same general area said that she had seen a six-foot long thing resembling a "giant butterfly". She also did not think to report what she saw.
Deputy Millard Halstead went to the TNT Area with the four witnesses who had originally seen the Mothman. As they passed the spot where they had initially seen the dark figure, he was forced to switch off his police radio when the screeching interference reached a deafening pitch.
Paul Yoder and Ben Enochs, two volunteer firemen of impeccable reputation, said they had seen Mothman in the TNT Area on November 18th after both having expressed skepticism when the first reports came out.
Richard West, of Charleston, called the police on November 21. A winged figure was sitting on the roof of his neighbor's house, he said. The six-foot tall figure had a wingspan of six or eight feet and red eyes. It took off straight up, "like a helicopter" without flapping its wings.
Legend Of The Mothman
If you think the story of the Mothman and the Silver Bridge is astonishing, you're not the only one. But it's also not the only time the Mothman has been connected with a major disaster. The Mothman remains an enigmatic figure - sometimes determined to save certain lives, sometimes standing by to watch the death of thousands. But whether or not we understand his motives, the Mothman remains a fascinating and compelling mystery - see if you can tell whether or not the following stories are part of someone's vivid imagination, or truly part of the Mothman's legendů
The Collapse of the Silver Bridge
In the months before the collapse of the Silver Bridge, the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia was racked with bizarre events. There were over 100 sightings of the Mothman, UFOs of a wide variety, and disturbing olive-skinned men. Some felt the Mothman was there to warn them of something. But no one knew what until just before Christmas that year.
The Silver Bridge itself was an oddly constructed bridge, held up by an eyebar chain suspension. It was nearly 40 years old in 1967 and because of its construction the failure of even one link in the chain would cause the collapse of the entire bridge. This is exactly what happened on December 15, 1967, an event attributed to corrosion and simple age. The bridge was also under a great deal of strain due to heavier Christmas traffic but especially because a traffic light on one end of the bridge was malfunctioning. The cause of this malfunction was never determined.
On the evening of December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge collapsed in rush-hour traffic. Some forty-six people died in the disaster when their cars plunged into the ice-cold Ohio river just before sundown. It was the biggest disaster ever to hit Point Pleasant, a town of fewer than 6000 people.
One lucky survivor drove onto the bridge moments before the disaster. Explaining "an unshakable feeling that something wasn't right. I couldn't ignore it," she put her car in reverse and backed off the bridge, watching in horror as seconds later the bridge collapsed in front of her. Perhaps the Mothman, who had a special affinity for children, knew something she didn't - she was pregnant with twins.
Though some claim it was the steel of the bridge snapping, many reported seeing lights flashing in the darkening sky over the bridge just before it collapsed.
In April 1986 a rumor was running the ranks of workers at a power plant in southern Ukraine. Almost a dozen different men and women had reported seeing unsettling and strangely similar things. Some had been having nightmares, some received threatening phone calls. At least 4 had actually seen the creature that everyone kept talking about - a huge dark man, headless, but with massive wings and glowing red eyes. That particular morning, however, rumors would have to wait. A routine test of Reactor 4 was scheduled to prepare for the event of a power loss. Officials were apparently worried about some disaster happening at the plant, having received several mysterious warnings, especially in the most recent few days. They wanted to be prepared for anything. Reactor 4 was known to be unstable at low power levels and when it went on generator power on the morning of April 26, 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. 30 people were killed that morning, 10 more as a result of radiation exposure. The graphite of the reactor burned for 9 days - doing most of the radioactive damage to the area. And as helicopters circled, dropping 500 tons of sand, clay, lead and other chemicals on the fire, the surviving workers watched in disbelief as a huge 20 foot black bird circled in the smoke of the fire.
In 1926 one of the worst engineering disasters in history occurred in the southeastern foothills of China. There stood one of the largest dams in the world (though only the second largest in China) - the Xiaon Te Dam. The dam collapsed in the middle of the afternoon on January 19, 1926, sending over 40 billion gallons of water crashing over the peaceful farmland below. Over 15,000 people died as entire towns were demolished in the torrential flood. In other cases, houses were picked up and swept sometimes miles downstream completely intact. Of those that survived, nearly everyone had a story of either seeing or hearing about the black "man-dragon" who had appeared to victims of the disaster and around the doomed structure. Eyewitness accounts of this particular disaster are scarce because most newspaper records were destroyed when the Communist regime came to power in China.
On June 3, 1983 Alison McCarrey was making plans for a dream getaway with her husband, Eric, to the shores of Bermuda. She laid down for a beauty nap the day before their departure and was awakened by a strange phone call. She described it as sounding like Morse Code only shrill and full of interference. She thought of recording the phone call to play it for her husband who happened to know Morse Code, but the call was too short. She returned to her nap but when she awoke later that evening, she found she had been asleep for more than 6 hours. All she could think of was a disturbing dream she'd had in which a grey figure with black wings was watching over her as she drowned in the middle of a vast ocean. Her husband arrived home shortly after but she didn't mention any of it.
Later that night, she was having trouble sleeping and heard her dog, a Scotch terrier, growling and scratching at the front door downstairs. She went down to investigate and when she looked outside, she later said, "I wanted to laugh because I didn't believe it. But I couldn't laugh. It was like there was a hand around my throat, I was so terrified. " On her front lawn stood the huge winged man from her dream. The man flew straight at the window where she stood. "But he didn't move any part of his body, he was just flying toward me all of a sudden. " Her "bloodcurdling" scream woke her husband who found her standing in the front hallway shaking. She explained the whole story to him through sobs and whimpers. The next day she still appeared so shaken that he decided to postpone their trip.
They discovered later, when friends called them wondering if they were still alive, that the plane they were supposed to board disappeared in a storm in the Bermuda triangle and was never heard from again.
In 1951 strange things were happening in the US. There were red scares and bomb scares and witchhunts. People were going a little crazy with the onset of the Cold War. And Chicago experienced the only earthquake in its history. Several days before the quake, people sailing on Lake Michigan reported watching a large, black creature or "one hell of a pigeon" flying around the Chicago skyline. Others working late in the high rise buildings reported seeing strange dancing lights over Lake Michigan. On the day of the quake, May 5, many reported sudden unexplained knocking at their front door, or more strangely, closet doors or cabinets. Was this the Mothman trying to lead them to safety in their doorways? One young couple apparently opened their front door and when faced with a huge grey figure, were led blindly into a nearby park by the creature's hypnotic red eyes. As they snapped out of their trance, the creature disappeared and the ground began to shake. The couple's entire apartment building, in which their's had been the bottom unit, collapsed. 12 people in the building died, accounting for the only deaths in the entire city during the earthquake.
One of the stranger stories that has been tied to the Mothman is also one of the older ones. During the Crimean War, a particularly bloody battle had been raging for 6 days when the troops on either side realized that the following day was March 15 - the Ides of March. Both sides being extremely superstitious, simple people, the leadership agreed to a day of truce. However, a small band of 5 Russian soldiers planned an ambush to be carried out the following night. They apparently marked their progress toward the enemy lines using the lights from the lanterns of their own camp. In the center of the battlefield the air suddenly darkened and the 5 men looked up to see a massive bird circling above them. (The one survivor at the time reported it being a crow, so the story is often filed in the mythology of the crow, but details from other witnesses point to the Mothman. ) They stared mesmerized and when they looked back down, they proceeded toward enemy lines - in the direction they came. When they came upon what they believed to be enemy troops, they were immediately showered with gunfire from the standing guards. 3 of them died instantly and the fourth fell into the arms of his brother and slowly bled to death. The one man survived, covered by the shield of his brother's body.
But what is strange about the story are the reports from the Russian guards who were standing watch. All of them swore that the 5 men were from the Turkish army, dressed in turbans and robes, screaming at the top of their lungs and followed by a sea of thousands of huge bats. At midnight the angered Turks retaliated and what began as a fleeting image ended as the bloodiest battle in the history of either country.
Another case seems to point in favor of the Mothman, a case in which he saved at least 21 lives. Workers reported for duty on September 10, 1978 at a coal mine in Freiburg, Germany to find the entrance to the mine shaft blocked by a mysterious terrifying black figure with huge outstretched wings. Several of the men tried to approach the creature and enter the mine, thinking it might just be an apparition. They were forced to retreat when the creature let out unbearable piercing shrieks "like 50 people screaming" or "the brakes of a train. " After an hour or so of waiting, the men busied themselves with cleanup outside the mine hoping the creature would go away. At around 8 am the ground shook with the force of a huge underground explosion. The Mothman was gone - replaced by a huge column of flame coming from the entrance of the mine, a fire that surely would have killed them all.
6 months later only about a third of the men still worked at the mine. Some moved on to other careers, many were unemployed and apparently unemployable. Two dedicated themselves to discovering what happened and telling the world about it. Both died unusually young, in poverty and disgrace.