THE SHIPPING NEWS
About The Production
The Shipping News is filled with memorable characters most of which have highly unusual names -- Petal Bear, Bunny, Wavey
Prowse, Beety, Nutbeem and Bill Pretty. The explanation for many of those names is simple -- Proulx picked her favorite 50 or 60 names out of the phone book, she looked at listings from the mortuaries, and list of officials from local fisheries and gas works companies. As Proulx explains, "I want names that are going to fit the place and person I am writing about. A name is like a magnet, you don't want to loose it." The names evoke the persona of the people—whether tough and brittle or sanguine and wise. The names honestly and forthrightly reveal the characters behind them.
Only Quoyle's name has particular significance. "Quoyle" is the old English spelling for a coil of rope. Proulx was inspired by an old book of knots that she found; it illustrated the fact that knots are incredible useful, if used correctly. It was a nice metaphor for her that something so bland and so simple had so many possibilities.
Lasse Hallstrom was entrusted with bringing these complicated and rich characters to the screen. Known as an actors' director,
Hallstrom works with the actors to create as much freedom, complexity, and truth within each of his characters. "My interest is in performance," Hallstrom states. "I'm from the vein of Milos Forman, John
Cassavettes, Ken Loach — the approach to filmmaking that encourages improvisation. I tend to make many of the creative decisions at the last minute or the day before shooting a scene, in order to keep things alive and fresh and allow for the experience of all of the previous shooting of the film to inform the day's work. The creative involvement from the actor is crucial to me. I encourage his or her ideas on all levels, on performance, story, dialogue." The richness and depth of Proulx's characters provided both the director and actors with the freedom to experiment with and develop the characters.
Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey flexes new muscles as Quoyle — a man who, "bereft, brimming with grief and thwarted love," metamorphoses into a more vital human being. And getting the nuance of his performance just right was essential to the successful depiction of the novel. As Holleran succinctly puts it: "For
Lasse, everything must ring true." The challenge of capturing Quoyle's quiet complexity was a real draw for Spacey.
Spacey thrived in the collaborative nature of his relationship with Lasse. As he notes. "I was very unsure a lot of the time about where Quoyle was, or where I needed to be, because the growth that he goes through as a character is so subtle,
and so minute that it's not a series of big events that happen. It's incremental moments that patiently add up to the whole. You look so forward to having someone there as a director who's able to weave a difficult tapestry together." Hallstrom was able to provide Spacey with a broad overview of the character at key moments that helped to keep Spacey's portrayal maneuvered and
Certainly, the admiration for Spacey was not lacking by anyone on the project. "Kevin is an actor with a very precise instrument, a man of intelligence with a great sense of humor,"
Hallstrom notes. "Kevin has always portrayed the more quick-witted characters. This time he plays a man of slower wit, one with many kinds of inhibitions. Quoyle is an introverted character, so Kevin had to rely less on verbal expression this time. It is a part that requires an emotional honesty, and he delivers."
Known as a jokester, Spacey kept the cast and crew laughing when the cameras were off. "Kevin's a wonderful actor," notes Judi
Dench. who portrays Quoyle's aunt. "He was also extremely difficult to work with because he made me laugh a great deal. That's no help to anybody." Spacey made sure everyon
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