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Evening

Release date: June 29, 2007
Directed by: Lajos Koltai
Written by: Michael Cunningham
Produced by: Jeffrey Sharp
Running time: 117 minutes

Overcome by the power of memory, Ann (Vanessa Redgrave) reveals a long-held secret to her concerned daughters (Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson) on her deathbed. More than fifty years ago, Ann was a young woman (Claire Danes) who has come from New York City to be maid of honor at the wedding of her dearest friend Lila (Mamie Gummer). Ann stays close to her friend and even closer to Lila’s irrepressible brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy). Unexpected feelings surge forth once Ann meets wedding guest Harris (Patrick Wilson), a lifelong friend and intimate of the family.

Cast & Characters

Claire Danes (Ann Grant), Toni Collette (Nina Mars), Vanessa Redgrave (Ann Lord), Patrick Wilson (Harris Arden), Hugh Dancy (Buddy Wittenborn), Natasha Richardson (Constance Haverford), Mamie Gummer (Lila Wittenborn), Eileen Atkins (The Night Nurse), Meryl Streep (Lila Ross), Glenn Close (Mrs. Wittenborn), Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Luc), Barry Bostwick (Mr. Wittenborn)

Production Notes

In writing her novel Evening, author Susan Minot had hoped that “anyone following the woman’s story would think about what’s important in their own lives, what they cared about the most, and how they would want to live their own lives moving forward.” Like so many readers of the beloved best-seller, producer Jeffrey Sharp’s affinity for the novel was at once highly personal and universal. He remarks, “The novel explores a woman’s look back at her life while her children sit at her bedside, learning more about secrets from their mother’s past.” Over the course of a year, with Minot’s help, Sharp was able to acquire the film rights to the book, which had been previously optioned. He notes, “Also with Susan’s help, I reconceived Evening as an independent feature.” Several drafts of the screenplay followed. Drawn, like everyone else, by the universality of the story and the themes, a mother/daughter acting duo would soon come aboard Evening. Sharp notes, “Mamie Gummer came in to audition for the role of Lila, and really got to the core of the character.”

Gummer elaborates, “Lila comes from blue-blood privilege, but feels trapped by it. She would give it all up in a heartbeat if the man she is truly in love with – which is not the man she’s set to marry – would have her. I was drawn to her sadness, and to the story’s exploration of the conflict between love and societal compromise, which is as old as time. “Ann and Lila were drawn to each other in college, and they formed a sisterly bond. Off-camera, Claire and I perfected that friendship.” Claire Danes offers, “I really loved playing scenes with Mamie; it’s not often that I have the opportunity to play out a female friendship of true intimacy on-screen. She is a gifted and beautiful actress, and we are now great friends ourselves.” Sharp reveals, “Mamie had blown us all away in one audition, and then again in another that we scheduled because she was so great the first time. Lajos immediately wanted her to play Lila Wittenborn; it was only afterwards that we told him that Mamie is related to an actress named Meryl Streep. Mamie said that she was really happy that she could help her mother find a job.” Danes adds, “Mamie and I were able to watch dailies of a scene that Meryl and Vanessa have together, so that we could echo it in a parallel scene we have together. We were thrilled watching it, but also thought, ‘We’re supposed to match that…?’ But our scene – on the morning of Lila’s wedding – was just so well-written; there are three distinct chapters within it.” Gummer concurs, “It was all there on the page; it’s my favorite scene in the film, and so moving. “My Mom and I had joked about maybe giving Lila a limp for continuity, but we didn’t follow through on that. So Claire and I watched the dailies of the other scene – which was staggering – the night before we shot ours, and tried to sort of emulate that.”