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Source: Pioneer Press

Oscar-caliber talent finding a home on the Range

BY CHRIS HEWITT
13 Feb 2005

Regular patrons of the Deluxe Café in Eveleth and the Sawmill Restaurant
in Virginia had better get used to seeing some unexpected faces.
The cast and crew of "Untitled Niki Caro Project" have arrived in the
Iron Range, and they're liable to pop up anywhere.

The movie, once known as "Class Action," is said to be extremely
loosely based on "Class Action," Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy
Gansler's book about a sexual harassment lawsuit initiated by Lois
Nelson and others against Eveleth Mines in the 1980s. (Nelson is
not participating in the film.) If you're hanging out at Eveleth
Hardware and see an unfamiliar face, it could belong to one of
these filmmakers:

Charlize Theron as Josey Aimes: Theron won her Oscar for playing a
working-class woman who runs afoul of misogynistic men, so she
knows this territory. Theron portrays a woman who is harassed at
the taconite mine where she works. The fact that this was one of
two films Theron committed to right after winning her "Monster"
Oscar suggests she feels strongly about it (and, since the script
is often compared to both "Norma Rae" and "Erin Brockovich,"
both of which won Oscars for their lead actresses, it suggests a
role that could put Theron in contention again).

Sissy Spacek as Alice: Like Theron, an Oscar winner (for "Coal Miner's
Daughter"), she has often played characters from rural areas
("Straight Story," "Tuck Everlasting"). And, yes, she's 26 years
older than Theron, plenty old enough to play her mom.

Frances McDormand as Glory: No stranger to filming in Minnesota,
McDormand won an Oscar for playing the pregnant cop in "Fargo"
and is married to director and St. Louis Park native Joel Coen. Will
she be hauling out the exaggerated "Fargo" accent again for "Untitled
Niki Caro Project"? Hard to say, but McDormand, who plays Josey's
best friend, is one of the finest actresses in America (and another
performer who has often played small-towners, in films such as
"Mississippi Burning" and "Raising Arizona").

Woody Harrelson as Josey's lawyer: Harrelson's character is,
apparently, loosely based on Paul Sprenger, the attorney for Lois
Nelson, who initiated the class action suit against Eveleth Mines
on which the movie is modeled. Harrelson is a versatile actor
whose resume shows a willingness to commit to hard-hitting,
unusual projects such as "The People vs. Larry Flynt" and "The
Thin Red Line."

Sean Bean as Kyle: Best known for playing Boromir in the "Lord
of the Rings" films, Bean plays Glory's boyfriend. Few details have
leaked out about the character, but Bean, a native of Sheffield,
England, usually ends up playing a villain.

Niki Caro, director: Only one of the New Zealand native's four films,
"Whale Rider," has been distributed in the United States, but its
strong sense of place and of its characters' connection to where
they live bodes well for the film formerly known as "Class Action,"
as does her insistence on shooting as much of the film as possible
in Minnesota, where it's set. Having directed newcomer Keisha
Castle-Hughes to an Oscar nomination for "Whale Rider," she is
known both for her work with actors and for her visual skills.

Michael Seitzman, screenwriter: He's a relatively unknown screenwriter,
but, ironically, his last film, the critically unheralded "Here on Earth,"
was also shot in Minnesota. It featured a pre-stardom Josh Hartnett.

Nick Wechsler, producer: As a producer, Wechsler has gravitated
toward edgy material ("Quills," "Drugstore Cowboy") and directors
with strong points of view (Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a
Dream," Spike Lee's "25th Hour"). "Untitled Niki Caro Project" seems
likely to draw both of those strands together.

Chris Menges, cinematographer: The average moviegoer probably
isn't aware of the work of cinematographers, who work with directors
to develop a film's visual style. But the hiring of Menges, an Oscar
winner for both "The Mission" and "The Killing Fields," reveals that
the "Untitled Niki Caro Project" is aiming high. A cheaper, less
confident cinematographer might have done a fine job on the movie,
but Menges is one of the best in the business.


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