Contemplative Quoyle finds comfort in simple life

OSCAR QUOTIENT

PROS: Like idol Jack Lemmon, Spacey is becoming one of this generation’s premier everymen.

CONS: Some felt casting choice not among year’s best.

In E. Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer-winning novel “The Shipping News,” the main character, Quoyle, has a facial disfigurement that contributes to his abject shyness and timidity. But as played by Kevin Spacey in the film version of the novel, Quoyle’s jaw is perfectly straight, though his mien undergoes a similar transformation to that of the character in the book.

According to co-producer Leslie Holleran, this makes the character’s development far more subtle, and makes Spacey’s performance all the more rich and layered.

“Kevin wasn’t afraid to don the prosthetic, but we wanted to make a movie about a man, not a chin,” Holleran says. “When you have a prosthetic, everything is a slave to it: the lighting, makeup, everything. It’s more interesting, and more of a risk and a challenge, to see how this uncertain, insecure man becomes appealing. You see the heroic moments come in tiny little steps. It’s hard to demonstrate. We needed someone of Kevin’s skills.”

Two-time Oscar winner Spacey had a busy second half of the year. He starred in “K-PAX” as Prot, who was convinced he had come to Earth from a distant planet.

However, it seems “Shipping News” may be the film that captures Acad attention. Spacey already has received a Golden Globes nom for his perf in the Lasse Hallstrom-helmed pic.

Spacey gained weight for the role, which was earmarked first for John Travolta and then for Billy Bob Thornton. Quoyle, a newspaper inksetter who becomes a journalist, returns to his ancestral home, a small fishing town in Newfoundland, and gradually sheds his historical burdens.

“You see the hard-edged father, and the history of savageness that he grew up under, but he learns to parent and love,” Holleran said. “He had not been able to connect with his emotions and express them.

“Kevin conveys the character with little touches, like walking around with his shoulders up around his ears, hunched forward. His speech falls short of a stammer, but he stops and starts his sentences. He morphs from this sleepwalking, somnambulistic man.”

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