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About the Filmmakers...
Australian director PETER WEIR's international reputation soared last year with the release of the highly acclaimed and commercially successful film, "Witness," which garnered eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. Since his first major feature "The Cars That Ate Paris" in 1974, Weir has commanded the attention of audiences worldwide with his absorbing storytelling and visionary film style.
Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1944, Weir began his moviemaking career with three prize-winning short films before directing "The Cars That Ate Paris." Based on his own unpublished short story, the film is an offbeat comedy/horror picture about an outback town that attempts to revive its deteriorating economy by deliberately causing car accidents, and then looting the wrecked cars for spare parts. The film received good reviews in Australia and has attained cult status in many countries. (In the U.S., it was re-cut and redubbed by its distributor and retitled "The Cars That Eat People.")
Weir's next feature, "Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1974), brought him worldwide attention and became the most successful Australian film of the seventies. An adaptation of a novel by Joan Lindsay, it traces the mysterious disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher during a Saint Valentine's Day outing at Hanging Rock in 1900. The film was acclaimed for its spellbinding atmosphere and its photography by Russell Boyd, which won a British Academy Award.
In "The Last Wave" (1977), a lawyer (Richard Chamberlain), haunted by recurring dreams, is asked to defend a group of aborigines accused of murdering one of their members. He is soon drawn into their mystical world and finds in their culture the key to explaining his nightmares. "The Last Wave" won international awards and became Weir's first big success in America. He followed it with an unusual black comedy made for television, "The Plumber" (1978), about an aggressive and eccentric plumber who disrupts the life of an academic couple.
"Gallipoli" (1981) told the story of two Australian youths, from their first meeting at a track meet through their enlistment in the Australian cavalry and eventual involvement in the ill-fated World War I campaign at Gallipoli. The film swept the Australian Film Institute Awards and became a world-wide box-office success. This set the stage for MGM/UA to finance his next production, "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1983), the story of three people in Indonesia in 1965: an Australian journalist (Mel Gibson), his cameraman (Linda Hunt) and a British Embassy attache (Sigourney Weaver). For her performance in the film, Hunt received the 1983 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Many in the motion picture industry claim distinction, but producer JEROME HELLMAN has earned it, having created a diverse group of films that are at once intelligent, artistic, and entertaining. These range from "The World of Henry Orient," his first feature in 1964, to "The Day of the Locust," "Midnight Cowboy," and "Coming Home," movies that have garnered critical praise, received many Oscars, and more often than not were successful at the box-office.
"He's from a rare mold," states Peter Weir. "He manages to balance the business aspects of the producer's job with an intelligence and sensitivity towards the material. And it's not often that you get both sides in tune."
Born and raised in New York, Hellman began his show business career as an agent/packager with the prestigious Ted Ashley agency during television's Golden Age. Among his clients were many of the young, enormously talented directors and writers who gave TV its power during the 1950s and early 1960s: Sidney Lumet, John Frankenheimer, George Roy Hill, Franklin Schaffner, Rod Serling, Reginald Rose, and Robert Alan Arthur.
For a decade starting in the early 1950s, Hellman packaged numerous live television dramas for Studio One, Playhouse 90, the Philco Television Playhouse, and others.
In 1964 Hellman teamed up with his friend and former client George Roy Hill to film "The World of Henry Orient," a highly praised comedy about an amorous concert pianist (Peter Sellers, in his American film debut) who is followed around New York City by two teenage girls. Hellman followed that with a darker comedy, "A Fine Madness" (1966, Irvin Kershner), which chronicled the exploits of a bold, non-conformist New York poet (Sean Connery), and co-starred Joanne Woodward and Jean Seberg.
Hellman's third film, "Midnight Cowboy" (1969), was an outstanding box-office success. Actors Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight and Sylvia Miles were all nominated for Oscars, and the film went on to win Academy Awards for Hellman for Best Picture, for director John Schlesinger, and for screenwriter Waldo Salt.
Hellman, Schlesinger, and Salt were reunited in 1973 to film Nathaniel West's famed novel of Hollywood in the thirties, "The Day of the Locust," with Donald Sutherland, Karen Black, Geraldine Page, and Burgess Meredith. In 1978 he produced "Coming Home," directed by Hal Ashby, which received eight Academy Award nominations and garnered Oscars for actors Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, and screenwriters Waldo Salt, Robert C. Jones, and Nancy Dowd.
In 1979 Hellman made his debut as a director with the critically admired film "Promises in the Dark," starring Marsha Mason, Kathleen Beller, and Ned Beatty.