Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sandra Oh To Play The Minister Of Health In Blindness

Director assembles an international cast for co-produced feature film of Nobel Prize-winning novel, Blindness.

Oscar-nominated director Fernando Meirelles cast the talent net wide for his upcoming apocalyptic feature film, Blindness, and has signed an international roster of stars that includes Hollywood A-listers such as Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore, as well as a half-dozen Canadians, including Sandra Oh, Maury Chaykin, Don McKellar and Martha Burns.

Yesterday, the film's Toronto producer, Niv Fichman of Rhombus Media, said it was always Meirelles's intention to entice actors to this film from all parts of the globe, tapping talent from Brazil, Mexico, Japan, the United States and Canada.

"The universality of the cast, representing people from all walks of life, was Fernando's idea," said Fichman, who has been working on this ambitious project for more than five years. "He was inspired by this great masterwork [Nobel Prize-winner Jose Saramago's novel] to create a microcosm of the world. He wanted it cast in a way to represent all of humanity."

The film - which has a budget north of $25-million (U.S.) - is an adaptation of the acclaimed Portuguese writer's book, Blindness, which remorselessly rubs readers' faces in the apocalypse. A harrowing read, the novel explores man's most destructive appetites and weaknesses. It's the story of a city hit by an epidemic of blindness that spares almost no one.

After a five-month search, Fichman said the producers - himself, Sonoko Sakai's Bee Vine Pictures of Japan and Andrea Barata Ribeiro's O2 Filmes of Brazil -- finally signed Ruffalo to the film yesterday. He will play a doctor suddenly struck blind while sitting in his car waiting for a traffic light to change. Soon an epidemic breaks out. Moore plays his wife, one of the few who does not lose her sight.

In total, there are about a dozen lead actors, portraying the first people infected. Danny Glover will play the man with the eye patch, and act as a narrator of the film. Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal plays the evil King of Ward 3. Toronto's Maury Chaykin is his partner in crime, a corrupt accountant.

The other members of the Canadian contingent include Oh as the minister of health; McKellar (who wrote the script) plays the thief; eight-year-old Mitchell Nye (of Toronto) plays the boy with the squint; Susan Coyne (Slings & Arrows) is the receptionist; Burns is the woman with insomnia; while Mpho Koaho (a Toronto teen) is the pharmacist's assistant.

Japanese heartthrob Yusuke Iseya portrays the first blind man, and his wife is Yoshino Kimura, also of Japan.

Alice Braga (a Brazilian actor who appeared in Meirelles's acclaimed 2002 drama City of God) is cast in the role of the girl with the dark glasses.

Production starts the end of July in Toronto and moves to Uruguay in September. It wraps after a month in Sao Paolo. The producers hope to have the film completed by spring, 2008.

Securing the rights to make a movie of Blindness was a huge coup for McKellar and Fichman. Many filmmakers (including Meirelles) had approached the reclusive Saramago, only to be firmly rebuffed. In 1999, Fichman and McKellar hopped a plane to the writer's home in the Canary Islands, where they persuaded him to sign off on a deal.

"I'm so passionate about this project because I think it's a timely message about the fragility of our society," Fichman said. "A movie like this can be such a strong message of warning in today's world of what can happen to us if we don't watch out."

Source: Globe and Mail
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