As a child growing up in Vancouver, he would sneak into adult movies. He saw Room at the Top at age 7, and loved it. At 14, he got a job as a doorman at the Vogue Theatre. He founded The Seattle International Film Festival at 25. And after spending his life as what he calls “a professional audience,” Dan Ireland, now based in Los Angeles, at 46 has finally directed his own feature. For an American movie, The Whole Wide World is a whole lot smaller than most—it cost just $1.3 million (U.S.). But it has garnered some rave reviews. And it stars the remarkable Renee Zellweger, who made her breakthrough opposite Tom
Cruise in Jerry Maguire. The producers of Maguire cast Zellweger after getting a sneak preview of her performance in The Whole Wide World— and now Ireland’s film is getting a box-office boost from her sudden fame. “Making this film,” says the director, “has taught me that it’s never too late to realize your dream.”
That is certainly true for the woman whose story inspired the script. The Whole Wide World is based on a first novel written by a retired Texas schoolteacher at the age of 76. Published in 1985, One Who Walked Alone is Novalyne Price’s memoir of her relationship with pulp
fiction writer Robert E. Howard during the early 1930s. Ireland films it as a poignantly unconsummated courtship, a slow-paced romance of summer-night drives and quarrelling conversation. Price (Zellweger), a teacher and aspiring writer, is both shocked and charmed by the ebullient and eccentric Howard (Vincent D’Onofrio), creator of such pulp characters as Conan the Barbarian. But she has trouble prying him free from his swashbuckling fantasy world—and from the embrace of his mother.
Zellweger’s hardheaded character is worlds removed from the timid ingenue of Jerry Maguire. And Ireland hesitated to cast her at first. “I thought she was too beautiful and contemporary. But I’m now convinced there isn’t anything she can’t do”—including launch the career of a lateblooming Canadian dreamer.
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