Released: Sept. 16
U.S. distrib: Miramax
Oscar alumni: Gwyneth Paltrow (actress, “Shakespeare in Love”), Anthony Hopkins (actor, “Silence of the Lambs”), Stephen Warbeck (music, “Shakespeare in Love”), Peter Owen (makeup, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”), Neal Scanlan (visual effects, “Babe”)
Two Pulitzer Prize winners for drama will have 2005 releases in the Oscar race: the musical “Rent” and David Auburn’s play “Proof.”
The latter comes to the screen with an Oscar pedigree, however, in the reteaming of helmer John Madden with his Oscar-winning “Shakespeare in Love” lead, Gwyneth Paltrow, and “Silence of the Lambs” honoree and frequent nom Anthony Hopkins as her co-star.
Of late, the Pulitzer has been more likely to precede a made-for-cable version (“Angels in America,” “Wit,” “Dinner With Friends”) than a cinema adaptation — 1992’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” was the last Pulitzer honoree to transfer to the bigscreen.
But Auburn’s 2001 London/Broadway stage hit repped a solid opportunity for an A-list actress. It’s one of Paltrow’s best chances for a return nomination with her biting, mournful portrayal of a reclusive daughter of a deceased mathematical genius (Hopkins) who wonders whether she’s inherited his crippling mental illness.
Madden, a helmer nominee for “Shakespeare” in 1999, also directed Paltrow in the role in her London stage debut at the Donmar Warehouse. The performance garnered her Olivier and London Evening Standard Theater Award nominations.
Roger Ebert called “Proof” an “extraordinary thriller about matters of scholarship and the heart,” and cites “two remarkable performances” in Paltrow’s and Hope Davis’.
With a passing resemblance to the conflation of math, madness and brilliance that spurred the drama of 2001 Oscar favorite “A Beautiful Mind,” voters might feel thematic deja vu, in which case the story’s kudos-heavy stage origins — including three Tonys — could help distinguish this pic, which Auburn adapted with Rebecca Miller (“The Ballad of Jack and Rose”). Plus, “Proof’s” relationship elements are different: it’s a father-daughter tale, a sisters story with Davis as the nonacademic sibling that Paltrow squabbles with, and a tale of budding romance with a math student played by Jake Gyllenhaal.
Pic’s best shot is in acting categories. Beyond Paltrow, critics’ favorite Davis, too often passed by for industry kudos, could garner her first Oscar nom with her graceful portrait of prickly sophistication that masks a heartfelt reaching out. Hopkins could be recognized for his supporting turn.
Chamber dramas like “Proof” aren’t likely to pick up many tech noms, but another “Shakespeare” returnee with a shot is pic’s composer Stephen Warbeck, who could catch voters’ attention again with his driving strings and piano score.