They say you can't rush genius, and that might be a polite way to explain why it's taken so long for the big-screen version of "Proof" to reach theaters. But the actors who portray a family of brainiacs in this new movie aren't playing dumb.
Gwyneth Paltrow reprises her role from David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a mentally ill mathematician and the daughter that puts aside her once-promising academic career to care for him, only to worry that she's inherited his insanity.
Shooting for "Proof" began in late 2003, and it was supposed to hit theaters late last year, when studios roll out most of their Oscar hopefuls. Then, the project was put on hold -- a move that almost automatically triggers speculation that it's become Hollywood's next disaster waiting to happen.
Paltrow, however, hasn't lost faith, and the 32-year-old Oscar winner isn't known to automatically shift into rah-rah mode to ballyhoo all her films.
"It's a very beautiful piece that explores mental illness and complications between people," Paltrow says. "But it's a very uplifting kind of triumphant story in the end … It's not a somber piece at all.'"
As director John Madden now explains, "Proof" got shelved last year when Miramax began heavily promoting "The Aviator" and "Finding Neverland" for Academy Awards.
With studio heads Bob and Harvey Weinstein leaving Miramax, it raised a little more uncertainty, Madden said, but he's tried to stay positive.
"From my point of view, it was kind of bonus," Madden told Reuters of the delay. "It was frustrating for a moment, but to be honest it never really found a home at the end of last year. We didn't finish until late October, which was too late for it to be in festivals, and I think that would have helped the movie."
Already, "Proof" is generating good buzz. The film was nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival this summer, and followed that up with several promising reviews at Toronto's fest, with some saying Paltrow is in line for a second Academy Award nomination.
The film opened last Friday to packed houses in New York and Los Angeles, and will finally be released nationwide next week.
'You're Going to Be OK'
Anthony Hopkins plays Paltrow's father, a world-famous theorist reduced to wandering outside in his bathrobe and scrawling gibberish in his once-legendary notebooks. Worse yet, he knows he's going mad, and Paltrow's character believes she's previewing her own fate.
"Just because I went buggers, doesn't mean you will," Hopkins tells her in one of his lucid moments. "This stuff is not strictly hereditary, they know that now. Listen to me, you're going to be OK."
But can she believe a man who admits he's crazy, when he says she's not going crazy?
With her father's death, Paltrow's character must come to terms with her controlling sister (Hope Davis) and a doctoral student (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wants to scour the professor's files for one more shred of his genius.
"She's really holding on to her sanity," Paltrow says. "And I think that she is a bit unstable and she's clinging to certain things which, in her mind, keep her sane and keep her moving forward."
When Gyllenhaal finds a notebook containing groundbreaking work, Paltrow claims it to be her own, and that's when her character falls under heartrending scrutiny. Is she the same tortured genius her father was? Is she passing off his work as her own thinking she deserves something for sacrificing her youth to keep him from going to the nuthouse? Is she just delusional?
In 2002, when Madden cast her in the theatrical production of "Proof" on London's West End, it was the first time they'd worked together since he directed her Academy Award-winning turn in "Shakespeare in Love."
In the time since, much has changed in Paltrow's life. The movie was one of the first projects she undertook after her father's sudden death. Bruce Paltrow, an acclaimed TV producer and director, was just 58 when he suffered a fatal heart attack in Venice, after traveling there to celebrate his daughter's 30th birthday. Just four months earlier, he had come to London to see her on stage.
Paltrow slowed down over the next year, turning down roles in such films as "I [Heart] Huckabees" and "Happy Endings," but "Proof's" father-daughter story compelled her, and production began in October 2003. Two months later, she married Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.
Paltrow has since returned to the public eye. She's still not working at the feverish pace that she'd reached a few years ago, but for much happier reasons. She's caring for her 16-month-old daughter, Apple.
Greeting reporters at the New York premiere last Tuesday, Paltrow said she was a bit anxious not being able to tuck her little girl into bed. Clearly, she's enjoying real-life caregiving much more than the reluctant sort she doles out in her new movie.
"Are you worried about Apple?" a reporter asked. No, she said. "I've got my baby monitor in my bag."