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Kristin Scott Thomas relives real-life tragedy

The star of ”Random Hearts” faced grim challenges on the set — including a less-than-sexy love scene

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Kristin Scott-Thomas
David James/Columbia/Tristar

So much for meet-cute romance. In ”Random Hearts” it takes a deadly plane accident to bring together a congresswoman (Kristin Scott Thomas) and a policeman (Harrison Ford) whose unfaithful spouses perish on the doomed flight. But for Scott Thomas and director Sydney Pollack, shooting the pivotal crash scenes that depict bodies floating underwater and grim morgue footage had painful personal relevance. Scott Thomas’ father and stepfather, both pilots, died in flying accidents when she was a child, while Pollack’s son died in a plane crash in 1993. ”The stuff in the morgue and in the naval airbase was horrid,” admits Scott Thomas. ”But it was horrid for a lot of other people as well.”

Scott Thomas, who’s already starred in one plane-crash romance (”The English Patient”), didn’t let her sad history keep her away from the part. ”Nobody came and said, ‘You have to make this movie,”’ she shrugs. ”I chose to do it. Mourning is something we all go through, so it’s nothing particularly spectacular. And that’s what’s great about this movie. You really get the feeling that people die all the time and the world just keeps on moving, that you have to get over it and go on.” As for reliving her personal pain to enchance her scenes, the actress is less certain. ”It’s something you can use, and it’s sort of easier, perhaps,” she says. ”But sometimes there is a sense of guilt. You try to get over that.”

Pollack battled his unhappy memories by injecting passion into the grim story line. ”The love scene was one of the toughest I’ve ever had to do in a movie,” he says. ”I knew the movie couldn’t have any kind of conventional courtship, because that would’ve been ludicrous. It had to be lit by a match, an explosion that erupts into sexuality, a kind of orgasm — but it’s all uncomfortable and ugly. I worried and worried and worried about it.” The scene he finally decided on, a brief but awkward make-out scene in a car, required painfully detailed scripting and two days of shooting. ”It was so embarrassing,” says Pollack. ”I gave her one piece of paper and gave him one piece of paper and then said, ‘You put your left hand here, and you put your hand there.’ It was very hard for everyone.”