Summarized by Vickie Speek
'Nurse Betty' Leads To LaBute Profile in LA Weekly
"Nurse Betty" Leads To LaBute Profile in LA Weekly
Much like the title character in his new movie, LDS writer Neil
LaBute is following his own glittering road.
LaBute, the 39-year-old director of the big budget film, "Nurse
Betty," which opened last week, is featured in this week's cover
story for the current issue of LA Weekly. He's quite a contrast to
the other LDS scriptwriter and director that has gotten attention
recently, Richard Dutcher, who directed the film "God's
Probably the most fascinating thing about LaBute is that he seems to
have become so successful in Hollywood in a matter of just three
years. His success, however, comes with material that most LDS Church
members would find distasteful.
Nurse Betty, an alternately dark and sly road movie starring Renee
Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear, opened last
week across the country. The film, funded by USA Films, a division of
Universal Pictures, was produced for under $30 million
LaBute, the director of two modest independent films, "In the
Company of Men" and "Your Friends & Neighbors," makes
films that are routinely called dark, bleak, despairing and cruel. Often considered
very funny, and whip-smart, his films are made for grown-ups.
Sometimes brutality honest, especially about sex, they can seem even
sadistic. He also wrote the critically acclaimed stage work 1999
trilogy "Bash," in which some Mormon characters commit
Although, many critics think LaBute deploys an almost gleeful sadism
toward both his characters and audiences, much like the filmmaker
Stanley Kubrick, he is being called one of the most exciting
filmmakers to emerge in the past few years.
When Nurse Betty premiered in May at Cannes, it won the prize for
best screenplay for John C. Richards and James Flamberg, LaBute, the
director, was banished to the sidelines during the film's big
Born in Detroit and raised near Spokane, LaBute, who began acting in
junior high school, attended a non-denominational church, watched a
lot of TV, and with his mother's encouragement, began cultivating a
taste for foreign films that aired on public television. His father
worked as a long-haul truck driver.
A high school adviser steered him toward Brigham Young University in
Provo, Utah, which had a theater program and a number of non-Mormon
scholarships. It was while he was at Brigham Young that LaBute was
baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
LaBute has already begun the production of his next film; a lavish
romance set in both the Victorian era and the present day called
Possession. USA Films and Warner Bros. are backing the film, which is
based on the novel by A.S. Byatt. The film will star Gwyneth Paltrow,
Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Ehle and La Bute's college friend and
regular collaborator, Aaron Eckhart.
"I'm interested, in the plays I've written, with the idea not
just of sin," he says, "but of guilt, and what people can get away
with. Have they gotten away with something just because no one knows?"
The Moralist: Neil LaBute, Latter-Day Filmmaker
LA Weekly 8Sep00 A2
By Manohla Dargis