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4 items from 2003

Davis soars to new 'Heights' for Merchant

19 September 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Matt Davis has enlisted in Heights, the Merchant Ivory production being directed by Chris Terrio. Production is under way in New York with Davis starring alongside Elizabeth Banks, Glenn Close, James Marsden and Jesse Bradford. Banks stars in the lead role as a photojournalist who is forced to come to terms with a complicated relationship in her life. Davis would play an attractive East Village-type who is still living back in the college days. James Ivory and Ismail Merchant are producing. Davis is repped by ICM and McKeon-Valeo Management. He most recently starred in Below and Blue Crush. His other credits include Legally Blonde and Tigerland. »

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Le Divorce

15 September 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »


Friday, August 8

"Le Divorce", which means "Divorce -- French Style", is easily the most playful film ever by director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant. This sophisticated comedy of manners revolves around distinctly different cultural attitudes held by Americans and the French. It's a modern-day variant of those period pieces from Merchant Ivory, in which people find themselves in conflict with the mores and manners of a foreign country, losing one's innocence and gaining a worldly view. But the screenplay by Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala approaches the material with the lightest of touches. The movie can even accommodate a suicide attempt and two murders without any fuss.

This relaxed and unabashed comedy will certainly go down well with Merchant Ivory fans and may possibly break out of art house venues to entertain mainstream adult moviegoers. While not the "high art" of their best films -- say, "A Room With a View", "Howards End" and "The Remains of the Day" -- "Le Divorce" is utterly charming and not without those subtle insights into character and culture that mark their best films.

Some will accuse "Le Divorce" of trafficking in French and American stereotypes -- and not without justification. But the many characters drafted from Diane Johnson's best-selling novel are more recognizable types, ruthlessly accurate in tone and substance, acutely observed yet without condescension or derision.

The main focus is on two sisters from California. Roxeanne (Naomi Watts), a poet, is married to Charles-Henri (Melvil Poupaud), the ne'er-do-well son of a bourgeois French family, already with one daughter and another baby on the way. Her sister Isabel (Kate Hudson), looking for adventure, arrives in Paris just as Charles-Henri walks out.

While Roxy deals with the emotional devastation of her husband's betrayal and French divorce proceedings, Isabel acquires three things: a job, sorting the papers of a celebrated American author, Olivia Pace (Glenn Close)

a young lover (Romain Duris) dedicated to leftist causes

and a much older lover in Edgar (Thierry Lhermitte), a married diplomat who just happens to be -- quel scandale -- the uncle of Roxy's philandering husband. The affair offends family matriarch Suzanne de Persand (Leslie Caron), a rationalist who marshals family forces to deal with this threat.

Complicating the division of property between the estranged couple is a painting Roxy lugged all the way from her family's Santa Barbara home that turns out to be worth a fortune. This brings out the art experts -- oh-so-nimbly played by Bebe Neuwirth and Stephen Fry.

Then Roxy's half-hearted suicide attempt brings out her family -- her perpetually sunny dad (Sam Waterston), suspicious though easily distracted mom (Stockard Channing) and annoyingly efficient brother (Thomas Lennon). Did we mention Roxy's stalker, an entertainment lawyer (Matthew Modine) who is the distraught husband of the woman shacked up with Charles-Henri?

The acting is every bit as good as one would imagine from such a cast in a Merchant Ivory film. Hudson as an American eager to lose her innocence anchors the comedy. But it is Watts who is mesmerizing, conveying all the conflicting emotions of a woman betrayed -- the anger, grief, frustration and loneliness of one who suddenly discovers she really does live in a foreign country. Two characters defy their interpretors, though. Poupaud's philandering husband is simply a lout, and Modine's character belongs in a different movie.

There is also one crucial, very funny prop: a red crocodile Kelly bag from Hermes of Paris (cost approximately $18,000), gifted to Isabel by Edgar as a precursor to their affair. It's a dead giveaway to everyone in the family exactly what is going on and even to Olivia, who received her own Kelly bag from Edgar years before. Nevertheless, Isabel takes it everywhere, even when inappropriate.

The below-the-line team has done an expert job of situating the sly comedy in a very comfortable, lived-in Paris of funky apartments, a graceful country manor, neat bookstores, cozy bistros and gourmet restaurants. "Le Divorce" is le fun.


Fox Searchlight

A Merchant Ivory/Radar Pictures production


Director: James Ivory

Screenwriters: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, James Ivory

Based on the novel by: Diane Johnson

Producers: Ismail Merchant, Michael Schiffer

Executive producers: Ted Field, Scott Kroopf, Erica Huggins

Director of photography: Pierre Lhomme

Production designer: Frederic Benard

Music: Richard Robbins

Co-producers: Paul Bradley, Richard Hawley

Costume designer: Carol Ramsey

Editor: John David Allen


Isabel Walker: Kate Hudson

Roxeanne: Naomi Watts

Edgar Cosset: Thierry Lhermitte

Suzanne de Persand: Leslie Caron

Olivia Pace: Glenn Close

Margeeve Walker: Stockard Channing

Chester Walker: Sam Waterston

Roger Walker: Thomas Lennon

Running time -- 118 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

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Bradford on indie 'Heights'

11 September 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Jesse Bradford is poised to scale the indie film Heights, joining Elizabeth Banks, Glenn Close and James Marsden in the Merchant Ivory production. The pic is currently lensing in New York City. First-time feature director Chris Terrio is helming the project, which stars Banks in the lead role as a photojournalist who is forced to come to terms with a complicated relationship in her life. Close plays the mother of Banks' character; Marsden plays Banks' fiance, and Bradford will star as a student of Close's who also is the object of Close's affection. James Ivory and Ismail Merchant are producing. Bradford is repped by WMA and attorney David Weber. He recently signed on for a recurring role on NBC's The West Wing as well as a part in Don Roos' Happy Endings for Stratus Film Co. (HR 8/8). He next stars in the Myriad Pictures comedy Eulogy. »

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Hudson eyes key role for Uni 'Skeleton'

1 April 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Kate Hudson is in preliminary negotiations to star in Universal Pictures' Skeleton Key, with helmer Iain Softley directing. The project is aimed to go into production in the fall. Skeleton, described as The Ring meets The Sixth Sense, centers on a caretaker (Hudson) working with an elderly couple in their New Orleans home, which happens to have mysterious goings-on. Universal picked up the project as a spec script in the fall from screenwriter Ehren Kruger (The Ring) with Softley already attached (HR 10/22). Daniel Bobker is producing the project. Universal executive vp Holly Bario is overseeing with production president Scott Stuber. Hudson, repped by CAA, is in production on the Walt Disney Co.'s Raising Helen for director Garry Marshall. The actress, currently onscreen opposite Matthew McConaughey in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, next stars in Fox Searchlight's Le Divorce for director James Ivory. »

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