Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, ...
Credit: The Shipping News: Doane Gregory

If they build it, will Oscar come — for the 10th year in a row? There’s never any real mystery as to whether Miramax will be back at the big dance, but just to be sure, the studio has gift wrapped a prestige-heavy package and marked it for delivery to the Kodak Theatre next spring. Miramax’s tried-and-true strategy? Proven talent. And lots of it. First the studio grabbed the rights to Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1993 novel, which had been in development at Sony before it even hit bookstores. Next, it locked in literary-adaptation specialist and reigning Miramax MVP Hallström (”Chocolat,” ”The Cider House Rules”) — whose movies have earned 14 Oscar nominations in the past 10 years — to direct. Sweetening the offscreen ensemble was Robert Nelson Jacobs, ”Chocolat”’s Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

Then Lasse Hallström went to work. After landing Kevin Spacey to star as adrift journalist and single father Quoyle (a role that had once interested previous Academy Award nominees John Travolta and Billy Bob Thornton), the Swedish director strolled over to Judy Dench’s trailer on the set of ”Chocolat.” ”I wanted to work with Lasse again,” the actress says of her decision to sign on as Quoyle’s crotchety Aunt Agnis. ”And the script said she was ‘tall, rawboned and 60,’ so that was good enough for me.”

As for Moore? ”I got a phone message actually. [In Swedish-chef voice] ‘Huellooo? This is Lassuh Hallström! Please to be in my movie! I need you to play Wavey in ‘The Shipping News.”’ Then, just, click,” she laughs. ”And the next message was from Kevin. ‘I don’t think you have the offer officially, but oh yeah, hey it’s, uh, Kevin Spacey. Anyway, call me, I need you to do ‘The Shipping News.”” Yeesh, if it’s that easy, we’ve got a script too, Julianne.

The Shipping News
  • Movie
  • 111 minutes