Halloween or Nevada Day: which to choose for the October 31 season? I suggest wallowing in Misery. I recently presented it this month as part of a film series for the university and appreciated points that passed me back when the movie opened in 1993. Transparency: My then-job as a film commissioner meant I helped the production team find their locations in Nevada. Yes, characters say “Colorado” on screen, but those Rocky Mountain sites look more like the Sierra, with the old Donner Pass and towns like Genoa. Nevada happily stepped in for this high-profile project that featured horror royalty plus director Rob Reiner, fresh off another King story called Stand by Me. On first blush, the luster seemed diminished when Bette Midler dropped out as star, but Reiner looked unperturbed when he told me a lesser-known Broadway actress would fill in. “She’s going to win a best actress Oscar for this,” he said, and I giggled to myself—but Reiner proved 100 percent correct. Kathy Bates made the role hers, and I still marvel at the way she goes from hot to cold as a psychotic nurse and number one fan of an author she keeps prisoner. Given the plethora of women-in-jeopardy movies, Misery offers an effective twist by making its victim the late tough guy James Caan. The setting thirty years ago means no cell phones provide help, and director Reiner works his way around a potentially static situation with clever camera use. Nerve wracking and intense, Misery loves the company it keeps, from Reiner to Bates to Nevada.
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