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Tony Goldwyn on the Many Trials of “Conviction”

Tony Goldwyn on the Many Trials of “Conviction” (photo)

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Even though Tony Goldwyn’s surname has long conjured up the heady days of Hollywood’s Golden Era and of his grandfather Samuel, he has long carved out his own path as an actor, most famously in “Ghost,” and as a director of films such as “The Last Kiss” and “A Walk on the Moon” that has always put a modern spin on the old fashioned. (This could be demonstrated by his decision to star in the recent remake of “The Last House on the Left” and then on Broadway in a revival of “Promises, Promises,” either of which taken alone might be considered reinvention, but when done back to back, becomes something radical.) The irony of his latest film as a director is that it might be the first that could’ve been made at his grandfather’s old studio Paramount.

Ultimately, “Conviction” had to be produced independently, the product of an era where the social issue drama has all but vanished into the realm of television, even though, when done well, it can hold a power over an audience in a theater unlike few other genres. As Goldwyn explains below, it took nearly a decade to bring “Conviction” to the screen, a grueling wait only exceeded by the one in the story he tells of Betty Anne Waters, a Massachusetts woman spends 18 years attending law school and filing briefs with the sole purpose of overturning the murder case against her brother Kenny.

Being an actor himself, it should come as no surprise that Goldwyn’s film is lifted by its performances from a cast including Hilary Swank, Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis, and particularly Sam Rockwell (made more impressive by having little time to prepare, as he told Matt Singer recently), but also by the unusual shape Goldwyn and “Walk on the Moon” screenwriter Pamela Gray give to the classic underdog tale. Shortly after the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Goldwyn spoke about the film’s long road to the big screen, invoking real-life names like Martha Coakley and how filmmaking’s become a full-time career.

How did you get involved initially?

Nine years ago, my wife saw a piece on the news, I think it was “60 Minutes” about Betty Anne and Kenny right after his exoneration and I missed the segment. She told me about it and I asked myself, God this woman spent 18 years, what was that bond between those two people that she had such faith in him? He could’ve been guilty. She could’ve been wrong. She could’ve failed and yet she knew – that fascinated me.

10142010_Conviction3.jpgSince all three of your other three films have been romances, did you ever see yourself using that template for this film where it’s obviously a platonic love, but one that endures similar kinds of obstacles?

I always saw this as a love story between a brother and a sister. I never apply any template. Every story I tend to approach, you’re exploring a theme — that connection, that love between this brother and sister — that was my guiding thing. In “A Walk on the Moon,” it was about a woman who found herself in a life not of her choosing really and in a marriage, she suddenly woke up and found herself in her 30s, going I didn’t choose this life and through her romance with this man, this affair that she has, she explores a part of herself she didn’t know. That was the theme I was exploring and something I had been going through at that time about being in my 30s, so that’s more my approach. I wouldn’t say it’s a template.

Yet it fits in so nicely into Hollywood tradition. Are you surprised you had to make this independently?

No, I’m not. [slight laugh] I was surprised along the road. But I’m not. Here’s the thing about a movie like this. First of all, dramas are very difficult to sell. Studios are very nervous about them, especially female-driven dramas and a true-life story like this could easily be done as a TV movie version; it might be good, but it’s not terribly interesting or innovative, so a marketing department goes we don’t know how to sell this if it has a generic quality to it. I knew that wasn’t the movie I wanted to make.

Although [the studios] saw the sort of “Erin Brockovich” potential in it, they were hesitant, so we developed it at a studio and it was at one point greenlit. Then it all fell apart for various reasons. Even when we had Hilary attached, they were like “Oh we want to do it,” but they wouldn’t greenlight it. They were waiting for some insurance policy. I begged the studio to give it back to me in turnaround, I said, “Please just admit to me you don’t want to make this and let me take it out and set it up independently.” Even that was incredibly difficult to finance because it’s all a numbers game. But we persevered and we got very lucky and then of course, once it’s made, even then it took a studio like Fox Searchlight to see it and they got it. They said, “We know how to sell this movie.” With others, they said “We love it, it’s great, but it makes us nervous.” So it’s just a very tough marketplace out there.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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