Film, book titles similar; stories differ

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"Out of This Furnace," the classic novel by Thomas Bell set in Braddock about immigration, industrialization and trade unionism, is a staple of school reading curriculums in Pittsburgh and around the country.

But that book is NOT to be confused with a new film shot partially in Braddock starring Christian Bale and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio of almost the same name.

"Out of the Furnace," a gritty drama also starring Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson, opens in Pittsburgh and across the country today.

The two works are both full of violence and heartbreak, but the novel, published in 1941 by Little, Brown, is about the centrality of a steel mill to one family over three generations, starting in 1881 with its migration to Braddock from Austria-Hungary, while tracking the growth of labor unions and the poverty and discrimination endured by Slovaks.

Coincidentally, the film's plot begins at the tail end of that story, after almost all of the steel mills have closed and Braddock is struggling to survive. From there, though, it takes a very different path.

Initially, some extras believed the movie was about the book they or their children had read in school.

"There was some confusion about the title at first, but it died down fairly quickly," said Nancy Mosser, who handled the film's local casting.

Back in April 2012, at a meeting in Braddock council chambers, a key crew member called the movie "Dust to Dust," but the film's title was and is "Out of the Furnace."

The film's director-writer, Scott Cooper, in an interview in June 2012, said he hadn't been aware of the existence of the book "Out of This Furnace" when he wrote his screenplay.

"I think at some time there was a little bit of anxiety that maybe this might confuse the issue or there was a book title and there was a time when I considered an alternate title about the cycle of life, 'Dust to Dust,' " he said.

But his original title made more sense, "because the community comes out of the furnace. Christian's character literally and figuratively comes out of the furnace."

And -- not to give too much of the plot away -- into the fire.


Mackenzie Carpenter: mcarpenter@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1949. On Twitter @MackenziePG.

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