Fall movie preview: December 1993
''Schindler's List,'' ''Philadelphia,'' and ''The Pelican Brief'' are a few titles coming to theatres this year
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle, Embeth Davidtz.
Directed by: Steven Spielberg.
They called themselves Schindlerjuden — ”Schindler’s Jews.” During World War II, when the Jewish population of Krakow, Poland, was being eliminated, they worked for German war profiteer Oskar Schindler. For three years, the handsome, cognac-sipping factory owner charmed, bribed, and cajoled the powerful Nazis around him in order to save his workers from executioner Amon Goeth, who ran the Plaszow camp where 40,000 to 80,000 Jews died. The 1,200 on Schindler’s list survived.
In 1982, Australian writer Thomas Keneally turned the stories of the Schindlerjuden into the novel Schindler’s List, and Hollywood came calling. Though Steven Spielberg quickly purchased rights to the book, the project went through two other directors and three writers before he finally decided to make the movie himself — as a three-hour drama shot in documentary-style black and white, no less.
”Schindler was a rare character — amidst all this evil was the emergence of this inexplicable goodness,” says MCA president Sidney Sheinberg. But the magnitude of the story’s Holocaust setting stymied the first two screenwriters. Novelist Keneally tossed in the towel after giving the script a lengthy first pass. Kurt Luedtke (Out of Africa) toiled over his draft for four years before calling it quits. At one point, Spielberg backed away from directing the film and decided instead to produce it, but his plans to use Sydney Pollack behind the camera came to nothing. Martin Scorsese, too, was in, then out.
Last year, when writer Steven Zaillian (Searching for Bobby Fischer) turned in a script that met with Spielberg’s approval, the director put it on his schedule, getting Sheinberg’s okay to supervise postproduction of Jurassic Park from Poland. ”A lot of people at Universal thought he was crazy,” says Sheinberg. ”I didn’t. Steven is the most organized man on earth.”
By the time cameras rolled in Kraków, Spielberg had spent a year trying to find his perfect star. ”Harrison Ford was a little too old to play 34,” says veteran Spielberg producer Gerald Molen. ”Costner wanted it. But Steven wanted [someone who could personify] Oskar Schindler for the role.” Spielberg found him in Irish actor Liam Neeson (Darkman, Husbands & Wives), 40, whom he saw on Broadway in Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie.
Working with 119 actors and 30,000 extras, Spielberg completed filming three days under his 75-day shooting schedule and within his lowest budget ($23 million) since 1985’s The Color Purple. The only thing he didn’t anticipate was stepping into a controversy. The World Jewish Congress protested his plans to shoot at Auschwitz/Birkenau — ”within the perimeter of what is the largest graveyard in the world,” says Molen. ”Steve met with them in New York, respected their objections, and we devised a way to shoot outside the gate. We built our own barracks and backed trains into Birkenau.”
With Schindler’s List complete, the first verdict comes from the Universal brass, and it’s an unexpected one, given the director’s known ability to put the squeeze on the emotions of his audience: ”It looks like it was directed by Ingmar Bergman,” says one surprised exec. ”It’s almost underplayed. Will he get credit for not being manipulative?”
Buzz: Good question, and probably the one that will determine Schindler‘s fate. If the critics back it, Spielberg could finally win his Oscar.
Heaven And Earth
Starring: Hiep Thi Le, Tommy Lee Jones, Joan Chen, Haing S. Ngor, Debbie Reynolds.
Directed by: Oliver Stone.
In January 1992, with turmoil spiraling around JFK, Oliver Stone escaped to Hawaii, where, in three weeks, he wrote the first draft of Heaven and Earth. “It saved my life,” Stone says of the strategic retreat, during which he adapted two memoirs by Le Ly Hayslip, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Child of War, Woman of Peace. ”With JFK, there was so much noise and such strong emotions. It was the best thing for my head to have some detachment from the ongoing crises and paranoia.”
It might have felt like detachment to Stone, but he was really returning to an obsession: Vietnam, the touchstone of his career and the source of two Best Director Oscars (1986’s Platoon and 1989’s Born on the Fourth of July). With Heaven and Earth, however, Stone attempted a different approach: Vietnam from a Vietnamese woman’s viewpoint. Born in a tiny village, Hayslip struggled through two wars, was raped by Viet Cong soldiers, worked the black market in Da Nang, escaped to America, built a new life, and, finally, returned to her village for an emotional family reunion in 1986. Stone felt her odyssey could be ”a Gone With the Wind kind of Vietnamese story. It’s a warm, human story about a woman’s odyssey through life in which she goes through the entire roulette wheel of experience.”
Stone’s casting team saw 16,000 Vietnamese expatriates in Hong Kong, Canada, and the U.S. before choosing Hiep Thi Le — a 23-year-old University of California at Davis physiology major who fled Vietnam as a 9-year-old boat person — to play Le Ly. Preparing for the shoot, Stone, Hayslip, Hiep, and Joan Chen (The Last Emperor), cast as Hayslip’s mother, made a pilgrimage to Hayslip’s home village of Ky La. ”I was so thrilled to have Oliver and the people who work with him come to my village,” says Hayslip. ”The people there didn’t know him, they didn’t even know his name. But he’s like the king, walking through the poor village.”
Though Stone considered filming in Vietnam, he quickly abandoned the idea. ”The Vietnamese would never let me make this movie there. They would have preferred a more simplistic view,” he insists. Instead, production designer Victor Kemper re-created Ky La in Thailand, building authentic-looking structures of concrete, brick, and tile rather than the usual movie cliche of thatched huts.
Hayslip, on hand throughout the filming, endorsed the major alterations Stone introduced into her life story, including the creation of U.S. Marine Steve Butler (Tommy Lee Jones), a composite drawn from four men in her life. Two scenes proved difficult for her to witness: the rape (”I didn’t want to see that”) and a scene in which her father is beaten. Although she has yet to see the completed film, Hayslip, 44, who now lives in San Diego, hopes that Heaven and Earth will play some part in healing the wounds of war. ”When Oliver first came to me, I knew in my soul that this was meant to be,” says Hayslip. ”This story is not for me but for 58,000 American men who died in Vietnam and 3 million Vietnamese who lost their life in war.”
Buzz: Oliver Stone + Vietnam = Attention Must Be Paid.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Jason Robards Jr., Mary Steenburgen, Antonio Banderas, Joanne Woodward.
Directed by: Jonathan Demme.
Hollywood would probably still be ducking AIDS and homophobia if Demme, armed with an Oscar for directing The Silence of the Lambs, hadn’t persuaded TriStar to back this $30 million drama. Demme, stung by charges that he stirred homophobia by depicting Lambs‘ killer as a gay transvestite, has credited Ron Nyswaner’s screenplay with making a touchy subject viable; Hanks plays a gay attorney who, fired from his job when he’s discovered to have AIDS, hires a homophobic personal-injury lawyer (Washington) to represent him.
”I read it and thought it effective and honest and true,” says Hanks, who volunteered for either of the two lead roles. Washington, for his part, beat out such rumored contenders as Nick Nolte and William Hurt. Before filming, Steenburgen, who plays Washington’s adversary, lost a friend to AIDS. ”It was very hard,” she says. ”I had to see that this woman was just trying to do the best job possible and win her case.”
Buzz: Needs rave reviews, awards, and great word of mouth; a new title wouldn’t hurt either. Still, it can’t miss if it’s half as good as Hollywood wants it to be.
Batman: The Animated Movie
With the voices of: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Dana Delany, Stacy Keach Jr., Abe Vigoda.
Directed by: Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski.
If you’ve seen Fox’s hit weekday cartoon series, you already know the Deco look of this 90-minute offshoot. But the harder edge of its probable-PG story line is meant to lure adult fans without alienating kids the way the PG-13 Batman Returns did. The Joker (no, not Jack Nicholson — his voice is Hamill’s) appears along with new villain Phantasm (Keach). The catch: Bruce Wayne (Conroy) has trouble dispatching the latter death-masked baddie because he happens to be the dad of his first love, Andrea Beaumont (Delany). Unlike Tim Burton’s live-action versions, this is the Kmart Batman, brought in for under $15 million.
Buzz: Holy cash cow! Helped by another McDonald’s Happy Meal promotion, multiplex business should be brisk, though brief.
In The Name Of The Father
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson, Pete Postlethwaite.
Directed by: Jim Sheridan.
Once he lined up Day-Lewis — the Oscar-winning star of his best-known film, 1989’s My Left Foot — director Sheridan had no trouble persuading Universal to back this $13 million true-life drama, his first Hollywood studio film. Day-Lewis, an Irish citizen, stars as the troubled Belfast youth Gerry Conlon, who was imprisoned 15 years for a terrorist act he didn’t commit. Sheridan and Terry George adapted Conlon’s incendiary 1989 account, Proved Innocent, which Sheridan says is ”very dramatic, but the movie is more about a father-son relationship than politics.” Even years later, the case still haunts Britain: Thompson, playing the hard-driving lawyer who finally won Conlon’s release, was criticized by the British press for taking part in a ”pro-IRA” film.
Day-Lewis prepared for the role with his customary ardor; before the crucial interrogation scene in which the innocent Conlon confesses to terrorist acts, the actor starved himself for several days. It was in a British jail cell — more than half the film was shot at a real prison — that Conlon finally came to embrace the nonviolent values of his father. ”Daniel is the antihero, the father is the hero,” says Sheridan. ”The father had reason to feel anger and recrimination, but he did not. He’s an ordinary man, a street bookie’s clerk, a father who is strong, not self-piteous. He takes a moral stance to tell the truth.”
Buzz: With critical support, this political heart tugger could be a contender — if Universal gives it the sort of special handling that’s usually the domain of the independents.
Starring: Michael Keaton, Nicole Kidman, Queen Latifah.
Directed by: Bruce Joel Rubin.
According to a Columbia press release, ”It is truly a Michael Keaton vehicle — not a departure from his persona, but an embracing of it.” No, we don’t know what it means, either. But we can tell you that Keaton plays a Beverly Hills public-relations whiz who discovers he’s dying of cancer and sets out to make an autobiographical video for his unborn child. And Kidman started playing his pregnant wife just after she and husband Tom Cruise adopted a baby girl, Isabella. And Latifah started playing an at-home hospice worker after another actress had been hired for the part. Latifah won out after sending the director an unsolicited audition tape. ”She blew everybody else out of the water,” says Rubin, who won an Oscar for his Ghost screenplay and now, at 50, is making his directorial debut.
If this leads to another statuette for the former NBC film editor and museum curator, he mustn’t forget Julia Roberts in his thank-you speech. “I remember [watching] Dying Young,” Rubin says. ”I thought there’d be this big emotional experience and then they didn’t give me anything. So I just decided to deliver. I kind of want My Life to be the Terminator of emotional movies.”
Buzz: Can Keaton — long underappreciated as an actor — regain his Clean and Sober stride after sitting around in a cowl for two Batman movies? Why not?
Wrestling Ernest Hemingway
Starring: Robert Duvall, Richard Harris, Shirley MacLaine, Piper Laurie.
Directed by: Randa Haines.
In the season’s senior-buddy entry, two Florida retirees, a Cuban barber (Duvall) and a sea captain (Harris), get close by skinny-dipping and commiserating about problems with their ”cucumbers.” In one example of bonding, Duvall takes his barber’s razor to his new friend — a scene, says director Haines (The Doctor), that’s not simply ”about shaving, but about scraping away the layers of roughness to expose true feelings. It’s a love scene.” At least it’s warmer than Harris’ first scene with MacLaine, who plays a landlady with the hots for him. ”Richard had to answer the door naked, and he played that for all it was worth,” MacLaine says. ”He played baseball with it, he pole-vaulted with it, he even put an avocado on it.”
Buzz: Warner Bros.’ positioning of the film in Oscar-friendly December is a very good sign.
Starring: Debra Winger, Anthony Hopkins, Edward Hardwicke.
Directed by: Richard Attenborough.
Late-in-life love among the literati. Hopkins plays C.S. Lewis, Oxford don, ascetic Christian scholar, and author of The Chronicles of Narnia. Winger is writer Joy Gresham, a Jewish-American divorcee who travels to London to meet her idol. Their unlikely affair leads to marriage; then tragedy strikes. William Nicholson, who adapted his play, always had Hopkins in mind to play Lewis, but had to be persuaded that Winger was right for her part. ”She seemed to me too young and too sexy,” he says. ”But Debra’s got a lot of similarities with Gresham. And when we first met, Debra said, ‘You want to know about me? I’m a lower-middle-class Jew. That’s me.”’ Sold. (Dec. 25)
Buzz: Great cast. But C.S. who?
The House Of The Spirits
Starring: Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Winona Ryder, Antonio Banderas, Vanessa Redgrave, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Maria Conchita Alonso, Sarita Choudhury.
Directed by: Bille August.
What on paper reads like an obvious bid for an Oscar sweep almost never happened. For Danish director August (The Best Intentions, Pelle the Conqueror), roping together a cast that includes four A-list leads proved far easier than winning Isabel Allende’s permission to adapt her acclaimed fabulist novel. ”She was not at all interested in this being a movie,” August says of his first meeting with Allende, the niece of overthrown Chilean president Salvador Allende Gossens. Her 1985 saga tracks three generations of women through 70 years of Chile’s past, threading magical realist tropes (a horse-size dog that likes marmalade, a levitating clairvoyant) into a left- wing political history. ”She was afraid of the movie being a soap opera,” says August. ”I had to push her a lot.”
Once Allende gave in, finding the actors still proved tricky. ”We could never cast the heroine [matriarch Clara del Valle Trueba, played by Streep] before seeing the other parts, so we cast in groups of six,” says August. ”We wanted to make sure that as a family they would be believable.” Believability also meant up to five hours a day in the makeup chair for Streep, who ages from 20 to 90 on film. Irons had an easier time as right-wing senator Esteban Trueba. ”It was very important that we made him unsympathetic all the way through,” the actor says. ”But that wasn’t hard for me. I never find that hard.” (December or early 1994)
Buzz: In a nod to its powerhouse cast and director, Miramax may schedule a brief qualifying run for the Oscars. Earning back the film’s reported $25 million budget next year might be another story.
The Pelican Brief
Starring: Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard, John Heard, Tony Goldwyn, John Lithgow, Hume Cronyn.
Directed by: Alan J. Pakula.
She’s back! After a two-year hiatus from movie work — if not from tabloid headlines — Roberts is running for her life in the second John Grisham adaptation of 1993. As Darby Shaw, a Tulane University law student who stumbles onto a conspiracy to murder two Supreme Court justices, she gamely dodges car bombs, foils assassins, disguises herself in assorted wigs, and upholds the Bill of Rights in ways the Founding Fathers could never have imagined. Director Pakula (All the President’s Men), who nailed down the screen rights to Pelican after reading the novel in galleys, actively wooed Roberts, who, in turn, suggested casting Denzel Washington as the D.C. investigative reporter who joins her in her quest.
”Maybe [the press] will focus on the work instead of me and how many times I do my laundry,” Roberts wished aloud at a June 21 press conference, just before shooting started in Washington. No chance, especially after her surprise July wedding to Lyle Lovett. But the actress was back on the set two days later, determined not to miss a dramatic beat. Says Pakula, ”She seems happy, and it’s always better to work with happy people.”
Buzz: If Pakula, who isn’t scheduled to complete principal photography until mid-September, can make the release date, the unanimous opinion is that The Pelican Brief can’t lose. Grisham. Roberts. Washington (Denzel and D.C.): Case closed.
Angie, I Says
Starring: Geena Davis, Stephen Rea, Philip Bosco, Aida Turturro.
Directed by: Martha Coolidge.
Madonna and Geena Davis may have shared a baseball diamond in last year’s A League of Their Own, but Angie, I Says was big enough for only one of them. When the cameras finally rolled, it was Davis, not the intended Madonna, as Angie Scacciapensieri, the Brooklynite who changes her sheltered life when she finds herself pregnant. Leaving her boyfriend of 17 years, she moves to Manhattan, dates a sophisticated Irish lawyer (Rea), then treks to Texas to find her mother, who abandoned her at age 3. ”There is a similarity to Saturday Night Fever,” Coolidge says of the straight-outta-Brooklyn plot, ”but it’s definitely a woman’s story. It’s like Terms of Endearment in that the first act is funny and the second is serious.”
About that personnel shuffle: After developing the script with writer Todd Graff (Used People), Madonna lost the part when one of the executive producers, Joe Roth, refused to postpone shooting so that she could first film Abel Ferrara’s Snake Eyes. In an angry fax to Roth that was leaked to the press, Madonna stated: ”I’m just grateful that I had the chance to inspire the writer to write the screenplay that is sure to make you [all] happy fellas in Hollywood.” Without blinking, Roth hired Davis, who in turn dumped director Jonathan Kaplan (Unlawful Entry) in favor of Coolidge (Lost in Yonkers).
Buzz: Disney plans to give Angie a limited launch for Oscar consideration. If the studio pushes its opening into the new year, take it as a bad sign.
Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Nicolas Cage, Austin Pendleton.
Directed by: Hugh Wilson.
When he first came up with an idea for a script about a Secret Service agent (Cage) assigned to protect an ex-First Lady (MacLaine), Wilson never meant to compete with Clint Eastwood. It’s more like “Out of the Line of Fire,” says the director of this $20 million comedy, which was originally conceived as a sitcom. As it turned out, the costars’ relationship off screen echoed the movie’s plot. At first MacLaine had her doubts about Cage. ”I expected some weird, spiders-on-the-wall brat-packer,” she says, ”but he was a very well-educated and well-bred young man.” Though Wilson had scripted a much older woman, he bowed to TriStar’s demands and hired MacLaine, 59. The role, she says, combines ”Barbara Bush, Aurora Greenway [her Terms of Endearment character], a little of, probably, me, and I guess a little Jackie Kennedy.” Says Wilson: ”This may be the biggest stretch of Shirley’s career. She has to play a Republican.”
Buzz: Could be a funnier Driving Miss Daisy…or a tinier one.
Six Degrees of Separation
Starring: Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland, Will Smith, Sir Ian McKellen, Mary Beth Hurt, Bruce Davison.
Directed by: Fred Schepisi.
Based on John Guare’s 1990 play, Six Degrees may be the ultimate New York movie: Park Avenue wealth, chic cocktail parties, carriage rides in Central Park, and, of course, a gay con artist who seduces his prey in the Rainbow Room.
Smith, TV’s hip-hop-happy Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, convinces a Manhattan couple (Sutherland and Channing) that he’s a friend of their college children and the son of Sidney Poitier. According to Channing, who’s reprising her stage role as Manhattan matron Ouisa Kittredge, the hyperactive Smith charmed everyone — including the notoriously intense Sutherland, who took Smith aside and gently explained he’d have to temper his bodacious on-set behavior.
You can see Sutherland’s point. ”We were in this apartment with low ceilings,” says Channing. ”It was hot and everyone was tired. Will comes in — I think he was a little nervous, but very chipper and friendly, like a big puppy dog. He did this thing to warm up — he screamed at the top of his lungs. It was like, ‘Woooo!‘ It was a habit he developed on the TV show. He’s used to getting out there and kicking butt. He didn’t realize he was killing the sound man. The poor man looked like he’d been kicked in his privates.”
Buzz: May be too New Yorky for mainstream tastes, but if Smith pulls it off, he’ll be a major movie star.
Starring: Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein, Robert Prosky.
Directed by: Chris Columbus.
In a performance destined to be compared to Dustin Hoffman’s in Tootsie, Williams plays a man posing as a 65-year-old English housekeeper so that he can care for his kids when his ex-wife (Field) wins temporary custody. That’s the premise of this yuppie-dilemma comedy, which director Columbus believes owes less to Tootsie than to Billy Wilder’s cross-dressing classic, Some Like It Hot. Williams needed five hours to transform himself into his matronly alter ego, then was forced to sit quietly between takes, because if he moved his mouth too much his makeup would crack. But when the cameras were rolling, Williams — who produced the film with his wife, Marsha Garces Williams — exhibited his trademark improvisational fury.
”We did two or three scripted takes, then Robin would start to improvise,” says Columbus (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York). ”We’d do eight to 10 versions of each scene. He was tireless in that respect — he’d do 25 takes if I wanted it. The problem I’m having with the film is how to cut it back. Robin gives you three movies to choose from.”
Buzz: Robin Williams in drag. Say no more.
A Perfect World
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Laura Dern, T.J. Lowther.
Directed by: Clint Eastwood.
Exhausted after wearing two hats in the Oscar-winning Unforgiven, Eastwood planned to stay behind the camera of World, a drama about a Texas ranger hunting down the escaped-convict kidnapper (Costner) of a little boy. But thanks to Costner’s persuasion during a visit to the set of In the Line of Fire — not to mention a rewrite that considerably deepened the state police chief’s character — he took the role and created the most anticipated duo of the fall.
Not that Costner always got his way. It was no secret on the World set that the two actors-turned-Oscar-winning directors lacked a working rapport. ”Their styles are different,” says coproducer David Valdes, who has worked with Eastwood on 16 movies. ”Clint is simplistic and spontaneous, and Kevin really liked having rehearsals. Kevin would sit in his trailer with two pages of the script for three hours and Clint would show up and say, ‘Hey, what are we going to shoot today?”’ Did head-butting ensue? ”Kevin’s a vocal actor,” says Valdes, ”but he had the good judgment to defer to the older, wiser sage.”
Another reason the 65-day Texas shoot consumed a third more footage than anticipated was the film’s littlest star: Lowther, 7, whose crucial performance required endless retakes. ”Clint had to have the patience of Job, and Kevin, being a father, barked at T.J. like a father,” says Valdes. The youngster, however, has fond memories of both costars. ”I would sit on Clint’s lap and we would page through the script,” he says, ”and Kevin would put cigarettes up his nose and pretend he was a walrus.”
The delays might have been just what Costner needed to relax. ”In the last three weeks, Kevin and Clint started impersonating each other,” says Valdes, ”Clint would razz the hell out of him by calling him Mark Harmon, who people were always mistaking Kevin for, and Kevin would come back even heavier with the Dirty Harry quips.”
Buzz: Costner as a villain? Weird. Trouble on the set? Uh-oh. Still, it’s hard to imagine this potent pairing doing anything but bang-up business.
Starring: Richard Gere, Sharon Stone, Lolita Davidovich.
Directed by: Mark Rydell.
As his 1968 Mercedes 280 SL skids into a crowded intersection, architect Gere has a lot on his mind. Torn between wife Stone and lover Davidovich, he plumbs his plight — between car-crash shots — in a series of flashbacks and imagined flash-forwards. ”It’s about conflict, death wish, and life wish,” says Marshall Brickman (Manhattan Murder Mystery), who coscripted this remake of the 1969 French film Les Choses de la Vie. ”The chemistry between Richard and Sharon is like Gable and Lombard — quite rich and sexy,” claims Rydell, who predicts the steamier scenes will earn it an R rating. ”It’s very, very sexual, but tastefully executed.” The same can’t be said of the crash scene. To get it on film, Rydell went through half a dozen antique Mercedeses — and a mechanic who quit in disgust. (Dec. 17)
Buzz: Gere plus Stone plus sex. Can’t miss, unless the L.A. mid-life crisis stuff is really annoying.
Starring: Jason Patric, Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, Wes Studi, Matt Damon.
Directed by: Walter Hill.
The story of the defiant Apache leader who was brought down by the American government has become a film that’s part biopic, part action flick. Wes Studi (The Last of the Mohicans) stars as Geronimo, who fought the U.S. government over sequestering Native Americans on reservations. Patric (Rush) saddles up as Lieut. Charles Gatewood, with Hackman playing Brig. Gen. George Crook, Duvall as scout Al Sieber, and Damon (School Ties) as the fresh West Point graduate who’s sent to learn at Gatewood’s spurs. Hill says his $35 million rock-’em-sock-’em movie does away with cowboy-and-Indian cliches: The U.S. military was ”ambivalent about the notion that they had to fight the Apache. In fact, they were more sympathetic than other Anglos.”
Expressing moral ambiguities still required three weeks of weaponry and riding lessons for the cast, followed by filming on the wide-open plains of central Utah. ”My horse could gallop full out and skid to a stop,” Damon says proudly. Named 101, his horse is no stranger to epics: She was Nicole Kidman’s mount in Far and Away.
Buzz: It has the early-bird advantage of being the first of the coming cavalcade of big Westerns.
Also in December
In The Summer House, Joan Plowright plays the mother of a young girl who’s trying to pull out of her imminent marriage; The Accompanist, set in the rubble of postwar Germany, details the life of a shy pianist (Elena Sofonova) who lives vicariously through her flamboyant singer-boss; a double award winner at Cannes — David Thewlis for best actor, Mike Leigh (Life Is Sweet) for best director — Naked is about a cruel antihero’s life in London; Berlin’s favorite angels return to earth in Faraway, So Close!, director Wim Wenders’ sequel to his 1987 cult favorite, Wings of Desire; and in Blue, the first installment of a trilogy directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski (The Double Life of Veronique), Juliette Binoche (Damage) stars as a musician who finds a new identity after losing her husband and child.