Phil Caruso
EW Staff
August 13, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Bringing Out the Dead

Current Status
In Season
Wide Release Date
Patricia Arquette, Nicolas Cage, Marc Anthony, John Goodman, Queen Latifah, Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore, Michael K. Williams
Martin Scorsese
Drama, Comedy

We gave it a B-

Critics gushed over Joe Connelly’s debut novel about a burned-out Hell’s Kitchen ambulance medic tormented by visions of victims he couldn’t save. But when Paul Schrader (”Affliction”) got a call to adapt it — marking his fourth Scorsese collaboration, after ”Taxi Driver,” ”Raging Bull,” and ”The Last Temptation of Christ” — he thought the book needed radical surgery.

”It’s full of the excessively self-conscious symbolism a first-time writer would use,” declares Schrader. ”People standing under crucifixes, that sort of thing.” Says Scorsese: ”Paul is very good at paring away. I tend to pour it on. Something like this, though, has to be quick and sharp and fast and tough, like a blow to the solar plexus.”

With a lean script in hand, Scorsese landed an eager Cage, reportedly for less than half his usual $20 million salary. Goodman needed a bit more wooing to play an EMS driver who’s ”eating himself to death.” He found the script ”really bleak, and I didn’t know how much I wanted to dive into something like that.”

Meanwhile, Arquette worried that people would think she’d landed a lead role as the daughter of a heart-attack victim opposite Cage ”just because we’re a couple.” To solve the perception problem, she arrived at and left the set alone. Working with Scorsese caused other anxieties. ”It’s like if you had to paint in front of Van Gogh,” she explains. ”You’d want to throw up.” BUZZ FACTOR: 6

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