A tight-knit team of rising FBI investigators – Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Jess (Julia Roberts), along with their District Attorney supervisor Claire (Nicole Kidman) – is suddenly torn apart when they discover that Jess’s teenage daughter has been brutally and inexplicably murdered.
Now, thirteen years later, after obsessively searching every day for the elusive killer, Ray finally uncovers a new lead that he’s certain can permanently resolve the case, nail the vicious murderer, and bring long-desired closure to his team. No one is prepared, however, for the shocking, unspeakable secret that will reveal the enduring, destructive effects of personal vengeance on the human soul.
IN THE BEGINNING
Writer/director Billy Ray and producer Mark Johnson had known each other and each other’s work for decades, but had never worked together. When they saw the Argentine thriller El Secreto de Sus Ojos, neither of them could stop talking about it.
“El Secreto de Sus Ojos is spectacular,” says Billy, “I was completely floored by it, had a reverence for it that bordered on awe. Then Mark asked me if I wanted to adapt it. At first I was hesitant because you don’t want to take on anything that is so great that you feel dwarfed by it before you even start. But I did feel there was an American version of the story worth retelling and exploring.”
Every time the pair got frustrated tackling the weighty subject matter, they had an unabashed cheerleader in Juan Campanella, who directed the Argentine film. “Here was a man who wanted to solve a cold case but the reason why he wanted to solve it was not only to find the culprit but to find the root of his own loneliness,” Campanella says. “That to me was very original. Contrary to what people might think, I really like it when somebody takes a piece of work and turns it into something different.”
Billy says an impetus for the American version lay in the events of 9/11. “The horror of that event was so big and so indelible for anybody who was in America at that time. But it created a story opportunity for our movie that no other context could have.”
“Billy found a great twist on the story,” Campanella says. “He respected a lot of the emotion of the original but found a very American way of telling it.”
Billy admits that he initially thought he was writing a movie about loss. “But it turns out that I was writing a movie about obsession. Stories do that sometimes, they tell you what they are about.