' Cinema Romantico: Countdown to the Oscars: A Time To Kill & The Unknown Hollywood Urban Legend

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Countdown to the Oscars: A Time To Kill & The Unknown Hollywood Urban Legend

I cannot vouch 100% for the authenticity of what I am about to tell you. The following information was told to me by a fellow movie fan at the Emerald Loop in downtown Chicago who claimed the information was told to him by a fellow movie lover at a Red Lobster in Tulsa, Oklahoma who claimed the information was told to him by a fellow movie lover while waiting in line for a showing of "W." at the Sundance Film Festival who claimed the information was told to him by his tennis instructor in Encinitas, California who claimed the information was told to him at a San Diego bar by Matthew McConaughey himself in the wake of Texas's Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State in 2007. But I felt it would be wrong to keep this information secret from my many loyal readers especially when it all sounds so darn plausible. Pass this on only to whom you must....


"A Time To Kill", based on the John Grisham book of the same name, was released to mixed reviews in 1996. The film's plot is irrelevant, what is relevant is the fact the film's cast was spectacularly deep - an exotic miss of hotshots at the time, old stalwarts and potential up-and-comer's. Yet for all the names on the cast list only one of them was preceded by the words "Oscar Winner". That would have been Kevin Spacey, fresh off his win earlier that year for supporting actor in "The Usual Suspects". At the time Matthew McConaughey was a relative unknown. His role in the cultish "Dazed and Confused" was probably his best known (though if anyone had seen 1996's "Lone Star" they would have seen a pretty good performance, too). In the wake of his first true leading part in "A Time To Kill" (complete with The Big Courtroom Speech at the end) he was getting some serious buzz. Perhaps buying into the buzz, perhaps feeling a little full of himself, at the wrap party McConaughey bet his fellow "A Time To Kill" compatriots that he would be the next to win an Oscar.

Immediately Samuel L. Jackson, McConaughey's co-star, interjected (he may have used a few bad words). This was only two years removed from "Pulp Fiction" and Jackson was still a pretty darn big man on campus. He stated with resounding authority that he would be the next from the "Time To Kill" cast to bag an Oscar.

Sandra Bullock, their co-star, eating tortilla chips, overheard this proclamation. "Hold your horses, Sam," she said. "I'm the woman of the moment here." Certainly there was some truth to this sentiment. "Speed" had shot her into the stratosphere in 1994 and she kept the ball rolling with "While You Were Sleeping" and "The Net" (a "provocative" film as Frank Costanza once noted). "I've got 'In Love And War' coming out this fall," she declared. "I fall in love with Ernest Hemingway. Two words: Oscar bait. I'm going to be the next one to win." (Important Note: "Speed 2: Cruise Control" was still a year away from release.)

"You ingrates," a voice boomed. It belonged to Donald Sutherland. "Do you know those bastards have never nominated me? Not for "MASH". Not for "Klute". Not for 'Don't Look Now.' Not for 'Ordinary People.' They owe me. It's time for my 'It's His Time' Oscar. I'm in talks to play Prefontaine's coach in a new movie by Bob Towne. It's gonna blow people away. Gimme two years. I'm going to be the next one to win an Oscar."

"Hold up," someone drawled. It was Oliver Platt, waving his hand from way in the back. Everyone laughed so hard they drowned him out.

"Wait just a minute," advised the most lilting southern dialect you've ever heard. Ashley Judd strode to the front of the room. Samuel L. Jackson cackled, "You? Gimme a (expletive) break." "Hey," retorted Judd, "when I get a role and they don't relegate me to being arm candy I can do some things. Did you even see 'Ruby In Paradise?'" "Oh, please," laughed Bullock, "that isn't even real." "No, no, I'll show you," she said, reaching into her purse, presumably for a copy of the movie.

But before she could find it some guy stepped forward and said, laconicly, "What about me? I think I might be the next." They all looked him up and down. "I don't even know who you are (expletive)," indicated Jackson. "You don't even look like an actor," offered Bullock. "I thought you were an extra," bemused McConaughey. Why it was a then mostly unknown Chris Cooper, featured in "A Time To Kill" in a small but vital role. "You thought I was an extra?" wondered Cooper. "But Matthew! We were both in 'Lone Star!' Sure, we didn't have scenes together but you played my dad, for God's sake, in flashback!" "'Fraid I don't remember, buddy," McConaughey replied.

Meanwhile Ashley Judd was still trying to find the copy of her movie. "It's here somewhere! I swear! Roger Ebert put it in his Top 10 from 1993! He said it was 'one of the very best performances of the year.' Honest to God!" Sutherland rolled his eyes, "Suuuuure he did."

For the next three hours, with Spacey acting as moderator, the group placed innumerable bets and side bets in relation to just who and when in what order this group would achieve the Oscars they all seemed to feel were inevitable. Which is to say everyone lost a lot of money when Chris Cooper took home an Oscar at the 2002 ceremony for "Adaptation". (Spacey also won a lot of money when he presciently bet he would win a second Oscar before any of them won their first.)

And now Sandra Bullock stands poised as the second of the group to get her Oscar. Whoever would have thunk it? Now the question reshapes again. Who will be the next from the "Time To Kill" cast to win an Oscar? Samuel L. Jackson most recently got significant Oscar buzz, of course, playing opposite Eugene Levy in "The Man" but it didn't happen for him. Sutherland's next film co-stars Rebecca Romijin and is about an ex-con going in for....wait for it...."one last heist" (gulp). McConaughey is set to star in a remake of "Roman Holiday" with Kate Hudson (okay, not really, but you believed me, didn't you?). Judd's most recent role was in "Tooth Fairy". Platt's most recent role was in "2012".

The moral of this little urban legend? Once hot shit, not always hot shit.

6 comments:

thistimeitwillbedifferent said...

Very good. Enjoyed that a lot.

Nicholas Prigge said...

Thank you. If only it had actually happened.

Mike said...

I wad there, you missed the best part. The director was sleeping in a nearby chair and when the others finished their speaches, he began to laugh uncontrollably. Finally he said, "That completely unknown girl I picked to play the nurse with no lines at all will end up acting circles around all ya' all! What's her name you ask... Octavia Spencer!"

Mike said...

I wad there, you missed the best part. The director was sleeping in a nearby chair and when the others finished their speaches, he began to laugh uncontrollably. Finally he said, "That completely unknown girl I picked to play the nurse with no lines at all will end up acting circles around all ya' all! What's her name you ask... Octavia Spencer!"

Mike said...

I wad there, you missed the best part. The director was sleeping in a nearby chair and when the others finished their speaches, he began to laugh uncontrollably. Finally he said, "That completely unknown girl I picked to play the nurse with no lines at all will end up acting circles around all ya' all! What's her name you ask... Octavia Spencer!"

Mary McGregor said...

Actually there was another Oscar winner in the cast...Brenda Fricker won for My Left Foot some years previously. Script was by akiva goldsman who went on to write a beautiful mind for which he won an Oscar...so now a Time to Kill looks like the most quality collaboration ever with McConnaughy, Bullock,Cooper,Spacey,Fricker and Spencer all oscar winners. And then there was A plethora of Emmy, Golden Globe, and Bafta winners t- the 2 Sutherlands, Patrick McGoohan Samuel L Jackson Oliver Platt