Phillip Rhys: Grounding of Flights on 9/11 Inspired ‘The Space Between’

Phillip Rhys

Phillip Rhys reports that when he first read the script for “The Space Between” — which is being shown in a special Sept. 11 presentation on USA cable — he had no idea what the movie was about.  “The opening scene has Melissa Leo working in the airport, boarding the plane, then you hear the sound of Islamic prayers, and you see a man and boy praying.  You think, ‘Oh, I know what is going to happen — when in fact, that doesn’t happen at all.”

 “The script was fabulously written by Travis Fine.  He was a successful actor — he was in ‘Girl, Interrrupted,’ ‘The Thin Red Line,’ a host of movies.  Then he left the business and became a commercial airline pilot.  He wasn’t flying the day of 9/11, but he was speaking to his captain about what that day was like, and he said, ‘My God, Travis.  When you’re told that any aircraft flying will be shot down, you can’t believe it.’  Immediately from that, he had a line in his head: ‘Are we in L.A. yet?’  And from that, he wrote the movie.”

Rhys plays the father of the boy who winds up in the care of Leo’s flight attendant character, as they’re stranded in a strange city due to the grounding of all flights.  For the British-born actor, 2011 will go down as a watershed year, professionally, as he also has a role in Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” due for Christmas time release — and is in “Wilde Salome,” a film written and directed by, and starring Al Pacino. 

 “He kind of did something like this with ‘Looking for Richard,’ an examination of the piece,” reports Rhys of Pacino’s experimental documentary, in which Jessica Chastain plays the title character.  “He did ‘Salome’ a number of years ago and recorded the peformances.  Then we were out in the Mojave desert and staged the scenes.  Salome danced, John the Baptist’s head was chopped off.  You know the play was banned in its day.  Oscar Wilde had to write it in French, the Brits were so against all of the stuff in it.  Even for today’s audiecne, it challenges people’s preconceived ideas about sexuality and desires.  It makes for great drama.”