DreamWorks cohead of movie production Walter Parkes was in the midst of reading Self’s script when Hanks swiped it from him, read it himself, and declared: I must make this. And lo, it came to be. ”Perdition,” based on Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner’s pulpy yet thematically rich 1998 graphic novel, is the Depression-era tale of Michael Sullivan (Hanks), husband, father, and Mob hitman (in the employ of father figure Newman), who unravels after his wife (Leigh) is killed. During the quest for vengeance that follows, Sullivan’s son (14-year-old newcomer Hoechlin) becomes exposed to the dark truth about his father.
Self (”Thirteen Days”) was turned on to the DC Comics book by friend and DreamWorks cofounder Steven Spielberg, who knew that Self was eager to write a Mob flick. Yet ”Perdition” had its challenges. ”Usually when you’re adapting a book, you have the problem of reducing,” says Self. ”Here it was the problem of expanding. There wasn’t enough story – though there were plenty of great visuals.” DreamWorks and Hanks brought aboard Mendes, who was searching for something completely different to follow up his Oscar-winning directorial debut, ”American Beauty.” ”I wanted to deal in period,” says Mendes. ”I wanted to deal with something more epic, that told its story more in pictures than in words.” Working again with acclaimed cinematographer Conrad Hall (also an Oscar winner for ”Beauty”), Mendes drew from such classics as ”Giant” and ”Once Upon a Time in America” for visual inspiration, and they shot the picture in and around Chicago during winter 2000-01. DreamWorks had been eyeing a December 2001 release, but decided against it after Mendes asked for more time to finish editing and scoring.