When Sally (Toni Collette) returns home and looks into a reference book she looks at an article on Leopold and Loeb. This was a famous case from the 1920s where two fellow students from the University of Chicago decided to commit the 'perfect murder'. They were easily caught but were spared the death sentence after a highly-regarded defence from Clarence Darrow.
The film's name got re-titled from "Like Minds" in a number of territories to "Murderous Intent".
The story kernel for this psychological drama first occurred to writer-director Gregory Read as a documentary idea. Always fascinated by the notion of what makes people tick and how people construct their own reality, Read became intrigued by "what it takes to create someone like a Ted Bundy (the notorious American serial killer). What were they like before they became killers? What were they like at 12 or 13 years old - or 17 ?".
Writer-director Gregory Read began researching the subject as a documentary but switched when a film sales agent suggested a feature film might better suit the material. This is how, in the mid-1990s, Read found himself on an enticingly arcane reading trail from the medieval history that was to pervade his lead character's imaginations and the world of his film to-be, to contemporary psychology and forensics.
From the outset, writer-director Gregory Read was struck by the discovery that the majority of psychopaths are latent, never kill, and often appear deceptively 'normal'. Read explained: "There is a big misconception about psychopaths. The majority of psychopaths are not killers at all. They are out there functioning in society, maybe in a very dysfunctional way but still, they are not necessarily dangerous. I thought, what happens if we put two potentially 'normal' psychopaths together in a close environment. Could they trigger something in each other?'".
With the premise of what happens with two 'normal' psychopaths put together in the same close environment in mind, writer-director Gregory Read made his two leads, English public schoolboys, called Alex (Eddie Redmayne) and Nigel (Tom Sturridge), two adolescent psychopaths who are forced to share a boarding school bedroom, and who, despite initial displeasure in each other's company, come to unite in lethal ways. Read said: "To make the mix more potentially explosive I wrote them as very different types of psychopath, one obsessive, dark and morose (Nigel) and the other as intellectual, academic and more outgoing (Alex), making Alex the character which the audience could empathize with."
In the meeting of the two central male characters, Alex (Eddie Redmayne) and Nigel (Tom Sturridge), another element of writer-director Gregory Read's research gave the story a dynamic twist: Gestalt Psychology. Read said: "Gestalt means that the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts. It is usually used in psychology for the good, not the bad, when groups of people come together to create something bigger. But when psychopaths come together, they may create something unwanted. Two people who are pretty well incapable of doing it by themselves, between the two of them, one manipulating the other, suddenly find themselves able to kill."
Writer-director Gregory Read saw the dark synergy between Alex (Eddie Redmayne) and Nigel (Tom Sturridge) as a kind of metaphorical variation or twist on the Frankenstein story. Read said: "I've always been a great lover of the myths and old stories. When I started writing the script I could see that Alex and Nigel were building something bigger than themselves, a kind of Frankenstein. Alex triggers in Nigel this creature, this monster that was pretty well bent on destroying everything around him. Without Alex I don't believe Nigel would have ever gone on to hurt anybody."
Conscious that psychopaths tend to be defined by their obsessions, writer-director Gregory Read set out to find his leads a convincing set of them. The filmmaker explained: "That obsession could be something as strange as eating your victim, but for Nigel [Tom Sturridge] and Alex [Eddie Redmayne] I wanted to find something that spoke of a truth or a horror that existed once before. I looked to history." Read recognized what he was searching for was in the morbid mythology of the "Maraclea".
The "Maraclea" is a Knight's Templar fable from thirteenth century France which when seized on by the adolescent protagonists of this movie leads to murder and trophy-ism. Writer-director Gregory Read elaborates, as the fable goes, "Maraclea was betrothed to a Knight Templar, but died before they could wed. The Knight was so tormented by his loss he opened her grave and made love to her body. Exactly nine months later, he was summoned to the grave. On opening her coffin, he found her remains had been moved, her head had been placed below her pelvis, to sit on top of her thigh-bones which had been crossed. A voice told him to guard the skull as it would be the 'bringer of all power'. The knight took the skull and found, with the skull in a grail cup, he could defeat and slay all enemies. The idea was that the skull can possess a lot of power, but there has to be a certain process to obtain that skull. I felt this mythology would be of great interest to my psychopaths."
The schoolboy leads were always going to be a tough casting call. Alex, who presents the psychological puzzle the audience must unravel, especially so. For Alex, writer-director Gregory Read felt the story required charisma and unconventional good looks, not to mention the kind of intelligence that prompted Read to think of the character as "the master puppeteer". Read found these in the then young theatre thesp and then recent Cambridge graduate, actor Eddie Redmayne. Read said: "I saw him in a play called 'Hecuba' in Covent Garden and he was incredible...I wanted to find someone who had the eyes. The casting was all about eyes."
Writer-director Gregory Read said of the casting of the Nigel character: 'For Nigel I was looking for someone dark and quiet. I didn't want awkward and weird. I saw Tom (Sturridge) in 'Being Julia'  where he plays the model son. I thought, here is a boy who could quite easily play evil or dark, but why don't we just play him as a recluse and let the evil grow out of this?".
The eight-week shoot commenced on 1st December 2004 and finished in February 2005, and was divided into three sections across the two countries. It comprised of three weeks in Adelaide, South Australia, a week in New South Wales, Australia where the train scenes were shot, then four weeks in and around Leeds in the UK.
Nigel Bluck, the film's director of photography, said of this movie: "Like Minds was a very visual script so there have been a lot of opportunities to experiment with the photography, to make it expressive. We have created a look that has a basis in physiological thrillers, dark, but have gone for something less predictable by making the whole film lower contrast, based in naturalism but with a heightened elegance. We have set out to handle the horror matter-of-factly, where the story requires it but without sensationalizing it. We've taken a more classical approach, in part dictated by the fact that these boys live in a beautiful world. It's a wealthy environment, the English public school system, conservative, traditional: the architecture says it all. The boys have a certain pride in this. Tom [Tom Sturridge who plays Nigel Colbie]'s fantasy world is particularly fuelled by it. So we were trying to mirror this in the shooting, avoiding a more modern approach and going for the classical, the restrained and understated: the elegant."
Steven Jones-Evans, the film's production designer, said of this movie: ''Our approach to the story was to underplay the violence, never to represent it graphically. We wanted the film to have a sinister underbelly, a kind of creepiness that crawls through the cracks in the film, rather than being overt or playing it up. This is no slasher film, it's more psychological and we had to find a way to represent that intent. Part of the reasoning then that informed the design and photography was to imply rather than graphically represent violence or threat. Similarly, we chose motifs and designs to heighten the psychological menace in the film. We didn't want everything to be clear or revealed so we often used large amounts of black in the frame to conceal and to suggest threat or menace. Many of the sets had a tunnel-like structure to them, Nigel's secret room, under the morgue, the corridors in the police cell and school. These were used to heighten unease or to evoke feelings of entrapment. Susan's mutilated body was shot either in detail, as a hand tied to a shovel say, or through dirty glass, i.e. rarely explicitly...We also played with the idea of contrasts to parallel the extreme duplicity of the psychopath and the fact that they can be at once very normal and extremely violent, or quite charming one minute and cold and ruthless the next. The whole film you are led to believe that Alex is a normal middle class kid, when in fact he turns out to be a psychopath. We contrasted the old world of the boarding school with the clean, modern fluoro-lit world of the police cell and interview room. Similarly we contrasted the beauty and grace of the old architecture with the ugliness of the violence. We also wanted the film to have an almost crystalline beauty, a fragility to much of the imagery, to give a feeling that any moment things could crack or shatter."
Carlo Giacco, the film's composer, said of this movie: "The starting point in conversations with [writer-director] Greg [Read] was to write a score that was non-intrusive. From here it became focused on the psychological perspective of the character Alex, and a very internalized, reflective type of score evolved. Introspective. As the film progresses, the score descends into hell, but slowly...Another side of the music is the idea of the Gestalt Psychology of twinning. Alex [Eddie Redmayne] and Nigel [Tom Sturridge] believe they can communicate with each other without speaking and that's another layer of the music that I tried to bring through in the form of a choir which is a recurring motif throughout...Essentially it's a dark orchestral score that is, in some sections, also quite epic or large. I recorded with a 65-piece orchestra. Even so, there are no cues where the music heralds what's going to happen. It follows rather than flags what is occurring dramatically. The element of surprise works to great effect in the film throughout and it was important not to pre-empt that musically. There's something hypnotic about the film and in its way, the score is also quite mesmerizing... I'm very proud."
Actor Tom Sturridge, who plays Nigel Colbie, said of this film: "Nigel is a complex and interesting person. He's a boy with a troubled background from a broken family, who, therefore, is not completely socially adequate. To protect himself, he has created this part-fantasy, part-historically accurate world that revolves around the history of the Knights Templar. He goes to a new boarding school and meets a boy who is of 'like mind', but slightly more popular, slightly cooler (Alex [Eddie Redmayne]). He feels he could have something in common with, so he tries to seduce him into the world he has created."
The result of writer-director Gregory Read's imaginative journey through history, myth, forensics and psychology with this movie is, as the picture's production notes state, "a film drama that offers the viewer a richly flavored and chilling psychological puzzle". Read commented: "If you're going to make a film, make it about something fascinating."
Writer-director Gregory Read thought of Australian actress Toni Collette while he was writing, some seven years before the film actually got made and before Collette had become such a star of international film. He wanted her to play forensic psychologist Sally Rowe whom Read calls "our conduit into the story", and who is brought in by Inspector MacKenzie (Richard Roxburgh) to substantiate his case against schoolboy Alex (Eddie Redmayne). Read explained: "I wanted someone who I believed in that role, and someone with whom I empathized. I didn't have a face for Sally until I was three quarters of the way through the script. Then it occurred to me, Toni would be perfect for the role."
Of Toni Collette's positive response when she received the completed screenplay several years on, producer Jonathan Shteinman comments, 'It was Toni's faith in the screenplay. She didn't know the director; she only went on the screenplay. That helped the film get up for sure. It's a good story because it means you can come from nowhere, relatively speaking, write a good script - and have all the elements fall into place.'
After actress Toni Collette, the other Australian who came on board this English-Australian co-production in a lead role was actor Richard Roxburgh. Writer-director Gregory Read explained: "Like Minds is written in Australia, by an Australian, and even though I felt the North of England spoke eloquently of old school traditions, I really wanted to make this film with Australians where possible. I knew Toni could do an English accent brilliantly and Richard had just done Hounds of the Baskervilles , as Sherlock Holmes. So I knew the Brits would believe him. Richard is a chameleon, like Toni. I was able to get these two wonderful actors out of Australia, put them into England and be totally convincing. That's very exciting."
The film was originally conceived as an Australian story. However producer Jonathan Shteinman, who was executive-producing the English-Australian co-production 'Oyster Farmer'  with English producer Piers Tempest, was enthusiastic about the enhanced budgetary and creative possibilities a co-production could yield for 'Like Minds'.
Producer Jonathan Shteinman and writer-director Gregory Read recognized that making the story English gelled perfectly with the milieu of the film: its public schoolboys, gentleman's clubs and medieval mytho-historic references. Piers Tempest came on as producer of the English side of production, with Australian Carol Hughes as third producer to steer the running of the production between both countries.
Film investment for the Australian-English co-production of 'Like Minds' was provided by the Film Finance Corporation Australia Limited, the South Australian Film Corporation, the Australian Film Commission, Stamen Constructions Pty Ltd, Designer Graphics International Pty Ltd, Screen Yorkshire Limited, Bluewater Pictures Pty Ltd, and Gunpowder Films Limited.
With actress Toni Collette only available for the Australian end of the shoot, the filmmakers located the story present where Alex (Eddie Redmayne) is held for questioning in a police cell by her character Sally Rowe, in purpose built sets at the South Australian Film Corporation studios in Adelaide, South Australia.
England, with its wintry locations and ancient stone buildings, was reserved for filming locations for the bulk of the narrative that Alex (Eddie Redmayne) recalls at Sally Rowe (Toni Collette)'s behest and which concerns his schoolboy association with Nigel (Tom Sturridge).
The division between filming this picture in England and Australia in like terms was not actually this neat in actual terms. Some scenes and sets were inevitably split between countries and the challenges for Nigel Bluck's cinematography and Steven Jones-Evans' production design departments were considerable. And this is not to even mention the weather and matching continuity of light and season between the different northern and southern hemispheres.
Director of Photography Nigel Bluck commented: 'We were shooting a number of outdoor scenes to look like the depth of winter in the English Midlands in the height of summer on forty degree days in Adelaide [in South Australia]. Adelaide is one of the driest towns in Australia because it virtually borders the Outback, so for some locations this was a tough call."
Despite the challenges, cinematographer Nigel Bluck was especially impressed by the atmosphere provided by many of the English locations. He said: "The Yorkshire scenery was great. The starkness of the leafless trees and the muted colors, the soft low English light, the classical stone architecture and the atmosphere of the snow were perfect for the mood we were trying to create in the film.'"
It was considered a tribute to all crew concerned that a star location like Alex's and Nigel's school, both the imposing edifice and the interiors, was in fact seamlessly pieced together from up to six different locations in the UK to create exactly the look that director Gregory Read had in mind.
Post-production of the film was done in Australia, with editing by Mark Warner, sound design by Andrew Plain, and music score by Carlo Giacco, and was divided between Sydney in New South Wales and Adelaide in South Australia.
The film at the time it was made and first released was reportedly apparently the first UK/Australian co-production to be set in the United Kingdom in more than a decade (or ten years).
The film's writer-director Gregory Read said of this movie: "I structured the script so that the story creeps up, capturing the audience, not only in a traditional, plot-driven way, but via character, drawing the audience into Alex [Eddie Redmayne] and Nigel [Tom Sturridge]'s web...Even though the film is a psychological drama, I think of it more in terms of a psychological puzzle, one which the audience can piece together. With this in mind it was imperative that all the pieces were carefully defined allowing the audience to read the clues through the story, and draw their conclusion in retrospect...My directorial approach was to focus on the performances, with the cinematography, design, music and sound subliminally reflecting the dynamics of the characters and their states of mind. This gives the film a visual and aural dramatic density that, in line with the performances, is at times confronting, sometimes beautiful and, hopefully, always compelling."
Jonathan Shteinman, one of the picture's producers, said of this movie: "This film was always going to sink or swim on the quality of the performance of the two leads. They were fantastic fortunately: the two boys, Eddie Redmayne and Tom Sturridge. Toni Collette was always going to be good. I would say [writer-director] Gregory [Read] realized the script, which was so skilfully constructed, as it was intended. The drama and the acting are very strong and effective. Then you add to that the final thing, which you don't know until you actually make it: how it looks. The DOP [Nigel Bluck] made it look fantastic. The locations in the UK, I expected them to be that good but they were much better than I ever imagined. To me, they are very effective in making you feel it's a big film, a quality film...There's a line about first time filmmakers: that they've been preparing for that film all their lives, and that's often why if they make a good first film, it's so good. I would just say of Greg's script that it was so bloody good when he first wrote it that it didn't go through huge changes from the time it first came to me in 1997 to when we finally got the financing finalized in 2004/2005."
Piers Tempest, one of the picture's producers, said of this movie: "One of the themes of the film is mind control and the way in which suggestion can play a part in determining people's actions. 'Like Minds' focuses on the way this plays out between two adolescent schoolboys. Unravelling that relationship, which results in a murder, is the quest of the film and of Toni Collette's character, the forensic psychologist Sally Rowe. The film is essentially a whodunit, a murder mystery story filtered through an exploration of psychosis and Gestalt theory...The script came to me from Australian producer Jonathan Shteinman. I thought it was pretty incredible stuff. I've always been interested in the area of psychology that deals with mind control and Gestalt Psychology. We were filming a year after I was sent the script. We have been incredibly lucky in attracting the right cast and crew. As an Australia-UK co-production we have been able to cherry-prick the best both countries have to offer."
Debut theatrical feature film of English actor Eddie Redmayne. The movie's press kit notes this by stating: "Like Minds is Eddie's first feature film role."
Actor Eddie Redmayne, who plays Alex Forbes, said of this film: "Despite appearing like a generic, bright adolescent, Alex has had to contend with several major factors in his life that set him aside from the seventeen year old stereotype. Not only has he lived in a shadow of guilt over his mother's death at childbirth but his father, with whom he has grown up, has seemingly imposed his own personal repression on his son's life. Couple this with the severe rules and strange hierarchy of English public schools and Alex becomes a remarkably individual, individual...My headmaster at school had this fantastic method of intimidation that involved speaking softly and leaving extended pauses during conversation that would force you into a verbal monologue just to fill these mammoth voids. When I rehearsed with Patrick Malahide [who plays the headmaster Dr Forbes], I found it hilarious that he was adopting these same techniques in his characterization. It occurred to me that with all the power games that Alex plays not only with Sally [Rowe (Toni Collette)] but virtually everyone he comes into contact with, these were devices that he would almost certainly have inherited, and actively adopted."
Actress Toni Collette, who plays Sally Rowe, said of this film: "Sally Rowe is a forensic psychologist who is bought in to interview a young murder suspect. She goes in as an objective eye but the more time she spends with Alex [Eddie Redmayne], the more you see her being drawn into the nightmare. It infiltrates her life. On the shoot, I found myself in my hotel room at night looking around, thinking what is going on here?. I imagine the same thing would have happened to Sally Rowe whilst involved in a case like this...I did a lot of reading for the role. Greg (Read, writer-director) put together a file about Gestalt Psychology, Juvenile Psychology, excerpts from papers written by female psychologists who do forensic work...so it was a combination of reading and using my intuition. I take my hat off to people working in that industry because it is just so intense, you are dealing with life and death, and the whole mess in between. I was interested (as an actor) by the psychology of someone who deals with that on a day to today basis."
Actor Richard Roxburgh, who plays Inspector Martin McKenzie, said of this film: "Like Minds is a film about a terribly dark and disturbing relationship between a pair of adolescent lads who enter a dark compact to take lives and to push boundaries. It's a compact with the devil, in a way, and has disastrous and ugly consequences. Inspector McKenzie is called in to investigate this series of brutal murders at their school. McKenzie is a really instinctive cop and as it turns out, he is right. But like a lot of cops, he's quite a dark soul himself. He's also had a relationship with Toni Collette's character (Sally Rowe) in the past, so it's a difficult occurrence for him when she turns up as the forensic scientist on his investigation. It opens up old love wounds...I found the script really well constructed. You were kept guessing the whole way through. You never knew exactly where it was going to take you. That's creative storytelling. It's also scary and very, very dark."
Actor Patrick Malahide, who plays the headmaster Dr Forbes, said of this film: "Dr Forbes is the headmaster of the school where the two boys are pupils. The interesting thing about Forbes is that he comes across as a bad guy to begin with but then you realise there is more to it. You see the public face of the headmaster who, at the same time, is also the father of Alex, one of the boys suspected of murder. So the story shows both the public mask and the private anguish of the man, the tussle between doing the right thing and concern for his son. From my point of view, this makes him very interesting to play...I always like to get in behind the mask when I play a villain. Dr Forbes is, on the face of it, a deeply unsympathetic man. He probably has contributed to the fact that his son Alex is effectively a psychopath. He has set Alex unrealistically high targets, has pushed him and withheld affection; but at the same time he is trying to make up for the boy's mother's death. He feels a duty to do the best for his son. He gets it all wrong but that doesn't make him a bad person so much as deeply messed up and that's the area I find interesting: the obvious humanity of the man."
Debut produced screenplay for a theatrical feature film of the movie's screenwriter Gregory Read.
The alternative title for 'Like Minds', 'Murderous Intent' (2006), had been used recently twice before, like mindedly in two exact ten year increments in the immediate two decades preceding this film [See: Murderous Intent (1985) and Murderous Intent (1995) (TV Movie)].
Two Australian actors starred in major roles in this UK-Australian co-production. Toni Collette and Richard Roxburgh playing the characters of forensic psychologist Sally Rowe and police inspector Martin McKenzie respectively.
Australian actors Toni Collette and Richard Roxburgh about a decade later both collaborated in starring roles on the Australian television mini-series crime drama 'Blue Murder: Killer Cop' (2017). The pair also have done voice-work on the Australian CGI animated feature 'Blinky Bill the Movie' (2015) as well as both appearing in the 'R vs Mohammed' (2012) episode of the Australian television series 'Rake'.