"The facts can always be altered when you're telling a story, but this time, I have to be careful. I'll lay out the events exactly as I remember them. I want you to believe this, after all, and that will be hard enough as it is." --Gabriel Noone
A haunting, suspense-filled mystery about truth, lies and
storytelling, THE NIGHT LISTENER follows the disturbingly eerie twists
and turns that unfold in the relationship between a popular late-night radio
host and a devoted young fan who claims to have survived a terrifying,
secret past. Robin Williams stars as Gabriel Noone, a colorful public radio
storyteller who, in the throes of his own emotional crisis, begins talking
on the phone with a precocious, 14 year-old listener named Pete (Rory Culkin),
a boy with his own incredible story to tell about a nightmare childhood.
Still reeling from a devastating breakup with his lover of ten years (Bobby
Cannavale), Gabriel finds unexpected comfort in his long-distance conversations
with Pete and begins to support him in the publishing of his memoirs. But as
Gabriel draws closer to Pete and his adopted mother (Toni Collette), becoming
a kind of surrogate father, he also grows more and more filled with doubts
about the boy's tales and macabre suspicions over who he really is--sparking a
desperate quest to uncover the elusive truth.
Based on the acclaimed, page-turner novel by Armistead Maupin, THE NIGHT LISTENER delves into the vertiginous realms where identity, illusion and obsession collide. Starring Robin Williams, Toni Collette, Bobby Cannavale, Joe Morton, Rory Culkin and Sandra Oh, the film is directed by Patrick Stettner, who made an auspicious debut with the revenge thriller and Sundance Film Festival hit THE BUSINESS OF STRANGERS. The screenplay was adapted by Armistead Maupin, Terry Anderson and Stettner. THE NIGHT LISTENER is produced by Robert Kessel, Jeff Sharp, John Hart and Jill Footlick, and the executive producers are Michael Hogan, Armistead Maupin, Terry Anderson, Jonathan Sehring and Caroline Kaplan.
The behind-the-scenes team includes cinematographer Lisa Rinzler (POLLOCK, THREE SEASONS), editor Andy Keir (NEIL YOUNG: HEART OF GOLD, THE DYING GAUL), production designer Michael Shaw (BOYS DON'T CRY, A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD) and costume designer Marina Draghici (TWELVE AND HOLDING).
A runaway hit with critics and readers alike, Armistead Maupin's
novel The Night Listener seemed to defy categorization. It is at once a layered,
Hitchcockian mystery that kept readers guessing, an intimate personal saga about
the longing for romantic and family love, as well as a riveting meditation on
why we concoct stories, who we tell them to and how their effects resonate
through our lives. Maupin himself called the novel "a thriller of the heart,"
and admitted that it was partially auto-biographical--largely inspired by an
extraordinary, unsettling true-life chain of events that actually happened to
Maupin and his ex-partner, Terry Anderson, back in 1992.
It was then that Maupin, the celebrated author of the popular Tales of the City serial novels (which also became an acclaimed television mini-series), was sent a manuscript by a 14 year-old boy who claimed to have survived shocking physical and sexual abuse as a child, and had just penned a heartfelt memoir as a way of healing from his nightmare.
Maupin was so taken by the boy's tale of endurance, he wanted to speak directly with him--and so began an extended long-distance phone friendship with this remarkably wise child and his very protective, adopted mother. Yet one day, after months of camaraderie, Terry Anderson pointed out to Maupin that the boy's voice and his mother's voice were disturbingly similar. Realizing Anderson was right, Maupin began to doubt the boy's very existence. The author's questioning mind went into overdrive: Who was the boy really? Who exactly had written the memoirs? Was any of what he said true? And if not, why would someone create such a lavishly bizarre deception... and why did Maupin want so badly to believe in it?
Maupin feared harming the boy if his suspicions were wrong, so he continued his friendship in spite of his deepest misgivings. While the real-life mystery persisted (and eventually became the subject of a haunting but inconclusive article by Tad Friend in The New Yorker), Maupin's imagination continued to spin. He began to see the threads of a literary thriller that could be woven around the very question of human identity itself.
Says Maupin: "I realized that I had stumbled on the most fascinating story of my life--that I was actually living a novel. I was in the middle of a mystery which delivered to me something that I'd always wanted to write. I've always loved the notion of a thriller that's not built around murder, or larceny, or violence, but rather the mystery of the human heart, and that became The Night Listener. It's about the question of how do we love, what do we become obsessed with, what do we long for--and most of all, how are we blinded by those things? I think they're the most fascinating mysteries of all."
Once published, Maupin's novel instantly drew fans around the
world--among them film producer Jeff Sharp of Hart Sharp Entertainment. Already
a fan of Tales of the City, Sharp was excited to read The Night Listener--and
stunned to discover it was something completely different from what he expected.
He was convinced the story, with all its human enigmas and sudden surprise twists,
had all the elements to make for a smart, cinematic thriller. Furthermore, with
today's headlines filled with real-life tales of a writer's deceptions and the
messy lines between fact and fiction, the story seemed to be that rare mystery
with the potential to provoke fear and thought simultaneously.
Says Sharp: "I found the novel to be a real page-turner, a rich and accomplished work, and the best combination of Armistead's talents yet. You fall in love with the characters, but they take you to a very dark place--and a place where I don't think Armistead has ever gone before. It's a love story intertwined with the thrill ride of a mystery. We saw it as a great opportunity to create a compelling, character-based thriller." Adds producer Robert Kessel, succinctly: "It's a story you just can't get out of your head."
The story also seemed to fit right in with their company's style. "The stories that are most difficult to translate to screen are the ones that always seem to inspire us the most," notes Hart. "That's our calling and has been since BOYS DON'T CRY, which is similar to THE NIGHT LISTENER in its provocative nature, its darkness and its true-story overtones."
Inspired by the knowledge that Maupin is an obsessive movie lover, Hart Sharp approached the author about adapting his novel for the screen. Maupin was more than thrilled. He saw it as a chance to revisit his work and do something entirely new with it. "I like the idea of adding fresh mysteries to the story, of underlining the themes in new ways and to keep people guessing even more," says Maupin.
Before he dove in, however, Maupin made a bold decision: to collaborate on the screenplay with his ex, accomplished writer Terry Anderson. "My feeling was that because Terry had lived this story with me and had been the person who'd originally pointed out the deception, he should be a part of this process," explains Maupin. "He's also a guy with a lot of great ideas."
But both men were prepared for an emotional ride. "Terry and I knew that we were in for something of a rocky road writing a screenplay based on the novel that had to do with our breakup," admits Maupin. "Writing about two characters who are really us was a bit surreal, but of course that's the whole process of fiction--to draw from the emotional truth of your life."
That elusive border between the real and the unreal is constantly breached in THE NIGHT LISTENER, creating a mind-bending effect, even for the writers. Says Terry Anderson: "We were constantly dancing on the fine line of what was really happening and what wasn't."
He continues: "The process of going from a real life story that was translated into a novel and taking it into another fictional form for film was a big challenge, especially because so much of the story is about what happens on the phone. Phone conversations don't often work that well on film so we had to look for a lot of devices to make it more visually exciting--taking you deeper into the characters' worlds and making it more dramatic and fun. At the same time, we faced the challenge of putting some distance between the real-life events that happened to us and the story on the screen."
While Maupin and Anderson grappled with reality and illusion, the producers began to search for a director who could bring a fresh but skilled eye to this dark, mysterious territory. They found what they were looking for in rising newcomer Patrick Stettner, who came to the attention of Hollywood when he wrote and directed THE BUSINESS OF STRANGERS, a sly satire of corporate life, starring Julia Stiles and Stockard Channing as two businesswomen who seek revenge on an abusive corporate headhunter.
"Patrick immediately caught my eye when THE BUSINESS OF STRANGERS was released," says producer Robert Kessel. "That movie demonstrated that he could really create a mood, a feeling of suspense with elements of fear. What he did with that movie felt very different from what most of his peers were doing."
It took Stettner one read of an initial draft of THE NIGHT LISTENER, and he knew it was his next project. "What attracted me to the story was that it was so suspenseful, but with great characters and so many unusual themes percolating beneath the surface," he says. "Among other things, this film is about the art of storytelling and the importance that stories have in our lives, and how one person takes that art to an extreme. I love this notion that if the purpose of art is to aspire to communicate what it's like to be human--then this is what Donna does in a very real way. Through her voice she creates this physical manifestation--this complete, tragic boy--that becomes this incredible vehicle of sympathy and love."
He quickly developed his own strong vision of the film as a probing psychological thriller--then spent the next year and half intensively focusing on the screenplay and taking it through numerous revisions. "I knew that I wanted to build the suspense of the story with a subtle lurking quality, so that the audience doesn't know from which direction the threat is going to come, almost like an undertow pulling beneath them," he explains. "I wanted there to be an unconscious, seamless quality to the tension that would come from the whole psychological landscape rather than from any single plot device. And I also wanted to have some subjective shots creep in, giving the audience the sense that the voyeur, if you will, is also being watched."
Stettner focused his increasingly tighter and tighter screenplay drafts on Gabriel's journey, paring down the various storylines and finding new ways to heighten the tension. His process was intense and personal. He recalls: "At one point during this lengthy process, I wanted to better understand Donna's character, the idea of getting love and sympathy via a phone call was key to understanding the story. It fascinated me. One night, I called a suicide hotline pretending I was going to kill myself. It was an invaluable experience. I was immediately struck by this jolt of unconditional love I got from the hotline operator--that person cared, told me I was good, that I had worth. It was an incredibly intimate connection between two complete strangers. So much so that I quickly became embarrassed, told her I was better and quickly hung up. But that amazing connection gave me real insight into the story."
Maupin and Anderson were delighted with Stettner's contributions, especially because he brought a fresh point-of-view to a story they had been living with and thinking about for a decade. "The novel and the final screenplay are truly divergent," Anderson notes. "As Patrick got involved, he started seeing things that we couldn't possibly have seen because we were so close to it. In the film, Gabriel's journey is much larger, his trials are much greater and the things he gets into are much spookier. The process of working with a director driven by such a strong vision was terrific."
Stettner also enjoyed having such creative collaborators on his side. "Working with Armistead and Terry was great and very fluid because they've both seen a lot of films and we all had the same objective, to make the best possible movie," he says. "Generally, I would go away to write a draft, then send it to Armistead and Terry. I'd get their notes on the phone and then retool it. Sometimes if I knew I didn't really nail a scene, we would all work together on the scene. It was a wonderful, creative relationship the whole way."
But Stettner knew that, for him, the screenplay would not truly be complete until he began working with the film's actors.
"For me, the final step in shaping and understanding the script always comes during rehearsals with the actors," he explains, "because it's only then, when I see a scene on its feet with actors, do I truly understand the potential of a scene. Immediately, I start to eviscerate the dialogue, finding character detail that can be said visually within the performance. I am constantly looking for subtext. And I strongly believe in that old adage that language in drama is used to hide the truth. Especially in this film, I always looked for that underlying tension between what characters are feeling and what they are actually saying."
At the heart of THE NIGHT LISTENER is Gabriel Noone, host of "Noone
at Night," a late-night talk show on which he has become famous for sharing stories
from his life--mostly true but sometimes "embellished"--across the airwaves of
America. Now, just as Noone's personal life seems to be falling apart, he finds
himself drawn into a mysterious relationship with a family that may be a complete
and utter fiction--a relationship that will test everything in which he believes
and rend the very fabric between truth and illusion.
When it came to casting Gabriel, the filmmakers knew they needed someone with enough wit and force of personality to be believable as a radio star--yet also the ability to delve into the darkest zones of the human psyche. "Our first choice was always Robin Williams, and he brings a whole world of emotion to this character," says John Hart. "Robin creates characters in a way I don't think anyone else does. We also knew he could do this because, as in GOOD MORNING VIETNAM, Robin reaches out over the radio and tells stories, and as in ONE HOUR PHOTO, his character deals with a powerful obsession that drives him to extreme actions."
Adds Patrick Stettner: "So much of this film hinges around the fact that Gabriel actually goes on this impossible journey to find this boy. We needed an actor who could play Gabriel with a big, clumsy heart, someone sympathetic, someone you almost felt cared too much. It's not an easy quality to find in a leading man and I thought Robin was perfect for the role. When you look at his work in GOOD WILL HUNTING and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, you know he is capable of delivering this kind of beautiful, subtle performance."
Williams, a long-time resident of San Francisco, also already had a friendship with Armistead Maupin. "They all live in San Francisco and have known each other for almost 30 years. So Terry Anderson hopped on his bike and rode over to their office and dropped off a copy of the script," recalls Kessel.
Adds Maupin, "I was so happy when Robin was cast as Gabriel because, in his own way--and he probably wouldn't want me to say this--Robin's kind of a healer, and Gabriel does that to a lesser degree through his radio show."
For Williams, the screenplay was an instant draw. "I thought it was wonderful in a very dark, creepy way," he says. "It's an incredibly frightening journey in which you meet a radio storyteller, a boy and his mother--but you have to figure what's really going on between them, who they really are and what to make of them. And that starts the suspense of not knowing. I found it powerful and disturbing and it really talks about what drives us--the terror of being alone and that need to connect with other people."
Although he knew the character of Gabriel was modeled on Maupin's own experiences, Williams also wanted to make the role very much his own. "It's the same thing as in AWAKENINGS, where I was playing Oliver Sacks, but not really," he says. "So the character is somewhat based on Armistead, but also quite different. The challenge was creating a character who isn't ever quite sure what's real, and finds his life powerfully affected by a fiction, because he wants to believe in it. There's a lot of probing of self-illusions and a peeling away of all pretense for Gabriel."
The line between reality and illusion is one Williams particularly enjoys dancing around. "I think there can be desires so strong that they override even rational thought," he observes. "It's almost the intellectual equivalent of an optical illusion. You might hear two voices on the phone that sound the same, but then there's something in your mind that can say... 'well, yeah but...' and overrides everything."
Williams has worked with many of Hollywood's most lauded stars but he particularly had fun collaborating with Toni Collette as the slippery mother in whom Gabriel wants so desperately to believe. "Toni is like a shape-shifter," he remarks. "She's someone who can truly morph. One minute she's a very beautiful woman and the next she's someone completely different and it can be very frightening."
He also found a bond with Bobby Cannavale as Gabriel's ex, Jess. "I felt like the luckiest man in the world," Williams offers. "Bobby is a hunk, but he's also a true gentleman and very smart so that gave us a great dynamic. There was that feeling like we had been together for a very long time." It was a feeling that Williams felt was universally powerful. "Heterosexual, homosexual... it's always tough being alone after a long, intimate relationship," he says.
Also impressive to Williams was the intricately visual way in which Patrick Stettner approached the provocative themes of the story. "He's not afraid to take chances," says Williams. "He does all kinds of little visual things that resonate, that are subliminal, where things look one way in Gabriel's imagination and another way when he meets Donna in person. Just as it is in life. He gets inside that human desire to connect, to reach out, and that's what it's all about."
The intrigue of THE NIGHT LISTENER is largely built around the shifting,
surprise-filled role of Donna, Pete's supposed adoptive mother, who will go to any
lengths to protect the terribly abused boy from his tragic past. Or is she protecting
To play such a complicated, deceit-filled role, the filmmakers turned to one of Hollywood's most versatile actresses--Academy Award nominee Toni Collette. Armistead Maupin's favorite actress since he saw her in MURIEL'S WEDDING, Collette went on to garner an Oscar nomination for her work in THE SIXTH SENSE, as well as highly diverse and widely acclaimed roles in such films as THE HOURS, ABOUT A BOY and JAPANESE STORY, most recently appearing in the ensemble comedy IN HER SHOES.
Says John Hart: "Toni has a unique ability to disappear inside a character, so she was perfect as this character who can appear as real and imaginary at the same time."
Stettner was equally thrilled with the choice. "I wanted Toni from the beginning. And right away she was completely committed to who this character needed to be. We talked about the early Donna as being this kind of pretty, über-mother figure, almost with a Kim Novak vibe. We had a lot of fun playing with the idea that this wasn't a real character, but rather a vision of how Gabriel's imagination would see a mother figure."
Maupin was particularly taken with Collette's transformation. "I found her right on the mark in terms of how I always pictured Donna," he remarks. "Toni brought to the role an amazing combination of home-spun ordinariness with a layer of craziness just below it. She manages to be both terrifying and vulnerable, and something that is even more gripping: a real wounded human person, who seems to have depths of true creepiness."
Collette became hooked upon her first reading of the script. "I found the story to be unbelievably intense," she says. "And I was drawn to this woman who is so needy and just wants love and has taken that need to an extreme degree."
Completing the triangle of Gabriel, Donna and Pete is Rory Culkin in the role of the fragile teenage boy who claims to have survived a raging hell of abuse and mistreatment only to prove himself a very talented writer, mature beyond his years. Culkin has already established a reputation for unusual depth and versatility for someone his age with his performances in YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, IGBY GOES DOWN, MEAN CREEK and THE CHUMSCRUBBER, among others.
Armistead Maupin felt that Culkin nailed the performance. "There's something very 'old soul' that shines through Rory," observes Maupin. "He's wonderfully intense. When we were shooting the death-bed scene, for example, you could have heard a pin drop on the set because people in the room were really feeling as if this child were dying in their presence. And it can be a very eerie thing to watch the crew get so involved in a fictional scene!"
Despite the mystery surrounding Pete, Culkin played him as if he was 100% real. The young star says it was one of his most challenging roles to date. "Most of the kids I play are somewhat similar to me," he notes, "but this role was more of a stretch. I had to learn about some of these awful, terrible things that abused kids really experience. So that part was hard."
Although Culkin's character only speaks to Robin Williams over the phone, the two actors worked together in the same room. "Robin really helped me by being there when he didn't have to," says Culkin. "He was great, although it can be hard to keep a straight face when Robin Williams is in the room."
Another key character in THE NIGHT LISTENER--who takes the story in a
direction that touches upon the search for love--is Jess, Gabriel's longtime lover. To
play Jess, the filmmakers were drawn to Bobby Cannavale, who brought so many nuances
to his moving performance as a lonely hot dog vendor in THE STATION AGENT.
Although the character was originally based on Terry Anderson, Cannavale made it his own. Admits Anderson: "My friends give me a lot of crap about casting a 35-year-old gorgeous Italian guy to play me, but it wasn't my doing! It was the director's choice, and it was a great choice.
Stettner further explains: "I wasn't looking for a faithful Terry or Armistead, but rather for actors who best matched the characters we had written. When it came to Jess, more than anything I felt you really have to believe he and Gabriel could be a couple. Obviously I needed an actor who had talent, but I also needed someone who had a similar tone or vibe to Robin. The thing about Bobby and Robin is they are both open souls, there's a lot of warmth there and there's something very real about their screen relationship."
Cannavale was drawn immediately by the fascinating themes of the story--and to Jess's evolution from someone who faced death to a man who came through the other side ready to start life again. "I was just blown away by the complexity of the characters and the relationships in THE NIGHT LISTENER," he says. "There was also another layer I found very interesting--the idea of playing a character who gets another chance at life, who sort of cheats death. That was the hook for me, and something I really wanted to explore."
Also fascinating to Cannavale was Jess and Gabriel's relationship. "I think Jess and Gabriel really love each other, but now that Jess is no longer deteriorating from AIDS, he feels like he no longer needs to be taken care of and needs to break away in order to take a new look at his life," explains Cannavale. "I think it's a very realistic relationship, and also really mature and smartly written."
Most of all, Cannavale could relate to what THE NIGHT LISTENER is about at its core. "Everybody in this movie is placed into a position where they have to question what is true to them," he comments. "I think that's something that happens a lot in life, where people refuse to acknowledge things that are happening right in front of them, and can't see what's really going on until someone else points it out. The shocks in this movie are based on real psychological things, where you might think 'Oh my God, I've been in a situation like that' even as it keeps you guessing."
Working with Robin Williams was also a revelation. "When I would tell people I was doing a movie with Robin they would assume it was a comedy," he observes. "But you quickly realize that Robin is so much more than just a comedic actor and when it comes to complexity of character, this guy has it in spades. I was really honored to work with such a great actor and learn from him."
Rounding out the main cast is Golden Globe winner Sandra Oh, who plays Gabriel Noone's bookkeeper and confidante, Anna. Oh, best known for her starring role in the hit television show "Grey's Anatomy," also appeared in the telefilm of Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City."
When it came to THE NIGHT LISTENER, like the other actors, Oh couldn't resist the writing. "It's a very intriguing piece," she says. "It's one of those thrillers where you're never quite sure what's really happening--and I like movies to be unpredictable. There are constant themes of reality versus non-reality."
Another major draw for Oh was the chance to work one-on-one with Robin Williams. "He's a wonderful guy with a great, great mind," she comments. "He moves so fast that the challenging thing is just keeping up!"
The visual design of THE NIGHT LISTENER was specifically calibrated by
Patrick Stettner to play tricks with the mind, to lay out psychological clues and to
forge a realm in which the imagined mixes up seamlessly with the real, leaving the
audience caught up in the same doubts and enigmas as the characters.
To capture the feeling of fantasy and reality colliding, Stettner worked closely with his creative team including cinematographer Lisa Rinzler, production designer Michael Shaw and costume designer Marina Draghici. They in turn lined the film's frames with subtle repetitions and cycles of patterns, colors and imagery. For example, the motif of a shirt in Gabriel Noone's New York becomes wallpaper in Donna and Pete's Wisconsin--with details such as these constantly calling the authenticity of what the audience is seeing into question. Stettner also collaborated with director of photography Rinzler, whose credits range from the acclaimed biopic POLLACK to the recent THE WAR WITHIN, to achieve a classically elegant, yet deeply saturated look that further adds to the film's aura of suspense and mystery.
The film was shot largely in New York State, with the stark, wintry landscapes of upstate Ulster and Orange counties standing in for Wisconsin--allowing the crew to move easily between Gabriel's New York City and the Logands' rural Midwestern hinterlands. Throughout, Stettner knew he was building a complicated house of mirrors--and that he had to have the entire cast and crew playing along with him. "I wanted to make sure at every point the audience experiences a similar deception to that which Gabriel goes through," Stettner explains.
To do this, Stettner shot all the scenes between Gabriel and Pete talking on the phone with Robin Williams and Rory Culkin first. He then took the audio from the takes he liked best and gave them to Toni Collette, who in turn recorded her imitation of Rory doing each of the scenes. "In the film, every time you see a shot of Gabriel on the phone," Stettner notes, "you are actually hearing Toni's voice as Rory." A "phone-fuzz" layer was then added to these recordings to hide the slight tonal difference in their voices and allow the audience to experience the Pete/Donna voice as Gabriel does.
There is one exception. "In the final scene where Robin talks on the bed with Pete/Donna, we actually have two tracks--one of Rory and one of Toni--which phase in and out, and meld together," Stettner explains. "If you listen very carefully at times you can hear two voices. I wanted there to be this eerie sense of both Donna and Pete co-existing."
The makers of THE NIGHT LISTENER have asked the media to try to avoid revealing too much about the true nature of certain characters as they talk about the film, so that audiences will get maximum enjoyment from the mystery. Along those lines, Stettner has a final note, regarding the question of whether or not Pete is "real."
"Regardless of what I, or Armistead, or Terry, or the character of Gabriel believes to be the case, I was determined, with this version of THE NIGHT LISTENER, to avoid completely answering that question, because for me it's the wrong question," he says. "This film is, among many things, about how a fact doesn't necessarily have a value greater than a fiction. Truth comes in many different forms. Gabriel has changed because of his relationship to this boy--his experience is real--so to proclaim Pete complete fiction or a lie is to debase the value of Gabriel's transformation. And I didn't want to do that."
Stettner continues: "In a sense, Donna is just a distorted mirror of Gabriel, and in many ways the two of them are just distorted mirrors of all of us, including the filmmakers -who are now telling this story. What we all share is the yearning to use stories to find meaning and value in our lives."
Robin Williams (Gabriel Noone)
An Academy Award-winning actor and a multiple Grammy-winning performer unparalleled in the scope of his imagination, Robin Williams continues to add to his repertoire of indelible characters.
In 1997, Williams received Academy and Screen Actors Guild awards for his performance as Sean Maguire, the therapist who counsels Matt Damon's title character--a math genius--in Gus Van Sant's Good Will Hunting. The Academy previously nominated Williams for best actor in The Fisher King, Dead Poets Society, and Good Morning, Vietnam. Williams garnered a special honor from the National Board of Review for his performance opposite Robert De Niro in Awakenings. In 2004, Williams received the prestigious Career Achievement Award from the Chicago International Film Festival and, in 2005, the HFPA honored him with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.
Williams can currently be seen starring in Barry Sonnenfeld's Sony Pictures comedy, RV. The film has remained on the Top Ten Domestic Box Office chart since opening in April 2006.
He will next appear opposite Toni Collette in Patrick Stettner's The Night Listener, which Miramax is releasing in August 2006. Based on the acclaimed novel by Armistead Maupin, The Night Listener is a haunting, suspense-filled mystery about truth, lies and storytelling.
Later this year, Williams will star opposite Ben Stiller in Twentieth Century Fox's film Night at the Museum. He also lends his award-winning vocal talents to the Warner Bros. animated film, Happy Feet.
Williams recently completed shooting Barry Levinson's Man of the Year, as well as Warner Bros.' August Rush with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Terrence Howard. He is currently in production on License to Wed, opposite Mandy Moore, for director Ken Kwapis.
Robin Williams first captured the attention of the world as Mork from Ork on the hit series Mork & Mindy. Born in Chicago and raised in Michigan and California, he trained at New York's Julliard School under John Houseman. Williams made his cinematic debut as the title character in Robert Altman's Popeye. Additional early motion picture credits include Paul Mazursky's Moscow on the Hudson, in which he played a Russian musician who decides to defect, and The World According to Garp, George Roy Hill's adaptation of John Irving's acclaimed best-selling novel about a writer and his feminist mother.
Williams' filmography includes a number of blockbusters. In 1993, he starred in Chris Columbus' Mrs. Doubtfire. For Mike Nichols, Williams portrayed Armand Goldman in The Birdcage, for which the cast won a SAG ensemble award. In 1996, both The Birdcage and Jumanji reached the $100 million mark in the USA in exactly the same week. Williams went on to assume the dual roles of Peter Pan/Peter Banning in Steven Spielberg's Hook, play a medical student who treats patients with humor in Patch Adams and star in Disney's Flubber.
In a departure from the usual comedic and family fare he is best known for, Williams collaborated with two accomplished young directors on dramatic thrillers. For Christopher Nolan, he starred opposite Al Pacino as reclusive novelist Walter Finch, the primary suspect in the murder of a teenaged girl in a small Alaskan town, in Insomnia. In Mark Romanek's One Hour Photo, Williams played a photo lab employee who becomes obsessed with a young suburban family.
Using only his voice, Williams created one of the most vivid characters in recent memory--the Blue Genie of the Lamp in Disney's Aladdin. The performance redefined how animations were voiced. Audio versions of his one-man shows and the children's record "Pecos Bill" have won him five Grammy Awards. Most recently Williams lent his vocal talents to the blockbuster hit animated feature Robots.
Williams' stage credits include a landmark production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot directed by Mike Nichols and co-starring Steve Martin and, most recently, a short run in San Francisco of "The Exonerated," which tells the true stories of six innocent survivors of death row.
Williams, who began his career as a stand-up comedian, is well known for his free-associative monologues and for pointing out life's absurdities through his astute social and political observations. After a 20-year absence from the stand-up scene, Robin hit the road and toured America with a critically acclaimed one-man show that visited thirty-six cities. The tour became the highest-grossing comedy tour ever and culminated in a final performance filmed by HBO and broadcast live from New York on July 14, 2002. The special was nominated for five Emmy Awards.
Offstage, Williams takes great joy in supporting causes too numerous to identify--covering the spectrum from health care and human rights, to education, environmental protection, and the arts. He toured the Middle East three times in as many years to help raise morale among the troops and is, perhaps, best known philanthropically for his affiliation with Comic Relief, which was founded in 1986 as a non-profit organization to help America's homeless.
Toni Collette (Donna D. Logand)
Academy Award and Tony Award nominee Toni Collette, born and raised in Australia, continues to make an indelible impression on Hollywood. She gained instant recognition for her portrayal of the hopeless and desperate Muriel Heslop in P.J. Hogan's 1994 film, MURIEL'S WEDDING, and has gone on to become one of the most respected actresses of her generation. Proving her amazing ability to transform into the character which she plays, Collette has since starred in a variety of diverse roles.
Most recently, Collette starred in IN HER SHOES opposite Cameron Diaz and Shirley McClaine. She will next be seen in the Sundance Film Festival hit, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, an offbeat family road comedy also starring Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Paul Dano.
She was also seen recently in the critically acclaimed JAPANESE STORY, directed by Sue Brooks, a performance that garnered her a Best Actress award from both the Australian Film Institute and the Film Critics Circle of Australia, and in the US, a Golden Satellite nomination for Best Actress as well. Collette made another memorable comedic turn in the musical comedy CONNIE AND CARLA and starred opposite Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick and Calista Flockhart in the comedy THE LAST SHOT for Touchstone Pictures.
In 2002, Collette starred as a fifties housewife in the Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe winning picture THE HOURS. The film was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award in the category of "Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture." Collette also starred in the touching comedy ABOUT A BOY. For her portrayal as a struggling single mother opposite Hugh Grant's self-involved playboy, she received a BAFTA nomination for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role." Additionally, in 2002, Collette appeared with Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck in the critical favorite CHANGING LANES. Collette first starred opposite Samuel L. Jackson in John Singleton's version of SHAFT.
Her breakthrough American film paired her with Bruce Willis in the box office phenomenon, THE SIXTH SENSE, directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Collette's mesmerizing performance as the mother of a boy with paranormal powers garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Additional film credits include HBO's "Dinner with Friends" with Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, and Andie McDowell; THE BOYS, a film by Australian director Rowan Woods, which was adapted from Gordon Graham's play; Miramax's VELVET GOLDMINE, and their 1996 adaptation of Jane Austen's EMMA, co-starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor; HOTEL SPLENDIDE, THE JAMES GANG, THE CLOCKWATCHERS, THE PALLBEARER, LILIAN'S STORY and Mark Joffe's SPOTSWOOD and COSI.
In theater, Collette received her first Tony Award nomination in the spring of 2000 while making her New York stage debut in Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe's Tony Award nominated musical, "The Wild Party," starring with Eartha Kitt and Mandy Patinkin.
Bobby Cannavale (Jess)
Bobby Cannavale won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance as Will Truman's boyfriend on "Will & Grace." He will next be seen starring in Richard Linklater's FAST FOOD NATION for Fox Searchlight as well as SNAKES ON A PLANE starring opposite Samuel L. Jackson; and HAVEN co-starring Orlando Bloom and Bill Paxton. Recently, he starred in Don Roos' HAPPY ENDINGS opposite Lisa Kudrow and Maggie Gyllenhaal and ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES directed by John Turturro and co-starring Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini and Christopher Walken.
In THE STATION AGENT, Bobby received a lot of attention as the motor-mouthed hot dog vendor who befriends an outsider in his small New Jersey town. He and his co-stars, Patricia Clarkson and Peter Dinklage, were nominated for a SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and won the Audience Award at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.
Bobby's film credits include SHALL WE DANCE co-starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Lopez; Spike Lee's 3 AM; Kevin Costner's THE POSTMAN; Sidney Lumet's NIGHT FALLS ON MANHATTAN and GLORIA; THE BONE COLLECTOR opposite Angelina Jolie; and the critically acclaimed independent film WASHINGTON HEIGHTS. His television appearances include guest starring episodes in SIX FEET UNDER. Bobby also received rave reviews in the acclaimed Off-Broadway revival of David Rabe's "Hurlyburly" starring opposite Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton and Wallace Shawn. His career began in the theatre and he has worked at the Lee Strasberg Institute, Naked Angels, Circle Rep, The Public, Williamstown and The Roundabout.
Rory Culkin (Pete D. Logand)
Rory Culkin was born in New York City as the seventh child in a family of seven. He most recently starred in THE CHUMSCRUBBER with Glenn Close and Jamie Bell, DOWN IN THE VALLEY opposite Edward Norton and Evan Rachel Wood and THE ZODIAC with Justin Chambers and Robin Tunney. His forthcoming films include the sports drama CHASING 3000 and LYMELIFE with Alec Baldwin.
Earlier, Culkin played a pivotal role in MEAN CREEK, which picked up the Independent Spirit Award for Best Ensemble Cast. Culkin was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his performance opposite Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo in the acclaimed drama YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, directed by Kenny Lonergan. He has also been seen in IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY starring opposite Michael and Kirk Douglas; he appeared in SIGNS with Mel Gibson and played opposite Susan Sarandon in the indie favorite IGBY GOES DOWN. Prior to that, he co-starred in the Showtime film "Off Season" with Hume Cronyn.
Culkin made his debut film appearance in THE GOOD SON. His other films include GETTING EVEN WITH DAD, AMANDA, and Warner Brothers' RICHIE RICH, playing the four-year-old Richie. He also appeared as Denis Leary's son on the ABC television series "The Job" as well as a stand-out guest star role on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Sandra Oh (Anna)
Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, Sandra Oh started ballet lessons at the age of four and appeared in her first play "The Canada Goose" at the age of ten. After three years at the prestigious National Theatre School of Canada, she beat out more than 1000 other hopefuls and landed the coveted title role in the CBC telefilm "The Diary of Evelyn Lau" based on the true story of a tortured poet who ran away from home and ended up a drug addict and prostitute on the streets of Vancouver. Her performance brought her a Gemini (Canada's Emmy) nomination for Best Actress and the 1994 Cannes FIPA d'Or for Best Actress.
A Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors' Guild Award winner for her role as Dr. Cristina Yang on the hit ABC series "Grey's Anatomy," Sandra also received an Emmy Award nomination. Recently, Sandra starred in the enormously successful Fox Searchlight feature film "Sideways," for which she won a Screen Actors' Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Oh spent her summer hiatus starring in the World Premiere of Satellites at the Public Theatre in New York. She will next be seen in the films "For Your Consideration," for Director Christopher Guest, "Three Needles," and "Long Life Happiness and Prosperity." She recently starred alongside Diane Lane in Disney's "Under the Tuscan Sun," and in the independent films "Sorry Haters" alongside Robin Wright-Penn and "Rick" alongside Bill Pullman and Agnes Buckner.
Sandra won her first Genie (Canada's Oscar) for her leading role in "Double Happiness," a bittersweet coming-of-age story about a young Chinese-Canadian woman--a performance that brought her much acclaim and secured her place as one of Canada's rising young film stars. She moved to Los Angeles in 1996 to begin the first of six seasons as Rita Wu, the smart and sassy assistant on the HBO comedy series "Arliss," for which she won the final Cable Ace award for Best Actress in a Comedy.
Sandra's additional feature film credits include "Bean," "Guinevere," "The Red Violin," "Waking the Dead," "The Princess Diaries," "Pay or Play," "Dancing at the Blue Iguana," and "Last Night," for which she won a second Genie Award for Best Actress in 1999. Her additional television credits include HBO's "Six Feet Under," and Showtime's "Further Tales of the City." Never straying far from her theatre roots, Sandra has also starred in the world premieres of Jessica Hagedorn's "Dogeaters" at the La Jolla Playhouse and Diana Son's "Stop Kiss" at Joseph Papp's Public Theatre in New York, a role for which she received a Theatre World award. She also performed "The Vagina Monologues" in New York.
Patrick Stettner (Director, Co-Screenwriter)
Patrick Stettner was raised in New York City and studied at Columbia University. He is a fellow of the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors lab. His first feature film, THE BUSINESS OF STRANGERS, starring Stockard Channing and Julia Stiles, debuted at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and was released through IFC Films later that year. THE NIGHT LISTENER is his second feature. He was recently named in Variety's 2006 "Ten Directors to Watch" list. He is currently casting his next project for the script he wrote based on Gore Vidal's political drama The Best Man.
Armistead Maupin (Co-Screenwriter, Executive Producer)
Armistead Maupin is the author of the globally bestselling, six-volume Tales of the City series. Three television miniseries, starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney, have so far been made from those books, the first of which received a Peabody Award and official condemnations from three southern legislatures. Besides The Night Listener, Maupin is the author of Maybe the Moon, which was named one of the ten best books of the year by Entertainment Weekly. He is currently at work on a new novel, Michael Tolliver Lives, as well as the screenplay for BABYCAKES, the fourth volume in the Tales of the City series.
Terry Anderson (Co-Screenwriter, Executive Producer)
Terry Anderson is the owner of Narrative Drive, an independent film production company based in Northern California. He's currently writing, producing and directing a feature-length documentary about the elaborate, real-life literary hoax that inspired THE NIGHT LISTENER. The film, THE VELVETEEN BOY & OTHER FRACTURED FAIRY TALES, explores the multiple mysteries surrounding a brilliantly conceived and well executed fraud that touched thousands of lives and left them all deeply affected. Part detective story, part psychological study, and part personal essay, the film is about Anderson's role in exposing the lie and his subsequent search to find the meaning buried in the myth. It's a journey that leads him to explore the strange world of Factitious Disorders, a little-known psychological compulsion which may provide some of the answers.
For the past two decades, Anderson was a partner in Literary Bent LLC where he managed the intellectual property rights of author Armistead Maupin. He served as Consulting Producer on "Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City," which aired on PBS in 1994 and received a Peabody Award, and the two Showtime-produced miniseries "More Tales of the City" and "Further Tales of the City." All three shows were nominated for Emmys.
Robert Kessel, Jeffrey Sharp, John N. Hart, Jr. (Producers)
Hart Sharp Entertainment produced the Academy Award winning film BOYS DON'T CRY, the Academy Award nominated film YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, and the Golden Globe nominated film NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. Hart Sharp is an independently financed company, focused on producing 2-3 films each year.
Hart Sharp recently premiered THE NIGHT LISTENER at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, based on the best-selling novel by Armistead Maupin (TALES OF THE CITY). Directed by Patrick Stettner (THE BUSINESS OF STRANGERS) in New York City, the film stars Robin Williams, Toni Collette, Rory Culkin, Sandra Oh, and Bobby Cannavale. Miramax Films is releasing the picture in August, 2006.
Jill Footlick (Producer)
Graduating from Northwestern University with a BA in Philosophy, Jill Footlick began her film career as a production coordinator on films such as: HEAVY, BIG NIGHT, THE PEACEMAKER and CONSPIRACY THEORY. Working her way up the New York City production ladder, she jumped into line producing and was fortunate enough to work on such highly acclaimed films as BOYS DON'T CRY and YOU CAN COUNT ON ME. She produced the film SHIFT, directed by documentary filmmaker Kelly Anderson for PBS, which was selected to screen at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2000. In 2001 she co-produced the film EMPIRE, starring John Leguizamo, which premiered at Sundance 2002 and went on to become one of the highest grossing films ever to have premiered at the festival.
In the summer of 2001, Footlick co-founded Archer Entertainment, a New York based production company. Their first production NOLA starring Emmy Rossum (The Phantom of the Opera, Mystic River) and Mary McDonnell (Dances with Wolves), premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2003 and was one of three films from the festival selected to send to the troops stationed overseas. Samuel Goldwyn Films distributed the film in spring of 2004. Their second film, THE WARRIOR CLASS, starring Anson Mount, Erica Leehrsen, Dan Hedaya and Robert Vaughn premiered at the Hamptons Film Festival in October 2005.
In 2005, Footlick branched out on her own and produced director Patrick Stettner's THE NIGHT LISTENER with Hart Sharp Entertainment. In Fall 2005, Footlick wrapped production on the writer/director Sue Kramer's GRAY MATTERS for Bob Yari Films, a quirky romantic comedy starring Heather Graham, Tom Cavanagh, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Cumming, Molly Shannon and Sissy Spacek. It is set to be released later this year. Footlick resides in Nyack, New York with her husband, acclaimed production designer Michael Shaw, and their son Owen.
Lisa Rinzler (Director of Photography)
Lisa Rinzler studied painting at Pratt Institute and went on to graduate from New York University Film School. She has worked as a cinematographer on feature, documentary and experimental films. Her feature films include the forthcoming THE GARDENER OF EDEN directed by Kevin Connolly, DRUNKBOAT directed by Bob Meyer and LYMELIFE directed by Derreck Martini and Steven Martini.
Rinzler's past films include THE WAR WITHIN directed by Joseph Castelo, THE SOUL OF A MAN directed by Wim Wenders, NO DIRECTION HOME: BOB DYLAN directed by Martin Scorsese, POLLOCK directed by and starring Ed Harris and THREE SEASONS directed by Tony Bui, for which she was awarded the 1999 Cinematography Prize at Sundance, and the 2000 Independent Spirit Award.
She also shot TREES LOUNGE directed by Steve Buscemi; LISBON STORY and the New York sequences of BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB directed by Wim Wenders; and MENACE II SOCIETY directed by the Hughes Brothers for which she won the 1994 Independent Spirit Award. Rinzler has collaborated on DEATH BY UNNATURAL CAUSES, an homage to those suffering from AIDS, which she co-directed with Karen Bellone; and two films with Peter Stastny: CONEY, BROOKLYN, 2003, a film about people dealing with mental illness; and IN THE HOUSE, three short autobiographical stories made with teenagers at the Bronx Children's Psychiatric.
Michael Shaw (Production Designer)
Michael Shaw has been an art director and production designer for feature films, short films and television since 1990. Beginning as an art director, he worked on numerous television commercials, music videos and features with such directors such as Ang Lee, Bob Balaban and Marcus Nispel. His first short film as production designer, THE ROOM, won top prizes at Cannes, Sundance and MOMA in 1993. His first feature as production designer was the 1994 film HEAVY, directed by James Mangold, which won a 1995 Special Jury Prize at Sundance.
His feature design credits include: BOYS DON'T CRY with Hilary Swank and directed by Kimberly Peirce, DOUBLE WHAMMY directed by Tom DiCillo, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME with Laura Linney and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, PEOPLE I KNOW with Al Pacino and directed by Dan Algrant and A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD with Colin Farrell and directed by Michael Mayer. Shaw's television work includes the 2000-2001 seasons of ABC's police comedy "The Job" with Denis Leary. His next project is AUGUST RUSH with Robin Williams after having just completed SPINNING INTO BUTTER with Sarah Jessica Parker.
Peter Nashel (Composer)
Peter Nashel is a New York based composer/producer whose work includes a variety of film, television, and recording projects. His feature credits include the critically acclaimed THE DEEP END, as well as BEE SEASON for directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel. He has also composed the music for a number of documentaries including THE TRIALS OF HENRY KISSINGER and DEADLINE. His television work includes the ABC special presentation "Report from Ground Zero" and the recent Sundance Channel show "Iconoclasts." He has worked with many recording artists including Ivy, Duncan Sheik and Ben Lee.