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Home / Career / Film Productions
Red Lights
Original Release: July 13, 2012
Genre: Drama | Fantasy | Horror
Running time: 113 minutes
Directed by: Rodrigo Cortés
Screenplay by: Rodrigo Cortés
Produced by: Rodrigo Cortés, Adrián Guera
Distributed by: Millennium Entertainment
Box Office: $13.6 million

Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic who has resurfaced years after his toughest critic mysteriously passed away.

Cast & Characters

Cillian Murphy (Thomas “Tom” Buckley), Sigourney Weaver (Margaret Matheson), Robert De Niro (Simon Silver), Joely Richardson (Monica Handsen), Elizabeth Olsen (Sally Owen), Craig Roberts (Ben), Toby Jones (Dr Paul Shackleton), Burn Gorman (Benedict Cosell), Leonardo Sbaraglia (Leonardo “Leo” Palladino), Lynn Blades (Dana), Jeany Spark (Traci Northrop).

Production Photos


Production Notes

Cortés spent a year and a half researching and writing the screenplay, studying both sides of the psychic powers issue offered by skeptics and believers. He came to the conclusion that some on each side exclude evidence that does not support their position. He further stated that he does not intend Red Lights to represent his own position on the subject, as it is just an entertainment movie; however, he personally does not believe in the supernatural (ghosts, demons, etc.) because, in his view, nothing can exceed natural laws, but the paranormal (psychic powers, etc.), which he differentiates from the supernatural, could be phenomena in some cases for which science has yet to find an explanation.

He scripted the character of skeptical psychologist Margaret Matheson specifically with actress Sigourney Weaver in mind for the role, but with no advance commitment from her, though to his relief, she did sign on to the project after reading the script.

Robert De Niro researched and met with psychics for his role and developed the cautious belief that there is something to the phenomenon based on allegedly psychically-obtained information they were able to tell him that he insists only he knew: “There’s no way they could have known certain things and they said them, so in that sense, I have no answer than to say that I have to believe that there’s something there that they pick up psychically. I don’t know what it is”.

Filming occurred in Spain and Canada, with ten of the filming locations based in Barcelona, Spain; a week of filming was undertaken at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, Canada and significant shots were taken on James Street North in nearby Hamilton, Canada. The filming process for Red Lights commenced in February 2011 and concluded in April 2011.


  • The scene in which Margaret Matheson exposes a psychic healer by listening in on a partner feeding him instructions wirelessly was based on the case in which skeptics James Randi and Steve Shaw (better known under his stage name Banachek), with technical assistance from crime scene analyst and electronics expert Alexander Jason, exposed Peter Popoff in 1986. In that case, as in the scene, Popoff’s wife Elizabeth was feeding him information that she and her aides had taken from prayer request cards filled out by audience members over wireless radio. Some of the dialogue is taken almost verbatim from the actual case. In May 1986, Randi presented the evidence on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962), exposing Popoff’s fraudulent practices. In 1987, Popoff declared bankruptcy, only to make a comeback in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
  • The interception of the wireless transmission and the fake horoscopes handed out in class are taken from James Randi’s actual work of exposing frauds.
  • The videos of the parapsychological experiments done with Silver at the university mimic those done in real life with Uri Geller at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1970s. These experiments are discussed at length and clips of the actual video are shown in the James Randi documentary, An Honest Liar (2014).
  • The song the guy on the toilet is whistling is from the bird-catcher in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”.
  • The black and white clip of the Russian woman moving metal objects and matchsticks around on a table shown by Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) in class, is the same clip used in The Atticus Institute (2015), another film about clairvoyants.
  • Toby Jones, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sigourney Weaver appeared in several movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cillian Murphy and Burn Gorman appeared in movies in the DC Universe.

Release & Reception

Red Lights received mainly negative reviews from critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 30% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 92 reviews, with an average rating of 4.85/10. The site’s critics consensus reads, “Wasting the talents of an impressive cast on a predictable mystery, Red Lights lacks the clairvoyance to know what audiences want.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 36 out of 100 based on 22 critics, indicating “generally unfavorable reviews”. The film was a box office failure as well.