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The Long Goodbye
by Nancy Mills (Marquee - October, 1996)

The moon is not a balloon. It's a light on a crane. The beach is not Nantucket. And Michelle Pfeiffer is not there, really, even though Peter Gallagher can see her.

To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday is about delusion -- Gallagher's unwavering belief that his deceased wife (Pfeiffer) is still with him on the dunes -- an illusion -- these dunes are inside a huge dome that once housed Howard Hughes's giant airplane, the Spruce Goose.

Claire Danes sits on 1,500 tons of trucked-in sand, listening to her father (Gallagher) talking to someone, she can't see who. Actually nobody can, except Gallager's character and the audience. It's his wife, Gillian, who died two years earlier.

"This film is about a powerful romance and grief," explains Gallagher. "If you believe there's a person for you without whom you wouldn't feel whole, when she's gone you don't feel complete."

Gillian marks the feature writing-producing debut of David E. Kelley, the creative force behind such Emmy Award-winning television programs as Picket Fences and Chicago Hope. For Kelley, landing Pfeiffer was a coup, but also perhaps a given, as they are husband and wife. Pfeiffer, though, is downplaying her improtance to the film, but Gallagher can't help feeling that "having Michelle gives this picture a kind of distinction. It's so much about this dead wife of mine, and then Michelle shows up. Who could blame me for not wanting to let her go?"

Also of distinction is the performance of Claire Danes -- whispers have it as Academy Award material -- and the big-screen debut of Freddie Prinze Jr., the son of the late comedian.

Wherefore Art Thou, Romeo?
by Nancy Mills (Marquee - October, 1996)

As the movies get serious again, Hollywood will raise the IQ at theaters across the land with a Shakespearean revival that will draw it's swords beginning with director Baz Luhrmann's (Strictly Ballroom) William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. Also getting in on the act are Helena Bonham Carter in Twelfth Night, Al Pacino, who stars in and makes his directorial debut with Looking For Richard -- based on Richard III -- and Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet.

For Romeo & Juliet, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the star-crossed lovers, Luhrmann has moved the action to Verona Beach. According to John Leguizamo, who plays Tybalt (for those who have forgotten their Shakespeare, he's Juliet's cousin and Romeo's sworn enemy), "This is the anarchist view of Romeo and Juliet.

"It's set in the apocalyptic present, although it's slightly futuristic with tidings to the past. You know it's now, but you're not sure where you are. It's a gun society. We took the sword society of Elizabethan times and matched it to a gun culture. It's about the same thing. You don't shoot anybody in the back -- or stab them in the back -- unless you're a coward. You don't draw unless you're ready to die. A huge honor code exists. I'm supposed to be the greatest gunslinger of modern Elizabethan times. I'm real good. I wear a matador's outfit. I'm a bullfighter, a modern-day, gun-slinging, Elizabethan-speaking, angry, fiery Tybalt. The actual text is edited a bit. It's wild."

But although Leguizamo may be the fastest, meanest gunslinger around, it's DiCaprio who is the baddest actor around. "Leo's going to get an Oscar," says Leguizamo. "He was born to play this part."

© 1996, Marquee