Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood spin a twist on classic fairytales in their new film "The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman," a modern day love story that swaps castles in the sky for the underbelly of Romania's capital, Bucharest.
The film, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival this week, is a dark story of love unfolding between two unlikely people against the backdrop of a violent and crime-filled eastern European city.
Charlie (LaBeouf), an American, finds himself on a journey of self-discovery that takes him to Bucharest, where he meets the mysterious and captivating Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), and puts his life on the line for love.
"Love is always the easiest answer, but somehow it's the hardest place to get for some people. I love the contrast of this world, which is filled with violence and hatred and crime, and above all there's love," Wood said.
Director Fredrick Bond picked Bucharest because he was looking for a place that has not been captured in film prominently, and would compliment the complex nature of Charlie and Gabi's story.
"Charlie has to go through quite a tough journey and a very romantic journey, so I needed a city that had an edge," he said.
Wood, 25, said the connection that Charlie and Gabi feel the moment they meet resonated with her because that is what she felt for her husband, actor Jamie Bell, when they first met at Sundance and started dating in 2005.
"It's almost this karmic connection, this kindred spirit, this soulmate of some sort, where he looks at her and he immediately falls in love. He's never said a word to her - that really happens. That's how I met my husband," Wood said.
"We fell in love immediately, because it was almost meant to be, it was fate."
FINDING TRUTH IN LOVE
"Charlie Countryman" is the feature film debut from Swedish director Bond, an award-winning creator of commercials. Bond said he was eager to work with LaBeouf and Wood, calling them the "most talented young actors of their generation."
"They have such a sense of truthfulness," Bond said. "It's a wild, crazy journey, I needed actors who could ground their performances ... Evan and Shia are about truth."
LaBeouf, a former child star who became a box office staple as the lead in the "Transformers" franchise, has been taking on grittier roles more recently, such as a bootlegger in gangster drama "Lawless."
The 26-year-old actor said he had been drawn to the role of Charlie when he read the script three years ago.
"It spoke honestly to me, it was really original. It had a Zsa Zsa Gabor narrative and it just read like 'The Graduate' with a bloody nose," he said.
Wood, who shot to fame as the troubled young lead of teen drama "Thirteen" in 2003, said she had wanted to work with LaBeouf for a long time.
For the role of Gabi, a complex Romanian cellist who has a penchant for bad boys, Wood had to perfect a Romanian accent without the help of a dialect coach, turning to her surroundings in Bucharest to draw inspirations.
"It's very stressful because you want to do it justice, and I wanted it to be spot-on because a lot of times, it can be very distracting. You can overdo the accent," the actress said.
The film co-stars Mads Mikkelsen and Til Schweiger as Romanian mobsters, with British actors Rupert Grint, best known as Ron Weasley in the "Harry Potter" movies, and James Buckley as Charlie's errant friends.
Bond said the biggest filming challenges were the action-packed fight scenes, especially because LaBeouf did his own stunts.
"Shia wants to do everything for real, so he takes hits for real ... which is fantastic, because it gives a reality to it, but you also have only so many takes, you have to be really well prepared to do it," Bond said.
"Charlie Countryman" may defy the archetype of a traditional love story with its fierce characters in a harsh yet beautiful setting, but LaBeouf and Wood said they hoped audiences would take away messages of honesty in love from the film.