Lurene Hallett doesn’t get “ordinary life.”
In the mirror of her imagination, Lurene is her heroine, Jacqueline Kennedy. With her platinum blonde hair in a bouffant pageboy, she assumes the style of the First Lady. Like Jackie, she lost a baby last summer, a trauma which strengthened the “bond” between them. Sometimes, when her husband, Ray, speaks to her between supper and prime time, she can almost hear John F. Kennedy’s voice.
But on November 22, 1963, that voice is stilled.
Earlier in the day, Lurene joined the throng at Love Field Airport which welcomed the presidential couple to Dallas. Now, hours later, John F. Kennedy is dead. Lurene feels that she has no choice, even if her husband thinks she’s crazy. Even if she is. She must go to Washington to be with Jackie at the President’s funeral.
On a Greyhound bus, rolling through the south, are a black man and a small black child with enormous frightened eyes. The man calls himself Paul Johnson but his identification reads Paul Cater.
Lurene is certain she has stumbled into something awful. Something criminal. Her awkward attempt to discover the truth will lead to an odyssey, an alliance of fugitives, and the discovery of herself.
Michelle Pfeiffer and Dennis Haysbert star in “Love Field,” an Orion Pictures presentation of a Sanford/Pillsbury production. Jonathan Kaplan (“The Accused, “Unlawful Entry”) directed the dramatic adventure from a screenplay by co-producer Don Roos. The film was produced by Midge Sanford and Sarah Pillsbury (“River’s Edge,” “Desperately Seeking Susan”) and executive produced by George Goodman (“Cousins”) and Kate Guinzburg.
The cast includes Brian Kerwin, Peggy Rea, Louise Latham and eight-year-old Stephanie McFadden in her acting debut. The musical score is by Academy Award winner Jerry Goldsmith (“The Russia House,” “Chinatown”).
Jonathan Kaplan was intrigued, he says, by the juxtaposition of events in Don Roos’ screenplay, “the national tragedy which would change this country forever, and the experience of three people whose lives change simultaneously.”
While the sense of time and place permeates the film, in the crackle of a newscast or the eyes of strangers suffering communal shock, “it is not a political movie,” observes producer Midge Sanford. “It is really about people who are searching for some meaning in their lives.”
As Lurene asks, at one point, “What do you do when you marry someone you grew up with, then discover you have nothing to talk about There’s always children.” But with the death of her baby, reality blurs. Lurene’s fascination with the Kennedys becomes an obsession.
Paul Cater has worked very hard to rise above his circumstances. As a black man in the early ’60s, it hasn’t been easy. He escaped poverty for a good life as a pharmacist but he had to give something up. Now, he has returned to the past and the enormity of what he left behind.
Adds Jonathan Kaplan: “On the surface, they have little in common. As Paul puts it derisively, there’s a hell of a lot of differences between ‘being bored and being black.’ Yet the joy of the story lies in what they find they share.”
That the relationship evolves against an ever-changing landscape, from a twisting blacktop strewn with the debris of a nightmarish crash to the weathered home of a resilient old woman, pleases the director. “The road lends itself to film,” he says. “People tend to experience time more differently during a long trip. Film can communicate the dreamlike nature of a journey, compressing or expanding time in the same way the characters experience it.”
Kaplan describes his directing approach as intuitive. “The character of Lurene rang true to me. She has all this creativity, energy, imagination and drive. Yet without any way to focus these qualities, she is alienated.”
There is a telling moment, he points out, when Lurene recalls a holiday in Mexico where her husband couldn’t read a newspaper or understand what people were saying. That’s how she feels most of the time. “I loved him then,” she says, savoring the memory.
When casting began, screenwriter/co-producer Don Roos immediately thought of Michelle Pfeiffer. “We needed an actress who could convey Lurene’s youth and vulnerability as well as the pain beneath the smile and chatter,” Roos remarks.
Sanford, Pillsbury and Kaplan agreed. “When Michelle Pfeiffer is in a film, you never know what to expect because she has never been the same twice,” says Kaplan of the actress’
chameleon-like quality. “Instead, she gets under the skin of her character.”
As Paul Cater a.k.a. Paul Johnson, Dennis Haysbert plays his first starring role after making his film debut in the comedy, “Major League” and joining the daredevils in Orion’s “Navy SEALS.” “He has the presence.. .the inner dignity.. .that was essential for the part,” observes producer Sarah Pillsbury.
Paul’s scared, shy daughter, Jonell, is played by Stephanie McFadden who won the role after an extensive search involving some 2,000 youngsters. The North Carolina schoolgirl who had never performed outside of a church choir — received the good news on her sixth birthday. -4-
“Love Field” reunited director Jonathan Kaplan with filmmakers whom he had worked with before, including director of photographer Ralf Bode, A.S.C. (“The Accused”), production designer Mark Freeborn (“Immediate Family”) and editor Jane Kurson (“Immediate Family”).
The primary objective of Kaplan and his collaborators was realism without being overly self- conscious of the period — “a slice of life from this weekend,” says Kaplan.
The movie was filmed in North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia, with locations doubling for Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Principal photography began in North Carolina, where the company filmed in Rocky Mount, Wilson, Raleigh, Fountain, Elm City and Red Oak.
The towns and terrain in and around Wilson and Rocky Mount were suitable locations for recreating the Dallas main street and the Readyville, Tennessee bus station, with the company utilizing more than 100 period vehicles. A 215-square foot, vacant textile mill in Wilson served as a complete production facility/studio.
In Richmond, Virginia, a hanger at the city’s International Airport was painted to match newsreel footage of Dallas’ Love Field. Fencing and light standards were constructed and graphics were painted on a DC 3 cargo plane to signify the presidential jet, Air Force One.
While the streets of downtown Richmond became Dallas in 1963 by day; by night, the area adjacent to the State Capitol and the Jeb Stuart Circle was adapted to resemble Washington, D. C .
ABOUT THE CAST
MICHELLE PFEIFFER (Lurene Hallett) was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance as singer Susie Diamond in “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” a role that also brought her awards from the New York Film Critics, the National Society of Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics. Previously, she received an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Madame de Tourvel in “Dangerous Liaisons.” Pfeiffer received Golden Globe nominations for “Franlde and Johnny,” “Married to the Mob,” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys.”
Pfeiffer’s most recent role was “The Catwoman” in the blockbuster hit “Batman Returns.” Her other films include “The Russia House,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” “Sweet Liberty,” “Into the Night,” “Ladyhawke” and “Scarface.”
The actress made her stage debut in the Los Angeles production “A Playground in the Fall” and also appeared in Joseph Papp’s presentation of “Twelfth Night” in New York.
Raised in the suburban Southern California town of Midway City, Pfeiffer took acting classes at Fountain Valley High School. She attended junior college and a school for court stenography before deciding to pursue acting.
Pfeiffer appeared in several television series before being cast in her first film, “Falling in Love Again.” Later she was selected during a nationwide talent search to star in the musical “Grease 2.” During these formative years she was a student of acting teacher Peggy Feury.
DENNIS HAYSBERT (Paul Cater) began his professional acting career as a guest star on an episode of “Lou Grant.” Shortly thereafter, he was hired for a recurring role on “Buck Rogers in the 21st Century” followed by a stint on ABC’s “Just the Ten of Us.” Haysbert was also a regular on ABC’s series “Off the Rack” and “Code Red.”
Haysbert’s motion picture debut was “Major League” with Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen followed by Orion’s “Navy SEALS”. This fall, Haysbert co-starred with Tom Selleck in “Mr. Baseball” for Universal.
Haysbert was born in San Mateo, California. One of nine siblings, Haysbert became interested in acting while attending junior high school where he performed in virtually all school plays. After attending the College of San Mateo, Haysbert studied at the Pasadena branch of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Haysbert can next be seen starring as “Davis” in the upcoming CBS mini-series, “Queen,” a sequel to “Roots.”
BRIAN KERWIN (Ray Hallett) has been featured in such films as “Murphy’s Romance,” “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Nickel Mountain,” “Hometown, U.S.A.,” and the upcoming “S.P.O.O.K.S.”
His New York stage appearances include “Emily,” for which he won a Theatre World Award, and “Lips Together, Teeth Apart.” In Los Angeles, he appeared on stage in “A Loss of Roses.” In 1983 his role in “Torch Song Trilogy” in San Francisco and Los Angeles brought him a Drama-Logue Award and an L.A. Drama Critics Circle nomination. For his performance in “Strange Snow,” he won 1987 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and 1984 San Diego Drama
Critics Best Actor awards. Prior to filming “Love Field” in 1990, he starred with Glenda Jackson and John Lithgovv in the Los Angeles production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” directed by Edward Albee.
On television Kerwin co-starred for two seasons on the series “The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobe and early in his career he was regular in “The Young and the Restless.” Most recently, Kerwin played a recurring role on the ABC hit “Rosanne.” He also starred opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in “Natica Jackson,” an adaptation of a John O’Hara novella for PBS’ “Tales of the Hollywood Hills.” His telefilm and mini-series appearances include the lead in “Switched at Birth,” “Challenger,” “Intimate Agony,” “The Blue and the Gray,” “Miss All-American Beauty,” “The Chisholms” and “A Real American Hero.”
Kerwin was born and raised in Illinois. He attended the University of Southern California, graduating in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in cinema.
Eight-year-old STEPHANIE McFADDEN (Jonell) makes her acting debut in “Love Field.”
McFadden was born March 17, 1984 in Charleston, South Carolina and moved with her family to Wilmington, North Carolina two years later. She is currently in the third grade at Winter Park Elementary School.
Her mother, Hester, teaches 11th and 12th grade history at Pender High School in Burgaw; her father, Ernest, works for General Electric as a machine operator and troubleshooter. McFadden and her brothers, Jerod, 20, and Jermaine, 15, sing in the Union Baptist Church Choir, a group of 120 young people from ages four and up, under the direction of Jacqueline Goodson.
Since “Love Field,” McFadden appeared in a few episodes of “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” and can be seen in the upcomming PBS movie “Simple Justice.”
LOUISE LATHAM (Mrs. Enright) has appeared in such films as “Mass Appeal,” “The Philadelphia Experiment,” “92 in the Shade,” “Sugarland Express,” “White Lightning,” “Fury at Firecreek,il and “Mamie.”
Television series in which Latham played a regular or recurring role include “Sarah,” “Eight is Enough,” “Family Affair,” “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” and “The F.B.I.” Her telefilmappearances include “The Haunted,” “Pray T.V.,” “Love Lies On,” “Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal” and “Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill.” Her mini-series appearances include “Fresno,” “Dress Grey,” “Scruples” and “Backstairs at the White House,”
Latham’s New York stage appearances include “Invitation to a March,” “Exit the King,” “Summer of the 17th Doll” and “Major Barbara.” Her off-Broadway appearances include “Lie of the Mind” at the Arena Theatre in Washington, D.C.
Films with PEGGY REA (Miss Heisenbuttal) include “In Country,” “Doin’ Time on Planet Earth,” “Hamburger — The Movie,” “What’s the Matter with Helen?,” “Walk Don’t Run,” and “The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao” and “Love Child.”
On television, Rea was a regular in “The Waltons” and played recurring roles in “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “All in the Family.” Rea also appeared in numerous episodes of “Golden Girls” and can currently be seen as a regular on the ABC series “Step By Step”
Her stage appearances include “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Juno and the Paycock,” “Merton of the Movies,” “The Devil’s Disciple,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and “Heartbreak House.”