''Cold Mountain'' is the definition of star power. To bring Charles Frazier's best-selling Civil War love story to the screen, director Anthony Minghella and producer Sydney Pollack assembled the super A-team, right down to the support staff (which includes cinematographer John Seale and editor Walter Murch, both of whom worked on Minghella's Oscar-winning ''The English Patient''). ''Nobody I offered the movie to said no,'' notes the director.
Perhaps they didn't know what they were in for. Jude Law plays Inman, a Confederate soldier wounded in battle who treks home to his beloved Ada (Nicole Kidman). Along the way, he encounters, among others, a shifty preacher (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a woman whose husband has been lost to the war (Natalie Portman).
Though Frazier's story takes place in North Carolina, Minghella’s vision was so vast that a cheaper locale had to be found. The winner was Romania. But while the isolated, undeveloped Transylvanian Alps allowed the filmmakers the luxury of building two farms and an entire Civil War town, the working conditions were extreme. During the first half of the seven-month shoot, it rained for 21 days. A battle sequence was shot in 110-degree heat, then later, in the winter, the cast filmed in subzero temperatures. Wild dogs roamed the set.
Oddly, the principals didn't mind. ''The making of the film mirrors the journey Inman takes,'' says Law. ''It's been an incredibly enlightening process.'' For Kidman, the isolation was a reprieve. ''We all look back on that experience as glorious. We were in a bubble. We were protected. We were able to get lost in the film.'' Frazier, meanwhile, who visited the Romania set, was impressed by the director's dedication to his book. ''By the time Anthony finishes, he will have spent seven years with these characters, which is as long as I did.''
Pollack, for one, likes what he has seen. ''It's breathtaking,'' he says. ''The size of it is magnificent.''
The Killer Moment Inman (Law) casts a first-love glance upon Ada (Kidman).