‘Doubt’ Coming April 720 Feb, 2009 By: Billy Gil
That black bonnet will haunt you.
Anyone who’s seen Doubt, John Patrick Shanley’s acclaimed return to directing (his last film was 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano), is now familiar with Meryl Streep’s subzero gaze peering out from beneath her nun’s habit as she plays Sister Aloysius, the tough principal of a New York Catholic school who suspects her parish’s new, popular priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has molested one of the students. Just in time for the Academy Awards, for which Doubt secured five nominations, Miramax and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has announced Doubt will release on DVD ($29.99) and Blu-ray Disc ($34.99) April 7 (prebook Feb. 24).
The Doubt DVD and Blu-ray Disc both house the special features “From Stage to Screen,” in which Shanley discusses the history of Doubt, his inspirations for the story, and adapting his acclaimed play, with participation from Streep and Sister Margaret McEntee (Shanley’s former teacher, who served as a consultant on the film and who was formerly known as Sister James, the name of Amy Adams’ character in the film and play). The discs also include special features on composer Howard Shore’s musical score, interviews with Shanley and Streep on talking to real nuns in order to portray their lives accurately in the film, more cast interviews and a commentary with Shanley, for which he said they “put him in a booth and [he] just freely associated for the length of the film.”
Bringing his Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-wining play to the screen was no easy feat for Shanley, who has said he wrote the play in part based on the experiences of someone he knew. While the play featured only four performers, the film brings the rest of the parish into the story and uses the school, church and Bronx neighborhood where Shanley grew up as the somber backdrop.
“To take a story featuring only four characters and make it into a feature was a major challenge,” Shanley said. “Most modern plays do not succeed as films.
“… The children ... the parishioners and the neighborhood they inhabit ... those were all natural things to show, and it was actually a bit unnatural, artificial in the way I did it as a [play].”
By most accounts the choices Shanley made worked. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for best actress (Streep), actor (Hoffman), twice for supporting actress (Amy Adams as naïve Sister James and Viola Davis complexly delivering a brief role as the child in question’s mother), and best adapted screenplay for Shanley.
A win would mean his second Oscar — his first was won for writing 1987’s Moonstruck, starring Cher. But Shanley isn’t sweating it too much; he is focused on writing another screenplay as well as going back to theater, in a more experimental direction, without press, he said.
“I’ve been to a lot of awards ceremonies now, and there is something sadistic about opening an envelope so that four out of five [nominees] lose,” Shanley said, laughing. “It’s fun when you win, and it’s sort of relaxing when you don't.”
And besides, “I think it’s Slumdog’s year, let's face it,” Shanley said.