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This So-Called Disaster: Sam Shepard Directs the Late Henry Moss (2003)

R | | Documentary | 7 May 2003 (USA)
Director Michael Almereyda's documentary on the weeks just prior to Sam Shepard's stage production of his play "The Late Henry Moss."

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Ray
...
Earl
...
Esteban
Sheila Tousey ...
Chonchella
...
Himself (as T-Bone Burnett)
...
Himself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
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Himself
...
Taxi Driver
Ann Militello ...
Herself
Shona Mitchell ...
Assistant Stage Manager
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Storyline

After the American playwright and actor Sam Shepard had played the role of the ghost in Michael Almereyda's Hamlet, Shepard invited the filmmaker to document rehearsals for his The Late Henry Moss, that he staged with Nick Nolte and Sean Penn in leading roles. Almereyda and his crew filmed the last three weeks before the première. The film combines interviews with Shepard, his actors and staff with images of the rehearsals. The result is both a portrait and a unique glimpse of top actors seeking their way through the material. The film also offers a survey of the career of Shepard, including a report of his stormy relationship with his father, who died in 1984. Written by Sujit R. Varma

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Genres:

Documentary

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some language | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

7 May 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Late Henry Moss  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$8,435 (USA) (23 April 2004)

Gross:

$45,195 (USA) (25 June 2004)
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Company Credits

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(Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente)

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User Reviews

Looking for Maleness
29 April 2004 | by (Queens, NY) – See all my reviews

"This So-Called Disaster" (the on-screen credits had an additional, secondary title that I can't find documented on line) is a fascinating look at the rehearsal process, particularly between actors and a director.

It would make a terrific double feature with Al Pacino's "Looking for Richard" because here we have the additional angle that the playwright is very much alive -- Sam Shepherd-- and he actively cuts lines based on what the actors can embody without words.

He trusts these actors because they include Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Woody Harrelson, and James Gammon, who has channeled Shepherd's alcoholic father in other plays before finally expiating his Eugene O'Neill-like obsession in this play, "The Late Henry Moss," as produced in 2000 at San Francisco's Magic Theater.

The fly-on-the-wall camera work is supplemented by Shepherd's first-time willingness to discuss the autobiographical elements of his work, with details on his family, including photographs and film, and some informal discussion by and formal interviews with the actors. (We also see him not providing the same information to a very nervous AP reporter.)

Documentarian Michael Almereyda has captured an important element in Shepherd's and these particular actors work: their roaring masculinity and how they have and are continuing to struggle with the themes of the play in their art and in their lives, how to be sons, brothers, and fathers.

Working on this play is forcing all these sexy, combative guys to come to grips with mortality and family, even though the play itself doesn't seem particularly effective at expiating that for the audience. For example, we get a languid yet intense Penn protesting that the heavy rehearsal schedule has to allow time out for him to take his kids trick-or-treating, as clearly this play has heightened all of their consciousness about parental responsibilities. I now would certainly like to see Russell Crowe take on a Shepherd play.

T-Bone Burnett is also interviewed about the background music he put together for the production.


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