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THE MOVIE: The Night Listener

Robin Williams • Toni Collette • Rory Culkin
DIRECTOR: Patrick Stettner

Robin Williams, Toni Collette and Rory Culkin THE CONCEPT:
Based on a real incident that happened to writer Armistead Maulpin
Robin Williams stars as Gabriel Noone, a colorful radio storyteller who, while in the throes of breaking up with his gay lover, begins talking on the phone with a precocious 14-year-old listener named Pete (Rory Culkin). But as he draws closer to Pete, and his adopted mother Donna (Toni Collette), the boy’s identity become a mystery he is determined to unravel.

U.S. RELEASE: August 4 2006, Nationwide • Rated: R


“I was engaged by this story and fascinated by the character, because I knew that the character was loosely based upon Armistead, I thought it would be really interesting to do. It was a multi-layered and damaged character, who is going through transitions.”

“I don’t think there has ever been a major American star who has played a lead in a film where he’s gay; and gay is not the issue. I’m really proud of that. It’s a mystery story and the protagonist happens to be a gay man. His life and problems are accepted on equal terms.”

“This role, more than anything, required somebody who had an incredible amount of warmth, a big heart, who cared too much. I really feel that about Robin. He has this incredible warmth about him.”

“Donna is a very complex character and at times, because she’s is so manipulative, it was fun to play around with whether something should come across as being real or whether it should show she’s performing.”

“Toni is extraordinary. She can [play] anything from totally elegant, gorgeous and sexy to playing trashy. She can play frumpy; she can play scary, as in this one. She snaps in this and it’s very frightening and very disconcerting. At the same time, she’s just flat out funny.”

“One of my first conversations with Armistead was that I wanted everybody to understand that we were working in fiction, and these characters had to exist in their own kind of world, and although it was silly for us not to use what really happened to Armistead, I didn’t want to put that on the actors, that they had to approximate some kind of real life. I think that hurts the performance.”

“The biggest challenge in playing this role was trying to pretend I wasn’t sick when it was happening. I had the flu. I came from the summer in Australia to the winter in upstate New York. There was a lot of night shooting.”

“I thought this was wonderful in a very dark, creepy way. It’s about an incredibly frightening journey in which you meet a radio storyteller, a boy and his mother – but you have to figure what’s really going on between them, who they really are and what to make of them. And that starts the suspense of not knowing. I found it powerful and disturbing and it really talks about what drives us – the terror of being alone and that need to connect with other people.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Film Review, #673, August 2006 cover

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