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Closer

Release date: Dec. 3

Distributor: Sony

Oscar alumni: Mike Nichols (“The Graduate”), Julia Roberts (“Erin Brockovich”), costume designer Ann Roth (“The English Patient”)

Patrick Marber’s play “Closer” created a sensation in London when it bowed in 1997 and got a Tony nomination when it went to Broadway two years later. Now Marber has written his own screen adaptation for helmer Mike Nichols, who knows a thing or two about couples in crisis.

From the perspective of Nichols’ distinguished career, it’s impossible not to think of “Closer” as a companion piece many decades on to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Carnal Knowledge” — two definably American films about the erotic collision course among two couples, which is the universal realm where “Closer” lies. (Two big questions: Whether “Closer” might be too raw for mainstream consumption or, conversely, whether it has been tamed for the bigscreen.)

Nichols, of course, got an Oscar nod for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” in 1966 before going on to win the trophy the next year for “The Graduate.” His track record for guiding actors towards their own statuettes is impressive — witness the Emmy haul for “Angels in America.”

Having begun in the theater, Nichols has in recent years focused his attentions to intriguing effect on TV versions of Pulitzer Prize-winning plays. First came “Wit,” with Emma Thompson, and then, also for HBO, Tony Kushner’s “Angels.” The latter, a big-budget, six-hour extravaganza, defied expectations by turning a quintessentially theatrical stage experience into something that lives on its own on the small screen.

So if anyone seems poised to do right by Marber’s play, it’s Nichols and producer Cary Brokaw (the helmer’s partner on “Wit” and “Angels”). At their disposal is an intriguing mix of talented thesps: Clive Owen, Natalie Portman, two-time Oscar nominee Jude Law and Oscar winner Julia Roberts, who was drafted when original choice Cate Blanchett became pregnant. And, no, Roberts doesn’t do an English accent.

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