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THE LAST STATION

Production Notes
The Last Station is a tragi-comedy about love and marriage set during the final year in the life of the great Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy. Written and directed by Michael Hoffman (A Midsummer Night's Dream, One Fine Day, Soapdish, Restoration), it is a true story that explores the universal themes of love, family, jealousy, betrayal, idealism, and self discovery.

Produced by Chris Curling (Zephyr Films), Jens Meurer (Egoli Tossell Film) and Bonnie Arnold, in partnership with Andrei Konchalovsky, the movie focuses on two contrasting love stories - the extraordinary relationship between Tolstoy and his wife of 48 years, the immensely passionate Sofya, and the burgeoning love between Tolstoy's idealistic young private secretary, Valentin, and the free-thinking Masha, a teacher equally committed to the writer's values.

Shot on location in the picturesque German regions of Sachsen-Anhalt, Saxony, Thuringia Brandenburg, the movie boasts a top-class ensemble of stars. The cast is led by Christopher Plummer (The Insider) as Tolstoy, Academy Award winner Helen Mirren (The Queen) as Sofya, James McAvoy (Atonement) as Tolstoy's private secretary Valentin, Academy Award nominee Paul Giamatti (Sideways) as the committed Tolstoyan Chertkov, Anne-Marie Duff (The Magdalene Sisters) as the writer's loyal daughter Sasha, and Kerry Condon (Rome) as Valentin's beloved Masha.

Michael Hoffman begins by declaring that, "The Last Station gives us a very unusual opportunity to go beyond the standard biopic, in order to create a vivid, moving picture about the difficulty of living with love and the impossibility of living without it. It's not a film about Tolstoy. It's a film about the challenges of love.”

Explains producer Chris Curling. "It's about the love of old people seen through the eyes of a young person embarking on his first love. Those are things that everyone goes through. And that's why I think The Last Station will have universal resonance. We've all been there.

THE ADAPTATION

It's rare for authors to be pleased with adaptations of their novels, but author Jay Parini was pleased with Michael's screenplay. "Mike has captured the inherent drama of the story. Drama is all about conflict, and the last year of Tolstoy's life was one conflict after another. You can't beat the conflict between Sofya and Chertkov. They are like night and day, and their battle mirrors Tolstoy's own psychological split. What is great is that Mike's script deeply understands that The Last Station is all about psychological strife and the endless fight of the spiritual versus the material.”

Actress Helen Mirren was magnetized by the grand passion conjured by the screenplay. "Michael has written a superb script and he's making a marvelous film. You don't often get to read wonderful scripts and this really is a wonderful script.

Producer Chris Curling says, "The most important thing Mike did was place Valentin at the centre of the movie. That liberated him as a writer to create a compelling human drama rather than a straight biopic. The film has to hook the 99 per cent of the audience who haven't read Anna Karenina or War and Peace and won't know who on earth Tolstoy is. But they will still be gripped by the emotions Mike conjures up in The Last Station.”

Michael adds that in writing The Last Station, he felt it was crucial to mingle the tones and interweave comedy and tragedy. "Before writing the screenplay, I went back and re-read all of Chekhov's major plays. Chekhov is one of my favourite writers, and I'm very grateful to him because he helped me understand the tone. I wanted to write a tragic-comedy about marriage; I wanted to create a story where tragedy and comedy live really close to each other.”

Tolstoy's novels. It poses the essential question:<

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