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Novice songwriters James Wright (River Phoenix, left), Miranda Presley (Samantha Mathis) and Kyle Davidson (Dermot Mulroney) come to Nashville to further their careers only to find their plans complicated by matters of the heart in "The Thing Called Love." The Paramount film was directed by Peter Bogdanovich and produced by John Davis. The screenplay was written by Carol Heikkinen. George Folsey, Jr. is the executive producer and Darlene K. Chan is the co-producer.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Director Peter Bogdanovich has featured country music in his films since "The Last Picture Show" (1971) and including "Paper Moon" (1973), "Saint Jack" (1979), "They All Laughed" (1981) and "Texasville" (1990). When he was sent Carol Heikkinen's screenplay, Bogdanovich was delighted with the prospect of exploring country music and its famous milieu in a considerably more direct way with protagonists intent on making it their career.
For the film's four lead roles, Bogdanovich selected acclaimed young actors and actresses with musical and singing abilities after deciding to use actors who weren't established country singers so that they would be in the appropriate young 20s age range.
"I thought it was important that these characters who have come of age in the '90s should reflect the feelings and aspirations of their generation," comments Bogdanovich. "The principal actors were closely involved in the creative process. I learned a lot from these young people. I found that their generation is in some ways guardedly romantic and in other ways practical, inquiring, not easily duped, and suspicious of going in accepted ways just because their parents did. And I think this is a generation with a great deal of integrity -- very conscious about what selling out does to someone."
Producer John Davis identifies "a real love for character-oriented stories" in Bogdanovich's motion picture work, which includes such award-winning films as "Mask," "Paper Moon," "What's Up Doc?," and "The Last Picture Show," for which he received Academy Award nominations as director and co-screenwriter.
"This film is all about having the courage to act on your dreams," says producer John Davis. "I think we've all been at this place in our lives."
Prior to filming "The Thing Called Love," River Phoenix ("My Own Private Idaho," Academy Award nominee for "Running on Empty") worked with Grammy nominee T Bone Burnett on a number of songs. Among the songs Phoenix performs in "The Thing Called Love" is "Lone Star State of Mine," which he wrote especially for the film.
Despite these musical abilities, Phoenix had never planned to combine his acting and musical talents in a motion picture. "I always felt that music and singing was something of a hobby and never intended to portray a character that would perform in this way," Phoenix says, "but there was a reality I could bring to this role that was vital."
He comments about his character James Wright: "He's first and foremost dedicated to the songs he writes, so in order to showcase them he has to play them. He's interested in making demos and getting them to the appropriate artists to hear and record. He's very self-centered, yet he holds a certain amount of humor which I think is a saving grace . . . it's as songwriter where his vulnerability and true soul shines."
James first encounters Miranda Presley outside The Bluebird Cafe on auditions night and fate continues to bring them together. "I think James's attraction to Miranda is one of polar-opposites," Phoenix observes. "She's from New York and he's from Texas. Everything about them says this can't happen, so I think because of that it does. It comes down to heart and chemistry."