The plot of Hero seems at once very Preston Sturges and very ’90s: Successful TV newswoman is rescued from burning plane; romance ensues with handsome rescuer, whom she proceeds to make famous. But the ”rescuer” isn’t for real. This latest film from director Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters), with a screenplay by David Webb Peoples (Unforgiven, Blade Runner), is a comedy with dark undertones.
”The story’s about what heroism is, and what our expectations are, and how we want to imbue people with qualities,” says Geena Davis, who plays Hero’s heroine, super-smooth anchorwoman Gale Gayley, opposite Dustin Hoffman and Andy Garcia. ”Somebody’s the hero of this thing, and we don’t know who,” Davis says. ”I think (the rescuer is) Andy Garcia, and I break the story. And he’s so gorgeous and fabulous, and the whole country falls in love with him. But in fact Dustin is claiming he’s the hero. He’s like this low-life guy, sort of a petty criminal. And nobody-least of all me-can believe he could be the hero.
”It’s got a lot of humor in it,” she adds. ”It’s one of the best scripts I’ve read in a long time. I rented Network the other night-that was so rich and complicated and smart; that’s what this seems like.”
Those are just the qualities that are hard to get on film, and there were times during the shoot when Frears felt daunted by both the tonal and physical challenges of the movie, which included staging a plane crash on location an hour north of L.A. and on the Sony lot. ”We bought a wrecked plane-there are sort of graveyards of them,” Frears says, sounding tired. ”We used flamethrowers, all the gear. I’d never done anything like this, on this scale, before. It took about three weeks, I guess-it seemed an eternity.”
There was also a climax shot atop Chicago’s Drake Hotel, for which a massive ledge prosthesis had to be constructed. Ledges and crashes aside, however, nothing quite matched the challenge of getting the legendarily difficult Dustin Hoffman to understand his role. ”It took him three or four weeks,” Frears says. ”When he couldn’t find the character, he was insecure-as any actor would be. He talked a lot about (Midnight Cowboy’s) Ratso Rizzo, how he didn’t want to play him again. He’s too creative to repeat himself. But then once he knew who he was, we were on our way.” (Columbia)
Family values crusaders, take note: Wife-swapping can lead to murder. At least it does in this sexual thriller from director Alan J. Pakula (Presumed Innocent), after a jingle writer (Kevin Kline) trades his spouse (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) for that of his fast-track neighbor (Kevin Spacey). ”Like Unlawful Entry, it’s about how people’s lives are changed when a couple encounters a stranger,” says Spacey. The film’s tension lies not in the physical violence but in its aftershocks: ”It’s emotionally violent and disturbing,” says Spacey. ”And extremely layered-every time you think you know what this movie is about, you’re wrong.” (Hollywood)