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Connecting the Dots

Flick Chick


Published May 14, 2003 at 4:00 p.m.

In the whirlwind of entertainment news, sometimes it's possible to see a distinct pattern: John Irving's A Widow For One Year is 537 pages of fiction. But the author, who lives in Dorset, has given his blessing to a movie version that will only cover one-third of the 1998 book. Door in the Floor, as the film has been retitled by screenwriter-director Todd Williams, would reflect the first 183 pages.

Widow is the saga of a deteriorating marriage in the upscale enclaves of Eastern Long Island. Ted and Marion Cole, portrayed by Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger, are still mourning two teenaged sons killed in an automobile accident. Their surviving daughter, Ruth, has become a kind of afterthought as her parents seek solace elsewhere. Ted drinks too much and womanizes; Marion seduces a 16-year-old boy who bears a strong resemblance to one of her lost children.

Williams must have an affinity for novelists. He is also on board for the remake of a 1944 picture adapted by William Faulkner from Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not. In the updated production, Benicio Del Toro has landed the old Humphrey Bogart role. The warm-water setting will change from Martinique to the Florida Keys, and the villains are slated to be everyday smugglers rather than Nazis.

In his moviemaking maiden voyage, Williams cast Clark Gregg -- who spent many summers in Vermont with the Atlantic Theater Company -- as a transgendered stepfather. That 1998 film was The Adventures of Sebastian Cole -- no relation to Irving's Ted and Marion.

Atlantic's artistic director is Neil Pepe, a native of Westminster West, a hamlet situated halfway between Putney and Bellows Falls. The New York-based troupe was founded by playwright David Mamet and actor William H. Macy, graduates of Goddard College in Plainfield. Both men have new movies in the pipeline.

Writer-director Mamet's Spartan, with Macy, Val Kilmer and Derek Luke, involves detectives who investigate the kidnapping of a U.S. President's daughter. Art imitates art, it seems. That's a key plot line this week in the season finale of NBC's "The West Wing."

Macy also appears in Providence, a "crime comedy" starring Matthew Brod-erick as a filmmaker who discovers that his financier is actually an undercover FBI agent working on a mob sting operation. Other cast members are Alec Baldwin, Toni Collette and Calista Flockhart.

One of the busiest actors in show business, Macy pops up again in Seabiscuit. This is a racehorse yarn with Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper and Jeff Bridges -- the philandering husband of Door in the Floor -- that has Gary Ross at the helm. Ross, in turn, worked with Maguire and Macy before on Pleasantville, a 1998 fantasy produced by University of Vermont grad Jon Kilik (see interview this issue).

The ubiquitous Macy also appears in U-Boat, a World War II thriller about U.S. sailors captured by the Germans -- perhaps the very same Nazis who've been written out of the current screenplay for To Have and Have Not.

In Out of Order, Macy is sleeping with an adulterous wife played by his real-life spouse and fellow Atlantic thespian, Felicity Huffman. The couple owns a getaway home in Woodbury. The film will be broadcast on Showtime this month. Huffman can also be found in House Hunting, a picture due out later this year.

At the moment, she is in New York City shooting Raising Helen, directed by Garry Marshall and featuring John Corbett, Joan Cusack and Helen Mirren. Kate Hudson has the role of a single woman who inherits three young children when her sister and brother-in-law are killed in a car crash -- apparently the cinematic method of choice for eliminating characters.

If this story about sudden surrogate motherhood sounds at all familiar, that may be because Baby Boom went before the cameras with much the same premise in 1987. As the reluctant mom, Diane Keaton leaves behind a frantic lifestyle in the Big Apple and begins turning small apples into sauce for infants. The cottage industry allows her to stay solvent after relocating to southern Vermont.

Keaton has been Woody Allen's frequent leading lady and former "galpal," a tabloid term for girlfriend. Allen is now immersed in his directorial debut for the stage. Writers' Block, which encompasses two of his shorter pieces, has been in previews since late April at the Atlantic Theater -- the company's cozy venue on West 20th Street in Manhattan. The play opens this week, on May 15. Not bad timing for these breathless sneak previews linked to the Green Mountains.