The Vanishing of Sidney Hall (originally titled Sidney Hall) is a 2017 American mystery drama film directed and co-written by Shawn Christensen. The film stars Logan Lerman, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan, Nathan Lane and Kyle Chandler.
Principal photography of The Vanishing of Sidney Hall began in late April 2016. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2017. The film was released on January 25, 2018, through DirecTV Cinema before a limited release on March 2, 2018, by A24.
A young novelist writes a generation-defining book that makes him world-famous. This sets him on a downward spiral that ultimately destroys him. His life is depicted at the ages of eighteen, twenty-four and thirty.
While touring alongside The Killers in the United States with his band, Stellastarr in 2004, Shawn Christensen wrote a spec script called Sidney Hall with his best friend and roommate Jason Dolan, which he shared in increments with his friend, Paul Wesley. The inspiration for the screenplay was that Christensen and Dolan mused about the differences in life between the ages of eighteen and when they would turn thirty. They initially considered to make the titular character into an influential rock musician, but decided to go with the route of him being an author, when they realized the expectations of creating new music that could realistically be considered groundbreaking. Wesley received the completed draft of the screenplay, which he described in an interview as, "one of the most beautiful things [he] ever read in [his] life". Wesley presented the screenplay to William Morris Endeavor, which signed both Christensen and Dolan. The screenplay for Sidney Hall was first reported to have been acquired through a discretionary fund by Scott Free Productions in 2008. Joe Russo was to direct, Michael Costigan was to be the producer, Ridley Scott and Tony Scott were to be the executive producers and Jim Sturgess was to play the titular character.
After the release of his feature length directorial debut in 2014, Before I Disappear, Christensen looked to Sidney Hall as his next project, which had not seen active development by Fox Searchlight Pictures in five years. A number of film production companies, including Amazon Studios, aggressively pursued rights to the film, but Christensen opted to have the film independently produced and financed.
For casting the titular protagonist that Jim Sturgess was previously attached to portray, Shawn Christensen auditioned a significant number of young male actors, before twenty-four year-old Logan Lerman was cast to play the character for all three stages of his life portrayed. According to Lerman, he was brought onto the project a year prior to the commencement of principal photography and assisted Christensen and producer Jonathan Schwartz with executive producing. On April 13, 2016, Lerman's involvement with the project was revealed, along with Elle Fanning playing opposite of him. On April 21, Michelle Monaghan, Kyle Chandler and Nathan Lane were announced to have joined the principal cast, as well. Variety revealed on April 25 that Blake Jenner, Margaret Qualley and Tim Blake Nelson had joined the cast.
Principal photography of the film began on April 22, 2016 at the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, in Pleasantville, New York. Approximately a third of the film of the film takes place in a suburban setting, inspired by Christensen's hometown of Wappingers Falls, New York. However, due to a tax credit that made production less expensive, the suburban scenes were shot in Rockland County, New York. The cinematographer, Daniel Katz, shot the film with an Arri Alexa Studio and predominantly with natural lighting, as well as different kinds of lights for the three stages of the main character's life. The production team considered utilizing traditional photographic film, but opted for digital cinematography, due to the feasibility of utilizing it for an independent production. According to Logan Lerman, an excess of footage was captured, in order to create more options for the post-production stage. The production featured twelve-hour work days, beginning in April and going into May, shot between New York and New Mexico.
Darren Morze, who composes all of Christensen's films, was hired to do the music for The Vanishing of Sidney Hall. Utilizing a computer in his home's recording studio, Morze began composing the music prior to the principal photography stage, which allowed for the music to be played on set, to help the actors understand the mood of their scenes. Morze and Christensen considered a number of sources of inspiration for the score, including Vangelis and John Carpenter. Due to tonal needs, they decided to pursue a score complementary of Philip Glass's work- even including a single composed by him. Contrary to Christensen's previous works that featured somber soundtracks, Morze looked to give The Vanishing of Sidney Hall a generally more hopeful tone. According to Morze, he committed more time to composing in August 2016 and continued to work alone on the score for the film until just prior to its release in January 2017.
Sidney Hall premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah. The film was first screened on January 25, 2017. In April 2017, A24 and DirecTV Cinema acquired distribution rights to the film. The film, re-titled "The Vanishing of Sidney Hall", was released on January 25, 2018, through DirecTV Cinema before a limited release on March 2, 2018.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 9% based on 22 reviews, with an average rating of 2.7/10. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 21 out of 100, based on 10 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Writing for RogerEbert.com, Glenn Kenny gave it no stars and a thumbs down, and called it "worthless woman-hating garbage". Audience scores were significantly more positive, as reflected by weighted user-generated averages of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.8/10 on Metacritic.