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Lasse Hallstrom Comes On Board
For Academy Award® nominated director Lasse Hallström, THE HOAX marks an edgy departure back to his roots, a foray back into the darkly comic labyrinths of irreverence, obsession and deception. Having gained renown for his deft storytelling skills and sensitivity in working with actors, Hallström's recent body of work – including the award-winning CIDER HOUSE RULES and CHOCOLAT – has veered towards moving dramas. But Hallström began his career in his native Sweden with a series of keenly observed comedies, ultimately coming to global attention with the runaway hit about the grittier, wryer side of childhood, MY LIFE AS A DOG.

Hallström says that, no matter what the subject, his passion for filmmaking has always been driven by one thing: character, regardless of whether those characters are inspirational or downright morally befuddled. And it was character in spades that lured him to THE HOAX as soon as he encountered it. "I just loved the script right away because these characters are so fascinating,” he says. "It was a chance for me to do the kind of film I've been wanting to return to for a long time, the kind of comedy I like most – the kind that fearlessly observes human behavior, in the tradition of Milos Forman and John Cassavetes.”

Recalls Hallström's long-time producer Leslie Holleran: "There was a rare, instantaneous connection to this material. We felt there is a core here, there is a human story that we like, and we wanted to tell it. Lasse and I are also always trying to reach out and try something new and different and there were many new elements to this story that were very, very exciting to us.”

The other producers were exhilarated by Hallström's fervor for the project. Says Josh Maurer: "We already knew that Lasse is a brilliant storyteller who has a way of bringing extraordinary performances from actors – but this is a story Lasse has never told before, and that was very exciting to us. It was a great and unexpected match.”

Hallström had never heard of Clifford Irving before he read the script, and as with William Wheeler, he was knocked for a loop to realize someone had really succeeded in hoodwinking so many people with such a bold and outrageous series of lies. He brought his own take on Irving to the picture – viewing him as a playful, imaginative con artist, emphasis on the artist, who conjured his own amazing fantasy world from thin air and then attempted to live in it as a reality.

"I saw Clifford Irving as more like a performance artist, who saw this scam, this hoax, as an incredible act of creation,” says Hallström. "It wasn't so much that he needed the money. It was the fun of it all, the art of it all that really got him going. He made a world out of nothing. But then I think it got out of control. He kept raising the stakes and getting more and more caught up in the fraud. It started out at a very playful level but it escalated into an increasingly serious illegal scam.”

Hallström was willing to take the risk of allowing the story's main character to be drawn entirely in shades of gray, sometimes oozing charm and wit, and other times devastatingly amoral. "I was always torn over what to think about Clifford, because he's really not trustworthy, and the way he uses and betrays his friends made me cringe,” Hallström admits. "But it also constantly fascinated me, because I could never lie to that extent, and yet I think we all wonder about people who are able to make lying and cheating their way to the top work. What's so wonderful about Clifford, especially as Richard Gere portrays him, is that he's not a complete villain. You can understand him, even if you can't trust him.”

For Mark Gordon, it was Hallström's ability to braid together all the strands of this grand hoax that made him so right for the material. "He uses a style in which humor and drama and<

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