What has director Randa Haines been doing for the last five years? Following her acclaimed Children of a Lesser God (1986), which was nominated for five Oscars, Haines just seemed to vanish. Despite her low profile, Haines, 46, hasn't merely been resting on her laurels. While waiting for a script to reach out and touch her, she directed a series of sensitive TV commercials for New England Telephone about an estranged father and daughter. Running two years ago, the spots caused such a commotion that radio talk shows spent hours airing audiences' reactions to them. That may seem like a strange follow-up to Children, but the ads were actually related to Haines' favorite topic: crossed lines of communication, a subject she returns to in The Doctor.
Haines says The Doctor is no more about cancer than Children was about deaf people. ''It's about the difficulty of communication and the fear of intimacy, which is what I am always interested in. The illness is really just a catalyst. I was interested in the journey.'' For the lead role, Haines turned once again to William Hurt, because, she says, ''there seems to be some great connection between us in terms of using each other to tell stories we both want to tell. I think in life there is never just one thing going on at a time, and Bill has the ability to work with complexity. In Children he literally had to speak in two languages. Here, he had to become a surgeon handling the instruments, tightening the knots. I knew he could do that.''
Haines' next project is uncertain, but, she says, it will definitely be more lighthearted. ''I would love to do a film with a lot of humor in it,'' she says, ''a comedy with pain instead of a painful film with some comedy.''