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COOKIE'S FORTUNE

About The Production
In the upstairs master bedroom, surrounded by the decaying grandeur of her ante-bellum manor, Jewel Mae "Cookie" Orcutt is discovered - "murdered" - by her estranged nieces, Camille Dixon and Cora Duvall

In the upstairs master bedroom, surrounded by the decaying grandeur of her ante-bellum manor, Jewel Mae "Cookie" Orcutt is discovered - "murdered" - by her estranged nieces, Camille Dixon and Cora Duvall. What ensues is an unconventional investigation into the crime, involving one of cinema's most colorful pastiche of characters. That it takes place in a historical town in Mississippi - where the Southern system of distinguished, understated manners lives side-by-side with the bold, hearty legacy of the blues - lends the story only some of its abundant gothic humor. Holly Springs is part of that universe where women are supposed to be ladies, and male bonding runs strongest among fellow fishermen. The plot may have sprung from the imagination of screenwriter Anne Rapp, but many of the characters have evolved from her own experiences as a native of the Texas panhandle, and as a one-time resident of Oxford, Mississippi. Director and cast were drawn to the rare social whimsy of the story, and the rich mosaic of characters. "It's a deliciously written script," remarks Glenn Close (cast to portray Camille Dixon, the theatrical orchestrator of both the town's Easter morality play and murder investigation). "You can feel the whole life of all these beautifully divine characters."

"Anne [Rapp] has her own unique sensibility of romantic irony," observes Altman. "She's a kinder soul, and has a rare ability to find in these characters an authentic, truthful quirkiness."

An Altman trademark is an almost musically composed cast; directing characters as themes, and each scene as a composite of solos. "Ensemble casts are not a directorial challenge," states Altman. "They're only an asset, particularly when you have gifted actors of this caliber."

Given the director's legendary generosity with actors, the cast of COOKIE'S FORTUNE leapt at the chance to be a part of the film. When contacted by Altman on the British set of Onegin, Liv Tyler readily agreed to play Emma, the vulnerable young woman who, at the very least, has inherited COOKIE's rebellious nature. "The opportunity to work with Robert Altman was one of the main attractions to this film," agrees co-star Chris O'Donnell. "And his style of filmmaking is wonderful for actors. He likes to shoot in as big a piece as possible. Bob spends his time in rehearsal, developing alot of subtleties that make each character special."

While Altman and Rapp developed the character of WILLIS with Charles S. Dutton in mind, the actor confessed his welcome surprise to play against type. "I had to check my instinct all the time to 'push it'," admits Dutton. "It's a physical challenge not to react. But Willis required what I'd call 'soft' acting. It's an easy style. I thought of an old bluesman. A lazy cadence in speech and style. So, essentially I played Willis as an old bluesman without a song."

Rounding out the distinguished cast are veteran actor Donald Moffat as Holly Springs' only lawyer and hence the depository of all the town's secrets; Courtney B. Vance as the opportunistic investigator from Batesville ("He arrives with a chip on his shoulder, and is then befuddled by these people who talk circles around him."); Altman 4-time veteran Lyle Lovett ("He [Altman] has this flair for showing what makes someone tick by their actions an

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