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English professor's manuscript basis for motion picture

By Laura Fenton

CarJacked

Michael Compton couldn’t shake the image of a sinking car with a woman trapped in the trunk.

He read a 2003 Commercial Appeal story about the local court case in which Melissa Solaas was locked in the trunk of her vehicle by a carjacker who allegedly had kidnapped and robbed her in May 2001. The carjacker then pushed the vehicle into a lake. Both survived.

After contemplating the incident, Compton (BA ’93, MFA ’97, MA ’95), a U of M assistant professor of English, and his wife Sherry Compton turned the idea into a manuscript. The subsequent movie Carjacked will be in limited release in theatres worldwide in November.

“It became the (seed) for the script,” he said.

After one month of writing, the Comptons sold exclusive rights of the script to a producer, who in turn pitched it to various production companies.

The setting for the film is in the car of a single mother named Lorraine. She and her 5-year-old son are carjacked by a bank robber and must take the gunman to meet his cohorts to divvy up the money. Lorraine is locked in the trunk at one point during the movie, but the car is not pushed into the water like the article Compton once read.

Director John Bonito led the project, which stars Maria Bello, Stephen Dorff and Joanna Cassidy. Filmed in Baton Rogue, La., Bonito and hundreds of crewmembers captured every scene of the movie in five weeks.

Director John Bonito (left) with U of M English professor Michael Compton on the set of Carjacked. Compton wrote the script for the movie, which will be released this November.
Director John Bonito (left) with U of M English professor Michael Compton on the set of Carjacked. Compton wrote the script for the movie, which will be released this November.

The Comptons visited the set during production and were amazed by the number of people involved in the film and by the car-crash stunts.

The first time the stunt driver crashed the car into one of the actors, the driver slammed on the brakes before hitting the person. Relieved no one was hurt, Compton was shocked when the driver went back to do the stunt again — it was filmed a total of six times.

“They really had a lot of faith in their stunt driver,” Compton said.

After filming and post-production editing, Compton saw the official trailer. It had finally become a movie.

“It’s great to actually see what you wrote,” he said.

The Comptons met 23 years ago in a film and video production class taught by Steven Ross, a U of M professor in the College of Communication and Fine Arts.

“It was clear that they were both talented and very hardworking,” said Ross, who has produced/directed seven films.

He kept in touch with Michael and Sherry and asked them to participate in several writing projects.

“I think the world of both of them,” he said.

This isn’t the apex of the film career of the Compton duo.

“You have to keep going,” Compton said. “You have to be like a shark —always moving.”

Their next project is Rudy Tooty. The film will be produced and directed by the Comptons so they will have control over the interpretations of the script and other filming decisions.

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