By Ken Tucker
March 21, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST
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  • Movie
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In the tantalizing but frustrating commentary provided by star Hoffman and director Bennett Miller for Capote, Miller refers to ”our anguished process” of bringing Truman Capote to the screen. Miller, working from actor Dan Futterman’s screenplay, agreed that there was only one person to play Capote. To be sure, Philip Seymour Hoffman took a big risk: Working with relative rookies in his director and writer and reproducing Capote’s mannered public persona — a whiny-voiced whiplash wit — might have been nitpicked by those old enough to remember Capote’s nasal drawl on the talk-show circuit or giggled at by those too young to believe such a gnomic gnome existed.

Instead, Hoffman arrives on DVD smothered in Oscar glory — which gives the ”anguished process” remark added piquancy, as does Miller saying Hoffman had a ”complete meltdown” during a scene of Capote talking on the telephone. Just what went on in Winnipeg, where most of the film was shot? ”I don’t think either of us ever masked discontentment,” teases Miller. Come on, guys, what gave? Alas, then Hoffman and Miller make nicey-nice. But they are willing to discuss the depiction of New Yorker editor William Shawn, a legendarily polite, sedentary sort, but portrayed by Bob Balaban as a pushy guy with a yen for hype and glory. Hoffman explains this as dramatic license, that the character is really a cross between Shawn and Capote’s publisher, Joseph Fox. Sheesh — seems like a big gaffe to me, lessening our trust in the filmmakers. How much does a biopic suffer when a commentary tips you off to the truth? Or is this, shrewdly, the movie version of Capote’s innovation, the nonfiction novel?

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