Catch Me If You Can (2002)

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Amy Adams as: Brenda Strong
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Stan Redding, Frank Abagnale Jr., Jeff Nathanson
Selected Cast: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Walken, Elizabeth Banks
Release Date: December 25, 2002 (US)
Genre: Biography / Crime / Drama
MPAA Rating:

The true story of a real fake.

Based on a true story, Frank W. Abagnale was employed as a doctor, a lawyer, and as a co-pilot for a major airline company before reaching his 21st birthday. A successful con artist and master of deception, Frank is also a brilliant forger, whose skill at check fraud has netted him millions of dollars in stolen funds–much to the chagrin of the authorities. FBI Agent Carl Hanratty has made it his prime mission to capture him and bring him to justice, however Frank is always one step ahead of Carl, baiting him to continue the chase.

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Amy’s Role

In one of her strongest early roles Amy is Brenda Strong. She is a sweet, naive girl – with huge braces – who works at a hospital. There she encounters DiCaprio’s Frank Abagnale Jr., a charismatic con man who is pretending to be a doctor. They become lovers and really fall for each other. Brenda is in a similar position to Frank, they both had to leave home and their families, Brenda herself having an abortion that her father didn’t approve of. Frank wants out of his fake life and to settle with Brenda but unfortunately his lies – and Hanratty – get caught up with him. Frank confesses all to Brenda as he slips out the window to flee. He suggests she’d go with him but she is torn by what is the right thing to do. While the role of Brenda is rather small all in all, it was a challenging one and really showed what Amy could do dramatically as an actress for the first time in a film.

Quotes
On the once proposed musical:
“I think it’s great. I think Lauren Ambrose, who has a fantastic voice, should play Brenda.”
“It sounds corny, but Leonardo was so generous. And funny. And Steven lets you be so free.”
“She’s really sweet, you know, at the core.”
“She’s not feeling great about herself when she meets [Frank Abagnale, played by Leonardo DiCaprio] and to have somebody that charming be so genuine with her, to her anyway… (she catches herself) wait a second! I just called this con man genuine! But she sees him as that. She’s just captivated immediately, absolutely.”
“You’re on set, you’re going to meet Leonardo DiCaprio. Spielberg is there. You kind of want to look kind of fancy, you know. You want the big staircase and ballroom, but at the end of the day I couldn’t pick a better character that I’ve enjoyed playing this much as Brenda. I wouldn’t trade those braces for a ball gown now if you paid me.””It sounds corny, but Leonardo was so generous. And funny. And Steven lets you be so free.”
“How I work is I work from of very character-driven place. And I trust the writers. And it’s Spielberg and I loved this script. So I never had a problem with it, and the type of person she is.”
“My job as an actress is to make things work and come up with reasons of my own and not just fill in the blanks for anybody else, you know what I mean? I really feel that that is something Brenda would do. She’s only working [at the hospital] because she’s not allowed in her family’s home any more. Especially, with Frank. She trusts him. It’s her man. And then she gets her family back. And that’s the one thing they have in common. And [the irony is] he sort of gives her in a way what he wants: She gets her family back; she gets love; she gets validation for being who she is. That’s everything that he wants. So it’s really subtle, but I think it’s such a sweet moment in the film.”
On co-star Leonardo DiCaprio
“This is his film. He’s amazing in it. There’s such strong performances that if people just watch it and enjoy it I would feel like I’ve done my job. If that gets me further… that’s good too.”
“I actually never read with Leo. I never actually read for Steven. Casting director Debbie Zane, who is amazing and I thank her so much for really getting behind me. She could’ve brought a whole list of impressive young actors to come in. You know what I mean? Like people who have a bigger reputation. She brought me in and I’m very, very thankful for that. She showed my work to Steven. And Steven, I believe, showed it to Leo. I’m not sure how the whole process happened, but [Steven] brought me in then to meet him. And we just sat and chatted with Spielberg. (She laughs.) You know, stepping outside of myself for a moment it was pretty surreal.”
“[Steven] said that it was going to be like four days before they make a decision, and it’s gonna be on a Tuesday. So that was like… like I reviewed that entire conversation! I was like pulling hair out of my head.”
“That was all nerve-wracking simply because I had to be the aggressor. It’s not how I saw the scene, of course. And then as soon as Spielberg saw it, I really appreciated the humor and I loved it. I loved it. It helped explain how this shy girl could have gotten herself in trouble in the first place. She got herself in a situation for a reason, and, um, she is boy-crazy. She’s boy-crazy! And I mean, woooo! (She fans herself.) He’s quite the boy. So to be the aggressor on our second day of filming and like launching onto him, essentially. And like having to tip him back in the chair, and tip him at the right angle to hit the pad, you know, it takes some of the intimacy out of the moment in for Amy, but Brenda was enjoying it… immensely.”
“The first couple takes I was trying to be very, you know, very not to be invasive in Leo’s mouth. And try to be respectful. You know, keep to the code of actors. Like: no tongue. You know what I mean? Like (again, she imitates an exaggerated version of the kiss, and laughs) you know, not really take advantage of the moment and to be like, “Hey girls! Guess whose lips I kissed today!” And [Spielberg says], “He kisses you for that moment. There’s a moment of disbelief, and then everything that’s been held up inside of you for so long, all the insecurities, all that everything else, it just makes you hungry! And then you just eat his face!” You know, like arrrrgh! (She laughs.)”
“And in that moment for her, I mean, definitely, it is really important for me to commit and need to be there. I really do that to the character, because if I was Amy I would just be like: I’m kissing Leo. (She laughs.) I just think there would be a certain falseness because it wouldn’t be paying attention to the character. I have to come out of that into the scene, so I have to continue the scene and continue my reactions. You have to stay pretty committed to the character.”
Catch Me If You Can… It was the first time I knew I could act at that level with those people. To be believed in by Steven Spielberg . . . it was a huge confidence booster. I knew I could work, but at what level? I still hope to discover more levels, but that experience, and the way I was embraced on that set, let me know I could do this.”
On director Steven Spielberg
“He was the best cheerleader ever because no matter how tired you were and no matter what scene you had or what you were doing, however small the apart or however big the part, and with everybody on set, he was so excited and so committed to what they were doing and to what he was doing. After all these years and after all the films that he’s done, the fact that he was so excited every day about a new day of making a film, a new way to do it, the new idea for the character, and what he’s thinking that we could bring this into this. He’s an endless resource of energy and ideas. And that that still exists after so much time is just amazing.”
On director Steven Spielberg
“Not even an ounce of cynicism. Just a pure excitement for it. Every morning is different. Every day is different. Every shop is different, and a new opportunity.”
On director Steven Spielberg
“People energy is very contagious to me and I think it helped me keep Brenda – I think – keep her fun and keep her light. Even with the dramatic moments that she sort of had. I really think that I owe that in a big way to Spielberg.”
“How I work is I work from of very character-driven place. And I trust the writers. And it’s Spielberg and I loved this script. So I never had a problem with it, and the type of person she is.”
“My job as an actress is to make things work and come up with reasons of my own and not just fill in the blanks for anybody else, you know what I mean? I really feel that that is something Brenda would do. She’s only working [at the hospital] because she’s not allowed in her family’s home any more. Especially, with Frank. She trusts him. It’s her man. And then she gets her family back. And that’s the one thing they have in common. And [the irony is] he sort of gives her in a way what he wants: She gets her family back; she gets love; she gets validation for being who she is. That’s everything that he wants. So it’s really subtle, but I think it’s such a sweet moment in the film.”
“That was all nerve-wracking simply because I had to be the aggressor. It’s not how I saw the scene, of course. And then as soon as Spielberg saw it, I really appreciated the humor and I loved it. I loved it. It helped explain how this shy girl could have gotten herself in trouble in the first place. She got herself in a situation for a reason, and, um, she is boy-crazy. She’s boy-crazy! And I mean, woooo! (She fans herself.) He’s quite the boy. So to be the aggressor on our second day of filming and like launching onto him, essentially. And like having to tip him back in the chair, and tip him at the right angle to hit the pad, you know, it takes some of the intimacy out of the moment in for Amy, but Brenda was enjoying it… immensely.”
“The first couple takes I was trying to be very, you know, very not to be invasive in Leo’s mouth. And try to be respectful. You know, keep to the code of actors. Like: no tongue. You know what I mean? Like (again, she imitates an exaggerated version of the kiss, and laughs) you know, not really take advantage of the moment and to be like, “Hey girls! Guess whose lips I kissed today!” And [Spielberg says], “He kisses you for that moment. There’s a moment of disbelief, and then everything that’s been held up inside of you for so long, all the insecurities, all that everything else, it just makes you hungry! And then you just eat his face!” You know, like arrrrgh!” (She laughs.)
And in that moment for her, I mean, definitely, it is really important for me to commit and need to be there. I really do that to the character, because if I was Amy I would just be like: I’m kissing Leo. (She laughs.) I just think there would be a certain falseness because it wouldn’t be paying attention to the character. I have to come out of that into the scene, so I have to continue the scene and continue my reactions. You have to stay pretty committed to the character.
Interviewer: And then we see what we need to see when you’re standing on the curb.
“Yes. I almost started crying when I watched that. That’s the end of Brenda. You know, because it is so sad.”
Interviewer: What do you think happened to Brenda?
“I don’t know. I hate to speculate. I’m thinking years of therapy. (She laughs) I’m thinking probably, you know, Woodstock. In the end, because you build a character, I really think she would probably marry somebody that her dad introduced her to. She probably had a number of kids and got one of those customary divorces in the ’70s.”

Character Quotes
“You have really nice teeth.”
“Notice anything different about me?”
“You’re not a Lutheran?”

Trivia & Facts

• Filmed in California, New York, New Jersey USA and Canada.

• Because Leonardo DiCaprio had to re-shoot scenes for Gangs of New York (2002), Gore Verbinski couldn’t start directing this movie. The whole production was moved back a few months, but this in turn meant that James Gandolfini had to withdraw because he had to go back to work on The Sopranos. He was replaced by Tom Hanks, while David Fincher, Cameron Crowe and Lasse Hallström were asked to direct before Steven Spielberg (who only wanted to produce the movie) took over.

• When it appeared that Gore Verbinski would direct, Chloë Sevigny and Ed Harris were both considered for roles.

• Until he saw the results of Leonardo DiCaprio’s work, the real Frank Abagnale Jr. didn’t think DiCaprio was “suave” enough to play him.

• Jennifer Garner shot her scenes in one day.

• When Frank is being fitted for the James Bond suit he sees in the movie Goldfinger (1964), the tailor refers to him as Mr. Fleming.

• Steven Spielberg’s original choice for the role of Frank Abigale Jr. was Johnny Depp.

• The arrest scene in France was actually shot in Place Royale, Quebec city. The church in the background is called Notre-Dame-des-Victoires and the bust in the middle of the place is of Louis XIV.

• The first cut of the film was about 80% authentic, as quoted at the epilogue of Abagnale’s book. Some scenes were corrected, added and change as per request of the real Frank Abagnale Jr. to ensure total authenticity.

• Cans and reels were shipped to cinemas under the code name “The Doctor”.

• The fluttering dollar bill is a reference to the floating feather from Forrest Gump (1994)

• The names on the forged diploma from Harvard Medical School actually contains the signatures of the then (2002) deans of both Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

Reviews

“This is not a major Spielberg film, although it is an effortlessly watchable one. Spielberg and his writer, Jeff Nathanson, working from the memoir by the real Frank Abagnale Jr. and Stan Redding, don’t force matters or plumb for deep significance. The story is a good story, directly told, and such meaning as it has comes from the irony that the only person who completely appreciates Abagnale’s accomplishments is the man trying to arrest him. At one point, when the young man calls the FBI agent, Hanratty cuts straight to the point by observing, “You didn’t have anyone else to call.”” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

“Director Steven Spielberg keeps things hopping and hints that Frank’s behavior was triggered by his parents’ divorce, leaving his adored dad (Christopher Walken in a funny, grave, great performance) bereft. But what begins brightly gets bogged down over 140 minutes. A film that took off like a hare on speed ends like a winded tortoise.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“The film eventually makes stops in Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta and New Orleans. Some of the wittiest scenes find Frank engaged to an adoring airheaded nurse, Brenda Strong (Amy Adams), whom he meets during his brief career impersonating a doctor. He so charms her unctuous father, Roger (Martin Sheen), a New Orleans prosecutor, into imagining they’re fellow romantics that Roger helps him establish a new identity as an assistant prosecutor. Frank’s television textbook for courtroom decorum is ‘Perry Mason.’ ” – Stephen Holden, NY Times

“In its last third, the movie loses some of its momentum, as Spielberg shifts back and forth from Frank to Carl and explores the nature of their peculiar long-distance relationship. That’s probably inevitable because Catch Me if You Can is as much about the participants as it is about the chase. Still, even when it all gets a bit too languorous and lengthy for what is essentially a romp, it’s impossible to lose interest.” – Mick LaSalle, San Fransisco Chronicle