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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania • Page 48

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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48
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Pitkktrgfc Pol-GMtl Dec 20, 1985 Cover story Spielberg shows serious side in 'Color Purple' W-14 i ssw like to think I still have time to be a 4 i normal person. Sleven Spielberg himself seems to have come out of his shell. Always accessible, he now seems more confident and less aggressive about his career. Mellow might be the best way to describe his easy-going and friendly manner. Dressed casually in a brown leather jacket, corduroy pants and designer aviator glasses, he talks about the birth of his son, 6-month-old Max, to his wife of several actress Amy Irving.

"We've been together for 10 years, though we were apart for 3 Mi. I'm a romantic, so when we ran into each other again in India, I think it was fate. I like to think I still have time to be a normal person, though when you achieve a certain stature, the first thing that happens is all your high school friends stop calling. They assume you are different. "It was important for me personally to make this film.

When Max was born, it was a big thing for me. We were going to get married eventually, move from my bachelor house, where I lived for nine years, into a family home. I wanted to flex certain muscles. I knew I was good at making certain films, but I wanted to see if I could do this. I've never planned my career around an award, but I knew the minute I got into drama everybody would think I had.

And I didn't do all this work for one night" often just emotional. I knew there was going to be some criticism if I made the film." What he pulls from the book are the universal themes that have made it popular among readers of all ages and color. That the film is adapted so well is thanks, in part, to the screenwriting efforts of a young Dutch writer, Menno Meyjes. He changed the emphasis of the story to Celie, focusing on her development and that of the characters around her but omitting much of her sister, Nettie's, experiences in Africa. "I didn't think it would be possible to adapt the book I took a wait-and-see attitude.

I hired Menno because he was the most enthusiastic and he loved the same things I did about the book, the fact that Celie is coming out of her shell as Mister is going into his." Originally, Spielberg had wanted to cast Tina Turner in the pivotal role of blues singer Shug Avery. "I offered it to her three times, and she turned it down. She said what happened in the book was too close to her own life, it had happened to her, and she didn't want to live through it again." Convincing author Walker to let him make the film was easier, but not by much. As soon as word was out that Spielberg was interested in the book, criticism from the black community began. "I didn't interview Alice.

She interviewed me. She sat back and was very cautious with me, and was cautious for eight months, in fact, until she started seeing the dailies. But there's always criticism. You just can't avoid it. Militancy is 'Purple' paints rich canvas of self-discovery Post-Gazette review iyiipiHtuUii IllllSill By Marylynn Uricchio Post-Gazette Staff Writer NEW YORK Rumor has it that Steven Spielberg is making his bid for an Academy Award with "The Color Purple," a most unlikely departure for the king of commercial success.

Though Spielberg vehemently denies the rumors, he acknowledges that there is foundation for such an interpretation. "It's not a Spielberg movie in a sense," he says. And yet, of course, it is. There are no special effects, no alien beings and no scenes of swashbuckling adventure, but the warmth and technical polish that have marked all of his movies remain intact. In most other ways, however, "The Color Purple" resembles nothing the director has done before.

Its scale is small, and with a budget of $15 million, it's considered a cheapie. It has no major stars, though the cast contains some of the finest black actors lucky enough to be working in the industry today. The film has solid intellectual content it's about something more than being entertaining. And it's based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title. Advance word is that the film is a masterpiece, which is not altogether surprising.

At 39, Spielberg is at the very top of his profession. His career record is almost unparalleled. He directed "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," the most popular film of all time, as well as "Jaws," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." He has produced "Back to the Future," "Gremlins," "Goo-nies" and "Young Sherlock Holmes." Yet he has never won an Academy Award, which is why the rumors are flying. This time around he's doing something serious, something of almost historical significance.

Why "The Color "It was a movie I was seduced into by the book. It was given to me as a weekend read by producer Kathleen Kennedy, who runs my company. I was preparing my love story, and 'Peter and I was not expecting to do this. It took three months to convince myself," he says, adding that ultimately, his best arguments caused him to accept the project. "It was the tremendous growth of Celie Johnson this woman imprisoned in a free world.

Her courage amazed me. She's a very great person. She's almost a church mouse, and she suddenly realizes she's special. I was also in love with Shug she was just this angel of mercy. I was real curious about the character of Mister, the why of Mister, and what causes somebody to be so bitter and mean.

"I've been very motivated for years to do a black ensemble film. The subject matter is often richer and deeper. I hardly read anything at all. I don't have time. This is a terrible thing to say, but the reason I read 'The Color Purple' at all was because it was so thin," he says with a grin.

Once he read it, Spielberg realized it was perfect for the ensemble film he envisioned. And once he met Whoopi Goldberg, the San Francisco actress who wowed audiences with her one-woman collection of characters on Broadway, he knew he had found the perfect Celie. She's an illiterate Southern woman married to an abusive man (played by Danny Glover), who learns through his mistress that she is a person of value I and merit. Celie's saga spans almost 40 years and i an extended family of characters, yet it has the intimate feel of Spielberg's favorite black film, "Sounder." Jtsw i "A 1 w- family that grows and changes with the years. The scope is reminiscent of "Gone With the Wind," as is the gorgeous cinematography by Allen Daviau.

"The Color Purple" is the first black ensemble film of this size and intensity, but what makes it remarkable is the universality of its themes. Seldom has a film been so rich in color, texture and emotion. It is impossible not to cry on and off throughout the second half of the movie, for Spielberg knows which strings to pull and the outstanding cast does the rest. Yet "The Color Purple" is not a tearjerker in the traditional sense. It doesn't cheat or manipulate, but provokes a reaction on the strength of its story.

The characters come to mean so much that their eventual happiness is profoundly moving and poignant. Goldberg has a face as responsive as a tissue in the wind. She registers every flicker of terror, wonder, astonishment and tenderness, and she is an actress of the first rank who imbues Celie with courage and humor. Danny Glover gives depth to the role of Mister, and manages to make him an ultimately sympathetic figure. Margaret Avery turns in a strong, thoroughly winning performance as Shug.

The supporting cast includes the powerful Oprah Winfrey as Sofia, the tragic heroine; Willard Pugh as Harpo, Mister's son and Sofia's husband; and Adolph Caesar as the old Mister. Rae Dawn Chong has a small role as Harpo's girlfriend, Squeak. "The Color Purple" is a joyous film that celebrates the human spirit. It's the best film Spielberg has made, and one of the best this By Marylynn Uricchio If you're going: This- film is rated. 46-13 for 6exual content.

It's playing at the Squirrel Hill and Showcase North theaters. Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for her novel "The Color Purple," the moving saga of a Southern black woman who rises from the shackles of contemporary slavery to discover her self -worth. Steven Spielberg may just win an Academy Award for the film version of Walker's book, for his movie is a brilliant, landmark achievement Though Spielberg has made some of the most succesful movies in the history of the industry including "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and of course, "E.T." he has counted on his warm, emotional style and his mastery of the technical aspects of the medium to seduce audiences. While his films are hugely entertaining, they haven't been exactly heavy in the content department. With "The Color Purple," he finds the perfect pairing of ideas with imagery, and the result is a film destined to become a classic.

Whoopi Goldberg, whom Mike Nichols discovered and brought to Broadway in a one-woman show, stars as Celie, one of two central characters in the book. The other is her sister, Nettie, who is relegated to a smaller role in the movie for. the sake of logistics and focus. It's a wise move on the part of screenwriter Menno Meyjes, for the film covers 40 years and is an extremely vivid collection of characters as it Celie is a sexually abused teen-ager who has borne two children, both of whom have been taken from her. When the man Celie believes to be her father refuses to let Nettie get married, in part because he wants her for Himself, Celie is offered as a consolation prize to a man called Mister.

What Mister needs most is a housekeeper, babysitter and slave, and there's no pretense of love on his part He beats Celie, criticizes her, lets his children harass her and flaunts the existence of his mistress, a beautiful blues singer named Shug Avery. It's no wonder that Celie feels worthless, 'rV Whoopi Goldberg unattractive and unloved. But when Shug comes to stay with Mister during an illness, Celie worries about making a good impression on her and painstakingly nurses the tempera-; mental woman back to health. Shug is cut -from different cloth she wouldn't marry f. Mister because he's not man enough and she is shocked at the treatment Celie receives.

Slowly, through a poignantly realized friendship, Shug teaches Celie to stand up to Mister, to Become a person in her own right, to expect accept 1, i i Celie's awakening is at the core of the movie, but the story involves an extended.

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