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Sunday, October 01, 2006

INTO THE WILD WITH BILL POHLAD

I ran into Producer Bill Pohlad and his wife at SW Minneapolis' YUM! restaurant on Saturday evening, where he was taking a break from his hectic travel schedule to grab dinner at this homey bistro owned by brother Bob and sister-in-law Michelle. Bill ate fruit salad and lemon chicken as their infant son slept in the stroller between them. We had a few moments to chat about his film productions.

FUR is going to open at the Rome Film Festival, Bill said, in a couple of weeks, however, he will not be in Rome for the festival due to the production schedule for INTO THE WILD, taking him to Portland while the Shawn Penn film shoots on location in Beaverton, Oregon in October.

FUR stars Nicole Kidman as Diane Arbus and has evolved into "an imaginary portrait" of Arbus under Steven Shainberg's direction and script by Erin Cressida Wilson, the writing team who brought the adaption SECRETARY to the screen. A wind of controversy swirls around FUR as the writer and director focused this portrait somewhat narrowly on an Arbus' obsession with forbidden sexual behavior, also a central theme in SECRETARY, as opposed to Arbus' complex career as a New York artist and photographic genius.

Pohlad's current production, INTO THE WILD is an adventure drama based on the bestselling story by Jon Krakauer about a top student and athlete from Emory University, Christopher McCandless (being played by Emile Hirsch) who abandons conventional life for the Alaskan wilderness. The script adaptation was written by Sean Penn who is also directing the film with Pohlad as Producer. The cast includes William Hurt as McCandless' demanding aerospace engineering father and Catherine Keener as well as Vince Vaughn as Wayne Westerberg.

In the non-fiction book by Krakauer, McCandless in a Tolstoyan fit renounced all his possessions, hitch-hikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness and return to nature. Keener plays Jan Burns who picked up McCandless and treated him as a surrogate son while Vaughn plays a tow-truck driver he meets while on the road. Shockingly, McCandless died of starvation four months later in a remote campsite inside an abandoned bus.

While Penn has been director of other special projects and several music documentaries, his last film for Warner Bros was THE PLEDGE (2001) that carried an estimated budget of $45M and ended grossing $20 in U.S. box office receipts. Penn's effort on THE PLEDGE was noticed with nominations for Cannes' Golden Palm and Berlin's Golden Bear but failed to achieve significant notoriety upon release.

Penn has recently been in the news for his interest expressed making the politically hot-button film adaptation of Richard Clark's Washington insiders memoir AGAINST ALL ENEMIES also with Vince Vaughn.

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