Casting dictates script changes

May 21, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

HOLLYWOOD -- When a handful of heavyweights get involved in bringing a best seller to the screen, it's almost guaranteed that there'll be some serious mucking about with the book to accommodate casting. Star power, as it's called.

In the latest example of this practice, a key character, the womanizing senior attorney Avery in John Grisham's novel "The Firm," could become a female attorney instead. Specifically, Meryl Streep.

How does the Oscar-winning actress play a middle-aged lawyer in what was once an all-male Mob-run firm? Very simply -- director Sydney Pollack wants her in the movie, due to shoot in the fall.

Mr. Pollack and Ms. Streep collaborated in the multi-Academy Award-winning "Out of Africa," making them members of a mutual admiration society. So why not have her team up with Tom Cruise, who's been cast in the leading role as junior attorney Mitchell McDeere?

The script is now in the hands of a third writer to incorporate Mr. Pollack's wishes. David Rabe wrote the first three versions, Daniel Pyne a fourth and now David Rayfiel is working on a fifth. Mr. Rayfiel is concentrating on creating a romance between Ms. Streep and Mr. Cruise; in the book, Mr. Cruise's character had eyes only for his wife, and their close relationship is critical to the plot.

Sources say author Grisham is not pleased.

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