|Vanya on 42nd Street|
Vanya on 42nd Street film poster
|Directed by||Louis Malle|
|Produced by||Fred Berner|
|Written by||Andre Gregory
(from the text Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov, translated by David Mamet)
|Music by||Joshua Redman|
|Editing by||Nancy Baker|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
|Release date(s)||September 13, 1994|
|Running time||119 min.|
Vanya on 42nd Street is a 1994 film by Louis Malle and Andre Gregory. The film is an intimate, interpretive performance of the play Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov based on the English translation by David Mamet. The film stars Wallace Shawn and Julianne Moore.
Over the course of three years, director Andre Gregory and a group of actors came together on a voluntary basis in order to better understand Chekhov's work through performance workshops. Staged and filmed entirely within the vacant shell of the then-abandoned New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street in New York City, they enacted the play rehearsal style on a bare stage with the actors in street clothes. Free from any commercial demands, their performances were for an invited audience only. Gregory and Malle decided to document the play as they had developed it. The film was the result of the collaborative process.
Workshop rehearsals with Gregory and the cast originally took place at the abandoned Victory Theater on 42nd Street in New York City. The filmed version was shot entirely within the New Amsterdam Theatre, also on 42nd Street. Built in 1903, the theatre was the original home of the Ziegfeld Follies, a historical tidbit mentioned in the film during some pre-show banter. In the late 1930s, the New Amsterdam Theatre was transformed into a movie palace. The theatre remained a movie palace until it "temporarily" closed in 1982.
At the time Vanya on 42nd Street was filmed, the theatre had been abandoned for over ten years and was in a state of severe disrepair. Rats had chewed through much of the stage rigging, and flooding and mice made the stage unusable, so that they were restricted to a section of what had been the orchestra.
For the film production, some rows of seats were removed and a small platform was built for the cast and film crew. Shortly after the production of Vanya, the New Amsterdam was leased to The Walt Disney Company. Disney restored the theatre to its grand original design and reopened it in 1997.
Cast and crew
- Shawn, Gregory, and Malle had previously collaboratorated on the 1981 film My Dinner with Andre.
- The film would be the last of Malle's career.
- Julianne Moore, whose film career had recently been gaining notice from a critically acclaimed role in Short Cuts, was the actor predominantly featured in the advertising campaign for the film. The campaign didn't highlight the ensemble nature of the production, which led some confused movie-goers to think the film was about a woman named Vanya.
- Vanya on 42nd Street also features several actors known to the New York stage, including George Gaynes (also recognizable from the hit TV series Punky Brewster), Larry Pine, Phoebe Brand, Brooke Smith, and Lynn Cohen.
- Vineberg, Steven. "Vanya on 42nd Street: An American Vanya". Criterion Collection. Retrieved 1 March 2012.