August 21, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

STARRING William HURT, Meryl STREEP, Renée ZELLWEGER, Nicky KATT, Tom Everett SCOTT, Lauren GRAHAM

DIRECTED BY Carl FRANKLIN

Hurt and Streep play astrophysicists who blast off to save the planet from hurtling asteroids … Just kidding. It’s fall now, remember? And the season’s first grown-up drama is based on former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen’s best-seller about a sharky Manhattan magazine journalist — played by Zellweger — who returns home to come to terms with her dying mother. ”It’s sad, but it’s not depressing,” Franklin says. ”It’s really very family affirming. A lot of people will leave the theater and go home to call their mothers.”

For a change, Streep plays her role sans accent — sort of. ”She does a mom voice,” Zellweger says. ”Meryl is always doing something different with her voice. Even if she’s not doing a dialect, she’s doing an inflection.” Originally, Nick Nolte was considered as the dad; Hurt came into the $30 million project late, at Streep’s suggestion. For Franklin, Nolte probably looked better and better as filming progressed in New Jersey last winter: The director and his infamously prickly male lead were rumored to be less than friendly, despite efforts by the producers to smooth things over. ”William approaches every movie as if the studios and producers are commerce and he’s art,” explains producer Jesse Beaton. ”So he wasn’t very responsive to us.” Franklin takes a more diplomatic attitude: ”I just tried to deal with him on a work level,” he says. ”He’s like a thoroughbred racehorse — he’s got his quirks and eccentricities, but put him in the starting gate and that sucker runs.”

Zellweger, on the other hand, confined her acting up to the screen, researching her role by meeting with real New York magazine writers, including Quindlen. ”I learned a lot about the dress code, the power suits, stuff like that,” she says. As for Streep, she behaved more normally than any internationally adored actress can be expected to. ”She’s all about her family,” says Zellweger. ”She’d shoot her scenes and then get on a helicopter every night to fly back to her kids and tuck them in at night.” (Sept. 19)

THE LOWDOWN A few asteroids wouldn’t have hurt its box office chances, but at least there’s plenty of acting talent to keep things interesting.

type
Movie
Genre
mpaa
R
runtime
127 minutes
director
Carl Franklin
Cast
Tom Everett Scott,
Patrick Breen,
Nicky Katt
Studio
Complete Coverage

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