As far back as 1995, director Hicks knew he wanted to adapt David Guterson’s mega-selling 1994 novel of the same name, about the small-town trial of a Japanese man accused of murdering a local fisherman in the Pacific Northwest. Problem was, Hicks was a virtual unknown – an Aussie documentary filmmaker completing work on his first U.S. feature, ”Shine.”
Flash-forward to 1997: ”Shine” earned a spectacular $36 million at the box office and seven Oscar nominations (including a Best Actor win for Geoffrey Rush). Hicks was besieged with directing offers, but this project – a murder mystery/love story – intrigued him most. ”The courtroom is a pressure cooker,” he says, ”a crucible in which everyone is forced to confront how they’ve behaved.”
After casting Hawke as newspaper reporter Ishmael Chambers, Hicks decided to cast two unknowns in key roles: Kudoh (an actress and singer in her native Japan) as Hawke’s childhood love, and Yune (a Wharton business school grad and model) as her accused husband. For his first professional acting job, Yune hardly left the set during the six-month-long shoot in California, Canada, and Washington State. To the newcomer, this was good news. Says Yune: ”I was expecting to be fired the first day.” BUZZ FACTOR: 6
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