If you think you know everything about the surprising twists and turns of World War II, THE LAST VERMEER will reveal a mind-blowing story that has long been hidden in the margins of history. Guy Pearce, Claes Bang, Vicky Krieps, and Roland Møller star in the crime drama about a soldier (Bang) who investigates a renowned Dutch artist, Han van Meegeren (Pearce), who is accused of conspiring with the Nazis.
Directed by first-timer Dan Friedkin, THE LAST VERMEER is both a tense thriller and a provocative exploration of ideas about authenticity and mythmaking. While the movie is Friedkin’s first outing as a director, he comes from a producing background (ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD, THE MULE) and is an accomplished pilot who flew on screen in Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK. As a new director, he has the support of none other than Ridley Scott (GLADIATOR, BLADE RUNNER).
We spoke to Dan Friedkin in advance of the November 20 opening of THE LAST VERMEER. He explained that he came to directing through his film producing efforts. "I was lucky enough to work on a film with Ridley Scott,” Friedkin said, referencing ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD. “And so I was just in a real fortunate position because he knew I wanted to direct. He kind of took me under his arm and mentored me and really helped me through the process of understanding what's involved in it.”
Friedkin was involved in developing the script, which is credited to James McGee, Mark Fergus, Hawk Otsby, who based their work on the book “The Man Who Made Vermeers,” by Jonathan Lopez. "I'd worked on a previous script before [theirs],” he said, “so I was really happy when I read this script. I read it at one in the morning and couldn't sleep for the rest of the night because I really loved it. Of course, it developed from there and we did a lot of work on it afterward as most directors and cast members do with a script."
Friedkin previously worked with star Claes Bang on the excellent movie THE SQUARE, which the director produced. Guy Pearce (MEMENTO, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL) and Vicky Krieps (PHANTOM THREAD) round out the core cast.
“I felt really lucky to get them involved,” Friedkin enthused, further explaining that the actors were central to fleshing out the script. “They really helped develop their characters because they're true professionals. I think we got a lot more out of each scene as a product of their active participation and everything we did on the script. We worked on it a lot before we started shooting — [we] spent a lot of time together, a lot of weeks together really refining the script."
Questions about the origins and originality of art, and why particular pieces might be valuable, are a big part of THE LAST VERMEER. “Art is obviously in the eye of the beholder. It's on a continuum,” Friedkin notes. “Every type of art has some borrowed or, if you want, copied element to it. Like everything in life, really. It starts with something. There's some framework for — a reference or something — that develops originality. One of the central themes of this film is "what makes one piece of art more valuable than another," and how do you define it. Why is one more expensive than another? Maybe the process is very similar, but a lot of it has to do with the power of myth, and people believing what they want to believe and placing value on something. Once that catches fire, then it's automatically valuable."
Appropriately, some of those ideas flow into Friedkin’s vision of film directing, as influenced by Ridley Scott. “Like anything, a lot of it is just emulating what you've seen and come up with your own form of originality. It really helped propel my ability to direct a film like this."
THE LAST VERMEER opens on November 20!
All images courtesy of Sony Pictures.