The director of ''Double Jeopardy'' explains that the art of making a thriller is faking it

By Liane Bonin
Updated September 24, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
Paramount Pictures

Double Jeopardy

  • Movie

In ”Double Jeopardy,” a gun-toting Ashley Judd finds herself with a ”get out of jail free” legal loophole that lets her gun down her hubby after she is falsely convicted of his faked murder. Sounds like a plot with more holes than one of Cher’s mesh tank tops? Director Bruce Beresford pleads guilty to bending the truth… a lot. ”It’s not meant to be ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night,”’ shrugs the ”Driving Miss Daisy” helmer. ”It’s a thriller, and usually you’ll find there’s a bit of cheating in a thriller to create the thrills.”

Double jeopardy has been in the American law books for over 200 years, but the theory that a false conviction can pay off in a jail-free bloodbath would get laughed out of a real courtroom. ”The second crime isn’t actually the same as the first, is it?” Beresford points out. And a wily prosecutor could easily bypass the double jeopardy exemption by accusing the killer of violating the victim’s civil rights, a crime which can carry a life sentence. In other words, if you fight the law, the law will probably win.

But the legal loophole in the movie isn’t the only trick that Beresford will admit to. A scene in which Judd shoots her way out of a sealed coffin almost didn’t make the cut. ”I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but at one point I said, ‘I think the coffin thing is too implausible,”’ he says. ”So I thought we’d have her going into a crematorium instead, but then I visited one and saw all these people being burned and said, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do this.’ And I realized there had been a crematorium scene in a James Bond film. Talk about implausible! So I went back to the coffin.” In the process, Beresford did as much research as he could to add some realism to the scene. Perhaps too much. ”I know a lot about coffins now,” he says. ”Did you know the satin linings are fireproofed?”

Beresford also lobbied to remove another improbable scene where Judd hops on a plane with a gun in her handbag. ”I said to Paramount at one point that we should put her on a bus, but they didn’t want to do that,” he groans. ”They said, ‘If she went by bus, Tommy Lee Jones would be in New Orleans before her.”’ Judd ended up back on the plane — and armed.

Still, the director isn’t ashamed of tweaking the truth to keep audiences guessing. ”Often the reason why a story is a thriller is because it’s well out of the run of the normal human experience and it isn’t logical,” he says. ”I want you to go back through all those Hitchcock films and kick up a huge fuss, because they make a lot less sense than this. I went to see ‘Vertigo’ last year, and I thought, this plot is insane!” Yeah, that Hitchcock, what a hack.

Episode Recaps

Double Jeopardy

  • Movie
  • R
  • 105 minutes