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Doubt (2008)

Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, ... | MERYL STREEP AND AMY ADAMS
Image credit: Andrew Schwartz
MERYL STREEP AND AMY ADAMS

Details Limited Release: Dec 12, 2008; Rated: PG-13; Length: 104 Minutes; Genre: Drama; With: Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep

John Patrick Shanley once joked that he was doomed to an obituary proclaiming him ''the guy who wrote Moonstruck.'' But that was before he created the 2004 stage show Doubt, a Tony-
winning drama set in a Bronx Catholic school 
in 1964. The story centers on Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), a principal who accuses a parish priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of sexually abusing a 12-year-
old boy — the school's only black student. 
 Theater audiences around the world have debated whether Sr. Aloysius is right to push for the 
 priest's removal, despite a lack of conclusive evidence. (Sex-scandal refugee Roman Polanski 
 directed a 2006 Paris run of the show.)

So why didn't Shanley hire Tony winner Cherry Jones (Ocean's Twelve) and Brían F. O'Byrne (No Reservations) from the Broadway cast? ''There was a real possibility of a retread feeling,'' he says. ''I wanted a fresh take.'' He might also have wanted A-list names in his first film-directing effort since 1990's Joe Versus the Volcano. He says going after Streep was ''a no-brainer,'' and she found him a welcome partner because he knew the material so thoroughly going in. Shanley chose pal Hoffman — who'd starred in a Chekhov play with Streep — because ''I never know what the hell he's going to do. He's the one guy that could make Meryl sweat.''

Still, it's unclear who wound up perspiring. Shanley reports that Streep, while prepping a key confrontation scene, would mutter things like ''I'm gonna kick his a--'' — and Hoffman wouldn't answer. Asked about her psych-out 
 attempts, Streep dodges. ''We have to maintain a certain mystery,'' she says.
OUR TWO CENTS 
Advance buzz says that Davis, as the boy's mother, seems like a can't-miss Supporting Actress candidate, while Streep looks ineluctably headed toward Oscar nom No. 15. 12/12
DEEP DIVE What does Streep know that you don't about Saint Elizabeth Seton, founder of the bonnett-and-cape-wearing Sisters of Charity? Find out at setonshrine.org

Originally posted Aug 14, 2008 Published in issue #1007-1008 Aug 22, 2008 Order article reprints