The 2004 film “Collateral” was a film that had to be fought for to be made. Australian writer Stuart Beattie, at the age of 17, took a cab home from Sydney airport and it was there that he had the idea of a homicidal maniac sitting in the back of a cab with the driver nonchalantly conversing with him, trusting his passenger implicitly. Beattie drafted his idea into a two-page treatment entitled “The Last Domino” with him later writing the screenplay. The original story was very different from the final story, centering around an African-American female cop who witnesses a hit, and the romance between the cab driver and his then librarian girlfriend. Obviously the film ended up very differently from the original treatment. It was due to chance and an old acquaintance that this story finally got rolling.
Beattie was waiting tables when he ran into friend Julie Richardson. Richardson was someone Beattie had met on a UCLA Screenwriting Extension course. Richardson by that point had become a producer and was searching for projects for Edge City. Edge City is the production company of Frank Darabont, Rob Fried and Chuck Russell that was created to make low-budget genre movies for HBO. Beattie later pitched her his idea of “The Last Domino” who then pitched the idea to Frank Darabont. Darabont brought the team in for a meeting, including Beattie, and set up the project under Edge City. Sadly, after two drafts, HBO passed on the project but at a general meeting at DreamWorks, with executive Marc Haimes, Beattie mentioned the script. Marc Haimes immediately contacted Richardson, read the script overnight, and DreamWorks put in an offer the following day but it didn’t start right away.
“Collateral” sat on DreamWorks’ development books for three years with Mimi Leder initially attached to direct and then Janusz Kamiński took over. It wasn’t until actor Russell Crowe became interested in playing the lead character Vincent (Played by Tom Cruise) that the project started generating any heat. Crowe brought Michael Mann on board, but the constant delays meant that Crowe had to leave the project. Mann then immediately went to Tom Cruise with the idea of him playing the hitman and Adam Sandler as the cabbie. However, Beattie wanted the studio to cast Robert De Niro as Max, De Niro once again playing a taxi driver, though the exact opposite of Travis Bickle, the character he played in 1976’s “Taxi Driver”. The studio refused, insisting they wanted a younger actor in the role which is what led to Jamie Foxx eventually being cast.
It took years but eventually the film came out in 2004 and Foxx even went on to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards. It takes effort, but Beattie showed that enough of that effort can make anything possible.