MOISES KAUFMAN DIRECTS A STELLAR ENSEMBLE CAST IN
HBO FILMS' THE LARAMIE PROJECT,
THE STORY OF A COMMUNITY REEXAMINING ITSELF IN THE WAKE OF A TRAGEDY,
ADAPTED FROM THE ACCLAIMED OFF-BROADWAY PLAY,
SLATED FOR MARCH 9 DEBUT ON HBO
Selected As The Opening Night Premiere At 2002 Sundance Film Festival, Film Is Produced By Leading Independent Production Company Good Machine, With Ross Katz, Anne Carey And Ted Hope Executive Producing
Ensemble Cast Features Dylan Baker, Tom Bower, Clancy Brown, Steve Buscemi, Nestor Carbonell, Kathleen Chalfant, Jeremy Davies, Clea Duvall, Peter Fonda, Ben Foster, Janeane Garofalo, Bill Irwin, Joshua Jackson, Terry Kinney, Laura Linney, Amy Madigan, Camryn Manheim, Christina Ricci, Lois Smith, Frances Sternhagen And Mark Webber
Acclaimed stage writer and director Moises Kaufman ("Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde") makes his film directing debut with the Good Machine production of HBO Films' THE LARAMIE PROJECT. The film is adapted from the off-Broadway play of the same name, which Time magazine called "one of the best plays of 2000," and has gone on to become one of the most performed plays in America.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT is set in and around Laramie, Wyoming, in the aftermath of the murder of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard. Good Machine's Ross Katz, Anne Carey and Ted Hope executive produce; Declan Baldwin produces; Peter Cane and Roy Gabay co-executive produce. The screenplay is by Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theater Project and based on the play written by Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project. HBO Films senior vice president Keri Putnam and director Jenni Sherwood are the executives responsible for bringing the film to HBO, which is slated to debut SATURDAY, MARCH 9 at 8:00 p.m. (ET, 7c). THE LARAMIE PROJECT was recently announced as the Opening Night Premiere at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.
Other HBO playdates: March 19 (1:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m.), 24 (2:15 p.m., 11:00 p.m.) and 27 (11:30 a.m., 8:00 p.m.).
"This movie has remarkable resonance in the post-September 11 consciousness, and not just as an exploration of a hate crime," notes HBO Films president Colin Callender. "It's fundamentally the story of a community forced to face itself in the wake of a tragedy under the glare of the national press -- and in the process, reexamining and reaffirming its sense of self."
The ensemble cast features a impressive array of talent from independent film, TV and the stage, including (in alphabetical order) Dylan Baker ("Happiness"), Tom Bower ("Pollock"), Clancy Brown ("The Shawshank Redemption"), Steve Buscemi ("Fargo"), Nestor Carbonell ("The Tick"), Kathleen Chalfant (Broadway's "Wit"), Jeremy Davies ("Saving Private Ryan"), Clea Duvall ("Girl, Interrupted"), Peter Fonda (Oscar¨-nominated for Best Actor for "Ulee's Gold"), Ben Foster ("Liberty Heights"), Janeane Garofalo ("Reality Bites"), Bill Irwin ("Illuminata"), Joshua Jackson ("Dawson's Creek"), Terry Kinney (HBO's "Oz"), Laura Linney (Oscar¨-nominated for Best Actress for "You Can Count on Me"), Amy Madigan (HBO's "Shot in the Heart"), Camryn Manheim ("The Practice"), Christina Ricci ("The Opposite of Sex"), Lois Smith ("Tumbleweeds"), Frances Sternhagen (HBO's "Sex and the City") and Mark Webber ("Storytelling").
To create the stage version of "The Laramie Project," the eight-member New York-based Tectonic Theatre Project traveled to Laramie, Wyoming, in the wake of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, recording more than 400 hours of interviews with the town's citizens over a two-year period. The film adaptation of THE LARAMIE PROJECT dramatizes the troupe's visit, using the actual words from the transcripts to create a portrait of a town forced to confront itself in the aftermath of this tragic event.
"We tried to tell the story of the town of Laramie, as opposed to telling the story of Matthew Shepard," explains writer and director Moises Kaufman. "There are between 20 and 30 anti-gay homicides reported every year, which means at least twice as many aren't reported. But for some reason, this one resonated. This was a murder where the whole nation, and some might say, large parts of the world, said, 'Wait a minute. Look at what we are doing. Look at what's happening.'
"I wanted to find out, 'Why, why this murder?' So I took my theater company to Laramie, and we listened to the people of the town. I thought we might be able to create a document, not only about where Laramie was at the end of the millennium, but where we are as a country at this moment in our history - not only in relationship to homosexuality, but in relationship to class, economics and education - all the fault lines in our society." For the more than 65 speaking roles in the film, Kaufman assembled a powerful ensemble to portray the inhabitants of Laramie and the theater company, including casting actor Nestor Carbonell to play the director himself.
Kaufman adds, "In addition to having an incredible amount of craft and talent, all of the actors that we cast are also extremely intelligent and politically aware. It was truly a testament to their love of acting and their love for the possibilities of this art form. It was truly a blessing." Two of the original theater company members, Kelli Simpkins and Andy Paris, carried over their roles in the film version, and the remaining six company members were cast in supporting parts throughout the film.
The film was shot in Laramie and Denver, Colorado, last spring, using many of the actual locations from the real-life events, including the county courthouse where the now-convicted killers stood trial.
What happens to a town when something unexpected, unconscionable and unforgivable rips it apart? What happens to its people when they are thrust into the unrelenting glare of a national media spotlight? And what happens to a community when trust among its own people has been shattered?
These questions have led a group of young actors and writers from the Tectonic Theatre Project, a New York City theater company, to the unassuming college town of Laramie, Wyoming, where they seek out Laramie residents - shopkeepers, teachers, students, bartenders and social workers - whose lives were forever changed on Oct. 6, 1998. That was the night gay college student Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tied up and left for dead on a fence off a rural road and Laramie, Wyoming - once known as the "gem city of the plains" - became a symbol of violence, as one resident says, "like Waco or Jasper."
Several members of the troupe, which is led by founder and artistic director Moises Kaufman [Nestor Carbonell], have arrived in Laramie to research a multimedia play they are writing about how the Shepard assault changed the town. The details of the case are clear-cut: On Oct. 6, 1998, Shepard met two men at a Laramie bar, and was offered a ride home. Eighteen hours later, a cyclist found the student unconscious, severely beaten and tied to a fence. As Shepard lay in a hospital in critical condition, hundreds of reporters from around the country converged on the town. Within days a pair of longtime Laramie residents, Aaron McKinney [Mark Webber] and Russell Henderson [Garrett Neergaard], were arrested and linked to the crime with overwhelming evidence. On the morning of Oct. 12, 1998, Matthew Shepard died, and the hate crime became a murder case. Armed with a list of names, company members interview a cross-section of Laramie residents, who reveal as much about the collective psyche of their town as they do about the crime itself. As Kaufman explains, "This is not about the case. This is about the town: Why did this happen here? What are people saying? How do they feel and think about what happened?"
Indeed, although Shepard is the catalyst behind "The Laramie Project," its citizens are the true focus. Young, old, straight, gay, male, female, friends of Matthew Shepard, and strangers - the people interviewed by the theater troupe offers a variety of perspectives on both the crime and its effect on their lives.
Among those whose stories are interwoven throughout the narrative:
A University of Wyoming Theater Department professor [Camryn Manheim] who was originally skeptical about "The Laramie Project," but who now feels talking about the incident will be therapeutic for the community.
A shopkeeper [Margo Martindale] and her sister [Christina Ricci] who knew "Matt" well.
A University of Wyoming student [Jeremy Davies] who won a theater scholarship by performing (against his parents' wishes) a scene from "Angels in America," and reevaluates his motivations in the aftermath of the crime.
A car-service driver [Steve Buscemi] who drove Matthew Shepard to a gay bar in Fort Collins, Colorado, an hour away. (There are no gay bars in Laramie, or anywhere else in Wyoming.)
The first "out" lesbian professor [Janeane Garofalo] at the University of Wyoming.
The bartender [Joshua Jackson] who was working the night when Shepard was picked up.
The female officer [Amy Madigan] who was first on the scene, and later learned she had been exposed to the AIDS virus when it was determined that Shepard was HIV-positive.
Friends and acquaintances of Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, the men ultimately convicted of the crime.
Ministers from local churches, who preach tolerance but take a dim view of homosexuality.
The leader of a gay-bashing group, who crashes the funeral and later witnesses a counter-protest by a group of Shepard supporters dressed as angels.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT includes dramatizations of McKinney and Henderson's separate trials, and climaxes with a speech from Matthew Shepard's father at McKinney's sentencing. "I would like nothing better than to see you die," Dennis Shepard [Terry Kinney] tells McKinney. "However, this is the time to begin the healing process, to show mercy to someone who refused to show mercy... I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives."
Case closed, the theater company members pack up their materials for the return home. THE LARAMIE PROJECT notes, "On May 18, 2000, the play 'The Laramie Project' opened in New York City. On November 28, 2000, the people of Laramie, Wyoming, saw the play 'The Laramie Project' in Laramie. Since Matthew Shepard's murder there have been 44 reported anti-gay homicides in the United States, and 1,517 anti-gay reported assaults."
Dylan Baker (Rulon Stacey) was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for 1998's "Happiness." His other films include "Thirteen Days," "Along Came a Spider," "Requiem for a Dream," "Random Hearts," and "Celebrity." Among Baker's TV credits are "Murder One," "The Practice," "CSI," and HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon" and "Oz." His upcoming films include Sam Mendes' "The Road to Perdition" and "A Gentleman's Game." Tom Bower's (Father Roger) features include "Hearts in Atlantis," "Clear and Present Danger," "Nixon," "The Million Dollar Hotel" and "Pollock." He's been seen on TV on "The West Wing," "The Practice," "The Waltons," "Buffalo Soldiers," and the HBO original movies "Poodle Springs" and "Against the Wall." Bower will be seen in the upcoming "The Badge," with Billy Bob Thornton and Sela Ward.
Clancy Brown's (Rob Debree) features include "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Hurricane," "Dead Man Walking," "Starship Troopers" and "Extreme Prejudice." Among his TV credits are "The Practice" and "ER."
Steve Buscemi (Doc O'Connor) received a New York Film Critics Circle Award, plus Golden Globe and AFI Award nominations for "Ghost World." He received an Independent Spirit Award for his supporting role in "Reservoir Dogs," plus nominations for his performance in "Mystery Train" and for writing and directing "Trees Lounge." As a director, he was also nominated for an Emmy¨ for "The Sopranos" and a DGA Award for "Homicide: Life on the Street." He also directed and starred in the feature "Animal Factory." Buscemi's other film acting credits include "Fargo," "Pulp Fiction," "Armageddon," "Con Air" and "Monsters, Inc.," as well as the upcoming "Deadrockstar," "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams" and "Mr. Deeds," with Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder.
Nestor Carbonell's (Moises Kaufman) TV credits include the current series "The Tick," plus "Suddenly Susan," "Veronica's Closet," "Melrose Place," "A Different World" and "Law & Order." Among his films are "Jack the Dog," "Garage Sale," "Agua Dulce" and "Attention Shoppers," which he also wrote and produced.
Kathleen Chalfant (female rancher) earned a Drama Desk Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and an Obie for the lead role in the stage production of the Pulitzer Prize winning play "Wit." She also won Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for the Broadway production of "Angels in America"; her other New York stage credits include "Racing Demon," "Nine Armenians," "Henry V," "Endgame" and "Sister Mary Ignatius." Chalfant has appeared in the feature films "A Price Above Rubies," "Bob Roberts," "The Last Days of Disco" and "Five Corners," and on TV in "The Guardian," "Stephen King's Storm of the Century" and "Spin City."
Jeremy Davies (Jedediah Schultz) has appeared in such films as "29 Palms," "Spanking the Monkey," "The 24th Day," "Investigating Sex," "C.Q.," "The Million Dollar Hotel," "Saving Private Ryan," "Ravenous" "Going All the Way" and "Twister." He will also be seen in the upcoming features "Secretary" and "Dogville," with Nicole Kidman and Chlo Sevigny.
Clea Duvall's (Amanda) film credits include "Girl, Interrupted," "But I'm a Cheerleader," "John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars," "The Faculty," "Can't Hardly Wait," and "How to Make the Cruelest Month." Among her TV appearances are Cinemax's "How to Make a Monster," "ER" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Duvall will be seen in the upcoming independent films "The Slaughter Rule" and "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing," both screening at Sundance.
Peter Fonda (Dr. Cantaway) won a Golden Globe and the New York Film Critics Circle Award for "Ulee's Gold," as well as nominations for an Oscar,¨ SAG Award and an Independent Spirit Award. His 1969 film "Easy Rider," which he co-wrote and starred in, received Academy Award¨ and Writers Guild Award nominations for the script. He recently received a Golden Globe and SAG Award, as well as an Emmy¨ nomination, for the TV movie "The Passion of Ayn Rand." Fonda's other films include "The Limey" and "Bodies, Rest & Motion," and he received a Golden Globe nominated role in the TV adaptation of "The Tempest."
Ben Foster (Aaron Kreifels) has appeared in the feature films "Get Over It," "Liberty Heights" and Barry Sonnenfeld's upcoming "Big Trouble." His TV credits include "Bang, Bang, You're Dead," "Breakfast with Einstein," "I've Been Waiting for You," "Family Law" and "Freaks and Geeks." Janeane Garofalo (Catherine Connolly) was a regular on the acclaimed HBO series "The Larry Sanders Show," for which she was twice nominated for an Emmy.¨ Her feature films include "Reality Bites," "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," "Copland," "Permanent Midnight," "Clay Pigeons," "Dogma," "200 Cigarettes," "Steal This Movie" and the recent "Wet Hot American Summer." Among her TV credits are HBO's "The Sopranos," "Ed," "Law & Order," "Seinfeld," "Ellen" and "Mad About You." Garofalo can also be seen in the upcoming independent films "10029" and "Martin & Orloff," and Barry Sonnenfeld's "Big Trouble."
Bill Irwin (Harry Woods) appeared in the hit film adaptation "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas." He is an original member of the theater company Kraken and the Pickle Family Circus. On Broadway, Irwin's original work "Largely New York" received five Tony Award nominations and won Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and New York Dance and Performance Awards. His other stage credits include "Waiting for Godot," with Steve Martin, Robin Williams and F. Murray Abraham. Irwin's other films include "Illuminata," "My Blue Heaven" and "Eight Men Out," while he has appeared on TV on "Third Rock from the Sun," "Northern Exposure" and "Sesame Street."
Joshua Jackson (Matt Galloway) stars in the hit series "Dawson's Creek." His films include "The Skulls," "Gossip," "Cruel Intentions," "Apt Pupil," "Scream 2," "Urban Legend" and "The Mighty Ducks" and its sequels. He can also be seen in the upcoming features "Lone Star State of Mind" and "The Safety of Objects," with Glenn Close.
Terry Kinney (Dennis Shepard) is a regular on the hit HBO drama series "Oz." His other TV credits also include the films "That Championship Season," "Don't Look Down" and "George Wallace," and the miniseries "J.F.K.: Reckless Youth." Among his feature films are "Devil in a Blue Dress," "The Firm," "Save the Last Dance," "Sleepers," "Fly Away Home" and "The House of Mirth." Kinney is a co-founder of the groundbreaking Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, acting in and directing many productions. As an actor, he was nominated for a Tony Award for "The Grapes of Wrath," and received a Drama Desk Award for "And a Nightingale SangÉ" Kinney recently directed the Tony-winning revival of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" on Broadway.
Laura Linney's (Sherry Johnson) role in Kenneth Lonergan's "You Can Count on Me" won her Oscar,¨ Golden Globe and SAG nominations, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award. Among her other films are "The Truman Show," "The House of Mirth," "Absolute Power" and "Primal Fear." Linney's TV projects include "Running Mates" and the three "Tales of the City" miniseries. Her upcoming films include "The Life of David Gale" and "The Mothman Prophecies." She will next star on Broadway opposite Liam Neeson in "The Crucible."
Amy Madigan (Officer Reggie Fluty) won a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy¨ nomination for the TV movie "Roe vs. Wade." She also earned Oscar¨ and Golden Globe nominations for the TV drama "Twice in a Lifetime." Madigan's feature films include "Pollock," "Field of Dreams," "Places in the Heart," "The Sleepy Time Gal," "Streets of Fire" and "Loved," for which she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Madigan also had starring roles in the HBO films "Shot in the Heart" and "A Bright Shining Lie." Her other TV credits also include "Riders of the Purple Sage," (which she also executive produced) and "Having Our Say."
Camryn Manheim (Rebecca Hilliker) has earned an Emmy¨ and a Golden Globe as a regular on the hit series "The Practice." Her other TV credits include "The 10th Kingdom," "A Girl Thing," "Kiss My Act," "The Loretta Claiborne Story," "Will & Grace," "Gideon's Crossing," and "Law & Order." She has also appeared in the feature films "Happiness," "What Planet Are You From?" and "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion." Manheim wrote and starred in the off-Broadway production "Wake Up, I'm Fat," which was adapted into a best-selling memoir.
Christina Ricci (Romaine Patterson) has starred in such feature films as "Mermaids," "Sleepy Hollow," "The Ice Storm," "Buffalo '66," "The Man Who Cried," "200 Cigarettes," "Pecker," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Casper," "The Addams Family" and "Addams Family Values." She was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Independent Spirit Award for "The Opposite of Sex." Ricci's upcoming features include "Pumpkin," which she also produced, "Prozac Nation," on which she also served as co-producer, and "The Gathering."
Lois Smith (Lucy Thompson) has appeared in such feature films as "Dead Man Walking," "Twister," "How to Make an American Quilt," "Fried Green Tomatoes," "Tumbleweeds," "Green Card" and "Midnight Run." She will also be seen in Steven Spielberg's upcoming "Minority Report." Among her TV credits are the daytime dramas "All My Children" and "Another World," plus "Frasier," "Just Shoot Me" and "thirtysomething."
Frances Sternhagen (Marge Murray) has appeared in numerous films, including "Misery," "Doc Hollywood," "Landfall," "Raising Cain," "Bright Lights, Big City" and "Outland." On TV, she has had recurring roles on HBO's "Sex and the City" and "ER," and received two Emmy¨ nominations for her recurring role on "Cheers."
Mark Webber (Aaron McKinney) stars in Todd Solondz' upcoming "Storytelling"; his other films include "Animal Factory," "White Boys," and "Jesus' Son." Webber also appeared onstage in David Mamet's "American Buffalo," opposite William H. Macy and Phillip Baker Hall, in New York and London. He will also be seen in the upcoming features "Chelsea Walls," "People I Know," with Al Pacino, and Woody Allen's "Hollywood Ending."
Good Machine, Inc. (Good Machine) is a leading film production and development company dedicated to the work of innovative filmmakers. Founded by Ted Hope and James Schamus in January 1991, Good Machine has been involved in more than 50 productions, ranging from award-winning feature films, shorts and documentaries to experimental TV projects and music videos. David Linde joined the company in January 1997 as a partner, and created the wholly-owned subsidiary Good Machine International in August 1997 as a worldwide sales, marketing and financing entity.
Executive producer Ross Katz is vice president of production at Good Machine. Katz most recently produced Todd Field's "In the Bedroom" (released by Miramax Films in November 2001) and Jim Fall's "Trick" (released by Fine Line Features in July 1998). Both films screened in competition at the Sundance Film Festival. THE LARAMIE PROJECT is his third feature in the festival. As production executive for Good Machine, Katz has overseen numerous projects, including Todd Solondz' "Happiness" and Bart Freundlich's "The Myth of Fingerprints." Executive producer Anne Carey is senior vice president of development at Good Machine and oversees Good Machine's wide-ranging slate of more than 25 projects in development, working with a diverse group of filmmakers, including Ang Lee, Alison Maclean, Joel Schumacher, Moises Kaufman and Kip Williams. Carey served as associate producer on Ang Lee's "Ride with the Devil."
Executive producer Ted Hope's recent projects include Todd Field's "In the Bedroom," winner of a special jury prize at Sundance in 2001, which he executive produced; Todd Solondz' "Storytelling," which he produced with Christine Vachon; Michel Gondry's "Human Nature," which he produced with Anthony Bregman, Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze; and Nicole Holofcener's "Lovely & Amazing," which he produced with Anthony Bregman and Eric D'Arbeloff. Hope also executive produced Jenniphr Goodman's "The Tao of Steve," which won a special jury prize at Sundance in 2000. Hope is currently in production on "American Splendor," directed by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman. THE LARAMIE PROJECT is his 13th film to be chosen as an official selection at Sundance.
Writer-director Moises Kaufman is the founder and artistic director of the Tectonic Theater Project, a New York City based theater company. For Tectonic he wrote and directed "Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde," which ran for more than a year in New York; Kaufman also directed the Los Angeles and London productions. The play has been produced in more than 40 cities in the U.S. and in dozens of cities abroad, and earned the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Play, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best off-Broadway Play, and the Joe A. Callaway Award for Direction from the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, among other honors.
The stage production of "The Laramie Project" opened in Denver in February 2000 and moved to New York on May 18, 2000, going on to become one of the most performed plays in America, and receiving a Drama Desk Award nomination for Unique Theatrical Experience. In November 2000, Kaufman took his theater company to Laramie, Wyoming, to perform the play there.
Kaufman is a member of Thespis, the foremost experimental theater company in his native Venezuela. In June 1999 he was named Artist of the Year by Venezuela's Casa del Artista, a national award voted on by artists from a wide variety of fields.
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