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Santa Fe native produces star-studded thriller ‘Prisoners’

SANTA FE, N.M. — Film earned great praise at Toronto Film Festival

From left, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard and Hugh Jackman in Alcon Entertainment's dramatic thriller "Prisoners." Courtesy Of Warner Bros. Pictures

From left, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard and Hugh Jackman in Alcon Entertainment’s dramatic thriller “Prisoners.”
Courtesy Of Warner Bros. Pictures

Kira Davis has an impressive list of credits when it comes to film.

She’s produced films like “My Dog Skip,” “The Affair of the Necklace,” “Chasing Liberty” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”

But it’s the Santa Fe native’s latest film that has the film industry buzzing. Davis is the producer behind the thriller “Prisoners,” which is gaining some Oscar talk.

DAVIS: Santa Fe Native

DAVIS: Santa Fe Native

The film opened at the Toronto Film Festival a few weeks ago to some great praise. It also marks the first time Davis and her company, 8:38 Productions, are at the helm of a film. It opens nationwide today.

“It’s been a very intense time,” she said during an interview from her California home. “We couldn’t have asked for anything more with this film. It all seemed to fall into place.”

While Davis says filming was easy, the production has been in the works since 2009.

Like most films, “Prisoners” also had some setbacks due to scheduling conflicts with actors. But it wasn’t until Davis and director Denis Villenueve flew to New York and talked with Hugh Jackman about joining the film that it came together.

“We flew out to New York to meet with Hugh,” she said. “This was all before he did ‘Les Miz.’ Once he signed on, it was a go.”

The film stars Oscar-nominated actors Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard and Melissa Leo.

Jackman plays a working-class father, Keller Dover, whose young daughter is kidnapped. With time running out and the prime suspect released from police custody, Dover decides to take the law into his own hands – with potentially disastrous consequences.

“I read the script, and it was well written,” Davis said. “It was a complete page turner for me, and I wanted it to be the first project that my production company would handle.”

Growing up in Santa Fe, Davis attended Cristo Rey and Wood Gormley elementary schools and graduated from Santa Fe Prep. But it wasn’t until she arrived at New Mexico State University that her passion for theater was magnified. In fact, she graduated magna cum laude from NMSU in 1994, where she studied directing and theater.

“While I was in college, I never thought that I would be interested in film,” she said. “After I graduated, I landed a job as a production assistant, and then I met Broderick (Johnson) and Andrew (Kosove) from Alcon Entertainment. They were the ones who offered me a job. It was supposed to be a short-term gig. It lasted 12 years, and then I left as the head of production and the marketing team for Alcon.”

Though Davis has been working around the world in the film industry, she still does find time to come back home to New Mexico. Her mother still lives in Santa Fe, and Davis got married in Santa Fe.

She also stays in contact with NMSU and will teach a master class in the theater department via Skype.

“This should be interesting, because I’ve never tried it before,” she said. “But I’m always reading about things back home and try to stay in as much contact.”

As for filming a project in New Mexico, Davis said she hopes a project comes along that she can bring to her home state.

In fact, her production company has a deal with Alcon Entertainment, which produced the Johnny Depp film “Transcendence” in and around Albuquerque this summer.

“I got to stop by the set and see how things are going,” she said. “Unfortunately, my next project will have me overseas. But it’s always on my mind to come back to New Mexico to film.”

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