The plot of Hero seems at once very Preston Sturges and very ’90s: Successful TV newswoman is rescued from burning plane; romance ensues with handsome rescuer, whom she proceeds to make famous. But the ”rescuer” isn’t for real. This latest film from director Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters), with a screenplay by David Webb Peoples (Unforgiven, Blade Runner), is a comedy with dark undertones.

”The story’s about what heroism is, and what our expectations are, and how we want to imbue people with qualities,” says Geena Davis, who plays Hero‘s heroine, super-smooth anchorwoman Gale Gayley, opposite Dustin Hoffman and Andy Garcia. ”Somebody’s the hero of this thing, and we don’t know who,” Davis says. ”I think (the rescuer is) Andy Garcia, and I break the story. And he’s so gorgeous and fabulous, and the whole country falls in love with him. But in fact Dustin is claiming he’s the hero. He’s like this low-life guy, sort of a petty criminal. And nobody-least of all me-can believe he could be the hero.

”It’s got a lot of humor in it,” she adds. ”It’s one of the best scripts I’ve read in a long time. I rented Network the other night-that was so rich and complicated and smart; that’s what this seems like.”

Those are just the qualities that are hard to get on film, and there were times during the shoot when Frears felt daunted by both the tonal and physical challenges of the movie, which included staging a plane crash on location an hour north of L.A. and on the Sony lot. ”We bought a wrecked plane-there are sort of graveyards of them,” Frears says, sounding tired. ”We used flamethrowers, all the gear. I’d never done anything like this, on this scale, before. It took about three weeks, I guess-it seemed an eternity.”

There was also a climax shot atop Chicago’s Drake Hotel, for which a massive ledge prosthesis had to be constructed. Ledges and crashes aside, however, nothing quite matched the challenge of getting the legendarily difficult Dustin Hoffman to understand his role. ”It took him three or four weeks,” Frears says. ”When he couldn’t find the character, he was insecure-as any actor would be. He talked a lot about (Midnight Cowboy‘s) Ratso Rizzo, how he didn’t want to play him again. He’s too creative to repeat himself. But then once he knew who he was, we were on our way.” (Columbia)

Consenting Adults

Family values crusaders, take note: Wife-swapping can lead to murder. At least it does in this sexual thriller from director Alan J. Pakula (Presumed Innocent), after a jingle writer (Kevin Kline) trades his spouse (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) for that of his fast-track neighbor (Kevin Spacey). ”Like Unlawful Entry, it’s about how people’s lives are changed when a couple encounters a stranger,” says Spacey. The film’s tension lies not in the physical violence but in its aftershocks: ”It’s emotionally violent and disturbing,” says Spacey. ”And extremely layered-every time you think you know what this movie is about, you’re wrong.” (Hollywood)

A River Runs Through It

This is a big thing for me,” Robert Redford says. “A risk all the way down the line.” Right on both counts. Redford’s first directorial effort since The Milagro Beanfield War in 1988, River—an adaptation of Norman Maclean’s autobiographical novella about two fly-fishing brothers (Brad Pitt and Craig Sheffer) and their fly-fishing minister father in early-1900s Montana—is a heartfelt study of a vanished time and place, and of “a deeply loving family that didn’t understand each other,” says Redford. It has the kind of nuance normally associated with European films-exactly what could sink it without a trace unless a hype-gorged moviegoing public takes the bait. Redford, who first fell in love with the acclaimed book eight years ago (“The dance I had to do to get anyone interested in this material was incredible”), acknowledges the commercial risks: “There’s the contradictory reaction of knowing it won’t reach a wide audience, but at the same time, it’s touching on a lot of areas that are important to people,” he says. “It could hit. Stranger things have happened.” Right again. (Columbia)


This $45 million production is the second film this year to focus on Columbus’ landing in the New World (Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, with George Corraface, Rachel Ward, and Marlon Brando, opened August 21)—but it’s by far the more hotly anticipated. Directed by Ridley Scott (Thelma & Louise) and shot on location in Costa Rica and Spain, 1492 stars Gerard Depardieu as the explorer and Sigourney Weaver as Queen Isabella. Despite the controversy surrounding the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ explorations and whether or not he “discovered” a land that was already settled, Scott maintains that his Christopher Columbus is both a hero and a tragic figure. “This movie focuses on the man’s achievements and failures,” he says. “At the end of it you have to decide, Was he a bad guy or a good guy or just human?” (Paramount)

Rich in Love

That Driving Miss Daisy team-writer Alfred Uhry, director Bruce Beresford, producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck-is behind the wheel again in this Southern family drama from the novel by Josephine Humphreys. But this time the movie’s not about aging, it’s about coming-of-age: Teenager Lucille (Kathryn Erbe) helps her father (Albert Finney) cope after her mother (Jill Clayburgh) abruptly takes off. And then her sister (Suzy Amis) comes home newly married to a Midwesterner (Kyle MacLachlan) and pregnant. “It has a happy ending,” Erbe says. “But not one that Lucille—or Hollywood—would imagine.” (Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer)

Mr. Baseball

Last year there was a bit of a flap over the rumor that the script for this fish-out-of-water comedy, about an American baseball player (Tom Selleck) who’s traded to a Japanese team, had been softened to appease Universal Pictures’ new owner, Matsushita. Selleck denies this and says the film was rewritten when director Fred Schepisi came on board; but he doesn’t shrink from the touchy subject of Japanese/American relations. “There should be some Japan bashing in the movie,” Selleck says. “But there should also be some America bashing. When I see the final product I’ll be the first one to say if it copped out.” (Universal)

Night and the City

Robert De Niro spent two hours making Jessica Lange’s life hell in Cape Fear, but this time they’re on the same side-and in the same bed. In Irwin Winkler’s remake of the gritty 1950 melodrama that starred Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney, De Niro plays a sleazy New York lawyer turned boxing promoter who becomes romantically entangled with a bar owner’s wife (Lange). “They are on the edge of survival,” says Winkler (Guilty by Suspicion). “Woody Allen has a romantic view of New York. Mine is more realistic.” Lange’s casting was particularly realistic: She once knew the woman her character was based on from her days waiting tables at The Lion’s Head tavern in New York’s West Village. (Twentieth Century Fox)

Of Mice and Men

The camaraderie between costars Gary Sinise and John Malkovich in this new screen version of John Steinbeck’s Depression classic, directed by Sinise, isn’t just good acting: Sinise first played hardscrabble laborer George and Malkovich his slow-witted, frighteningly powerful companion Lennie in a stage production at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 1980. Though Malkovich started making movies a few years later while Sinise mainly stayed in theater, their friendship has endured. “We have a real history together from when we had no money and ate macaroni and cheese all the time,” Sinise says. “That’s part of what makes Of Mice and Men work.” (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

The Public Eye

Tabloid photographers rarely get good press themselves, but when writer-director Howard Franklin saw a museum show exhibiting the work of Weegee and other notable paparazzi from the 1940s, he was inspired to create a sympathetic shooter: Bernzy Bernstein (Joe Pesci) is based on several photographers from that era. Bernstein is a loner who works out of the trunk of his car, snaps the seamier side of life, and falls for a seemingly unattainable woman, nightclub owner Kay Levitz (Barbara Hershey). Says Franklin: “I wondered what it would be like to believe in your work as an artist and yet be treated as a scavenger.” (Universal)

Resevoir Dogs

Harvey Keitel was so thrilled with first-time director Quentin Tarantino’s violent, psychologically complex script that he not only signed on to play the lead, he helped produce the $1.5 million film. Keitel stars as one of several L.A. criminals brought together for a diamond heist. Once they’re ambushed, they try to ferret out the traitor in their midst-even as one of their ranks is bleeding to death on the floor. “I always wanted to write a pulp novel,” Tarantino says. “I guess this is it.” (Miramax)

Also coming in October

Liam Neeson and Patricia Arquette as star-crossed lovers in Ethan Frome, based on the Edith Wharton novel; Under Siege, a Steven Seagal action adventure; Waterland, from Graham Swift’s novel about a British schoolteacher, starring Jeremy Irons, Ethan Hawke, and John Heard; The Mighty Ducks, with Emilio Estevez as the coach of a ragtag kids’ hockey team; Strictly Ballroom, an offbeat Australian comedy about competitive ballroom dancing; Candyman, an urban horror movie based on a Clive Barker story, starring Virginia Madsen.