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Premieres & Events

"You Could Get Away With It"

(L-R) Director Lasse Hallström on the set of The Hoax with Richard Gere (Photo: Miramax)

By S.T. VanAirsdale

Perhaps unfortunately, or at least predictably, the red-carpet press corps essentially followed two lines of questioning at New York's April Fool's Day premiere of The Hoax: 1) Who are you wearing, and how did you attain the shape that allows you to wear it? And 2) Could you talk about the liberties you took in adapting Clifford Irving's story to the screen?

The latter inquiry gets a little complicated; naturally, there was the whole matter of Irving's objections to Bill Wheeler's screenplay (noted first on Irving's Web site), followed by director Lasse Hallström's candid confusion last night. "I know he saw it for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and he loved it," the filmmaker told me. "Now, according to the people around him, he's changed the story on that. I haven't been told any details."

Hoax producer Josh Maurer responded to a few of Irving's specific complaints, such as the substitution of a house up in White Plains for the hoaxster's actual residence at the time on the island of Ibiza. "Clifford traveled extensively while he made the Hoax, and we capture many of those locations ourselves," Maurer said. "Las Vegas and so forth. Also, if you read the book, you'll see that Clifford traveled extensively and made bogus research in essence to have an excuse to see his mistress, Nina Van Pallandt. So basing it in upstate New York rather as opposed to Ibiza is a very minor (change), I think. In a sense, we're faithful, because the house that he lives in on Ibiza -- his wife still lives there by the way; they're divorced -- is big rambling farmhouse. In the movie, we have a big rambling farmhouse."

OK, fine. We'll just say budgets is budgets; at least they got New York right. Didn't they?

Well, sort of. Irving's Manhattan comings and goings are in there. But, as Jeff Wells wrote a few weeks ago at Hollywood Elsewhere, the skyline shots of Lower Manhattan circa 1970-71 notably omit the twin towers under construction at the World Trade Center. While some of the ensuing debate focused on whether or not this was a chronology/continuity goof, others stressed that having the towers in the shot called too much attention away from the scene at hand -- a little less noble aesthetic choice than, say, subbing Westchester for the Mediterranean.

Indeed, Hallström told me he consciously decided against adding the towers. "It was just about to be finished," he said. "And every time you see those buildings, you bring attention to 9/11, and we just tried to not bring attention to that. You could get away with it -- it's just on the border of '70 and '71. We tried to get away with not showing them. That's all. Each time you see them, it brings you offscreen to a different subject matter. We wanted to avoid it."

I tried following up with the question of whether or not current events are an appropriate defense against geographic inaccuracy, but in stepped the publicist and that was the end of that. Maurer played it a little cleaner, if more roundabout. "I think that from the perspective of where we see it over the buildings," he said, "I don't think at that time the level of the Trade Center buildings would have reached a height that we would have been able to see from the top of the buildings in the helicopter sequence. So to me it's fine."

Besides that, early buzz on The Hoax seems mostly positive; remember that Oscars Anonymous charter member Lewis Beale has Richard Gere as a Best Actor '07 front-runner. The film opens Friday in New York; look for The Reeler's review later this week.

Posted at April 2, 2007 11:06 AM

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