Hi-Def Comet's Tale
Legendary screenwriter William Goldman, an Academy Award® winner for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and All the President’s Men (1976) who also penned such originals and adaptations as Harper (1966), The Hot Rock (1972), Marathon Man (1976), Magic (1978), The Princess Bride (1987) and Misery (both the 1990 movie and the 2012 play), wanted to write a romantic comedy. As it would be an original and not based on existing material (although certainly inspired by the great screen capers in which Goldman was well versed), he devised a succinct studio pitch which he recaps in his droll 2002 chronicle Which Lie Did I Tell? More Adventures in the Screen Trade: “A Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn romantic comedy about this great couple who meet and just hate each other but they’re both chasing a $10-million bottle of wine across London and the French Riviera, where they have wild adventures. And no, they don’t hate each other at the end.” His creative impulse would be powered by his personal passion for fine red wine and in the spirit of a film he greatly admired, the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn/Stanley Donen/Peter Stone/Marc Behm collaboration Charade (1963), it would involve a scenic chase. “The settings were pretty much preordained by the nature of the material. Sing Sing somehow seemed wrong. Devil’s Island, too,” he reasoned. “So I wrote it to take place in the most romantic places I knew – London, the Scottish Highlands and the French Riviera.” Peter Yates, a Goldman pal who two decades prior had directed The Hot Rock, signed on to what would become Year of the Comet (1992), named for the Great Comet of 1811, the appearance of which coincided with what has been historically regarded as a peak year for European wine. Penelope Ann Miller plays a wine expert at her family’s venerable London auction house (ruled over by cold father Ian Richardson and conniving brother Timothy Bentinck), whose discovery of a valuable bottle of vintage vino plunges her into a situation ripe to reinvigorate her cloistered world. En route to retrieve the prize package, she is teamed with uncouth and rough-hewn buyer’s representative Tim Daly, and both soon discover that other parties – scientific mastermind Louis Jourdan (in his final film role) and gangster Art Malik – have targeted the same acquisition for different reasons and these guys are playing for keeps with murderous intent. Miller (Awakenings, Other People’s Money, The Artist and TV’s American Crime) and Daly (Diner, TV’s Wings, The Fugitive and Madam Secretary) gamely exude sparkly banter and elude their pursuers through all manner of hair’s-breadth escapes across gorgeous landscapes of stark beauty and mist-shrouded menace lovingly shot in Panavision by veteran British cinematographer Roger Pratt (Brazil, Mona Lisa, Twelve Monkeys, Troy and two Harry Potter adventures). Goldman ruefully concluded that in the face of Year of the Comet’s lackluster reception and poor box office that the film was a flop, mainly because the audience did not share his passions. But 25 years hence, and with such formidable talents as Goldman, Yates, Miller and Daly on board, passion projects are ultimately what Twilight Time hi-def Blu-rays are all about. Year of the Comet arrives April 18 for romantic adventurers to savor. Preorders open April 5.