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Hereafter All These Years

Peter Morgan discusses the creation of his provocative new film starring Matt Damon.

By New York City
Matt Damon in Hereafter
(© Ken Regan/Warner Brothers)
Matt Damon in Hereafter
(© Ken Regan/Warner Brothers)
Peter Morgan has practically cornered the market on writing plays and films about real-life people, such as Frost/Nixon, The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, and HBO's The Special Relationship (not to mention that his next project is a biopic of British singer Freddie Mercury). But his newest film, Hereafter, which recently played the New York Film Festival before going into commercial release, marks a very different path for Morgan.

The film, directed by Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood, is comprised of three intertwined -- and decidedly fictional -- stories about the need to know what if anything happens when we die, focusing on a reluctant Boston psychic (Matt Damon); a Parisian TV reporter (Cecile de Rance) who almost dies in a tsumani; and a young boy (Frankie McLaren) who escapes from the London subway bombings, perhaps with the help of his dead twin brother.

Morgan's initial inspiration for the film came from an unusual source. "I had read a book called Before I Say Goodbye about a woman in her mid-30s who lost her younger sister to cancer, but didn't want to give up any idea that she might be able to connect to her dead sister," he says. "I don't have any religious beliefs of an afterlife, but I was so moved by this idea that I thought I'd like to do something like this."

He then wrote the script, but put it away in a drawer. Eventually, Morgan handed it over to his agents, who contacted the noted film producer Kathy Kennedy. She, in turn, gave it to her good friend, Steven Spielberg. "Then Steven Spielberg asked me to fly out, and for an English screenwriter this is a right of passage," recalls Morgan. "And so I met him and he said 'Would you mind if I gave this to my friend Clint Eastwood?'"

How did Morgan go about researching after-life experiences for the film? "I kept meaning to get round to that," he remarks. "I remember when I wrote The Queen, as soon as you typed in the words "Princess Diana, death, and conspiracy" into the internet it was a very short step to UFOs and dolphins and stuff. And what I found out there is quite frightening," he says. "And if you type some of these [after-life] questions into the internet and think "Let's see what's been done on this," you're very quickly in a community of strange people. And then I thought, I don't want this film to become a film in which we think we have the answer and we've got a scoop here, and guess what, this happens!"

Indeed, Morgan is very clear that he doesn't pretend to have any answers. "All of us have to confront this issue of what happens and what will happen if I die, he says. "The film is really a story of inquiry and curiosity and a feeling of incompleteness and of living with mystery. And that's something that unites every one of us. None of us knows where we're going and we're going toward it alone. And I thought it's quite interesting just to provoke those questions but without offering any answers, because I think it's quite private."


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