On the surface, "The End of the Affair" is a love story, infusing elements of obsession and jealousy. But against the background of World War II during London's Blitz, love gets taken to the ultimate extreme, and destiny's hand takes hold.
It was this precise spin that drew director Neil Jordan to first adapt, then direct the film. The director of films such as "The Crying Game" (for which he won a screenplay Oscar) and "Interview With a Vampire" read Graham Greene's novel back in high school but began to think of it as a movie when he reacquainted himself with the text five years ago.
"It was fascinating stuff," the 49-year-old director says, relaxing in a whiskey bar at the Sunset Marquis Hotel & Villa. "The combination of sexuality and mysticism. It's a detective story ... and the central relationship is seen from the man's point of view, and then from the woman's point of view."
The film's central character is also a writer, who takes out his frustration on a typewriter as he tries to figure out what went wrong in his abruptly ended love affair with a married woman.
"I remember very strongly the feeling ... being in a room with the typewriter and reinventing your world and bits of your world that had gone from the page," Jordan says. "One of the things I definitely wanted to put in there was this world of this obsessive writer trying to re-create this affair that had ended."
Ralph Fiennes, who plays the novelist, "is perfectly designed to play a figure who's involved with scenes of loss, tremendous loss in his life. I can't think of a better actor to play the disenchanted intellectual of the '30s and '40s," Jordan says.
Casting the adulteress role of Sarah was a greater challenge. Julianne Moore had written Jordan a note about the film expressing interest while she filmed "An Ideal Husband" in England. Jordan says he had long admired Moore's range and talent but had some concern about her playing English, although she took on the accent for "Ideal Husband." But after a screen test with Fiennes, Jordan decided that she was "staggeringly good."
For the role of the husband, Jordan turned to Stephen Rea, who had starred in seven previous Jordan films. The "thankless part" required an actor with Rea's subtlety and power, according to Jordan, and their previous relationship and trust allowed them to turn the character into something more substantial.
"By the end, he emerges with an enormous dignity in a way," Jordan says, "and he begins to feel for the first time. In Stephen's hand, the part became really fascinating."
The three actors form the film's love triangle, inspired by Greene's own passionate affair with an American woman who was married to a "very, very dull Englishman" and to whom he dedicated the book. Jordan said Fiennes prepared for his role by poring over Greene's letters.
"It caused quite a shock at the time," says Jordan of the affair. "It was about their experience during the Blitz in London, when bombs were falling all around, people's lives were totally transformed. ... They never knew when they woke up the next day whether they'd be alive or dead. So they did more extreme things than you'd do in normal circumstances."
In this case, Maurice Bendrix (Fiennes) is badly injured when a bomb strikes his home after a rendezvous with Sarah (Moore). Thinking he is dead, she prays for his survival. In exchange, she promises to break off the affair. When he miraculously rises, she flees the scene, cutting off contact and leaving him bewildered. This spiritual ingredient forms the central dilemma to the film, and to Jordan, who was raised Irish Catholic but doesn't consider himself a religious person, it was the most fascinating aspect.
"It's a love triangle, but it's actually a quadrangle," Jordan says. "And there's one corner of it that may or may not exist. ... This woman made this promise in the most extreme circumstance of her life. She sees her lover dead -- and then she's forced to keep it. To me, it was the question: What would the world be like if we were actually forced to keep the promises that we make? That's what I regarded as a puzzle and the challenge of the movie, really."
It's also a challenge to Bendrix, whose obsession with Sarah leads him to hire a private detective two years after the affair, wondering why their romance ended and who is to blame.
"He's eaten up with jealousy and wants to find out this figure that has claimed her," Jordan says. "Through the story, he finds out actually what has claimed her is something much bigger than he ever thought existed, and he goes from hating a human being to hating destiny itself. ... He's an atheist, a nonbeliever, ... but the level of hate is such that he almost brings this thing into existence. I think it's a fascinating journey that he goes on."
Certainly not the average romance, particularly with God and war in the picture, but Jordan says the film holds up fine with a '90s audience.
"Love triangles, adulterous affairs," he notes. "I think those kind of things are perennial, and if a story is good, it lasts for all time."
After a painful childhood as the illegitimate son of a harsh father semi-nutso pretty boy Martin (Alexis Loret) makes his way to Paris where he finds quick success as an Armani model and wins the heart of strong-willed violinist Alice ("The English Patient's" Juliette Binoche). But the memory of his unhappy upbringing and dark deeds past eats at the sullen protagonist's mind. Can Alice piece together the details of his tortured history before viewers tune out completely?
As usual the sympathetic Binoche dominates the film with her intelligence and radiant humanity. The complexity and emotional precision of her work is the main reason to watch the flick. Loret makes a strong impression in his feature film debut though he's mostly only called upon to stand around looking hunky and give us the occasional brooding frown. Mathieu Almaric provides compelling support as Martin's conflicted gay half-brother.
French auteur Andre Techine whose complex sensitive work in films such as "Wild Reeds" and "Thieves" made him an art-house favorite in the States loses his grip on "Alice and Martin's" narrative early on. Skipping sequences crucial to the logical flow of the story putting too much emphasis on a "mystery" plot point with an obvious resolution he delivers a drama that is all the more frustrating to watch for the fine work that goes into individual scenes. His loose approach to story structure which proved so refreshing in the 1993 ensemble drama "My Favorite Season " strips "Alice and Martin" of momentum wasting all the gorgeous visuals he's conjured up with cinematographer Caroline Champetier.
Don Knotts, best known as the quirky deputy in "The Andy Griffith Show," now has his own little star.
The 75-year-old actor was honored Wednesday with the 2,152nd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Knotts, who has won five Emmys for his portrayal of Deputy Barney Fife on the show, also starred in films such as "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," "The Reluctant Astronaut" and shows such as "Three's Company" and "The Don Knotts Show." John Ritter, Knotts' "Three's Company" co-star, was in attendance.
"I can't believe I have my own star. I'm gonna come down here every morning and shine that sucker up," Knotts said.
NO JEALOUSY FOR JOLIE: Angelina Jolie, who's currently creating Oscar talk for her role in "Girl, Interrupted," is quite excited about her next role. She'll be co-starring in "Dancing in the Dark" with Antonio Banderas. "I've never been with a swarthy Latin man on camera or off, so I'm looking forward to our pairing," Jolie tells the Calgary (Alberta, Canada) Sun. But don't read too deeply into the implications of her quote; Jolie isn't looking to break up the actor's marriage to Melanie Griffith. Regardless, Melanie needn't worry; the 24-year-old actress, who recently divorced Jonny Lee Miller and has many times declared she finds women attractive, provides her own solution for jealousy.
"Maybe if I sleep with Melanie first, I'll be fine," Jolie joked.. We won't touch that one.
HE'S ALL HEART: David Letterman departed New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Wednesday, five days after undergoing quintuple-bypass surgery. He will continue recuperating at an undisclosed location, according to hospital spokesman Howard Rubenstein. Letterman, 52, joked, "I think there must be some kind of mix-up. I went to the hospital to get a face-lift." The talk-show host had emergency surgery Jan. 14 after tests showed that one of his arteries was blocked. There's no word on when he'll return to his late-night show, but we'll predict one thing: some sort of quintuple-bypass Top 10 list.
QUICK TAKES: You'd never expect to see Hollywood powerhouse Mike Ovitz on the turntables. But the former CAA head is going into rap music, forming an urban-entertainment division under his management-production company and looking to crossover into films, sports and the like. ...
... The first Latin Grammys will take place in Los Angeles rather than Miami, because the Florida city's ordinance refuses to permit Cuban performers, according to officials. The awards will have 40 categories covering Spanish and Portuguese music and will air Sept. 15 on CBS. ...
... Sandra Bullock can breathe a sigh of relief -- for now. A low-budget exploitation film she made in her pre-"Speed" days looks like it won't be released into theaters as its producer, Roger Corman, had hoped. "Fire on the Amazon" was tagged with an NC-17 rating for the extra five seconds of a sex scene Corman added, and the producer is now re-submitting it with changes, hoping the MPAA will give it an R rating. For those who are wondering, the scene involved Bullock and Craig Sheffer "drinking from a hallucinogenic liquid drug from an Indian ceremonial bowl. This spawns the couple's passionate canine-style lovemaking in the jungle." Again, we won't touch that one. ...
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 7, 2000 -- At long last, an awards show that's dedicated solely to the people who are truly indispensable to Hollywood: makeup artists and hairstylists.
Yes, you heard right -- one entire awards ceremony, with all the necessary trimmings and accoutrements, has sprung up to give special notice to industry makeup artists and hairstylists ... and no one else. (Don't worry, plastic surgeons of America, you'll probably get your nods soon enough).
Nominations for the 1st Annual Hollywood Makeup Artists and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, honoring outstanding makeup and hair achievements in film and TV, were announced today. The nominees in the 17 categories were chosen by 1,100 active members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 706. Guild members will vote for the winners. Balloting begins Tuesday, with awards to be handed out March 19 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
If all this sounds terribly serious stuff -- it is, according to guild committee member Marvin Westmore, scion of George Westmore, who started the first makeup and hair department at the Selig studio in 1917, and for whom the Lifetime Achievement Award is named after.
"It's very difficult to get the makeup and hair artists recognized in a proper manner. In the makeup field, as in the hair field, there're a number of categories that are never considered," Westmore said today. "We've got a category on contemporary makeup and hair, historical makeup and hair ... and about 15 other categories that address other specialties. We feel that it's important to give all the industry hair and makeup artists their proper due and not just simply lump their achievements together."
Celeb presenters who will dignify the event include Christina Applegate, Annette Bening, Ellen Burstyn, Kim Delaney, Brendan Fraser, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter and Rob Lowe.
Here's the complete list of nominees:
Best Contemporary Makeup -- Feature
Debbie Zoller, James MacKinnon and Jill Cady for "Goodbye Lover" (Regency/Warner Bros.)
Ronnie Specter for "The Story of Us" (Castle Rock/Universal)
Allan Apone, Donald Mowat, Ron Snyder and Adam Brandy for "Three Kings" (Warner Bros.)
Toni G and Will Huff for "The General's Daughter" (Neufeld/Rehme Productions/Paramount)
Best Period Makeup -- Feature
Leonard Engleman for "Tea With Mussolini" (Universal/MGM)
Patty York, Cheryl Nick, Michele Burke and Steve Artmont for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Ronnie Specter for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Fox Searchlight)
Best Character Makeup -- Feature
Sheryl Leight Ptak for "Man on the Moon" (Jersey Films/Universal)
Cheri Minns for "Bicentennial Man" (Columbia/Touchstone)
Kevin Yagher, Peter Owen, Elizabeth Tag and Paul Gooch for "Sleepy Hollow" (Paramount)
Best Special Effects Makeup -- Feature
Michele Burke, Kenny Myers, Will Huff and Kevin Haney for Mike Myers as Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, and Vernon Troyer as Mini Me in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Greg Cannom and Wesley Wofford for "Bicentennial Man" (Columbia/Touchstone) Stan Winston and Mike Smithson for Mike Myers as Fat Bastard in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Best Contemporary Hair Styling -- Feature
Enzo Angileri for "The Thomas Crown Affair" (MGM)
Cydney Cornell for "American Beauty" (DreamWorks)
Paul LeBlanc for "Anywhere But Here" (Fox 2000 Pictures) Frances Mathais for "Simpatico" (Emotion Pictures/Canal Plus/King's Gate/Fine Line)
Best Period Hair Styling - Feature
Peter Tothpal, Janet McDonald and Angie Cameron for "The 13th Warrior" (Touchstone)
Candy Walken, Jeri Baker-Sadler, Jennifer O'Halloran and Toni-Ann Walker for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Vivian McAteer for "Tea With Mussolini" (Universal/MGM)
Best Contemporary Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Patty Bunch Leisure and Cynthia Bachman for "Big Brother Is Coming," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Cynthia Bachman and Patty Bunch Leisure for "I Never Promised You An Olive Garden," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler for "Thank You Providence," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Period Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf, Kevin Westmore and LaVerne Basham for "Triangle," "The X-Files" (Fox)
Marie DelPrete fpr "Between a Rock Star and Hard Place," "Rude Awakenings" (Showtime/Mandalay TV/Columbia/TriStar TV)
Lisa Layman, David Syner and Joseph Regina for "Pilot," "Freaks & Geeks" (NBC)
James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Character Makeup - Television
Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French for Episode #505, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French for Episode #507, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Cheri Montesanto-Medcatf and Kevin Westmore for "Two Fathers/One Son," "The X-Files" (Fox)
Best Special Effects Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Michael Westmore, Scott Wheeler, James Rohland and Ellis Burman for "Dark Frontiers," "Star Trek Voyager" (UPN/Paramount)
Todd A. McIntosh, Robin Beauxchesne, Douglas Noe and Brigette Myre-Ellis for "Living Conditions," "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" (Fox/WB)
Bill Corso and Douglas Noe for "Just Duet," "L.A. Doctors" (CBS)
Best Period Makeup - Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week)
June Brickman and Tammy Ashmore for "The 60's" (NBC/Trimark)
Sue Cabel, Matthew Mungle and Joe Hailey for "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story" (ABC) Marvin Westmore,
June Westmore and John Jackson for "Lansky" (HBO)
Best Character Makeup --Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week)
June Brickman and Tammy Ashmore for "The 60's" (NBC/Trimark)
Douglas Noe for "A Lesson Before Dying" (HBO)
Best Contemporary Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Ken Nelson and Suzanne Kontonickas for "The Devil's Music," "Charmed" (Spelling Television/WB)
Tim Burke for "Homo For The Holidays," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Darrell Fielder, Jonathan Hanousak and Joy Zapata for "The Final Frontier," "Mad About You" (NBC/Columbia TriStar TV)
Best Period Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Stacy K. Black and Shana Fruman for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Lana Heying for Episode #592 "Lataya, Letisha and Lanesha," "All That" (Nickelodeon)
Garbillera Pollina for "Prom Night," "That 70's Show" (Fox/Carsey-Werner)
Best Character Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Dugg Krikpatrick and Judith Teidemann for "Episode #511, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor for "Bride of Chaotica," "Star Trek Voyager" (Paramount/UPN)
Judith Teidemann, Dugg Krikpatrick and Chris Curry for "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," "Mad TV" (Fox)
Best Innovative Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Dugg Krikpatrick for "Episode #505," "Mad TV" (Fox)
Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor for "Dragon's Teeth," "Star Trek Voyager" (Paramount/UPN)
Stacy K. Black and Shana Fruman for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Period Hair Styling - Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie o the Week)
Vickey Phillips, Gerald Coke-Riley, Patricia Gunlock and Michael White for "Purgatory" (TNT)
Matthew Kasten, Natascha Ladek and Mishell Chandler for "Annie" (Walt Disney Television/ABC)
Marlene Williams and Tim Jones for "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny & Cher Story" (ABC/Larry Thompson)
George Westmore Lifetime Achievement Award