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'Hard Candy' turns wrath on pedophiles

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A new movie called “Hard Candy,” is a psychological thriller that turns the tables on pedophiles who prowl the Internet hunting for young kids.  It is based on kids seeking out pedophiles for real-life meetings and a list of trysts, sometimes with some frightening and shocking consequences. 

Rita Cosby discussed the film with "Hard Candy" producer David Higgins.  This is a transcript of their conversation.

RITA COSBY, HOST, "LIVE & DIRECT":  David, how did you come up with this idea? 

DAVID HIGGINS, “HARD CANDY” PRODUCER:  This was something I saw an article about that actually happened in Japan.  There were young girls finding older men on the Internet, luring them in with the promise of a relationship.  And when the man got there, there would be five or six girls, and they would, you know, beat him up, and probably take his money, and exact revenge. 

COSBY:  What do you think the message is from this film? 

HIGGINS:  I think the film is a bit of a Rorschach test.  Different people get different things out of it.  Certainly there's a message of always be careful who you're talking to and what you're doing on the Internet.  But secondly, it raises questions of vigilantism, the cost of violence, the cost of justice, et cetera.

COSBY:  You bring up a good point.  Hayley, who's the teenager in the film, takes matters into her own hands and goes after the guy. Do you believe that this is pretty much based on some real conversations that do take place? 

HIGGINS:  I certainly think we take a lot of dramatic license.  I mean, the movie is fictional.  It is a bit of fantasy, but it is one of those kind of expected situations where the older man is the predator, and then we turn the tables a little bit and you see what happens next. 

COSBY:  Obviously, not a great situation for anybody where this happens in real life.   Is it also encouraging vigilantism?  Is it promoting that these kids go after these pedophiles?  That could be very risky. 

HIGGINS:  Certainly that's not the point of the movie.  We're not encouraging vigilantism at all.

COSBY:  But could it encourage it?

HIGGINS:  I don't think so.  When you see the movie, the movie clearly kind of exists outside of reality, to some extent.  So I don't think it presents this as a real-life situation. 

The movie does things that are very difficult for a teenager to really do, and that's where the movie kind of has its strengths, is that it's a fantasy, and we're having fun with that idea of:  What if this could happen?

COSBY:  How did you figure out what actors and settings you would use for this movie? 

HIGGINS:  We knew we wanted to keep it very contained.  The idea was always, “Let's put two people in a house, and see if we can keep that interesting, and keep changing the stakes for 90 minutes.”  Finding actors was difficult.  We saw over 300 actresses before we saw found Ellen Page, who's this fantastic young actress out of Canada, reminds us a lot of, like, a young Jodie Foster.  She just had that perfect combination.

COSBY:  Yes, and the performance is powerful.

Let me put up some powerful statistics, because this is incredible, David.  In real life, as many as 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given moment; 30 percent of them in America have talked to strangers online about meeting in person. 

One in five kids, this number is staggering to me, who use chat rooms has been approached over the Internet by pedophiles.  Eighty-nine percent of sexual solicitations were made in either chat rooms or instant messages. 

How stunned are you when you hear this, and how vulnerable are kids? 

HIGGINS:  I certainly think we didn't set out to make a movie that was a warning lesson.  But given three years ago where we started to where we are now, it's scary how much bad stuff is out there.  So I think, if people can take something out of our movie, to be safe on the Web, to pay attention to what they're doing, that's a great lesson out of that. 

COSBY:  You bet.  David Higgins, thank you very much.  Fascinating and provocative film. 

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.