Kevin Spacey, Laura Linney, ...
Credit: The Life of David Gale: David Appleby

Director Parker (”Midnight Express,” ”Mississippi Burning”) is no stranger to political issues. After tarnishing Turkish prisons and painting an incendiary portrait of the civil rights movement, he turns to the heated capital-punishment debate for his latest film, in which an anti?death penalty Texas professor (Spacey) is convicted of raping and murdering a fellow activist (Linney) and ends up on death row himself. Winslet costars as a Pulitzer-hungry reporter investigating the case. ”It?s not a one-sided view,” says the 58-year-old Parker. ”Hopefully the film will inspire conversation.”

Spacey?s take on the lead will doubtless be watched closely by two other A-listers: Nicolas Cage (a producer on the movie) was rumored to be interested, as was George Clooney. ”We had a couple of meetings,” says Parker of Clooney. ”Frankly, it was soon pretty evident that he was interested in making a different type of film, so we moved on.” The production, which cost a reported $50 million, was shot outside actual prisons in Texas and endured a tornado from which cast and crew took cover in a walk-in fridge. Parker also found time to pick up some Lone Star flavor. ”I did eat more red meat there than I had in my entire life,” he recalls. The state?s former First Family, however, remained elusive: ”Curiously, [the Bushes] didn?t turn up to the open call.” he says. ”Though I did eat in the restaurant where [the twins] got busted.”

THE LOWDOWN A provocative death-row movie with an all-star cast and noted director. Could be another ”Dead Man Walking.” (Or another ”True Crime.”)

The Life of David Gale
  • Movie
  • 131 minutes