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MEET JOE BLACK

Behind The Scenes
The centerpiece of filming, however, were the three semi-formal family dinners, the first of which is stopped in its tracks when Joe Black appears

The centerpiece of filming, however, were the three semi-formal family dinners, the first of which is stopped in its tracks when Joe Black appears. Brest directed the dinner scene over a period of days, eliciting the ensemble nuances of a family who have known each other all their lives-and the sudden shock of having a mysterious stranger thrust into their midst. This startling appearance gives the sequence a suspenseful edge and Brad Pitt used the cast's myriad reactions-confusion, discomfort, bemusement, and surprise-as a way of getting to the truth of the situation.

"I'm playing someone who represents Death," the actor says. "But how do you play such a character? You can't do research. So you're thrown back onto your resources. You watch everyone else and play off their feelings. The fact that we were such a tight-knit group worked to my advantage. Everyone gave me something great to play off."

Claire Forlani was also pleased at the sense of ensemble that Brest and her co-stars generated on the set.

"At first I was thrilled when I got the role, then I was terrified. It's intimidating playing opposite Brad and Anthony Hopkins," Forlani says. "Brad's a big film star and has so much experience, and Tony, you know, he's more than just an actor's actor. He's a great star who's played so many great roles that I felt out of my depth. I mean, I have so much to learn."

But Hopkins found the youth of his co-stars attractive and inspiring.

"It's just great working with these younger actors. I just love it. I've worked with Brad before on Legends of the Fall, and we get on very well. He has a great sense of humor, he's lighthearted and I like working with him. I'm sure he takes it all seriously, but he's very friendly, very generous, so it makes doing the scene a pleasure.

"And Claire and Marcia, they're so fresh and talented, anyone would be thrilled having them as daughters. And Jake and Jeffrey began to feel like people from my real life. It's a wonderful cast, not a big cast, really a very small one, and that's special in a big commercial movie. Usually there are so many actors swarming around. Here it was just us six. And Marty. Quite marvelous, really."

Marcia Gay Harden also enjoyed the company of her fellow actors. "When Joe Black is brought into the house you can imagine that strange things start happening, but Brad approached the part with a lovely, odd naiveté that was so wonderful to watch. I was so excited by his little movements. Everything he did was unexpected and original.

"What was difficult for me was the situation of my character, the older daughter who's been fighting all her life for her father's attention and love, seeing that most of it goes to her younger sister. It's difficult to play because you have to get in touch with painful feelings in your own life that aren't always pleasant to experience.

"The saving grace was Jeffrey Tambor's character, Quince, my husband in the film. We had chemistry, ka-bang, from the first. He's a wonderful, spicy kind of actor, it's like acting with a giant brilliant Teddy bear. He helped me express some of the family nuances that are written so beautifully in the script."

Following Brooklyn, the unit moved to Warwick Neck, Rhode Island, on Narragansett Bay halfway between Providence and Newport, to shoot the film's opening and its climactic sequence, Bill Parrish's 65th birthday celebration

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