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AUTUMN IN NEW YORK

Production Notes (Continued)

Surrounding Gere and Ryder in Autumn in New York is an extraordinary supporting cast made up of renowned award-winners and promising newcomers. Among the most prominent is renowned stage actress Elaine Stritch, who plays Dolly, Charlotte's tart-tongued, ex-socialite grandmother who has a secret insight into Charlotte and Will's relationship.

Stritch won the role when she met the filmmakers in the bar of New York's Regency Hotel in a pair of short shorts. "We saw her and thought 'Oh God, she's perfect for this character,'" recalls Amy Robinson. Indeed, Dolly is a delightfully eccentric and gutsy character, a woman who, according to Stritch, "has partied beyond the call of duty."

Stritch saw the character as someone who has numbed herself to life's sorrows, because she's had a few too many of them, including the loss of her daughter. "Dolly has kicked up her heels and lived high all her life, but now she's sort of given up," explains Stritch. "I see her as an escape artist. She doesn't know how to face life on life's terms and she wants to be there for her granddaughter but she just doesn't know how to do it. Intimacy terrifies her."

Stritch fell in love with the movie's powerful evocation of love. "I found it a very interesting story about a person who's afraid to need love," she comments. "There's a lot of subtext about what goes on in human beings when they meet each other and it's filled with the emotions of real life experiences."

Comments Winona Ryder: "Elaine Stritch is really a great American treasure. I just tried to be a sponge and soak in as much as I could in her presence. It was amazing to watch someone who could get to such an emotional place so quickly and so deeply."

Dolly is not the only character in Autumn in New York who struggles with a "lost" daughter. Will Keane has his own fateful meeting with the past when he runs into a young woman who appears to have a connection to him. Newcomer Vera Farmiga plays Lisa, the Museum employee with an unbreakable link to Richard Gere's Will Keane.

To cast Lisa, the filmmakers invited Gere to be part of the proceedings. "When Vera came in to read, Richard immediately said 'this is our person.' And he was so right," comments producer Tom Rosenberg. "Vera is one of those really special actresses who only come around once in a while and her career is going to skyrocket."

Farmiga responded to Autumn in New York's exploration of a common human dilemma: the need to be loved versus the fear of getting hurt. "Pursuing love is a tricky sport," she admits. "In my experience it requires energy, commitment, endurance and an ability to endure bruising ' so it's really not Will Keane's favorite game until he meets his ultimate opponent: Charlotte."

As for her own character, Farmiga sees her as a woman looking not so much for unconditional love as the truth. "To her, Will Keane is this myth of a man she sees on magazine covers. But then she sees him at a benefit dance with Charlotte, who is Lisa's age, and he's dancing and fooling around and being loving and all these childhood feelings arise and she has to know who he is," she explains.

Working closely with Richard Gere was the frosting on the cake for Farmiga. "For me, he was just like Will Keane ' a myth I had seen in magazines," she admits. "But working with him was a fabulous experience. He makes you feel so comfortable and at ease,  it's a real gift he has. It was especially interesting watching him play a man who's so afraid to love because Richard is so generous and so full of love. And he takes Will Keane to that point."

Autumn is a time of haunting beauty and rapid change in New York, as the summer leaves turn to gold and float through the city streets in preparation for winte

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