Right of Reply: Harold Becker, director of the film Malice, says 'Heard that one before' . . .

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The Independent Culture

Having topped the UK film charts for three weeks, Malice, a thriller starring Nicole Kidman, Alec Baldwin and Bill Pullman, is a commercial success. Yet the lodger-from-hell storyline was berated by reviewers for a plot that twisted and turned way beyond the bounds of credibility . . .


'I can understand that people thought there were too many twists in this thriller. The history of criticism of thrillers shows that they have always been taken to task in this way; it wasn't until the last period of his films that Hitchcock became accepted as a serious filmmaker.

'I think that sometimes people get annoyed when they can't get ahead of a story, yet the key to a thriller is never to allow that to happen. It's a guessing game and once the audience has got ahead of the story, the game is up. In fact, what intrigued me about making this film was its very bizarre plot. I've always loved this style of film noir movie, but I've never made one because it's been done so much already. Yet, when I came across this absolutely bizarre plot, I said, 'Well, even in 1993, this is worth making.' It's simply a new twist on the genre.

'Some of the best examples of film noir, like Out of the Past, have been extremely bizarre in their twists and turns. I think that's the fun of the piece. But the very thing that some people are critical of is that very element which gives these things their delicious quality. You think of Psycho, which starts off being a story about embezzlement and ends up being a bizarre story about a psychotic schizophrenic.

'The key is that just as the audience think they've got it, you've got to pull the rug out from under them. A thriller has continuously to seem to satisfy your expectations only to up-end them. The fun part of a thriller is that you begin to jump to conclusions to solve the plot - then, just as you think you have the solution, something else comes along. It's like a rollercoaster ride - you certainly don't want to reach a point halfway through where the track straightens out.

'The majority of people enjoy a delicious thriller, but then you have people who don't like going on that rollercoaster. And when they get off it they say, 'It had too many twists and turns on it' - but that's why they took the ride.'