Proof of Life |


Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, ...

THAT'S 'LIFE' Ryan and Crowe negotiate yet another crisis (Frank Connor)

”This story emanates out of a brand new profession: the hostage negotiation business,” says Hackford, who first read about the field in a 1998 Vanity Fair article. It’s a growing one, too, driven by multinational corporations pushing into hot new markets with unstable political situations and putting employees at risk of kidnapping.

Hackford and his ”Devil’s Advocate” collaborator Tony Gilroy optioned the article and fashioned a fictional story about an engineer (”The Green Mile”’s Morse) who gets abducted while building a dam in South America. Ryan plays his unhappy wife who becomes even unhappier, while Crowe (using his Australian accent for a change) is the ultracool pro who helps. Things get complicated when he and Ryan begin to fall in love. (No comment from anyone about Crowe and Ryan REALLY falling in love on the set.) Hackford had the role written especially for Ryan (who reportedly landed a $15 million payday), and after getting a look at ”The Insider” and ”Gladiator,” he cast Crowe.

Breaking out big time, however, could be Morse, who got kidnap victim gaunt on a diet prepared by the doctor who thinned down Tom Hanks for ”Cast Away.” More difficult, though, was dealing with the death of his stand in, Will Gaffney, who was killed in a freak accident that injured five others while shooting last April. ”Whatever your faith is, it rocks it,” says Morse, who credits Gaffney’s family for encouraging cast and crew to soldier on. ”I don’t know if ‘fond’ is the right word to describe my memories of making this film, but they certainly have real meaning.” GOOD SIGN Crowe, in action hero mode, couldn’t be hotter. Shot in Ecuador, England, and Poland, ”Proof”’s sure to feel epic. THEN AGAIN Having just wrapped, Hackford admits he’ll have to hustle to meet his release date.