“Kidnapping Freddy Heineken” was filmed in Brussels, Antwerp, Amsterdam and New Orleans where the European leg of the production presented the producers with unusual challenges in replicating the time and place of the most notorious crime that happened in 1983 when brewery tycoon Freddy Heineken was abducted along with his chauffeur.
Written by William Brookfield and directed by Daniel Alfredson from the bestselling book (of true accounts) by crime scribe and Emmy Award-winning Peter R. De Vries, the movie pans back at the time when four friends planned, abducted and released Heineken after being paid a ransom that was considered to be the largest amount paid at such time.
Brookfield finds during the writing process that the kidnappers fall on the gray area in between, since all of them are normal thriving citizens at that time. “They had legitimate construction business, but they weren’t smart and they didn’t put reserves aside, and there was recession. They decided, “Let’s do a crime, but let’s do a really big crime. They weren’t serious mafia gangsters,” explains Brookfield.
The presence of a conscience allowed for Brookfield to entertain the idea of writing the screenplay around the experience of the kidnappers. “They never wanted to hurt anybody. That’s the interesting part about it. If they had been ruthless, they would have gotten away with it, and would have gotten the money, and would have never been caught. They were more like kids. They weren’t what they were pretending to be, and the police smelled it. They were never physically very hard with them. They nearly cracked up because of the tension.”
After casting Hopkins, the rest of the ensemble fell in line. “I think when the younger actors, like Sam Worthington, Jim Sturgess, Ryan Kwanten and Mark Van Eeuwen heard that Anthony Hopkins would be playing Heineken and that they would play opposite him in the holding cell scenes, how could they not want to do that?” producer Cairo says. “It had huge appeal to the younger actors, and it was very thrilling to see the great relationships that they all developed on set. Anthony Hopkins was so fabulous with the younger guys, and also had great respect for them and great encouragement for them.”
Producing partner Michael Simpsons was in awe of the true crime story by De Vries, “I was so fascinated listening to everything I heard. What I quickly understood in talking with Peter is that the kidnappers were very full-blooded, real people. Very complex characters. They were childhood friends, which I found fascinating.”
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