'The Omen' of the Apocalypse
The stars of this remake, which opened (not coincidentally) on 6/6/06, discuss whether evil comes from within.
BY: Jenny Halper
“The devil is not a little cartoon,” Mia Farrow says, pulling a copy of The New York Times out of her handbag and gesturing toward its headlines. “It’s us. We only need to look as far as the Darfur region of the Sudan to see our capacity for terrible destruction.”
But the actress--who visited Darfur two years ago and is preparing for another trip--isn’t meeting with the press to discuss politics or overseas work with the needy. In a posh Manhattan hotel that’s worlds from genocide-torn Sudan, the star of “Rosemary’s Baby” has joined director John Moore and co-stars Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles to talk about their remake of “The Omen.”
Originally titled “The Omen 666,” the film is set for release on June 6--or, as the movie's advertisements endlessly remind us, 6/6/06 (666... get it?), the numbers that are believed to brand the Antichrist.
In the 1976 original, penned by David Seltzer and directed by Richard Donner, a middle-aged couple (Gregory Peck and Lee Remick) slowly comes to realize that their young son Damien is the embodiment of evil. Seltzer returns as writer this time around, but the couple, Robert and Katherine Thorn (Schreiber and Stiles) are much younger and more susceptible to external evil and the power of a lie.
The Thorns' baby dies, but before Katherine finds out, Robert accepts Damien from a priest, leaving his wife in the dark and paving the way for a barrage of terrifying signs, including their nanny's suicide (the mysterious Mrs. Baylock takes the job, played in the original by Billie Whitelaw and much more angelically this time by Farrow). Then there's a telltale "666" tattoo, which brands Damien as the Antichrist, a devil with the face of an angel. He will, almost certainly, bring about the end of the world.
Moore’s contemporary version opens with a fresh and terrifying news montage--rape and slaughter run rampant in Darfur, the World Trade Center is demolished by a terrorist-steered airplane--suggesting that humans, not evil spirits, will bring about Armageddon. Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) arrives on the scene quickly, first to the joy and then to the distress of Robert and Katharine, well-meaning parents with laissez-faire attitudes toward faith.
“It’s so good a text that I would have been happy to remake it at any time, but the sweetener on the deal is the fact that we’re in trouble in the world right now,” Moore says.
A longtime fan of the original, the heavy-set, charmingly Irish filmmaker decided to present the story with a contemporary twist that would appeal to today's audiences, whom he believes are disillusioned with politics and turning to religion.
“We are living in chaotic times,” says Stiles, who was superstitious enough to suffer nightmares on the “Omen” set (and literally knocks on wood while we are talking). “People look for answers--faith or science or whatever it is to help explain these things we can’t control.”
But is it war that makes Moore’s version distinctly 2006? Or maybe it's America’s renewed religious faith in the face of chaos? Farrow recalls the tremendous political discontent among Americans when the original “Omen” was released 30 years ago.
According to Moore, who was raised in Ireland but has spent a good portion of his adult life making movies in America, the divisions and problems in our current cultural and political climate have been exacerbated by religion, a situation he sought to reflect in some way on screen.
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