By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan
Living Life BackwardsAlthough epic in scale (comparisons have been made to "Forrest Gump," which shares a screenwriter), "Curious Case" is a very intimate film of a character who experiences both grief and liberation from accepting (at a very "young" age) the impermanence of life.
A Story Touched By Birth And DeathJust as Fitzgerald was inspired to write the original story after his daughter was born, screenwriter Eric Roth lost both parents while he was working on his adaptation, and director David Fincher lost his father about the time the production was green-lit by the studio. The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina also played into the story, which was set in New Orleans.
The FoundlingQueenie (Taraji P. Henson), who works at a nursing home, stumbles upon the abandoned baby whom a doctor finds suffers from the maladies of old age: arthritis, cataracts, deafness and other infirmities. But the foundling who seemed destined to die instead lives and gets stronger.
At PlayPart of the difficulty in bringing the long-in-development story to the screen was technical -- having the main character convincingly grow from ancient to youthful. Brad Pitt said he was only interested if he could do it all himself rather than have ancient actors play Benjamin during the film's early scenes.
Creating A "Digital Puppet"Casts of Pitt made up at different ages were scanned into a computer, along with images of the actor mapping countless facial expressions. After a diminutive older actor was filmed on set, Pitt then acted out the scene later -- a sort of "digital puppet." An aged version of the actor's corresponding facial expressions would then be animated and placed onto the body of the actor on film.
BuffThe finished product: Brad Pitt in his 70s. "What was important to us in this process was that the emotions that Brad carries as an actor come through Benjamin," said Ed Ulbrich of Digital Domain.
To SeaBenjamin meets a little girl, Daisy, with whom he develops a warm friendship. But he eventually sails away from New Orleans, promising to write her wherever his travels take him (even into the thick of a run-in with a German submarine during WWII). His postcards and journals form the backbone of the film.
DaisyCate Blanchett's forward progression of age was handled more traditionally with makeup and skin appliances. The younger appearances of Daisy, who captures the "elderly" Benjamin's heart, were played by Elle Fanning (top left) and Madisen Beaty (middle left).
Longing And Missed OpportunitiesDespite his curious aging process, Benjamin seems destined to be with Daisy, who has grown up to become a ballet dancer. She tells him she likes to believe in fate, but their tenuous courtship is saddled with Benjamin's fears about mortality and the ruthlessness of time. "You only get so many chances to be with someone," he says. "I let her go ... and I missed it."
Two Ships In The NightAlthough Benjamin's relationship to Daisy is lopsided, he does cross the paths of other women, including Tilda Swinton, an "older" woman staying at the same hotel in Murmansk, Russia with whom he has a brief but passionate affair. "We are all just crossing in the night. Sometimes we intersect," she says.
Together At LastOnce Benjamin and Daisy are reunited, the joyous time they share, though passionate, is fleeting, as Benjamin recognizes that the responsibilities of fatherhood will fall onto Daisy as he gets younger and younger. He leaves ... only to reenter Daisy's life later, even younger.
A Kind Of Old AgeAs Benjamin gets "younger," he is suspected of suffering from dementia:
BENJAMIN: "I get the feeling there's a lot of things I can't remember ..."
DAISY: "What do you mean?"
BENJAMIN: "It's like there's this whole life I had and I can't remember what it was ..."