A CIVIL ACTION
In this legal thriller based on a true story, John Travolta stars as Jan Schlichtmann, a tenacious personal-injury attorney whose fierce determination entangles him in a case that threatens to destroy him
In this legal thriller based on a true story,
John Travolta stars as Jan Schlichtmann, a tenacious personal-injury
attorney whose fierce determination entangles him in a case that
threatens to destroy him. The case-which appears straightforward-instead
evolves into a labyrinthine lawsuit of vast dimensions, in the
intelligent, fast-paced drama, "A Civil Action."
Touchstone Pictures and Paramount Pictures present the motion
-picture drama, "A Civil Action," directed by Steven
Zaillian, based on the best-selling book by Jonathan Harr with
a screenplay by Zaillian. The film stars John Travolta and Robert
Duvall and co-stars Stephen Fry, James Gandolfini, Dan Hedaya,
Zeljko Ivanek, John Lithgow, William H. Macy, Kathleen Quinlan
and Tony Shalhoub. Producers are Scott Rudin, Robert Redford and
Rachel Pfeffer. Executive producers are Steven Zaillian and David
Wisnievitz. Buena Vista Pictures distributes.
"A Civil Action" is the real-life story of an epic courtroom
showdown. It's both a high-stakes legal thriller and a poignant
drama that takes us from the poisoned banks of the Aberjona River
in rural New England to the esteemed law firms and courtrooms
of downtown Boston.
The genesis of "A Civil Action" began more than a decade
ago when author Jonathan Harr decided to write a book about the
case, an endeavor that ultimately took him nine years to complete.
At the time, attorney Jan Schlichtmann was reveling in a stream
of successful multi-million dollar personal injury verdicts. He
wanted, he often said, "To become rich and famous by doing
good." Schlichtmann invited Harr to be an 'observer from
within' and granted him complete and unrestricted access to his
case-not just the court pleadings, but everything from the preparation
of witnesses to the daily strategy sessions with his partners.
"When I first started the project, all of the auguries were
great," recalls Harr. "Jan had gotten a jury. He had
the proof that he thought he needed to win the case and he thought
the book was going to be a wonderful depiction of an incredible
victory." But the case went awry, and what unfolded instead
was an extraordinary account of Jan Schlichtmann's search for
the truth, and the path of professional and emotional destruction
down which that search led him. "I honestly thought I was
watching a man travel to the brink of insanity," Harr confides.
Set in the 1980s, "A Civil Action" chronicles the legal
crusade that attorney Jan Schlichtmann waged on behalf of eight
families in Woburn, Massachusetts against two of the nation's
largest corporations, W.R. Grace & Co. and Beatrice Foods.
The families claimed that the companies contaminated their town's
drinking water with chemicals ultimately leading to the leukemia
deaths of their children.
Most lawyers wouldn't have considered staking large sums of money-and
their careers-on this type of case. By any measure it was a very
difficult case to win. Schlichtmann had to prove that the companies
dumped toxic solvents on the ground, which entered the drinking
water by seeping into nearby wells, and resulted in fatal illnesses.
Schlichtmann financed the case himself. He spent more than $2.6
million on medical and scientific tests. By the time he turned
down a multi-million dollar settlement offer he had lost control
not only of the case, but of
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