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|May 18, 1999||
Merchant Ivory Sign Oscar-Nominee Nick Nolte For $ 20 Million Movie
Arthur J Pais
The four-decade-old Merchant Ivory Productions is getting ready to step into the 21st century with the screen adaptation of Henry James's The Golden Bowl written in the early years of this century. A complex story of social proprieties and adulterous affairs, the book is considered by many among James's best works. Many critics and admirers including the novelist Gore Vidal also believe it is the most complex of James's novels.
Nick Nolte, a 1999 Oscar-nominee for Affliction, will lead the cast of the $ 20 million adaptation to be co-produced with the French movie giant, TFI. It also stars Uma Thurman and Anjelica Houston. The film to be directed by James Ivory with a script by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala would be the most expensive film made by the Merchant Ivory team, whose last film, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries was made for about $10 million.
This is the second time Nolte is working with the Merchant Ivory Jhabvala team, after Jefferson in Paris, a critical and box-office failure produced by Walt Disney.
Ismail Merchant believes that Henry James novel's complex novel should bring his company luck -- just the way, James's The Bostonians starring Christopher Reeve and Vanessa Redgrave gave Merchant Ivory a major arthouse hit 20 years ago. The Europeans, another Henry James novel the Merchant Ivory team adopted, was also a success. But Portrait of a Lady, another Henry James novel filmed by Jane Campion with Nicole Kidman in the lead was a box-office disappointment last year. And so was The Washington Square.
Portrait of a Lady, a $ 20 million production, grossed less than $ 10 million in theaters and through video sales. The Washington Square, made for about $ 8 million, earned less than $ 3 million.
"In this business, we try to do our best and sometimes we win, sometimes we lose," says Merchant who is editing Cotton Mary, a film he directed in Cochin in India.
"But we carry on. The Merchant Ivory company has plans for movies going into the first few years of the new millennium."
The Glass Bowl, first published in 1904, tells the story of a wealthy American widower Adam Verver and his daughter Maggie who live in Europe, where they collect art and relish each other's company. Through the efforts of the manipulative Fanny Assingham, Maggie becomes engaged to Amerigo, an Italian prince in reduced circumstances, but remains blind to his rekindled affair with her longtime friend Charlotte Stant.
Maggie and Amerigo marry, and later, after Charlotte and Adam have also wed, both spouses learn of the ongoing affair, though neither seeks a confrontation. Not until Maggie buys the gilded crystal bowl of the title as a birthday present for Adam does truth crack the veneer of propriety.
The film will be shot mostly in Europe. TFI is working with the Merchant Ivory team for the first time. It has backed such acclaimed films as Casino by Martin Scorsese. The French firm will distribute the film outside the United States. Merchant Ivory is negotiating with American distributors. Their last film was distributed by October Films, a wing of Universal Pictures.
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