”Jury” selection wasn’t easy. For over six years the courtroom drama — based on the John Grisham book — shuffled through directors from Joel Schumacher to Mike Newell, and leading men from Edward Norton to Will Smith (the latter was nixed by Grisham, who had casting approval). Even the case changed: In the novel, a plaintiff initiates a public-health suit against Big Tobacco. But ”The Insider” smoked the freshness out of that angle, so gun manufacturers are the new target.
John Cusack plays a jury member who’s willing to sell the case to the highest bidder, be it the nefarious pro-gun jury tamperer (Gene Hackman) or the plaintiff’s pro-gun-control lawyer (Dustin Hoffman). While the film was shooting in humid New Orleans, Cusack got occasional chills, courtesy of his elder statesman costars. ”I grew up watching the films they made in the ’70s,” he says. ”It’s why a lot of people of my generation wanted to become actors, because of these two men.”
But getting old friends (and former roomies) Hoffman and Hackman together meant juicing up the script. ”We were in the same movie and we’d literally [have nothing to do but] look at each other,” says Hoffman. Scott Rosenberg (”High Fidelity”) was called in to script an edgy showdown, which has the duo circling each other in a men’s lavatory. ”Every crew member, every PA, every assistant to wardrobe had to show up that day and just get a look,” says director Gary Fleder (”Don’t Say a Word”). ”It was one of those magical moments where you saw two guys who like each other so much professionally, and also are very different in their styles of acting. It was like watching Björn Borg and Jimmy Connors at their peak.”
The Killer Moment For the first time on screen, Hackman and Hoffman square off (in a men’s room, no less).