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Fall Movie Preview

Dec

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THE GREEN MILE

STARRING Tom HANKS, David MORSE, Bonnie HUNT, Michael Clarke DUNCAN, Michael JETER, Sam ROCKWELL, Graham GREENE, Patricia CLARKSON DIRECTED BY Frank DARABONT

[BUZZ-O-METER] 9 WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? Please note Buzz-O-Meter.

Consider this part 3 of our ongoing, six-part series on The Green Mile, Castle Rock’s adaptation of Stephen King’s 1996 six-part best-selling novel. When we checked in last month, all eyes were on King, who was recuperating from suffering serious injuries, including a punctured lung, after being hit by a car. (He’s still mostly bedridden, but you won’t be surprised to hear, dear reader, that the author of steel is already working on another book.) More recently, Castle Rock has come under scrutiny. With a string of flops like My Giant and The Last Days of Disco, this division of Time Warner (parent company of EW) has been something of a sinking stone in the movie business. That may be changing. For one, the head of Castle Rock, Alan Horn, has just been named president and COO of Warner Bros. (Barry Meyer will be chairman and CEO), and that gives his old division a very powerful ally (see story on page 22). Having a Tom Hanks movie at Christmas should help — though despite Hanks and built-in awareness because of King’s novel, Green Mile doesn’t sound like a blockbuster. ”The vast majority of this movie takes place in 100 square feet and it was just like being in prison,” Hanks says of the production. ”We were in the same place every day. We came into this cellblock and we were there into the night.” This grown-up drama concerned with capital punishment and mysticism (set in the 1930s with Hanks as a death-row prison guard and Duncan as a seven-foot-tall black inmate condemned for murdering two white girls) is arriving at a time when gimmicky horror flicks and teen high jinks seem to rule. In Green Mile’s favor: Darabont’s last Castle Rock picture, 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption (another dialogue-heavy King adaptation about prison), was nominated for seven Academy Awards and, according to Internet Movie Database’s regularly updated survey of moviegoers, consistently ranks with The Godfather and Citizen Kane among the most popular films. ”I have to sit down every time I hear that,” says Darabont. Actually, it’s time to stand and deliver. (Dec. 17)

HANGING UP

STARRING Diane KEATON, Meg RYAN, Lisa KUDROW, Walter MATTHAU DIRECTED BY Diane KEATON

[BUZZ-O-METER] 6 WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? Any movie that has these actresses in it is fine by us.

Scripted by sisters Delia and Nora Ephron, Hanging Up hinges on the bond between three siblings, forced to iron out the kinks in their relationships when their father (Matthau) falls ill. Nora planned to direct until she decided to do last year’s You’ve Got Mail instead, and the directorial reins were passed to Keaton (Unstrung Heroes) — though at first the star was wary of doing double duty as actor-director. ”I panicked and said absolutely no, no way, too scary,” says Keaton. ”Then the reality of the fact that somebody would have to play the part dawned on me. I knew I was going to be terrified, so why not just double-wham it?” Assigning herself the role of eldest sister Georgia, she mapped out the production carefully: When Kudrow and Ryan showed up for the first day of filming, they discovered that Keaton had already videotaped the entire movie, shot by shot, using stand-in actors. ”She knew exactly what was going to happen,” says Kudrow, who had to juggle her Hanging Up and Friends shooting schedules last spring. While Keaton’s visual style may have been precise, her verbal direction was, um, er, ah, hard to get the hang of. ”Annie Hall is a watered-down version of Diane,” says Ryan. ”She speaks in this language where at first you’re saying ‘I don’t know if I’m going to get this.’ Then a couple of days later you get it.” As for Matthau, Ryan says, ”he makes you laugh until you cry. He’s so smart and with-it, and he’s such a great actor. People forget about The Fortune Cookie and Hello, Dolly! He’s such a big gushball lovehead.” We’re predicting that come Oscar time, if Matthau’s supporting turn is solid, the Academy may feel the same way. (Dec. 25)

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