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Reporting on movies, film festivals, film production, premieres, movie events, industry trends and plays from around the world
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The Global Film Village: Last Station Opens Palm Springs Film Festival 2010 Interviews

by Marla Lewin

Left to Right: Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren Photo taken by Stephan Rabold, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

I am at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and got to spend opening night interviewing the creative team responsible for this year’s opening night film. I had already seen The Last Station back in November in Los Angeles for the Tribute to Christopher Plummer so this was a wonderful opportunity to meet with these talented people. My first interview was with Bonnie Arnold the producer who secured the book that launched the project originally and assembled the team.

Marla: You may remember we met at the AFI screening in Los Angeles after the tribute to Christopher Plummer. We wrote about the film at that time and said that Helen would get a nomination for her performance. That was before the Golden Globes and now both she and Christopher Plummer were  nominated.Bonnie Arnold: “Fantastic, we were so pleased”.

Marla: “I remember you saying that night that Anthony Quinn had the rights for many years and he wanted to do the part of Tolstoy”.

Bonnie: “Yes, unfortunately he did not live to see that happen, he asked me to come on board and see what I could do with the project. He was getting older, and he passed away, after his estate was settled, I said I know it can make a good film from this material and they let me continue. I met with Michael Hoffman and we had a great lunch. He proceeded to tell me what his vision of the  movie would be and it was exactly what I thought. He than wrote a great script and we are able to assemble a great cast. I can’t imagine a better cast. I would have to say to young producers if you believe in something stay with it, because sometimes it will happen.  This movie is like the old movies where Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren have chemistry, that scene where they are in bed together is fun and there is real chemistry.  This is the kind of film which builds you up emotionally, and you realize it is a classic love story. Someday you will see it on AMC in the future and remember when you first saw it.”

Marla: “Yes this will be that classic kind of  film, the performances are just wonderful”.

Bonnie: “I am so pleased”.

Marla: “I know you have had a career in animation as well”.

Bonnie: “That’s right. 2010 is going to be a wonderful year for me. I have another film that will be released soon called How to Train your Dragon with DreamWorks and I am very excited about it as well”.

Marla: “We look forward to seeing that when it opens”.

Paul Giamatti who gets to play the villain in the film was also in Palm Springs in support of the picture.

Marla:  “We loved you in Sideways and as John Adams and you are terrific inLast Station.  There are so many sides to his character you play”.

Paul Giamatti: “I’m glad, I’m glad”.

Marla: “What was it like for you to be between the Tolstoys”.

Paul Giamatti: “I was the bad guy.  In the book he’s the bad guy.  And historically he is the bad guy.  His name means Devil in Russian.  That was the guys real name, it’s weird.  He is set up as the bad guy from the beginning.  But hopefully, it works which is good.  You get enough different ideas from the guy’s actions, he is sincere, but fanatical”.

Marla: “He is a very multi layered personality.  Which can be difficult to do as an actor.  He must have really felt a bond with Tolstoy.  He must have felt that he could really make a difference preserving his work”.

Paul Giamatti: “He is pretty serious about what he believes in.  He is not kidding around. They are both articocratics, they had the same ideas.  They both had similar guilt about being from the upper class. He politically he was supposed to be the son of the Czar, but that is another story.  He attached himself to Tolstoy”.

Next we got to talk with the writer/director Michael Hoffman, who said he loves Russian literature, that he had read Anna Karina, and then he saw Chekov, and he read Tolstoy.

Michael Hoffman: “What I really wanted was to tell a great love story, I had gotten married, and this was my own big love story.  You may have relationships in your life, but when that big love hits, you know it. Looking at the Tolstoys that is a big love story”.

Marla: “In this movie you had not one but two love stories going on between the young couple as well. With the young couple there was their love and then a sense of duty to country and to their art.  You got remarkable performances from every one. Isn’t Helen half Russian?”

Michael: “Yes, Helen always laughs and says, ‘yes I am half Russian, the bottom half’.  She is so lovely to work with, as were all the actors”.

Marla: “You wrote and directed the film.  Did you shoot in Russia?”

Michael: “We shot in Germany, that’s where the majority of our funding came from, but we got a million from Russia, and we used a Russian composer who really captured the soul of the people and the spirit of the film. We are very pleased with how it all came together and are pleased that audiences are appreciating the film as well”.

Marla: Well it played to a very receptive audience here and I see a very bright future for the film in the months to come.

There are approximately 250 films still to be unspooled here at the festival. So stay tuned and see who we will get to meet in the next days.

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About MarlaLewinGFV

Lewin Marla
(Global Film Village)

Marla is a producer, playwright, screenwriter, publicist and now a journalist. She attends 12 to 20 film festivals per year. She has spoken on filmmaking at many festivals including Cannes and SXSW.

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