The studio executives wanted the movie rights to Unbound Captives, but they didn't want her.
Instead, they wanted Gladiator star Russell Crowe to take the lead and Sir Ridley Scott to direct the film about a white woman whose children are taken by Comanche Indians in the 1860s.
Stowe says, "Without a moment’s thought, I turned it down."
Now, nine years later, Stowe is stepping behind the camera to direct Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in the film, admitting she opted not to star in the project when she turned 50 in 2009.
She tells More magazine, "It seemed like the right thing to do. I’m on fire with this idea of what I want this film to be and bringing together these incredibly gifted people and having a dynamic conversation."
Based on Ian McEwan’s equally stirring novel we begin the story in 1935 on the cusp of WWII. Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) a 13-year-old fledgling writer lives with her wealthy family in their enormous English country mansion and on one hot summer day she irrevocably changes the course of three lives including her own. It seems the housekeeper’s son Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) carries a torch for Briony’s older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley). And on this warm day it becomes clear she feels the same way; their love ignites. Little Briony who harbors her own secret crush on Robbie witnesses the beginnings of this love affair and not understanding its meaning feels compelled to interfere going so far as accusing Robbie of a crime he did not commit. He is arrested and whisked away eventually forced into the British army but thankfully the two lovers have a moment before he goes to war to reconnect. Cecilia promises to wait for him urging him to “come back” to her once the madness he is about to become immersed in is over. Meanwhile Briony (played in adult years by Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave) has grown up regretting every single moment of that fateful day and in desperately trying to seek forgiveness finally finds a path to understanding the power of enduring love. The performances in Atonement are nothing less than captivating beginning with the young Irish rose Saoirse Ronan (who is also set to play the lead in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones). Since it is primarily Briony’s story Ronan must make the first most indelible impression and set the tone for the rest of the movie--and she succeeds on every level. From the moment you see Ronan’s pale face clear-blue eyes and steadfast gait you immediately recognize Briony’s need and determination to make everything in her life just so. Indeed Briony is a strongly focused child and Ronan so embodies the character an Oscar nomination is almost a certainty. As the 18-year-old Briony Garai (Dirty Dancing 2) does the best she can following such a tough act as Ronan but can never quite match the same intensity. On the other hand Redgrave who comes in at the very end as the much older Briony nails it right away adding her own nuances to a character who has lived a full life. Of course Knightley and McAvoy are no slouches either vividly capturing the passion bubbling up between Cecilia and Robbie then turning around and showing the heartache as their love is ripped apart. McAvoy is particularly effecting as his Robbie must also witness some truly horrific wartime scenes. Actually Oscar nods should come fast and furious for everyone in Atonement. With Pride & Prejudice and now Atonement director Joe Wright may have just established himself as the new James Ivory (of Merchant/Ivory fame). Wright is a real visionary for the romantic period piece expertly delivering truly spectacular vistas. From set design to costumes to cinematography the look of Atonement is at once verdant welcoming and then startlingly grim. The first half of Atonement at the Tallis’ country home is certainly the film’s most defining peppered by an effective musical score which uses the sound of a typewriter like a metronome. Through a soft lens Wright displays the general idleness of summer day at a country home like a sunny floral motif that belies an undercurrent of sweating bodies wilting flowers stagnant pools--and an imminent tragic event. Then once Wright moves with Robbie into WWII he actually paints an even more grim view of war then maybe seen before. The one continuous shot of the historical Dunkirk--a French beach on which thousands of British soldiers were forced by the Germans and then waited to be evacuated--is absolutely stunning and surreal. Atonement does drag ever-so-slightly in the middle especially as Briony trains to be a nurse in London but overall this is a film Academy voters eat up with a silver spoon. Expect to be hearing about it in the months to come.
IQ test, anyone?
Geniuses all of types--but mainly of the depressed, disillusioned or schizophrenic variety--dominated theaters nationwide this weekend during the otherwise happy holidays.
A Beautiful Mind, featuring Russell Crowe as Nobel Prize-winning John Forbes Nash Jr., tallied up a whopping $19.9 million through Wednesday, Jan. 2, at a maximum of 525 theaters since Dec. 21. That puts to shame seasonal underachievers The Majestic and Joe Somebody, which both debuted in wide release on the same day as A Beautiful Mind.
Father doesn't necessarily know best in The Royal Tenenbaums, a quirky comedy starring Gene Hackman as the patriarch of a gifted but truly dysfunctional family. Directed by Wes Anderson, The Royal Tenenbaums has amassed $11.5 million from Dec. 21 through Wednesday at a maximum of 291 theaters. Anderson's previous offering, the equally eccentric Rushmore, made a lowly $17 million in 1999 despite terrific critical acclaim.
The heartrending but inspirational A Beautiful Mind should brace itself for a bigger bow than The Royal Tenenbaums when it expands Friday to 1,800-plus theaters. The Ron Howard-directed drama quickly emerged as a strong Oscar contender, thanks in part to great reviews and a handful of Golden Globe nominations. Crowe could pull a Tom Hanks and earn himself an Oscar for the second consecutive year, following last year's win for Gladiator. He gives a quiet and sincere performance as the socially inept mathematician whose promising career fizzled in the 1950s as a result of his schizophrenia.
Howard's no stranger to causing a stir at the box office. The former sitcom star now ranks as of one Hollywood's highly sought-after directors following the smashes Splash, Apollo 13, Parenthood and Ransom. His last film, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, hauled off $260 million during the 2000 holiday season.
After earning $7.7 million last weekend, A Beautiful Mind looks set to corral between $15 million and $20 million in its first weekend in wide release. A possible slew of Oscar nominations will help A Beautiful Mind to become Howard's fourth $100 million hit in five tries, and his fifth in total.
The Royal Tenenbaums has critical momentum on its side, plus the promise of dominating the Oscar nominations in the acting categories. Anderson cast Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson as Hackman's messed-up kids.
Anjelica Huston, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray and Danny Glover costar, providing The Royal Tenenbaums with an insurance policy against some (wrongful) accusations that it, like its protagonists, is flawed and often too peculiar for its own good.
The Royal Tenenbaums should enjoy a hefty bump from last weekend's $4.9 million take as its expands to 751 theaters. If all goes well, The Royal Tenenbaums could surpass the totals for two recent Owen Wilson offerings, both costarring his Tenenbaums colleagues. The war yarn Behind Enemy Lines, with Hackman, has $51 million through Tuesday. Zoolander, the Stiller-directed fashion satire, has $45.1 million through Tuesday.
The first new wide release of 2002 is, ironically, a sci-fi thriller originally scheduled for summer 2000. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, Impostor represents another oft-delayed film that Miramax genre label Dimension will unceremoniously dump without much warning. Texas Rangers, Dimension's last such release, was mowed down without so much as a fighting chance when it debuted late November in 402 theaters to a gutless $319,000.
Strangely, the studio once displayed enormous faith in Impostor. An impressed Dimension threw money at director Gary Fleder in 1999 to expand what was then a part of The Light Years Trilogy into a stand-alone, feature-length film. Once slated for an Aug. 11, 2000, release, Impostor moved back and forth on Dimension's schedule, from fall 2000 to spring 2001, then fall 2001, spring 2002 and, to what seemed like a firm date, Dec. 25, 2001. Dimension then belatedly settled on Jan. 4, allowing Miramax to shift Kate & Leopold from Dec. 21 to Christmas Day. Fleder, in the meantime, directed Don't Say a Word while the film was kept out of theaters and trimmed to secure a PG-13 rating.
In what sounds like a post-apocalyptic Fugitive, Gary Sinise stars as an engineer on the run after authorities suspect him of being an alien. Vincent D'Onofrio and Madeleine Stowe costar.
Dick's adaptations have enjoyed mixed success. Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, floundered upon its 1982 release but has since become a cult classic praised for its unique vision of a future urban skyscape. Under Paul Verhoeven's guidance, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale became Total Recall, the Arnold Schwarzenegger trip to Mars that grossed $119.3 million in 1990.
Given its odd history and quiet release, Impostor looks set to vanish without causing much of a stir. Impostor, however, will no doubt serve as an appetizer for Philip K. Dick fans eagerly awaiting this summer's Minority Report, marking Tom Cruise's first collaboration with Steven Spielberg.
Impostor also will fall prey to the ongoing success of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Peter Jackson's magnificent adaptation of the first book in the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy continues to live up to expectation. After just 15 days in theaters, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has tracked down a precious $179.3 million. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone made $201.9 million during the same period, but it was playing at 300 more theaters. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring should fend off a serious challenge this weekend from A Beautiful Mind to retain the box office pole position and soar past the all-important $200 million mark.
Speaking of the boy wizard, Harry Potter celebrated 2002 by almost doubling its Christmas weekend take of $7 million to $11.9 million. With $293.2 million through Wednesday, Harry Potter not only reigns as the year's top box office attraction, but, on Thursday, likely supplanted The Sixth Sense as the 10th top-grossing film released domestically. Thanksgiving's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets now faces the daunting task of becoming one of the most popular sequels ever made.
Put George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts in a film directed by Steven Soderbergh and its success is almost guaranteed. Ocean's Eleven keeps hitting the jackpot at the box office weekend after weekend. The jazzy remake of the Rat Pack crime caper beat out a slew of newcomers to reclaim the No. 2 spot last weekend, stealing off with $139.2 million through Wednesday. That ranks as a personal best for both Pitt and Soderbergh, whose Erin Brockovich and Traffic earned, respectively, $125.5 million and $124.1 million. If all continues to roll in Clooney's favor, Ocean's Eleven could beat The Perfect Storm's $182.6 million to become his highest grosser.
Tom Cruise can't expect Vanilla Sky to do the same for him. Cameron Crowe's much-maligned remake of Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) dropped a mere 5 percent last weekend, from $12 million to $11.5 million, and now has a good but far from great $72.8 million through Wednesday. That's less than what Mission: Impossible 2 made in its first five days in May 2000. Still, Vanilla Sky managed to surpass Cruise's other recent critically mauled drama, Eyes Wide Shut, which ended up with $55.6 million. With competition from A Beautiful Mind, however, Vanilla Sky should fall hard and fast long before it can reach $100 million.
Don't expect a reversal of fortunes for The Majestic and Joe Somebody, both of which should disappear from theaters when Oscar hopefuls Black Hawk Down, The Shipping News and I Am Sam storm theaters later this month.
The Majestic, featuring Jim Carrey in fine dramatic form, held steady in its second weekend, but that's not saying much when it debuted with $4.9 million. With only $18.9 million through Tuesday, The Majestic will likely represent a post-Ace Ventura: Pet Detective career low for Carrey. His last flop, Man on the Moon, wrestled a mere $34.5 million from audiences in 1999.
Joe Somebody, with $15.9 million through Tuesday, also stands as a personal worst for Tim Allen. For Richer or Poorer, a lazy comic take on Witness, mustered only $31.6 million in 1997.
The jury remains out on Ali and Kate & Leopold.
Ali came out with both fists flying, earning a record $10.2 million for a Christmas Day release. Fatigue set in last weekend, as Michael Mann's biography of the ex-Cassius Clay punched up a lower-than-expected $14.7 million and has $41.4 million through Wednesday. Audiences seem to prefer A Beautiful Mind, which made more money Wednesday in limited release than Ali at 2,446 theaters.
Chances are the $105 million Ali will not go the distance should Oscar voters turn a blind eye to Will Smith's unenthusiastically received portrayal of the Greatest.
Meg Ryan has not enjoy a hit since re-teaming with Tom Hanks for a third time in You've Got Mail. After disappointing results with the tearjerker Hanging Up and the political thriller Proof of Life, Ryan returns to the realm of romantic comedies with Kate & Leopold. The time-bending yarn, co-starring Hugh Jackman as a 19th-century blueblood transported to 21st-century New York, opened Christmas Day with a lukewarm $2.5 million but made a respectable $9.7 million last weekend. Its total through Wednesday is $23.4 million, guaranteeing Ryan her biggest hit since You've Got Mail. Not that the dull and cliché-ridden Kate & Leopold will come close to matching the $115.8 million that You've Got Mail made in 1998.
Two animated adventures should continue to keep kids amused this weekend. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius soared to $51.5 million on Wednesday, making it the third consecutive hit spin-off of a popular Nickelodeon TV show. The smart Jimmy Neutron should landed safety between The Rugrats Movie's $100.4 million and Rugrats In Paris's $76.5 million.
Disney/Pixar's Monsters, Inc. experience a major power surge last weekend, jumping 61 percent last weekend from $3.8 million to $6.1 million. Its total is $240 million through Wednesday, bringing its well within reach of Toy Story 2, which, at $245.8 million, stands as the most successful of the four Disney/Pixar collaborations.
Shrek lost its box office crown in late December when Harry Potter surpassed its $267.6 million gross. Chances are the green but not-so mean ogre could find himself unexpectedly caught in the shadow of two energy producing monsters and a lost little girl.