The actress mother of Jurassic Park star Laura Dern had just visited the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. - one of the key locations in the burglary scandal that brought Richard Nixon's administration down - during the run of her Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander play at the nearby Kennedy Center, when she first encountered Mitchell's spirit.
She recalls, "It was Memorial Day weekend and I was in the apartment... It was exactly 4.45 in the morning and I was dead asleep. I felt someone shake my left arm. I was terrified.
"As I sat up, there was a gold vision... (and) I could see a person within the gold vision."
The spectre disappeared as Mitchell got out of bed, convinced there was an intruder in the house.
Then she was haunted by whispering voices throughout her performance onstage that night.
She adds, "The third act comes and I'm now on this huge stage alone... and just as I'm about to speak I feel someone walk up beside me and there's nobody there. I'm so thrown because I feel somebody's there... but I can't see anybody there.
"There's 1500 people there, waiting for me to speak my lines, so I take a breath and before I can speak, someone else speaks. She says, 'Chose you... Must... Martha...' Then silence, and everybody out there's waiting for me to speak so I had to go on with the play.
"I didn't deal with it and the very next morning I had to do a television show... The show went great and at the end of the show, for some reason, I say (to the host Maury Povich), 'Maury, do you know anybody named Martha?' He said, 'Oh my God, oh my God, you're the one. You'll tell the truth'.
"I said, 'Who's story?' 'Martha Mitchell'. I said, 'Martha Mitchell, Attorney John Mitchell's wife, the crazy old alcoholic?' (Povich said), 'She's the one who brought them all down. She's the one who did it.'
"I'm going, 'Alright, Maury, OK, I'll meet her.' (He said), 'You can't meet her; she died... yesterday morning at 4.30am.'"
The whole experience made Ladd compelled to find out more about Mitchell - and she told the whole story for a recent taping of U.S. TV show Celebrity Ghost Stories, insisting Mitchell was held captive by government officials after she threatened to go to the press with what she knew about the Watergate Scandal.
She adds, "Martha Mitchell was Watergate and she had something to tell us that hasn't been told. All the congressmen and representatives mocked her, called her a dirty, crazy alcoholic, called her insane, but she was a truth teller.
"Martha Mitchell, you were a great lady and I know you went through living hell, you were held down, you were kidnapped, you were given a shot against your will. That should not happen in my country."
As Phone Booth not-so-subtly points out most folks these days spend a great deal of time on the phone--so much so that the compulsion to answer even a random ringing phone is sometimes just too hard to pass up. Such is the fate of one Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) a smooth-talking PR rep who revels in his self-serving unethical existence. He prefers to wheel and deal on his cell phone while pacing the streets of New York but uses a public phone booth for the calls he doesn't want wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell) to find out about like the special one he wants to make to Pam (Katie Holmes) a wannabe actress he's trying to get in the sack. Yet on this particular afternoon the pay phone rings--and being the phone junkie he is Stu answers it. Biiiig mistake. The caller turns out to be a serial killer with a sniper rifle who tells Stu he'll be shot dead if he hangs up the phone. Of course Stu thinks it's a sick joke at first but after the sniper kills someone near the booth Stu is suddenly thrust into a hellish game of cat and mouse with the unseen gunman. Eventually the police arrive led by senior officer Captain Ramey (Forest Whitaker) who first mistake Stu for the crazy shooter. Soon however Ramey his team Kelly and even Pam become ensnared in the sniper's web--and only Stu can save them by digging deep into his soul and coming clean ultimately outwitting the killer at his own game.
That this is pretty much a one-man show is a given--and Farrell bears the weight of it on his shoulders quite well. The Irish actor has a certain reckless-yet-oh-so-vulnerable approach towards his craft which he uses to full benefit in Phone Booth. Stu goes from cocky bravado to gut-wrenching defenselessness in one fell swoop and even though his character's dialogue gets heavy-handed about what a schmuck he has been Farrell manages to make it all believable. As the sniper Kiefer Sutherland is menacing and sardonic as he goads Stu into his confessions but the baddie never comes off as evil as you would like him to be. Of the supporting players only Whitaker stands out as the police captain who is thankfully a lot smarter than he first appears to be. Holmes and Mitchell on the other hand have the tedious tasks of playing "the women" and neither are able to rise above their thankless parts.
Phone Booth had some difficulties making it to the big screen. Originally From Hell's Allan and Albert Hughes were attached to direct with a varying list of A-list actors attached to star at different times including Will Smith and Jim Carrey. Eventually the film fell into director Joel Schumacher's lap in 2000 and (after Carrey dropped out) he cast newcomer Farrell with whom the director had just worked in Tigerland. Twentieth Century Fox at last was able to set a November 2002 release date--but then came the horrifying real-life events last October where two snipers in the Washington D.C. area randomly killed several people and the studio decided to postpone the release due to those sensitive circumstances. Now that the film is finally coming out the wait seems to have paid off since a) Farrell has become a bona-fide star in the meantime with The Recruit and Daredevil under his belt and b) Phone Booth is just as fresh and visually stimulating as if it was made yesterday. Schumacher shot the film in 10 days because he knew he had to pull out all the stops to sell the concept of having the action revolve around one guy standing in a phone booth. The result is an excellent fast-paced film which uses a split-screen style to tell the story--and keep the movie's--and the audience's--adrenaline pumping throughout.
I won't give away the film's clever opening except to say that it's
playfully inventive and if you buy into it it ties together nicely
with the rest of the film. Essentially it's a film about the American
dream Hollywood style: Two young kids growing up in Smalltown USA who
go to Tinseltown with delusions of grandeur hoping to escape their
insulated world for fame and fortune. Oh yeah and one of the guys sells
his virginity to get funding for their film.
Jeremy Jordan and Mark Ballou as CFDS (Chronic Filmmaking Dream
Syndrome) sufferers Dave and Ethan are believably earnest in a 1990
"Dawson's Creek" sort of way. Ruth De Sosa is the Beverly Hills
housewife exploiting the sexually repressed boys for cheap thrills and
Courtney Gains plays the dim-witted producer. No stars here but no
Probably the most amazing thing about the film is Lu's fascination with
and affinity for Americana. It's hard to believe the director has only
been in the United States for five years; her feeling for the small-town
characters and their situations is dead-on. And Lu has a great sense of
visual style particularly for such a low-budget affair.