Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Return to Paradise is about the transformation of a lost soul, a man who rescues himself while desperately trying to save another. College grads Sheriff (Vince Vaughn), Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix) and Tony (David Conrad) meet by chance and become close friends while touring Asia on vacation. They close out a month-long trip to Penang, Malaysia with a reckless spree that two years later would test the bounds of their friendship and tragically alter their lives: Sheriff and Tony would be pressed to return to paradise to save an imprisoned Lewis' life -- a decision that would imperil their own lives.

At the heart of director Joseph Ruben's crisis of conscience thriller, is Lewis, the gentle idealist who stayed in Malaysia to study endangered orangutans. Tony is a reflective, quiet structural engineer, determined to fill New York City's skyline with even more skyscrapers. Sheriff is a cynical anti-hero, brandishing a cool, comedic indifference and who forfeited ambition long ago.
It is Lewis' committed attorney Beth Eastern (Anne Heche), who disrupts Sheriff and Tony's lives with the dire proposition, complicated by the grave interference of an ambitious reporter, M.J. Major (Jada Pinkett Smith).
Will they go back and share responsibility for the drug charge all three committed and that left only Lewis with prison and a death sentence? It is this question that forces Sheriff and Tony to come to grips with their paradise lost.
Loosely based on the 1990 French film Force Majeure, this poignant and superbly crafted drama is a Propaganda Films production in association with Tetragram. Distributed by PolyGram Films, Return to Paradise is produced by Alain Bernheim and Steve Golin and executive produced by David Arnold and Ezra Swerdlow. Bruce Robinson's original script was enhanced by screenwriter Wesley Strick. Reynaldo Villalobos is the director of photography. Bill Groom is the production designer. Juliet Polcsa is the costume designer. Mark Mancina composed the original score. Andrew Mondshein and Craig McKay, A.C.E. edited the film.
"This story could easily have been about you or me. It could happen to anyone," says Ruben. "This film is about the choices we make, about two friends facing a life and death decision... choices that call for major sacrifices. But it really boils down to one essential question: would you put your life at risk for someone you knew for five weeks?"
While Lewis' life literally hangs in the balance, it is Sheriff who becomes the focal point of the film. Casting Vaughn in the role of such a layered, complex individual was a no-brainer, insist Ruben and Golin. "When I saw Swingers, I knew he had the chops to play Sheriff," Golin recalls. "He brings humanity and a sense of humor to the role that ultimately defines Sheriff."
Exploring the depths of the trepidation and fear this moral dilemma brings is exactly what attracted Ruben and Strick to this dramatically updated and altered retelling in the first place. After all, such territory is quite familiar to both: Ruben directed Sleeping With the Enemy and The Good Son, Strick wrote Cape Fear. The two previously worked together on True Believer.
It was Ruben who brought on Strick after reading Robinson's original script. Robinson wrote The Killing Fields, based on a true story. "With this, I wanted to do something that was loosely based on reality," says Ruben. "It is a fictionalized account based on `What If.' The reality is, `What If' is not that far from the truth. Who doesn't remember the American flogged in Singapore for graffiti? I recall one case of an Australian hanged in Malaysia for drug dealing -- his mother tried to save him by talking to the press and it backfired. It infuriated the government and they killed him. It shows how easily westerners can run afoul of the law."
Putting a spotlight on the media element is where Strick came in, who meticulously researched the back story elements. Ruben attributes the M.J. Major character to Strick who used her primarily as a device to heighten the tension for Heche's Beth -- M.J. being another debilitating obstacle thrown in her path. While Beth pressures Lewis' friends for a quick response to her unappealing offer, Major pressures Beth for Lewis' story, forcing Beth into a hopeless juggling act with her client's life.
But M.J. is not Beth's only distraction. There is more to Beth's argument with Sheriff than just helping her client's cause. His judgment becomes clouded by his feelings for her.
"Anytime two people come together and are under a lot of duress, they will find each other's raw side," contemplates Heche. "I think there is something very appealing about that." She hopes the on-screen heat between Beth and Vaughn's Sheriff "will ignite a fire in everybody watching."
For Conrad, the challenge of playing Tony, went beyond the page. "There are scripts where everything is spelled out. It doesn't matter how you deliver the line, the plot comes across," he states. "There is an essential part of this story in the beginning
of the movie that is the relationship between three friends and their emotions that can't be written in a script. It was mine, Vince and Joaquin's challenge to bring that to life. The differences within the relationships have to come through and the movie is really special in that way."
Picking the right Lewis was critical to the overall texture and believability of the film. "I recall that our executive producer Ezra Swerdlow came up with the idea of Joaquin Phoenix," says Golin. "Everyone in the room liked the idea. Joaquin has that vulnerability Lewis needs... that same vulnerability he showed in To Die For and Inventing The Abbotts. We needed a character the audience would root for... one who would eventually break their heart." Obviously, they made the right choice.


"The situation here is so highly charged that the eroticism is inevitable... Vaughn is sensational, Brando with a sense of humor... this is a leading man." "Sexy" --Lisa Henricksson, GQ

(four stars -- highest rating) Vince and Joaquin are remarkable, and Anne Heche gives her best performance yet... Intense." --Suzan Colon, Jane Magazine
"Incredibly powerful... Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche are particularly good." --Dennis Dermody, Paper
"Provocative, powerful and emotional -- a gripping drama torn from the headlines. Anne Heche delivers an Oscar-caliber performance. Joaquin Phoenix and Vince Vaughn are outstanding." --Alan Silverman, Hollywood Bytes
"Haunting! A deeply moving story of love and courage propelled by powerful performances from Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn." "This one packs a wallop! A wrenching document of personal courage propelled by stand-out performances from Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn." --Jeanne Wolf/Jeanne Wolf's Hollywood
"A passionate drama with a moral conscience that is superbly acted and tightly written. Return to Paradise will lock you in its grip and hold you there." --Rex Reed, New York Observer


Imagine twenty-three hours a day in a dark, damp, concrete room. You have to learn to sleep with insects and rats, if you expect to sleep at all. The food? It's not fit for animals, let alone people. No medical care, no letters from home, nothing. You don't even speak the language.

"Despite the fact that Lewis had never committed another crime in his life, the Malaysian government has refused to grant any clemency. Although Lewis maintains the drugs were for personal use, the Malaysian judicial system has branded him a scapegoat, an example to show the world that Malaysia will not tolerate "criminal" Westerners."

Malaysian sentences are outrageously brutal and unnecessary.

back to VINCE
stop by for an interview with VINCE