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
"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
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