NEW YORK—While many have grown despondent toward the cliché of magical love stories, some believers still embrace them in cinema.
Academy Award-winning screenwriter and producer Akiva Goldsman resuscitates the themes of true love, miracles, and good versus evil in the film “Winter’s Tale,” which releases on Valentine’s Day. For him, magical realism is not dead.
During a press conference at a downtown Manhattan hotel on Feb. 9, Goldsman said that magical realism can be “either delightful to you or aversive.”
“To me it has always been something remarkable,” he said. “It’s a wink and a nod to the people who have had loss and the need to believe in magic,” he said.
Goldsman set out to write the script based on a popular 1980s mythic novel by Mark Helprin of the same title.
Set against the backdrop of 1916 New York City, “Winter’s Tale” tells the story of an orphaned burglar, Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), who meets the beautiful Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), while robbing her Central Park mansion.
They fall in love, quickly but deeply, and Lake gets attached to the girl knowing that she’s dying of consumption, or, for our modern ears, pulmonary tuberculosis.
But Lake has ties to the devil—literally. Russell Crowe plays a gang leader who possesses the power to transform into a demon. It takes a winged white horse to save the reformed Lake from his death.
The film also stars Jennifer Connelly, Will Smith (who plays the devil), and Eva Marie Saint.
From Page to Screen
Goldsman juggled the roles of screenwriter, producer, and for the first time ever, director. But even when the odds were against him (Warner Bros. allotted half the needed budget), he made do.
Goldsman used the same approach when adapting a novel, which includes throwing the book into a wall and seeing what pages fall out.
Some characters had to be left out, but Goldsman kept the mystical aspects including strong references to light interconnectivity, creatures with wings, Lucifer, constellations, and other unexpected miracles.
Although there are times when unnecessary dialogue is glaring, and perhaps the sequencing of events (such as characters showing up at the right place at the right time) seem unrealistic, the film succeeds at staying true to its subject and conveying one of the book’s key subjects—that light connects everything in the universe.
As a screenwriter for films like “A Beautiful Mind,” “Cinderella Man,” “I, Robot,” and “I Am Legend,” Goldsman made use of the unbridled affection for his friends in Hollywood, and appealed to their kind nature.
“Will’s a friend, and I needed the devil,” he said.
Shooting took place during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Crowe and Connolly had to jump from the set of the upcoming “Noah” in the midst of the city’s chaos.
Goldsman has chosen the difficult task of remaining idealistic in an industry that has—at least in part—grown negative.
“I love entertainment that is not cynical; I choose not to be cynical,” Goldsman said.