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3 items from 2005

Producer Ismail Merchant Dies at 68

25 May 2005 | IMDb News

Producer Ismail Merchant, who, along with James Ivory, brought such acclaimed literary adaptations as A Room with a View and Howards End to the screen, died Wednesday in London; he was 68. Reports on Merchant's death cited that he had been ill for some time and had undergone surgery for abdominal ulcers, and passed away at a London hospital surrounded by family and friends. Born in Bombay and educated both there and in New York, Merchant studied film at USC and early in his career produced and directed a number of acclaimed shorts. His film work brought him to the attention of New York's Asia Society, which commissioned him to make a documentary about Delhi. In India, he met American director James Ivory, and in 1961 the two embarked on a career together (both personally and professionally) that would result in more than 40 films; the first was The Householder (1963), based on the novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who, as their longtime screenwriter, was effectively the third "partner" in Merchant-Ivory Films. Initially, Merchant-Ivory was formed with the charter of making English-language films in India for international release, and their films reflected the conflicts between Indian and British culture. In the early '70s, they tentatively explored new territory . specifically 1920s Hollywood . with The Wild Party, but wouldn't find success outside of India-based films until 1979's The Europeans, based on the Henry James novel, which marked their first major literary adaptation. Small but acclaimed films followed, including Jane Austen in Manhattan and Heat and Dust, but Merchant-Ivory made a name for itself in the mid-'80s with two Oscar-nominated films: 1984's The Bostonians, featuring an Academy Award-nominated performance by Vanessa Redgrave, and their breakout hit, 1985's A Room With a View, the sublime adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel. The film made a star of a young ingénue named Helena Bonham Carter, established Merchant-Ivory as the highbrow literary filmmakers, and received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture (it won three). Taking on Forster again, Merchant-Ivory made the groundbreaking gay-themed drama Maurice in 1987 before unsuccessfully trying on modern-day Manhattan in Slaves of New York. After that film, Merchant-Ivory returned to classic literary adaptations including Mr. and Mrs. Bridge and two back-to-back Best Picture nominees, Howards End (eight Oscar nominations and three wins, including Best Actress for Emma Thompson) and The Remains of the Day (also eight nominations). Merchant's remaining films, from Jefferson in Paris (1995) to Le Divorce (2003) were relatively well-received, but never achieved the heights of his previous films. No further details regarding Merchant's death were forthcoming, and a statement was expected to be released later in the day. --Prepared by IMDb staff »

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It's true: Hoffman gets 'Fiction' role

4 February 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman is reuniting with director Marc Forster and joining the cast of Stranger Than Fiction. Lindsay Doran is producing under her Three Strange Angels banner. The comedy's cast already includes Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson and Queen Latifah. Fiction tells the story of an IRS auditor (Ferrell) who inexplicably finds himself the subject of a narrator only he can hear, who tells him that events have been set in motion that will lead to his imminent death. Hoffman will play a professor who helps the auditor in his attempts to find the narrator and to change his story before it's too late. Mandate Pictures, formerly Senator International, is financing and owns worldwide distribution rights. Zach Helm is the writer. Endeavor-repped Hoffman is onscreen in Meet the Fockers and Forster's Oscar-nominated Finding Neverland. »

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'Fiction' fact: Latifah, Thompson

21 January 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Queen Latifah and Emma Thompson are joining Stranger Than Fiction, director Marc Forster's follow-up film to Finding Neverland. Lindsay Doran is producing under her Three Strange Angels banner. Will Ferrell already has been cast as an obsessive/compulsive IRS auditor who begins to hear a voice that turns out to be an author who is writing a novel in which Ferrell is the ill-fated protagonist. The auditor heeds the narrator's advice and turns his life around. Thompson is in final negotiations to play the author suffering from writer's block, and Latifah is in final negotiations to play a book-company employee whose job is to unblock writers. Maggie Gyllenhaal signed on this week to play Ferrell's unlikely love interest, a baker with anarchist leanings. »

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