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The Cast
The appeal of AWAY FROM HER lies in the casting as much as in the story. Oscar ®-winning actresses Julie Christie and Olympia Dukakis were joined by Gordon Pinsent and Michael Murphy, both award-winning actors in their own right. Says Weiss, "Having actors who we are all familiar with is crucial to the story because we have to feel connected with them from the beginning.” 

Christie, Pinsent, Dukakis and Murphy represent the graying of the baby boomer generation, yet they redefine the image of old age as one full of vitality and vibrancy, where romance and sexuality are still dynamic forces. "You get to a certain age and you think all that stuff is gone and it's not,” says Murphy, a veteran of such films as ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN, M.A.S.H. and MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER. "I don't feel any different than I did when I was 30. There's a part of us that doesn't belong to time. It's a spirit thing.”

Julie Christie was the first, and only, person Polley considered for Fiona Andersson, the charming, vulnerable woman who is described in Munro's story as "ethereal, light and sly.” Christie, in turn, was immediately impressed by the power of Polley's script and the confidence of the young director. "Sarah Polley is of course what lured me in,” says the actress. "I was astonished at the confidence and security and self-assuredness of this woman who was behaving like an ancient old pro like John Ford or something.” 

"Julie is captivating, magnetic and stunningly beautiful,” says Polley. "She has the sharpest mind and this piercing gaze into other people. She's full of life and wonder and curiosity, and it's impossible not to fall in love with her. But you're always chasing her because she's with you one second and not the next – and that was exactly my experience with the character of Fiona in the short story.”

"Julie surpassed all of our expectations,” avows Urdl. "Fiona has to be vibrant and with it, and then you have to see her deterioration. Julie has the ability to do that without appearing forced. She is so present and yet there is something ephemeral about her.”

Yet Fiona's gradual deterioration proved to be a formidable challenge for the seasoned actress. "You can't possibly know what happens in that moment when that person goes away,” explains Christie. "That was the difficulty for me, not having any idea where she is going.”

Enter the discreet charm of actor/writer/director Gordon Pinsent, a Canadian icon. In what has been described by one journalist as a "career-defining role,” Pinsent, at age 75, plays Grant Andersson, a former university professor of mythology. "The initial reason I was attracted to this is because Sarah called me,” explains Pinsent. "I'd do anything for her. Then there's the material, the role. It's fantastic. In addition to the issue of Alzheimer's, there is plenty going on underneath. And then we have Julie Christie and Olympia Dukakis. What's not to like?” 

As Pinsent embodies him, Grant still wields the considerable charm that helped him seduce young co-eds years ago; yet age has led him to fully appreciate the beauty and intelligence of his remarkable wife. "Grant had a few flighty years – other women, students and drugs,” says Pinsent. "But he eventually realized Fiona was the true love of his life.”

Polley was particularly pleased with the fresh pairing of Pinsent and Christie. "Gordon's got a dignified quality and at the same time, he's salt of the earth,” she says. "I love how completely different he and Julie are. It's so inspiring when couples have been together for a long time, but retain their distinct and sometimes contradictory identities. These are people who have not melded into the couple monster.”

When Fiona becomes ill, Grant has to learn how to let go of his life's most prized possession. "Grant's trying to be strong, but he's also feeling weak and guilty

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