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Love and death with Lajos Koltai

Posted at 4:06 PM on June 14, 2007 by Euan Kerr

You are going to be hearing a lot about director Lajos Koltai in coming weeks. He's the Hungarian director who was plucked from Budapest and placed in charge of "Evening" a new drama featuring many of the world's top female stars of stage and screen.

He was the third director to be given the project. He says he has deliberately avoided asking the first two why they didn't make the film, even with a finished script developed by Michael Cunningham ("The Hours") with Susan Minot who wrote the best selling novel on which the film is based.

"Evening" follows the last few days of the life of Ann Lord (played by Vanessa Redgrave), a one-time jazz singer who slips between the reality of her bedroom and the attentions of her troubled daughters (played by Redgrave's real-life daughter Natasha Richardson and Toni Collette) and her memories of a friends tumultuous wedding in Newport, R.I. The friend, Lila, is played by Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep, who plays Lila as she visits Ann on her deathbed.

The deathbed meeting is an astonishing performance by Streep and Redgrave. Koltai says he felt an immediate connection with both actors, and they insisted that he stay very close when they shot the scene.

As a cinematographer of 35 years, he says he likes to stand by the camera rather than watch over a monitor as is commonly done nowadays. He also didn't use headphones so as he puts it he "was in the same air" as Redgrave and Streep. Rather than calling out directions he says he leaned in and whispered in their ears.

Koltai says he wants people to come away from "Evening" in the mood to "ask the questions" of people in their families necessary to learn family history, and understand where they have come for. He says he learned this the hard way when he lost his parents, and as a result parts of his own history.

"Evening" opens nationally June 29th. We'll air our interview with Koltai closer to the release date.

June 2007
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