Trevor Hogg continues his Peter Weir retrospective with a look at the director’s ninth feature…
Green Card, 1990.
Directed by Peter Weir.
Starring Gérard Depardieu, Andie MacDowell, Bebe Neuwirth, Gregg Edelman, Robert Prosky and Lois Smith.
A Frenchman in need of a green card and a single woman, who desperately wants an apartment for married couples only, embark on a marriage of convenience that transforms their relationship into one of mutual love.
From the well of creativity sprung an Oscar-nominated script which internationally acclaimed filmmaker Peter Weir wrote and directed in 1990. Green Card was inspired by Weir’s desire to work with a French acting legend. “It’s an original screenplay by me for Gerard Depardieu. A number of the character details are actually taken from his life. I admire him, and it seems an awful loss that he is largely unknown to English speaking audiences, apart from real filmgoers. Most people just don’t go to foreign films,” said Weir.
To compose his tribute role for Depardieu, Peter Weir clipped a photograph from a local Australian newspaper of the renowned actor and hung it over his typewriter. In the early stages of writing the script Weir believed he was seriously restricting himself. “Even if he said no, it would have gotten me back to writing.” The cinematic storyteller explained. “It was the means to get me started.” However, part way through the writing Weir discovered he had a problem. “I had painted myself into a corner,” the director confessed. With Depardieu’s schedule filled with back-to-back projects, the filmmaker would have to delay filming for a year. “It was a tremendous disappointment,” Weir remarked, “because we had met, ideas were flowing, and I sensed that it would be a very good collaboration. But of course I was quite happy to wait. I mean what else could I do?”
In the movie, Andy MacDowell plays Bronte Parrish a single horticulturalist who covets a Manhattan apartment with a greenhouse, however, the building will only rent to married couples. The solution to Bronte’s problem arrives with French composer George Faure (Depardieu) who desperately wants a green card, which will enable him to stay in America. A marriage of convenience is arranged and they live their separate lives until a suspicious immigration officer arrives to interview them. The newlyweds have to quickly devise a history for their relationship, and in the process of carrying out their charade, fall in love.
What drew Depardieu to Green Card was not the desire to become a Hollywood star but the script itself. “When Peter gave me the first script,” He stated. “I saw one thing for me – the story of a man and a woman who have to invent in 48 hours a life. For me, this is a great situation, because you can make a comedy with that, but you can also make the truth.”
In describing working with Depardieu, Weir had nothing admiration for him. “He’s this unique collaborator,” the director remarked, “in that he really draws your creation out of you and inspires you to go further with it. In a sense, he becomes you. I think that probably only happens when something is written for him, as Blier and Pialat have done. He sort of burrows his way into your character’s life.”
Green Card was purposely funded without the involvement of a major studio, revealed Peter Weir. “It seemed very logical this time, given it’s my screenplay and a very low budget film. I have more control working outside the studio system.” He went on to add. “Green Card is a test case. It’s an auteur film, made overseas by an Australian director, with the involvement of French components.”
Upon reviewing the movie Time Out London wrote: “Weir’s first romantic comedy boasts a central relationship which is tentative and hopeful, a mood beautifully realized by Depardieu (venturing into new territory with a major English-speaking role). Complimented by the refined MacDowell, his gracious, generous performance is never dominating, and their exchanges offer unexpected pleasures. In terms of the genre’s conventions, Weir likens this film to ‘a light meal.’ It’s one to savor.”
However, esteemed film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times was far less glowing in his appraisal of a film which he believed to be “not blindingly brilliant, and is not an example of the very best work of the director who made The Year of Living Dangerously or the actor who starred in Cyrano de Bergerac. But it is a sound, entertaining work of craftsmanship, a love story between two people whose meet is not as cute as it might have been.”
Despite the mixed response from critics and audiences, the Academy Awards honoured Green Card’s writer and director Peter Weir with an Oscar nomination for his original screenplay.
Green Card trailer…
Peter Weir Blogathon
Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.