Tri-Star Pictures presents a Baltimore Pictures Production of a Barry Levinson Film, "Avalon," starring Armin Mueller-Stahl, Elizabeth Perkins, Joan Plowright and Aidan Quinn. Barry Levinson wrote and directed the film, which was produced by Mark Johnson and Barry Levinson. The director of photography is Allen Daviau, A.S.C., the production designer is Norman Reynolds, and the music is by Randy Newman.
Barry Levinson, who won the 1988 best director Oscar for "Rain Man," returns to his native city -- the setting for his critically praised films "Diner" and "Tin Men" -- to weave a tender, funny, semiautobiographical tale of an American family's joyous journey through the middle of the 20th century, "Avalon."
A Tri-Star Pictures presentation of a Baltimore Pictures Production written and directed by Barry Levinson, "Avalon" features an international cast that includes Armin Mueller-Stahl, Elizabeth Perkins, Joan Plowright, Aidan Quinn, Leo Fuchs, Lou Jacobi, Kevin Pollak and Elijah Wood. Mark Johnson and Levinson are the producers.
"Anytime you do something that is semiautobiographical -- which both 'Tin Men' and 'Diner' also were -- you step in and out of your past," the director explains. "I had private moments when I'd walk onto one of the sets and I could almost hear dialogue from my childhood. But the most important thing for me is not to be nostalgic. I'm not interested in nostalgia. What excites me is investigating periods in our lives in terms of their emotional impact, what they represented and how they were affected by the events of the times."
"Avalon" chronicles the divergent forces that influence one immigrant family, the Krichinskys, over a 50-year time span that extends into the 1960s.
Sam (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and his brothers Hymie (Leo Fuchs), William, Nathan (Israel Rubinek) and Gabriel (Lou Jacobi) settle into a Baltimore row-house neighborhood, Avalon, in the early 1900s. Newly married, filled with reverence for their new surroundings, they begin pursuing the American Dream as wallpaper hangers.
Periodically they gather for "family circle" meetings to discuss matters that affect one or all, so no one in the family ever forgets his or her responsibility to kin. And at Thanksgiving, the young ones gather before dinner to hear Sam relate their history together -- with details disputed by his wife, Eva (Joan Plowright).
While respectful of family tradition, those in the succeeding generation are more eager to embrace new ideas and excited by the seemingly limitless potential of their futures. Sam's son, Jules (Aidan Quinn), and nephew Izzy (Kevin Pollak) Americanize their names, start their own families and launch a store together. At first they sell only one product-- television sets. Still in its infancy, TV will alter the course of their family's future, along with that of the rest of the world.
Jules moves his wife, Ann (Elizabeth Perkins), son Michael (Elijah Wood) and parents to the suburbs, away from Avalon, and he and Izzy begin to prosper with their new discount department store. The family is changing: some traditions change, others remain intact; some of relatives move away, pass away or simply turn away from the others. But the telling of the story persists, and the lineage endures.
"'Avalon' is about the joy of family, the people you fight with, grow up with, stand beside and love," Levinson says. "It's the richest vein of comedy and drama that any filmmaker could ever tap."
The multigenerational cast spans diverse ethnic, geographical and experiential backgrounds.
East German film star Armin Mueller-Stahl appeared in more than 60 films in his native country but was little known elsewhere until 1981 when, after moving to West Germany, he appeared in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "Lola." He subsequently starred in the Oscar-winning "Colonel Redl" and the Oscar-nominated "Angry Harvest," for which he won the best actor award at the Montreal World Film Festival, and recently starred with Jessica Lange in "Music Box."
Elizabeth Perkins gained her greatest recognition and critical praise for her role opposite Tom Hanks in "Big." She has also starred in "About Last Night," "From the Hip," "Sweet Hearts Dance" and "Love at Large," and recently completed filming "He Said, She Said," co-starring opposite Kevin Bacon.
Tony Award winner Joan Plowright is one of England's pre-eminent actresses. She earned Broadway's most coveted award for "A Taste of Honey" and in 1989 was honored as Variety Club of Great Britain's film actress of the year. She recently co-starred in "I Love You to Death."
Aidan Quinn first starred opposite Daryl Hannah in "Reckless." He has since been featured in "Desperately Seeking Susan," "The Mission," "Stakeout" and "The Handmaid's Tale." He received an Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of a person with AIDS in the television movie "An Early Frost."
Polish-born Leo Fuchs, an actor since the age of 5, has appeared in dozens of television shows as well as such stage productions as the first national tour of "Cabaret." Canadian stage, screen and television veteran Lou Jacobi is perhaps best known for co- starring roles in such cinematic comedies as "Irma La Douce," "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex," "My Favorite Year" and "Arthur."
Kevin Pollak has appeared in "Million Dollar Mystery" and "Willow," while the very young Elijah Wood has had small parts in "Back to the Future II" and "Internal Affairs." He beat out substantial competition for the role.
Levinson and producer Mark Johnson have enlisted outstanding technical support for this complex production. Director of photography Allen Daviau has earned Academy Award nominations for his work on "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," "The Color Purple" and "Empire of the Sun." Production designer Norman Reynolds has won Oscars for his art direction on "Star Wars" and production design on "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The music is by Randy Newman, the Grammy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated singer, songwriter and composer who wrote the scores for "Ragtime," "The Natural" and other films. Editor Stu Linder won an Oscar for co-editing "Grand Prix" and has worked with Levinson on six previous films. Costumes were designed by Gloria Gresham, whose credits include "Diner," "The Natural" and "Tin Men," as well as "Twins," "Fletch" and "When Harry Met Sally....."
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
"I think certain things impact on the family structure. In my lifetime, television was one, transportation and the growth of suburbia were others," relates writer-director Barry Levinson. "I think some of these things are responsible for many of the problems we have today because the idea of a family unit goes back thousands and thousands of years and it's really only since the late 1940s that it started to come apart.
"We altered something that had been strong, and we haven't been able to replace it. The family structure acted as a support system. It instilled a sense of morality and acted as an educational force. There's no question in my mind that the family as we've known it has come apart. It was a bit of mourning for this that prompted me to begin writing 'The Family' -- which was the working title for 'Avalon."'
Barry Levinson began to write "Avalon" while he was in post-production with his award-winning "Rain Man," although he had been considering the project since making his directing debut with "Diner" in 1982. His latest creation relies on memories as much as imagination since it draws heavily from the writer-director's own childhood and family experiences. He also did extensive research within his own family.
"I visited and talked with family members and relatives whom I hadn't seen for a long time or really ever known. It forced me to look at my parents and grandparents as people with a greater range of behavior than my childhood image of them ever contained."
Levinson's parents were present during most of the filming and served as uniquely qualified technical advisers. Irv Levinson, Barry's father, says: "We walked onto the warehouse set, opened the door and felt like we were stepping back in time -- all those televisions and appliances from the 1950s. It was my old store. It was uncanny."
"Avalon" is Levinson's seventh teaming with producer Mark Johnson. A native of nearby Washington, D.C., Johnson expressed initial concern about being able to find appropriate locations in Baltimore that would reflect the decades covered by the film.
"At first, we were worried that it wasn't possible to shoot turn-of-the-century Baltimore in the city today," Johnson explains. "But as it turned out, the combination of what was left of old Baltimore and what we were able to methodically re-create was enough."
"'Avalon'was as difficult an assignment as I've ever undertaken," remarks production designer Norman Reynolds. "It wasn't simply that it was a period piece or even that it covered so many different periods. The challenge was converting this city, a place where ordinary people lived and died, into an almost mythical sort of place and conveying to an audience some of the very strong feelings these characters had toward it."
The production frequently used as many as three sets a day, which presented an endurance challenge to Reynolds and set decorator Linda DeScenna. The exteriors of row-house apartments had to be transformed to match the period, an outdoor market sequence required several tons of fresh vegetables, fish and meat, and the opening scene in which Sam arrives at Baltimore Harbor used strings of over 18,000 lights.
For the 1914 Fourth of July celebration, hundreds of flags had to be specially sewn. Automobiles had to reflect the stylistic changes of several decades, and, of course, there were all those late 1940s through 1950s television sets.
"Most of the televisions came from a collector in New Jersey," notes DeScenna. "Almost everything else in the movie comes from the Baltimore area. There were many collectors and just ordinary people here who had hung on to personal treasures and were willing to let us use them. The people of this city have a wonderful sense of pride in their history, and they all know who Barry is. Many of them just wanted something of theirs to be in this movie."
When casting the film, Levinson was primarily concerned with being true to his conception of the characters, rather than with securing box-office names. Once cast, the actors had to remain undaunted by the idea of playing characters who not only existed but, in many cases, might be standing only a few feet away.
"Casting is always difficult because you first want to define the characters, then blend the personalities in a way that makes it possible for the audience to believe the relationships established in the story," says the director. "I tried to find people with different rhythms and behavior who ultimately meshed together as a credible family. It took a lot of time.
"There were a lot of moments during filming when the images in my head suddenly jumped forward and became very real through the images the actors were creating. I think my parents were also taken aback by some of these vivid connections between reality and the movie. But I didn't want Aidan (who plays Jules) to be my father. He wasn't doing my father in the sense that he would copy all his idiosyncracies.
"I won't try to limit what an actor is capable of. I like to give people a lot of freedom, and then I'll start to push them a little. It's the unexpected I'm looking for."
"Barry knows when to pull on the reins and when to loosen up," says Perkins, who plays Ann, the character patterned after the director's mother. "There aren't a lot of directors who are secure enough in their own abilities to let actors go with the material. The range of freedom that he gave us is extraordinary when you consider how closely connected he is to the material."
As personal as the film's subject matter is to Levinson, the actors found a universality in it that spoke to each of them in a deeply moving way.
"I think that this is not only a story about Barry and his family," states Mueller-Stahl. "It's a story about all families. It could be my family too because my family also came from Russia. They only took the first step, to Germany. But they were Russians living in Germany, strangers trying to adapt to a way of life they didn't know and still keep some of their family customs."
"Very simply, 'Avalon' is about a family," Plowright says, "about their reaction to change, about their progress in the Promised Land. It addresses how young people adapt more quickly to a changing world which can lead to conflict with their elders who cling to a respect for the traditions and rituals that they don't want to see lost. It's a journey through succeeding generations, but it's also about a crumbling way of life. It is everybody's family experience."
Filming "Avalon" was quite literally a family experience for the filmmaker and some of the cast. In addition to the presence of Levinson's parents, several of the Baltimore-based Krichinsky family members worked as extras or had small parts. The director's cousin, Neil Kirk, plays Gabriel's son, Herbie. The real Gabriel Krichinsky's grandson, Miles A. Perman, has a cameo as a gas station attendant.
Quinn's family also got into the act. His three-month-old daughter, Ava, played his infant son, and his brother Paul, a Chicago-based actor, has a part as a salesman at the Krichinsky's appliance store.
Perhaps the most interesting behind-the-scenes family connection was not Levinson's or Quinn's but the parents of an actor who wasn't even in the movie.
Israel and Frania Rubinek, who play Nathan and Ada Krichinsky, are the real-life parents of Canadian actor Saul Rubinek. Israel Rubinek broke away from a very religious family in Poland to become an actor in 1937 at age 17.
When the war broke out, Rubinek was hidden from the Nazis by a Polish family. After starting a Yiddish repertory theater in the refugee camp where he resided after the war, he met his wife, with whom he emigrated to Canada. The couple had a son who lived out his father's dreams by becoming a professional actor by the age of 10 while the senior Rubinek worked in a factory.
In 1986, the elder Rubineks became the subject of a Canadian Broadcasting Company documentary, "So Many Miracles," co-produced by their son, which followed the couple back to Poland for a reunion with the family who had hidden them from the Nazis.
"Avalon" associate producer Marie Rowe saw the documentary and showed it to Levinson. Levinson contacted Saul Rubinek and asked him to videotape his parents reading a few scenes from his new script. Levinson liked the tape and flew the Rubineks to New York where, at the age of 70, more than 50 years after leaving his home and family to dedicate his life to acting, Israel Rubinek finally got a part in a movie.
ABOUT THE CAST
ARMIN MUELLER-STAHL plays Sam Krichinsky, a loving, unifying force for three generations of one family.
"Sam is a lovely man," Mueller-Stahl says. "He's a man of the family -- his family is his living foundation."
Mueller-Stahl was born in East Germany and was a music teacher before turning to acting. His early roles were mostly that of young lovers, and frustrated by what he called "boring parts," he almost quit.
Still, he persisted and began finding a greater diversity of parts to play. After approximately 76 films and an even greater number of stage performances, he was firmly established as one of East Germany's leading actors.
In 1976, his career was interrupted when the East German government blacklisted him for signing the Biermann Resolution, a manifesto critical of the government. Banned from acting, Mueller-Stahl spent the next three years writing "Enforced Sundays," a book that describes this difficult period in his life. The title refers to the fact that before being banned, Mueller-Stahl was so busy with his acting that he could only write on Sunday; after the ban, he had the time to write every day because, for him, every day had become Sunday.
In 1980, Mueller-Stahl emigrated to West Germany, where he once again became a highly successful actor. He is quick to point out he did not defect from East Germany, but he observes: "They were happy to see me go. In a country where there is no political opposition, the actors, artists and authors who think for themselves become the only opposition. They are dangerous to those in power."
In West Germany, Mueller-Stahl returned to motion pictures in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "Lola" in 1981. He has subsequently appeared in such films as "Veronika Voss," "The Western Sight," "L'Homme Blesse," "A Love in Germany," "Wing of Night," "Rita Ritter," "Forget Mozart," "A Thousand Eyes" and Istvan Szabo's Academy Award-winning "Colonel Redl."
American audiences are most familiar with Mueller-Stahl for his portrayal of Jessica Lange's father, accused of war crimes, in the drama "Music Box." He has also starred in "Angry Harvest," which was nominated for an Oscar as best foreign film and for which he won the best actor award at the Montreal World Film Festival, and he is appearing in the upcoming feature "Kafka," directed by Steven Soderbergh and scripted by Lem Dobbs.
ELIZABETH PERKINS plays Jules'wife, Ann, whose love for her family gives them strength through the hardest times -- and gives her strength to endure her quarrelsome mother-in-law.
Perkins is perhaps best known for her role opposite Tom Hanks in the comedy hit "Big." She will soon be seen in "Enid Is Sleeping" and most recently completed filming "He Said, She Said," co-starring with Kevin Bacon.
Raised on a farm in Vermont, Perkins began studying drama after her graduation from high school. She was accepted into Chicago's Goodman School of Drama and quickly earned parts in productions there as well as at the North Light Theatre.
Moving to New York, she found work at the Public Theater and secured a prized role in the national touring company of Neil Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs," which ultimately landed on Broadway.
She went on to play a featured part in the Playwrights Horizons' 1985 off-Broadway production of "Life and Limb," followed by an assignment with New York's Ensemble Studio Theatre, where she performed leading roles in one-act plays.
On screen, Perkins has starred in "About Last Night," "From the Hip," "Sweet Hearts Dance" and "Love at Large."
Perkins reacted with a strong empathy to "Avalon."
"I felt for what these people must have struggled through," she relates, "what it was like to come to America as an immigrant and have to develop new traditions. It must have been a fearful time, and it also must have been a time full of excitement to be starting over again."
JOAN PLOWRIGHT plays Eva Krichinsky, Sam's wife, Jules' mother and a woman who does not quite trust automobiles -- especially when her daughter-in-law is driving.
Plowright was born in Brigg, England, and raised in Scunthorpe. She won a scholarship to the Old Vic Theatre School, where she trained for two years, and made her first professional appearance on stage in 1951 at the Grand Theatre, Croydon.
Since then, she has established herself as one of Britain's foremost actresses, with appearances on stage, in films and on television. On stage she has performed with the Old Vic Company, Nottingham Playhouse, English Stage Company and the National Theatre.
Among her roles, she played the only woman in Orson Welles' dramatization of "Moby Dick," which she repeated in John Huston's film; she appeared with Laurence Olivier in John Osborne's "The Entertainer," a part she later repeated on Broadway and in the feature film; and she was Josephine in "A Taste of Honey," with Angela Lansbury, winning the Tony and a New York Drama Critics' Award for her performance.
For her appearance in "Saint Joan," she won the London Evening Standard Drama Award as best actress, and her performance in Franco Zeffirelli's production "Filumena" earned her the Society of West End Theatres Award.
Other stage credits include "Roots," "Uncle Vanya," "The Master Builder," "The Merchant of Venice," "Saturday Sunday Monday," "The Seagull" and "The House of Bernarda Alba."
Plowright has also worked as a director. In 1969, she directed "Evasion of Woman," which played the Old Vic Theatre. She also co-directed James Saunders' "The Travels of Sancho" for the National Theatre and directed Maurice Dufy's "Rites" at the Old Vic.
In feature films, Plowright recently starred in the comedy "I Love You to Death," with Tracey Ullman, Kevin Kline, William Hurt, River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves. Her other big-screen credits include "Equus," "Britannia Hospital," "Brimstone and Treacle," "Wagner," "Revolution," "The Dressmaker" and "Drowning by Numbers." In 1989, the Variety Club of Great Britain honored Plowright as film actress of the year.
Among Plowright's television credits are "Three Sisters," "Daphne Laureola," "Saturday Sunday Monday," "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "The Importance of Being Earnest." She was recently seen in the Masterpiece Theatre production of "A Nightingale Sang."
For her contribution to the British theater, Plowright was awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II.
Plowright was married to Sir Laurence Olivier until his death in 1989. Their three children are all involved in the performing arts.
AIDAN QUINN stars as Jules, an ambitious young salesman who ventures fearlessly into the American free enterprise system.
Quinn first came to national prominence with his starring role opposite Daryl Hannah in the 1984 film "Reckless." Since then, he has been in demand for both stage and motion picture parts, starring in such critically praised films as "The Mission" and the remake of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons," as well as such box-office hits as "Stakeout" and "Desperately Seeking Susan."
He also starred in the title role of the movie "Crusoe" as an arrogant slave trader humbled by his surroundings after he is shipwrecked on an island. Most recently, Quinn appeared in the filmed version of Margaret Atwood's acclaimed novel "The Handmaid's Tale," with Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall, and is co-starring in the upcoming "At Play in the Fields of the Lord" with Tom Berenger, John Lithgow and Daryl Hannah.
A native of Chicago, Quinn has appeared off-Broadway in two of Sam Shepard's plays, "Fool for Love" and "A Lie of the Mind." He also starred in a critically acclaimed production of "Hamlet" at the Wisdom Bridge Theater in Chicago. For his poignant portrayal of a person with AIDS in the telefilm "An Early Frost," Quinn received an Emmy nomination.
Polish-born LEO FUCHS, who plays Sam's brother Hymie, began acting at the age of 5. When he was 17, he took Warsaw by storm as a highly respected star of the famed Polish theater Quid Pro Quo. A play entitled "The Lucky Boy" was written exclusively as a showcase for his talents, and he was brought to the Jacob Adler Second Avenue Theatre in New York to star in the production. This success was followed by a number of other stage works starring and directed by Fuchs, including "The Laughmaker," "Bei Mirr Bistu Shoen," "Cowboy in Israel" and "Laugh and Be Happy."
He toured in such productions as "The Fourposter," "Girl Crazy," "Fair Game," "Uncle Willie" and "Come Blow Your Horn." His performance in the Los Angeles Music Center production of "Tbe Great Waltz" caught the attention of Hal Prince, who cast him in a starring role in the first national company of "Cabaret," with which Fuchs stayed for two years.
Subsequent Los Angeles theatrical performances included playing Fagin opposite Georgia Brown in "Oliver" and Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof." Touring with those shows took him to South America, France, England and Israel.
Between tour stops, he made featured appearances on such venerated television shows as "Playhouse 90," "The Ed Sullivan Show," "Wagon Train," "The Danny Thomas Show," "Mr. Ed," "The Ann Sothern Show," "Green Acres," "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "Sanford and Son." He also starred with Walter Matthau in a PBS production of Clifford Odets' "Awake and Sing" as Jacob, the revolutionary grandfather.
Fuchs recently wrote a new comedy, "The Merry Widower," in addition to an upcoming one-man show.
Fuchs considers his most important achievement in show business was playing the lead in the Broadway production of Sholem Asch's "Salvation," directed by Maurice Schwartz. Albert Einstein came from Princeton to see the show and personally congratulated Fuchs on his performance as a Hassidic student who ages from 17 to 85.
LOU JACOBI plays Sam's brother Gabriel, a combative elder sibling to whom deference must be given at all times.
After stints in a number of jobs, including standup comedian, stage actor and entertainment director at a lodge, the Canadian-born Jacobi moved to England in 1951 where, over the next four years, he would appear in clubs, on stage and in the film "A Kid for Two Farthings." "Discovered" in England by Garson Kanin, Jacobi was cast by the director in the original Broadway production of "The Diary of Anne Frank," which ran for two and a half years, and reprised his role in the film version.
Other Broadway credits include "The Tenth Man," "Come Blow Your Horn," "Don't Drink the Water," "Norman, Is That You?," "Unlikely Heroes," "The Sunshine Boys" and "Cheaters." In 1983 he starred in a revival of "Rocket to the Moon" at the Hartman Theater in Stamford, Conn.
On film, Jacobi received warm critical response for his portrayal of the philosophizing bartender in "Irma La Douce" and the lion's share of the laughs as a transvestite in "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex." The part had been written especially for him by Woody Allen. His other film roles include "Little Murders," "Next Stop, Greenwich Village," "Roseland," "Arthur," "My Favorite Year" and "Amazon Women on the Moon."
Jacobi has made numerous guest-starring appearances on television and was a series regular on "The Dean Martin Show" for two seasons. Among his other TV credits are "Too Close for Comfort," "St. Elsewhere," "Cagney & Lacey," "L.A. Law" and the telefilm "If It's Tuesday, It Still Must Be Belgium."
In 1968, for his performance in a Hertz commercial, Jacobi became the first actor to win a Clio award.
KEVIN POLLAK plays Izzy, Jules' cousin and partner who is the force behind the exciting but risky expansion of their appliance store.
A native of San Francisco, Pollak began his career doing standup comedy, placing runner-up at the San Francisco International Comedy Competition -- an award won the previous year by a rising young talent named Robin Williams.
Moving to Los Angeles, Pollak began working at the Improv, which led to television appearances, including a guest-starring role on the cable special "National Lampoon's Hot Flashes." He had a starring role on the CBS series "Coming of Age," for which he also wrote one episode. Pollak's performance in the HBO special "One Night Stand" earned the comedian an ACE nomination for best performance in a comedy special. He is also seen regularly as a guest on "The Tonight Show."
Pollak landed his first film roles in the features "Million Dollar Mystery" and "Willow." After completing "Avalon," he went on to a featured role in "L.A. Story," a comedy written by and starring Steve Martin and directed by Mick Jackson, which will be released by Tri-Star Pictures. Pollak is currently at work starring with Arye Gross and Courtney Cox in "Rules of the Game" for Outlaw Productions, the producers of "sex, lies and videotape."
ELIJAH WOOD was selected from extensive auditions to play Michael, Jules' son, the character who closely parallels the director himself as a child growing up in Baltimore.
Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Wood was attending the International Modeling and Talent Association convention in Los Angeles in 1989 when he was spotted by a talent manager, who persuaded his parents to move to L.A. Soon after, Wood landed a role in Paula Abdul's hit video "Forever Your Girl," followed by parts in the feature films "Back to the Future II," starring Michael J. Fox, and "Internal Affairs," with Richard Gere and Andy Garcia.
On television, Wood appeared in the movie of the week "Child in the Night," co- starring with JoBeth Williams. He is also starring in the upcoming feature "Radio Flyer," to be released by Columbia Pictures.
ISRAEL RUBINEK makes his film debut at the age of 70 as Nathan Krichinsky, one of Sam's brothers.
Born in Lodz, Poland, in 1920, Rubinek broke away from a religious family to become an actor in 1937. With the outbreak of war in Europe, his acting hopes were quickly dashed and he spent two and a half years in hiding from the Nazis.
In 1949, he emigrated to Canada, where he worked in factories and performed whenever possible in local theater. His son Saul became a professional actor at the age of 10 and later starred in several features, including "Ticket to Heaven," "Wall Street," "Against All Odds" and the upcoming "The Bonfire of the Vanities."
In "Avalon," Rubinek's wife, Frania, makes her acting debut as Nathan's wife, Ada.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Academy Award-winning director-screenwriter BARRY LEVINSON has an enviable reputation for making literate, intelligent films that also become financially successful.
Levinson was awarded the 1988 best director Oscar for the multiple award-winning "Rain Man," starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. In 1987, he directed Robin Williams in the comedy "Good Morning, Vietnam," which went on to become one of the year's most acclaimed and popular movies.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Levinson has used his hometown as the setting for two widely praised features: "Diner," the semiautobiographical comedy-drama that marked his directorial debut, and "Tin Men," starring Danny DeVito and Richard Dreyfuss as warring aluminum siding salesmen. With "Avalon," his native city again takes center stage.
After graduating from American University in Washington, D.C., Levinson moved to Los Angeles, where he began acting as well as writing and performing comedy routines. He then went on to write several television variety shows, including "The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine," which originated in England, "The Lohman and Barkley Show," "The Tim Conway Show" and "The Carol Burnett Show."
A meeting with Mel Brooks led Levinson to collaborate with the veteran comedian on the features "Silent Movie" and "High Anxiety," the latter additionally notable for Levinson's film acting debut.
As a screenwriter, Levinson has twice been nominated for Academy Awards, first in the 1979 dark comedy "...And Justice for All" and a few years later for "Diner."
Levinson's other directorial credits include "The Natural," starring Robert Redford, and "Young Sherlock Holmes."
Producer MARK JOHNSON's lengthy alliance with Barry Levinson stands as a noteworthy example of a creative partnership built on trust, talent and a shared enthusiasm for creating unique motion pictures.
Johnson's work on "Rain Man" resulted in four Academy Awards, including best picture of 1988. He has produced all of the films Levinson has directed since "Diner," which he executive produced. These include "The Natural," "Young Sherlock Holmes," "Tin Men" and "Good Morning, Vietnam."
Born in Washington, D.C., Johnson moved to Spain with his mother, brother and sister at the age of 7. He lived there for the next 11 years until returning to the United States to enter the University of Virginia. After receiving his bachelor's degree, he continued in graduate school at the University of Iowa, where he earned a master's degree.
Johnson moved to New York, where he was accepted into the Directors Guild training program and began his career in feature films on Paul Mazursky's "Next Stop, Greenwich Village." Over the course of the next few years, he learned the film business by advancing from production assistant to assistant director on such films as "Movie Movie," "The Brink's Job," "High Anxiety" and "Escape From Alcatraz."
Johnson and Levinson have several projects in various stages of development and production under their Baltimore Pictures banner, including a new film being directed by Steven Soderbergh ("sex, lies and videotape").
Director of photography ALLEN DAVIAU, A.S.C., has received three Oscar nominations in the category of outstanding cinematography for "E.T. Tle Extra-Terrestrial," "The Color Purple" and "Empire of the Sun." In 1988, he was named best cinematographer for feature films by the American Society of Cinematographers and also received a British Academy Award for his work on "Empire of the Sun."
Daviau began his career as a still photographer, photo lab technician and theatrical lighting designer. During the mid-1960s, he made the transition to live-action film, photographing rock music promotional films (forerunners of music videos) for such top performers as Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Aretha Franklin, Eric Burdon and The Rascals.
His many feature film credits include "The Falcon and the Snowman" and the upcoming "Defending Your Life."
Two-time Academy Award-winning production designer NORMAN REYNOLDS began his industry career in a London advertising office, followed by a stint in the art department at the now-defunct MGM British Studios.
Hired as a set designer on the feature film "Champagne Flight," Reynolds went on to do the set design for the television series "The Saint," starring Roger Moore. Following several seasons of work on TV, he returned to feature films as set designer of "Thunderball" and "The Battle of Britain."
As an assistant art director, he worked on the films "Kelly's Heroes," "Zeppelin," "The Little Prince" and "Lucky Lady" before becoming an art director and receiving a 1976 Oscar nomination for "The Incredible Sarah." The next year he won an Academy Award for the art direction of "Star Wars."
Reynolds also received Oscar nominations as production designer on the next two films in the "Star Wars" trilogy -- "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" -- and earned his second Academy Award for "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Other production design credits include "Return to Oz," "Young Sherlock Holmes," "Empire of the Sun," for which he received another Oscar nomination for best art direction, "Mountains of the Moon" and the upcoming "Alien Ill."
Reynolds was also art director on "Superman" and "Superman II," among many other films.
Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter-composer RANDY NEWMAN wrote the music for "Avalon."
Born in Los Angeles in 1945, Newman comes from a family that is among the most prestigious in the world of motion picture musical scoring. His uncles, Lionel, Emil and Alfred, are each key figures in the history of motion picture music, with Alfred a nine-time Academy Award winner.
After studying music at UCLA, Newman launched his career as a songwriter in the 1960s. He first gained recognition for songs performed by other artists, including the Three Dog Night hit "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)." He began a solo writing and recording career which resulted in his first album in 1968, "Randy Newman Creates Something New Under the Sun."
Since then, he has recorded numerous critically acclaimed albums, including "Randy Newman Live," "Sail Away," "Good Old Boys," "Born Again," "Trouble in Paradise" and "Land of Dreams." Among his popular -- and often controversial -- singles are "Rednecks," "Short People," "Political Science," "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today" and the Southern California anthem, "I Love L.A."
Newman has gained great respect for his work in motion pictures, which began in 1970 with an original song for "Tbe Pursuit of Happiness." He subsequently won Academy Award nominations for best original score and best original song ("One More Hour," sung by Jennifer Warnes) for "Ragtime."
He received another Oscar nomination for his score of "The Natural," which brought him the Grammy Award for best instrumental. In the past few years, he has contributed music to "Overboard," "Parenthood," which featured his Academy and Grammy nominated song "I Love to See You Smile," and the upcoming "Awakenings."
In collaboration with Steve Martin and Lorne Michaels, Newman wrote the screenplay for the comedy feature "Three Amigos!" starring Martin Short, Chevy Chase and Steve Martin.
"Avalon" marks Oscar-winning editor STU LINDER's seventh collaboration with producer Mark Johnson and director Barry Levinson.
Since editing Levinson's first film, "Diner," Linder has cut "The Natural," "Young Sherlock Holmes," "Tin Men," "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "Rain Man," for which he received an Academy Award nomination.
Linder won the Oscar for co-editing the 1966 drama "Grand Prix." With editor Sam O'Steen, he edited four films directed by Mike Nichols: "Catch-22," "Carnal Knowledge," "The Day of the Dolphin" and "The Fortune."
After five years away from the industry, during which time he sailed around the world, Linder returned to Hollywood and edited "My Bodyguard," starring Matt Dillon. In 1981, Levinson and producer Mark Johnson recruited Linder to edit "Diner," which led to their long and successful association.
Costume designer GLORIA GRESHAM teams up with director Barry Levinson for the fourth time on "Avalon," having designed the costumes for "Diner," "The Natural" and "Tin Men." Gresham began her career designing for the New York theater as an assistant to distinguished names in theatrical costume design.
Raised in Indianapolis, Gresham attended Indiana University with a scholarship in costume design and, upon graduation, moved to New York to pursue a costume design career. Numerous Broadway and off-Broadway productions utilized her creations before Hollywood discovered her skills and Gresham was hired to work on the motion picture adaptation of "The Wiz," where she assisted Tony Award-winning costume and set designer Tony Walton.
"Avalon" has been her most challenging project to date, and all the collaborations with Levinson have been proud events for the costume designer.
Her additional credits for motion picture costume design include "War of the Roses," "When Harry Met Sally...," "Twins," "Midnight Run," "Outrageous Fortune," "Fletch," "Footloose," "Zorro, the Gay Blade," "Urban Cowboy" and the soon-to-be-released "Misery" and "Kindergarten Cop."