Remember your most stressful college moment? That panicky flash when you just knew you’d screwed up your whole life? Well, that’s nothing compared with what Catherine Burke (Katie Holmes) goes through in ”Abandon,” the directorial debut from Oscar-winning ”Traffic” screenwriter Stephen Gaghan. A student at an unnamed Ivy League-ish university, Catherine is suffering twin traumas: the rigors of academia and the lingering effects of the disappearance of her boyfriend (Charlie Hunnam) years earlier. When he mysteriously reappears, she’s dragged back into her past while growing increasingly entangled with the investigating detective (Benjamin Bratt). ”It’s what we’re feeling in those situations heightened to a very large degree,” says Holmes.
Gaghan, too, knows about stress. ”I was rewriting the script until the day I started shooting,” he says. ”It left so little time for preparation that many things were improvised. We were rushing to get it going before the [proposed writers’] strike.” Then came the hard part — taking over when original director Edward Zwick dropped out. ”It was terrifying,” says Gaghan. ”You show up on set never having looked through a camera, and these actors are standing there saying, ‘What do we do?”’
THE LOWDOWN Great screenwriters don’t always make first-rate directors (remember Robert Towne’s ”Personal Best”?), but Stephen Gaghan could have the goods.