Guarding Tess (1994 with Shirley MacLaine and Nicolas Cage)

USA / 1994

Director: Hugh Wilson
Writers: Hugh Wilson, Peter Torokvei

Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Nicolas Cage, Austin Pendleton, Edward Albert, James Redhorn, Richard Griffiths, John Roselius

The impressive comedy acting talents of Shirley Maclaine and Nicolas Cage are displayed to full effect here with the two co-stars relishing their respective roles of former first lady and her reluctant bodyguard. The Guardian said: “The film is really about the burgeoning affection the young hustler and the old gorgon have for one another and, thanks to the performances, there’s an amusing and touching quality about the process.”

The focus of Guarding Tess is the relationship between cantankerous former first lady Tess Carlisle (MacLaine) and her bodyguard Doug Chesnic (Cage). After three years of suffering her petulance, Chesnic is insistent that he and his men are no longer treated like servants. This begins a battle of wills and comic escapades – including a kidnapping that eventually leads them to realise how much they appreciate one another.

Praise for MacLaine’s acting came from many reviewers and she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Sight and Sound said, “Even when the script requires her to cheat herself at golf, she maintains an assertive dignity, a poise which serves her well when her odious son is unmasked as an unscrupulous con-man.”

Then again, MacLaine’s acting ability has never been in doubt. Her career has included more than 40 films, and she won the 1983 best actress Oscar for Terms of Endearment and received Oscar-nominations for Some Came Running , The Apartment , Irma La Douce and The Turning Point . Similarly, Cage has attracted attention from the award ceremonies, including an Academy Award for Leaving Las Vegas .

Director Hugh Wilson is responsible for pairing the two actors together. He is greatly respected for his Emmy-award-winning writing, including the recent blockbuster The First Wives Club . Interestingly enough, he found Brian Reynolds, the cinematographer for Guarding Tess, when he flicked over from a football game and was drawn into a programme about the Civil War, shot by Reynolds.

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