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With his performance in "My Own Private Idaho," William Richert adds yet another creative accomplishment to his already impressive roster. Writing his first novel when he was 19, it was documentary filmmaking that exposed Richert to the world of movies. He began by filming several intimate interviews with the daughters of American Presidents, speaking with Margaret Truman, Linda Bird Johnson, Tricia Nixon, among others. The resulting footage was aired as a segment of "60 Minutes" in 1969, with much of the material suppressed by the Nixon White House.
He then made a feature-length docudrama, "Derby" (1971) and a year later the ballet film "First Position." In 1974 he wrote the scripts for "Law and Order" and contributed uncredited work on "Crime and Passion," both films directed by Richert collaborator Ivan Passer.
Richert wrote the screenplay and directed the 1976 thriller "Winter Kills," based on the novel by Richard Condon. The saga of making this film was almost as convoluted and twisted as the "Winter Kills" plot. Richert convinced some of the most talented and famous actors and technicians in Hollywood to come aboard, the end result being an unprecedented cast (Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Dorothy Malone, Toshiro Mifune, Sterling Hayden, Richard Boone, Elizabeth Taylor, etc.) and some of the industry's most accomplished artists behind the camera (Vilmos Zsigmond shot the picture, Robert Boyle was the production designer). A few weeks before the completion, money ran out and MGM impounded the negative, shelving it for two years before Richert could untangle the legal mess.
When "Winter Kills" finally opened, it received critical accolades, as did Richert's next film "Success," also starring Jeff Bridges.
In 1986 Richert fulfilled a dream: he adapted his own first novel, "A Day in the Life of Jimmy Reardon" into a film. It was here that Richert began his association with River Phoenix.
Acclaimed actor James Russo portrays the estranged brother of River Phoenix in "My Own Private Idaho." This is the third film he shot in one year's time; the others being "State of Grace" opposite Sean Penn and Gary Oldman and "A Kiss Before Dying," James Dearden's updating of the Ira Levin classic with Matt Dillon and Sean Young.
Of Italian-German descent, Russo was born in Queens, New York, and began his career while attending New York University. In 1980 he wrote and performed in the short "Candy Store," which would win the Best Student Film Academy Award.
He made his stage debut in "Welcome to Andromeda," and went on to perform in such productions as "Marat-Sade" and "Deathwatch."
Russo received a Theatre World Award for his performance as Joe in the Off-Broadway smash "Extremities" opposite Farrah Fawcett. Both actors would reprise their roles in the highly praised Robert Young film version.
Russo's other movie credits include performances in Neil Jordan's "We're No Angels," "The Blue Iguana," "Freeway," "China Girl," "Beverly Hills Cop," Francis Coppola's "The Cotton Club," Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America," "Exposed," "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," Beth and Scott B's "Vortex" and "A Stranger is Watching," among others.
Udo Kier has been making films since 1969 both in Europe and the United States. Born in 1944 in Cologne, Germany, Kier has worked with some of the most talented filmmakers of his generation. He has appeared in several films for Rainer Werner Fassbinder (including a role in Fassbinder's masterpiece "Berlin Alexanderplatz") and has been featured in films by Gustav Hamos and Lars Von Trier.
Kier is probably best known to American audiences for his appearances in "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein" and "Andy Warhol's Dracula," both directed by Paul Morrissey. He was also featured in Dario Argento's cult classic "Suspiria."
Making her American acting debut in "My Own Private Idaho" is Italian actress Chiara Caselli. A native of Rome, Caselli appeared for 3 years in the popular television series "Das Nest" in the role of Pia. Her theatre credits include "Ready Made," "Casa Fondate Nel 1873" and Woody Allen's "Play It Again, Sam."
Making her film debut in 1989 in "Il Segreto," Caselli has also appeared in "Il Segno Di Fuoco" "L'Annee De L'Eveil," "Sabato Selvaggio" and "La Domenica Specialmente."