Many directors who come to Hollywood from overseas manage to make the shift from more personal low-budget local films to less personal big-budget studio fare aimed at a worldwide audience. It’s tough to pull off the push-pull of studio interference. Filmmakers love playing with a richer tool kit and great actors, but it’s hard to hang on to your own voice and steer clear of mass-market blandness.
Many directors wind up saying “screw this” and head home, where they know they can do better work. That list includes English-speakers Neil Jordan, Stephen Frears and Phil Noyce (who see-saws between indie and studio pics like Salt) as well as Holland’s Paul Verhoeven and Hong Kong’s John Woo.
One filmmaker who seems lost in the mix is once-promising Lasse Hallstrom, who struck gold with My Life as a Dog in 1985 and moved into a career as a Hollywood filmmaker with heart who can bring out the best in actors such as Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio and Juliette Binoche (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat) but often veers toward sentimentality (Something to Talk About, The Cider House Rules, An Unfinished Life, The Hoax, Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, Dear John). I quite liked the edgier Casanova, thanks to a robust swashbuckling performance from Heath Ledger.
Now comes news that Hallstrom is set to shoot indie coming-of-age tale Tom’s Dad, with Patrick Dempsey as a comedian who must deal with the arrival of his young son. It sounds very familiar. But at least it’s not another soft studio drama. Point Blank Productions (Peter Weir’s The Way Back) and Depp’s Infinitum Nihil are producing.