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To Die For (1995, Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon)

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Suzanne Stone (NICOLE KIDMAN) schmoozes a television celebratory (the uncredited GEORGE SEGAL) even while on her honeymoon with husband Larry (MATT DILLON). She wants that career and, back in Little Hope, New Hampshire, there’s a cable station (boss: WAYNE KNIGHT) where, if weather girl is the route to power, then so be it for Suzanne. Railroading a story onto air, she recruits high school drop-outs JOAQUIN PHOENIX, CASEY AFFLECK and ALISON FOLLAND who become her willing stooges.

Indeed, when Larry wants to start a family, she easily persuades them to rid her of her husband. When the case goes public, Suzanne makes her bid for superstardom. But she has reckoned without Larry’s family …

More than anything else, this was the movie that ensured Nicole Kidman would never be known solely as Mrs Tom Cruise. Now she is such a classy star that, later this year, she follows Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson and Kevin Spacey into a stage production for the Almeida Theatre in London. Meanwhile, this was a gloriously rancid comedy, black as the ace of spades and twice as strong in trumps. ‘She knew what it took to get to the top’ slavered the poster legend. ‘A lot of heart. And a little head’.

Joyce Maynard’s original novel was loosely based on a real case, such is the wacked-out world of American television. Old pro screenwriter (and actor) BUCK HENRY fashions the material so sharply that the hairs rise on the back of your neck as the inevitability of it all runs along like a well-tuned automobile. Kidman hits it absolutely right, knowing yet wide-eyed as she gets her stiletto into everyone who might stop her being a household name. And Joaquin Phoenix, River’s little brother, acquits himself well as the scuzzy kid who couldn’t say no to any kind of adventure.

production details
USA – Canada | 106 minutes | 1995

Director: Gus Van Sant
Writer: Buck Henry after the novel by Joyce Maynard

cast
Nicole Kidman as Suzanne Stone
Kurtwood Smith as Earl Stone
Matt Dillon as Larry Maretto
Joaquin Phoenix as Jimmy Emmett
Casey Affleck as Russel Hines
Illeana Douglas as Janice Maretto
Alison Folland as Lydia Mertz
Dan Hedaya as Joe Maretto
Wayne Knight as Ed Grant
Holland Taylor as Carol Stone
Susan Traylor as Faye Stone
Maria Tucci as Angela Maretto
Tim Hopper as Mike Warden
Michael Rispoli as Ben DeLuca
Buck Henry as Mr. H. Finlaysson
Gerry Quigley as George
Tom Forrester as Fisherman
Alan Edward Lewis as Fisherman
Nadine MacKinnon as Sexy Woman
Conrad Coates as Weaselly Guy
Ron Gabriel as Sal
Ian Heath as Student
Graeme Millington as Student
Sean Ryan as Student
Nicholas Pasco as Detective
Joyce Maynard as Lawyer
David Collins as Reporter
Eve Crawford as Reporter
Janet Lo as Reporter
David Cronenberg as Man at Lake
Tom Quinn as Skating Promoter
Peter Glen as Priest
Amber-Lee Campbell as Suzanne (age 5)
Colleen Williams as Valerie Mertz
Simon Richards as Chester
Philip Williams as Babe Hines
Susan Backs as June Hines
Kyra Harper as Mary Emmett
Adam Roth as Band Member
Andrew Scott as Band Member
Tamara Gorski as Girl at Bar
Katie Griffin as Girl at Bar
Carla Renee as Girl at Bar
Mischa as Walter
Chris Phillips as High School Soccer Player (uncredited)
Rain Phoenix as Tambourine Player in Band (uncredited)
George Segal as Conference Speaker (uncredited)

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