Ivory counts up 'Countess'

WHAT: U.S. premiere of Merchant Ivory’s “The White Countess” Oct. 18

WHO: Helmer James Ivory; pic’s Ralph Fiennes Natasha Richardson, Lynn Redgrave and Hiroyuki Sanada; plus scribe Kazuo Ishiguro

WHERE: Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles with an after-party at the Four Seasons Hotel

WHAT LIES BENEATH: “All of our films have a similar construction,” Ivory said of his scores of collaborations with late producing partner Ismail Merchant.

“People somehow land in an alien place and have to find a way to get on with their lives. This one takes place in Shanghai, yet not one of the major characters is Chinese.”

Sanada, a Japanese actor, found himself in his own alien place — an English-language film. “When Ivory first called me to talk about the script, we ended up chatting for well over an hour,” he said. “When I hung up the phone, it hit me — that was my audition.”

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