Books and Wands
Potter film alum Emma Thompson (Prof. Sybill
Trelawney) stars in a new movie, Last Chance
Harvey, by Joel Hopkins, co-starring Dustin
The following is a article about the film, written
by Peter Clines, excerpted from Creative
Hopkins was determined to use the invitation to his advantageand began to create a film Thompson could star in. He was inspired by the first film he’d seen
her in, the Jeff Goldblum vehicle The Tall Guy. “She plays this lovely character, the no-nonsense
nurse, who, in her own words, has her hand up old men’s bottoms all day,” he says. “When it
comes to the niceties of romance or courtship she just doesn’t have the patience.”
At the end of that film Thompson and Goldblum’s charactersend up together, but Hopkins was struck with the vague resolution of such films. Would these
characters be together in six months, or a year, or five years? “You never know with these
romantic comedies. What happened if things didn’t work out and a character like that was still
single? It’s not exactly that character 10 years on or 15 years on, but it’s a character like that,”
He was also struck by the idea of an older romantic lead:“It’s the next stage, the post-Bridget Jones thing. The ticking clock has stopped. Emma’s playing a
character in her mid-40s – and that was the character that interested me.”
At first, for the male lead, the screenwriter just lifted acharacter from another script he’d written and used a Japanese businessman. But that imagery
now leaned toward more miscommunication than he wanted. A mild degree of homesickness
made Hopkins, who was a Londoner living in New York at the time, consider the idea of
playing an Englishwoman off an American. “We have so many commonalities, but also have
these nuances. We have shared things and great little things that are different. It suddenly
became very clear making the character American was much closer to where I wanted to go.”
In the screenplay, Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) is alreadystruggling with his last chance to land a big client and save his job when he travels to London
for his daughter’s wedding and finds out she’s asked her stepfather to walk her down the aisle.
Kate Walker (Emma Thompson) interviews airline passengers fora travel statistics board while she dreams of a life as a writer, and her latest attempt at a blind
date has ended like most of them do – with Kate quietly fading into the background.
When their paths cross in an airport bar, the two lonersbegin to talk, and as the day continues they talk their way across the city to Kate’s writing class,
to the reception for Harvey’s daughter, and beyond. Just as a bit of good luck brought them
together, though, a little bit of bad luck may throw them back apart.
Hopkins’ dense treatment got approval from Thompson, but withother projects it was almost a year before he could focus on writing the screenplay. Until then,
the story bubbled in his mind. “I was actually ready to sit down and write this script,” Hopkins
says. “Really, I must’ve been thinking about it subconsciously for years. My films so far have
been character-driven, so I have a pretty good idea of the characters before I do anything. Things
they’d say, back stories.”
He credits the treatment as his solid guideline once hecommences writing, and he rarely diverges from the story structure he’s put in place.
“Obviously something will happen when you’re actually writing it out properly,” Hopkins
says. “Something will be said in the dialogue or spark something you hadn’t thought of, but in
terms of the structure, that doesn’t change from the treatment to the script.”
As it turned out, actor Dustin Hoffman had a few thoughts ofhis own for the script. “I was inspired by Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman,” says the
screenwriter. “[Harvey] was a salesman of commemorative, collectible plates showing the Iraq
War.” Hoffman, however, felt he had moved past the point where audiences would accept him
as a salesman, and so he and Hopkins set about finding a new profession for Harvey that would
retain the same mechanics the story called for.
“For a while he was going to be a washed-up actor, “ Hopkinssays. “We had an opening scene with him sitting in a make-up chair and giving this
Shakespearean monologue, and then flipping to him giving his lines from a trashy daytime
soap.” The breakthrough idea was to make Harvey a failing jingle writer, one who’d had
dreams of being a jazz pianist. Hoffman warmed to this idea, which paralleled his own parents’
early desire for him to be a concert pianist, and soon firmed up his attachment to the project.
So years after being turned down for one job, the writer-director finally got his chance to write and direct for Thompson after all. “It was a sort of fairy
tale in a way,” Hopkins says with a laugh.
Ironic as it is, the key moment for Last Chance
director Joel Hopkins was when he missed his
chance to direct the film Nanny McPhee. “I didn’t
get the job,” Hopkins says with a chuckle.
“I think I came second, but Emma (Thompson)
met with me and said, ‘I’m sorry Nanny McPhee’s
not for you, but I loved your film (Jump
Tomorrow), and we should work together.”
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