Edmonton Journal from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on October 29, 1997 · 25
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Edmonton Journal from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada · 25

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Issue Date:
Wednesday, October 29, 1997
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r Walking the tightrope with Murphy Brown TV I CI Comics C7 Weather C8 Entertainment Marc Horton reviews the latest releases on video Thursday in Entertainment Red Corner a BOB STRAUSS Los Angeles Daily News Los Angeles "" J will likely be a very long time I T" before Richard Gere's dream L L becomes a reality But at least he's finally taken what, to him, is a key step toward it "For years, I've been trying to find a film to do on Tibet," says the actor, w hose devotion to Buddhism and friendship with exiled Tibetan spiritual ieader the Dalai Lama have led him to become a leading critic of China's occupation of the remote Himalayan country. "As I'm sure you would understand, when you care so much about something, you're much more critical of the piece of material that you'll do. You can't do it halfway; you can't do it like it's just a movie. "Nothing that I saw would bear that kind of scrutiny. So when this came up, it was a different angle of dealing with Tibet, frankly." That movie is Red Corner, which opens Friday, and Tibet is never so much as mentioned in it. A courtroom dramamurder mystery set in the hall-of-mirrors Chinese legal system, the movie speaks volumes about how the communist government does things. Gere plays American entertainment lawyer Jack Moore, who's in Beijing to cut a lucrative satellite television deal with Chinese bureaucrats. When a beautiful young woman a general's daughter, no less is found murdered in his hotel room, Moore is arrested, charged and not too subtly told to confess or die. He insists he's innocent. Moore's court-appointed lawyer Shen Yuelin (Chinese actress Bai Lin) pleads him guilty anyway; her job is saving his life, not exonerating him. The American embassy is basically helpless and, worse, someone wants to kill both Moore and Shen. Eventually convinced of her client's innocence, Shen tries to get to the truth the last thing, according to the film anyway, that Chinese justice is really interested in. "When we were rewriting the script, there were many opportunities to bring in Tibet," Gere says of Robert King's screenplay, which was originally set in the Soviet Union but relocated after the fall of communism there. "But every time, it felt like pushing a point that was not needed. If you talk about the judicial system in China, you're clearly talking about the same system in their colonies. And if it's that bad in China, imagine what it's like in Tibet." Gere is quick to point out that Red Corner is not strictly an exercise in Sculptor of Famous Five making her own history Barbara Paterson's talent shaping up for a national profile "X a blustery day in early I IT-! October, Barbara JL J. Paterson boarded an air bus from Calgary to Edmonton. Accompanying her was a shrunken figure shrouded in bubble-wrap in a wheelchair. "Oh dear," one woman said, indicating Paterson's companion, "she must be quite sick." Paterson's wheelchair-bound friend turned out to be a life-like bronze sculpture of Nellie McClung, one of the Famous Five. Paterson was taking her back to Edmonton for some touch-up work after having successfully won a national competition to create a sculpture of the five women who changed the course of Canadian history "It's like three Christmases," Paterson says of winning the commission, announced in mid-October. Her larger-than-life bronze sculptures the commission provides for two works will be erected in Calgary in 1999 and Ottawa in 2000. The two pieces commemorate the achievement of Alberta's Famous Five. Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby and Emily Murphy suceeded in having women declared persons under the law in 1929. This enabled them to participate fully in all aspects of public life. Now, because of the commission sponsored by the Calgary-based Famous Five Foundation, Paterson is flirting with fame herself. The grey-haired, bespectacled sculptor says that even though she grew up a block away from Emily Murphy's house she knew next to nothing about the five women. "I had a vague idea about their importance to women, but knew nothing about their personalities." Nor was Paterson a particularly well-known sculptor before the commission. To date, she has had three public commissions, one each in Edmonton, Red Deer and St. Albert. The latter is typical of her work, a thriller that exposes the sorry File photo Richard Gere, as entertainment lawyer Jack Moore, listens to courtroom proceedings through an interpreter in the high-stakes thriller, Red Corner China-bashing, unlike the recent Seven Years in Tibet (a project Gere was often approached for, but never found quite right). Indeed, Gere insisted upon extensive rewriting to give the film's Chinese characters more human dimension. "They were kind of paper Chinese characters in the script," Gere, 48, says, "so we needed to fill them out as human beings. Now, I think, we've given them all faces and personalities." Oddly enough, China's Film Institute invited Gere to visit the country shortly after his famous speech at the Academy Awards itfi Charles i y Mandel " became such a vision for me. Once I got the idea and did the sketches, f really wanted to see the maquette and then once I did the maquette, then I wanted the whole ball of wax." sculptor Barbara Paterson on her Famous Five commission life-size bronze featuring a boy and a dog playing peek-a-boo under a bench. The other two artworks also feature dogs. "I was tempted to put a dog into this last one, but I didn't think they'd take too kindly to it," Paterson laughs. Instead, she created a scene showing three of the women sitting drinking tea, while the other two proudly hold up a newspaper with a headline declaring: Women Are Persons. Paterson's work beat out that of 17 other Canadian sculptors. While she expresses surprise at having been asked to submit a piece for competition, Paterson asserts that she expected to win. "It became such a vision for me. Once I got the idea and did the sketches, I really wanted to see the maquette and then once I did the maquette, then I wanted the whole ball of wax." rm rm, : - y 14: s Y n- In ft "w - " mm i hi ' i m 'I ceremonies in 1993, when he asked the world to "send this thought out" for the Chinese army to vacate Tibet. He's been banned by the Academy ever since, but the Beijing regime actually displayed enormous hospitality on Gere's tour of China and Tibet. He's not been allowed to return to China. But that hasn't shaken Gere's fondness for the friends he made. "We were treated very nicely; the Chinese were very sweet people," the lanky grey-haired actor says. "The only strange moments were when one of the party officials would show up and nobody would talk." Paterson's downtown studio is cluttered with the tools of her trade. Welding masks, hack saws and other implements hang on wall racks. A fine coating of concrete dust covers the numerous wood tables and chairs. One wall holds pictures of her family and five grandchildren. ("The Famous Five, they follow me everywhere," Paterson jokes.) The sculptor, who will only admit to being in her 50s, is herself the great-granddaughter of William McKay a medical doctor for whom McKay Avenue school is named. Her father managed the Garneau, Capital and Paramount movie theatres. Paterson says while she got to watch free films, she also spent as much time dishing out popcorn and scrubbing aisles sticky with spilt soda pop. She took fine arts at the University of Alberta in the 1960s, but discontinued her studies after she met her husband there and instead spent her years raising their three boys. "I married a psychologist" she replies in answer to a question about putting her own career on hold, "Do you think I would ever say I resented that? Those were years when you just went along." Nonetheless, her artistic ability manifested itself in other ways. She continued to take art courses from university extension and she "made elaborate birthday cakes." Finally she returned to the university full-time, graduating in 1988 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Paterson works in her studio seven days a week. Currently she's concentrating on wall reliefs of nudes created from concrete backed with wire mesh. Once she adds a patina of paint, polishes the artworks and gives them a wax coating, they obtain a sheen that makes them look like bronze. However, her next few months will be spent travelling back and forth between Edmonton and Calgary, supervising the foundry work on the politics of Chinese justice Preview Red Corner Director Jon Avnet Starring: Richard Gere, Bai Ling Opens Friday "When we were rewriting the script, there were many opportunities to bring in Tibet. But every time, it felt like pushing a point that was not needed. If you talk about the judicial system in China, you're clearly talking about the same system in their colonies And if it's that bad in China, imagine what it's like in Tibet." Richard Gere discusses why Tibet is not mentioned in Red Comer "Richard loves China and the Chinese people, and he's knowledgeable," says Red Corner director Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes). "Because of that forget the fact that he's a great actor he wanted to get it right. And because he knows so much, he was an enormously valuable collaborator." As well as a bit of a liability, since Gere's participation prevented Avnet from actually filming Red Corner in China. But both cutting-edge and old-fashioned movie magic got around that roadblock. Avnet captured some not-entirely-approved footage of Beijing landmarks during research trips to the Chinese capital. Gere was later morphed into the shots via computer-graphics technology For other exteriors, Oscar-winning production designer Richard Sylbert built a seven-acre hutong a sprawling, residential neighbourhood marked by maze-like alleys and numerous courtyards in Playa del Rey, dressing it with hundreds of extras and nearly five shipping containers worth of items from China. Obviously, Red Corner is a big deal for Gere. In fact, he lobbied MGM to release the film this week to coincide with the state visit of China's President Jiang Zemin, and the actor is currently hosting several protest events in Washington, D.C. But politics and religion are not his only interests. Gere has another movie coming out Nov. 14, The Jackal, a loose remake of the '70s thriller Day of the Jackal co-starring Bruce Willis and Sidney Poitier. Gere plays an -OvV Barbara Paterson in her studio, where Famous Five sculptures. Bronze Art Casting in Calgary will create a wax duplicate of her maquette. Then they place that in a magnetic resonance imaging machine to get a precise reading of the scale necessary for englarging the sculptures to one-and-a-quarter life-size. Paterson smiles ghoulishly and says she'll spend a lot of time carrying heads and hands back and forth between the two cities as she refines the detail work before the entire sculpture is ready for casting in bronze. t . t 1 ' 1 ' imprisoned IRA sniper, Declan Mulqueen, who is released to help track down an elusive international terrorist (Willis). "My own personal beliefs are in total nonviolence in every possible way," Gere explains. "In all interactions, in all conflicts, nothing good comes from violence, nothing. So I thought it would be interesting to tell the story of someone who was a passionate soldier, an ideologue, as the best of the IRA are. But he was a sharpshooter, he did kill people, and he's now extremely reticent to pick up a gun ever again. ; "Of course, in the movie, he's more or less forced to pick up a gun. I ; thought that would be an interesting dilemma for a moral person." And there's a new love in his life, Law and Order star Carey Lowell. "She's a wonderful person," Gere enthuses. "She is so funny, probably the funniest person I've ever known. And she's very committed to Buddhism, so there's no tension about that at alL You know, if you're on a path, it's almost impossible if your partner's not on the same path," Gere does not discuss what caused t the end of his marriage to model ; Cindy Crawford several years ago. But me actor himself appears to have matured, contentedly, over the last " two years. He comes across with an easy humour these days, which is quite a change from the bristly Gere of the past. Raised in upstate New York, Gere originally planned to become a musician. A gymnastic scholarship took him to the University of Massachusetts, where he first became interested in philosophy But the acting bug bit, and he dropped out after two years to do theatre work in New England and New York. Gere broke into the movies in 1975 and made his first big splash two years later as one of Diane Keaton's Looking for Mr. Goodbar6at.es from hell. Perhaps making a film as heartfelt as Red Corner has satisfied ; Gere in a way no other movie could. "You know, the Chinese people's cause is the same cause as the Tibetans': They're not allowed to speak, either," Gere says. "There's a wonderful line that Bai Ling says in this movie, 'I no longer wish to remain silent.' She probably has finished her career, with that statement, in China. But she's speaking for herself, for her character, for a generation of Chinese people who were in Tiananmen Square. "And the implication there, when she says this to the American, is that 'You guys have got to stand by us the next time we speak out.' " Ian Scott, The Journal she often works seven days a week While it's too early for Paterson to say what effect the commission may have on her career, she alludes to the fact that it was generous enough that she needn't worry about rent on her studio for some time to come But the best part says the grandmotherly woman who put her career on hold while she raised her family is she recently got into an elevator with her husband and one of the deans at the university Grinning widely she says: "I love the fact that the dean introduced him to someone else as Barbara Paterson's husband." " J- r . ' -a I

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