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R (2 hr, 2 min) Director - Peter Weir
Fearless is a 1993 drama film directed by Peter Weir and starring Jeff Bridges, Isabella Rossellini, Rosie Perez and John Turturro. It was written by Rafael Yglesias from his novel of the same name.
After a terrible air disaster, survivor Max Klein emerges a changed person. Unable to connect to his former life or to wife Laura, he feels godlike and invulnerable. When psychologist Bill Perlman is unable to help Max, he has Max meet another survivor, Carla Rodrigo, who is racked with grief and guilt since her baby died in the crash which she and Max survived.
Rosie Perez was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Carla Rodrigo. The film was also entered into the 44th Berlin International Film Festival. Jeff Bridges's role as Max Klein is widely regarded as one of the best performances of his career. The film's soundtrack features part of the first movement of Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3, subtitled Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. The film's screenwriter was inspired to write the script after he was in a car accident. Yglesias began writing the story after reading about United Airlines Flight 232, that crashed in Sioux City, Iowa in 1989. Perez lost the Oscar to Anna Paquin for "The Piano."
A book containing the painting The Ascent into the Empyrean by Hieronymus Bosch is shown, and it is said that the dying go into the light of heaven "naked and alone". Near the finale as Max lies on the ground, he relives moving from the fuselage of the aircraft and for a moment moves towards the tunnel of light that appears to be modeled on the painting.
The film was positively received by critics as review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes evaluates that 86% of critics have given the film a positive review, based on 35 reviews, with an average score of 7.8/10. Its consensus states "This underrated gem from director Peter Weir features an outstanding performance from Jeff Bridges as a man dealing with profound grief."
The airplane crash site was recreated in a field in Northern California and was exactly modeled on a crash that occurred outside Sioux City in Iowa in 1989. The "accident" was reported by several flights flying over the scene. The field was first planted with 85 acres of corn which was then bulldozed to recreate the gouge that a crashing plane would have made. The adjoining cotton field was also purchased to make the crash appear bigger. 140 extras were employed for the scene along with 40 members of the Kern County and Bakersfield Fire Department. One of the town's main roads was closed for a week, and the local electricity company was persuaded to knock down several pylons and snarl up half a mile of electric cable to create a scene of almost total devastation. The crash site took a total of 10 days to prepare, and included throwing 600 suitcases and their contents (all items purchased from local thrift stores) liberally around the site. In total, the recreation cost $2 million.
To help him get to grips with his character, Max, Jeff Bridges spent some time with his good friend Gary Busey who, years before, had been in a severe motorbike accident which had put him into a coma.
Ironically, director Peter Weir (pictured) claimed that making this film cured him of his fear of flying.
Mel Gibson was offered the role of Max which in the end was cast with actor Jeff Bridges. Gibson has previous worked with director Peter Weir on both Gallipoli (1981) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).
Both Max (Jeff Bridges) and Carla (Rosie Perez) exhibit signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In Max's case, this is most evident in his altered personality (a common symptom of severely traumatized soldiers returning from war or civilians after horrific events), his distance from his wife and son, and his preoccupation with the crash. In Carla's case, her mental trauma is exhibited largely through her survivor guilt and obsession with her inability to save her baby.
Hero (1992) and Fearless (1993) are two movies based around very similar subject matter released almost exactly a year apart. About half a dozen cast and crew worked on both pictures. These included actor William Newman, actress Cordis Heard, stuntman Gene Hartline, casting director Howard Feuer and both uncredited, ADR voice artist Tom Lent, and oboe soloist musician Tom Boyd. Some of the debris that was used in the crash scene in Hero was reused for the crash site in this film.
According to the Turner Classic Movies website, one of the picture's producers, "producer Mark Rosenberg died during production on November 6, 1992, of a heart attack. He was 44". Flesh and Bone (1993) produced by Rosenberg released in the same 1993 year is dedicated "in memory of" him.
The picture was entered into and then selected to screen in competition at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival in 1994. A similarly titled film, Fearless: The Hunterwali Story (1994), also screened at the same fest in the Forum section of the festival.
The opening airplane crash sequence has a running time of around six minutes.
While driving after the crash, Max checks his map and points to Highway 99 between Bakersfield and Los Angeles. However, he is obviously out in the middle of the Mojave desert and nowhere near either city.
Jeff Bridges as Max Klein
The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Jeff Bridges and Benicio Del Toro; and two Oscar nominees: Rosie Perez and Tom Hulce.