Directors' unmatched memories were the film's inspiration

February 22, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

It started when he said one thing and she said another an then he said one and she said still another. And now, all these years later, he's still saying one thing and she's still saying another, only this time they're doing it on screen.

Ken Kwapis and Marisa Silver are young, intense, in love, and their movie which explores the he-said/she-said dichotomy (called, of course, "He Said, She Said") has just opened nationwide. He's fuzzy and friendly, 33; she's a bit sharper of feature and conversation, 30. And they're still he-saysing, she-saysing.

"It started at dinner with friends," he says.

"Your friends," she says.

"It was your friends," he says.

"Well, whatever."

"Well, anyway, we were discussing how everybody met. And it occurred to us that the men and the women had a slightly different --"

"Ken would start to talk and I'd say, 'Well, wait a minute . . ."

"We saw we had a story to tell."

And thus it was that Kwapis and Silver, struggling filmmakers in the Los Angeles movie subculture, went to writer Brian Hohlfeld with the idea of a single story of a love affair but told from two different perspectives, modeled after the tough old Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn seesaw battles.

They sniff at the word "gimmick," but surely the film is a first, not that it splits viewpoints on the same event (Kurosawa's "Rashomon" did that), but that it splits the viewpoint by gender and that the materials in question happen to be loosely based on their own relationship.

"It felt like new territory," Kwapis says.

Bankrolled by Paramount after the script was completed, the couple and the production company decamped to Baltimore, Md., a city you have perhaps heard of.

"We came to Baltimore because it was a good newspaper town," says Kwapis.

"And it was the right size, too. We wanted a city big enough to be sophisticated but small enough so that Dan and Lorie [their alter egos in the script, as played by Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins] could become celebrities."

They chose journalism (as practiced on The Sun) as a milieu because they wanted an arena in which the characters could argue in public and because they wanted the characters to have equal jobs.

But as they worked they began to uncover differences.

"I saw newspaper work as glamorous and interesting," he says.

"I saw it without any glamour at all, but as a struggle for recognition and equality between the sexes."

"We had to work together to be different," he says. "We never thought of ourselves as a 'team' or anything."

She says, "We wanted the stories to be different, but not radically different in style; it should have an overall coherent look."

They shot their stories on an alternating-day schedule, which both say was helpful to the actors, because they could remember exactly what they'd done and how they'd played the same scene the day before.

And both feel that the experience in making the $14-million movie strengthened their relationship.

"We learned what's different about each other," he says.

L "But now it's time to get back to being a couple," she says.

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