A Merchant Ivory Film



Heights, penned by Amy Fox, opens June 17

JUNE 2, 2005 – When the new, surprisingly contemporary Merchant Ivory film Heights is released in theaters on June 17, it will be the culmination of more than five years of work by the story’s creator, playwright/screenwriter Amy Fox. Heights has already screened at the Sundance Film Festival, where it received tremendous critical acclaim.

First envisioned by Fox during a writing class in 1999, the story that has become Heights has grown from a 25-minute three-character play set on a New York City rooftop into a whirlwind odyssey in which the fates of dozens of characters intersect over the course of a 24-hour period.

The film stars Glenn Close, James Marsden, Elizabeth Banks, Jesse Bradford, and John Light, and is directed by Chris Terrio.

The plot unfolds as Isabel (Elizabeth Banks), a photographer, is having second thoughts about her upcoming marriage to Jonathan (James Marsden), a man she's not sure she really knows. Isabel's mother, Diana (Glenn Close), a legendary actress, learns that her husband has a new lover and begins to rethink some of her life choices. Diana and Isabel cross paths with Alec (Jesse Bradford), a struggling actor, and Peter (John Light), a journalist whose research may uncover secrets that will affect all five characters' lives.

"It's about the decisions we make," says Fox, 29. "You make a decision and you think you've weighed all the factors -- but it's still impossible to foresee the consequences. Even if you make all the right choices, you can end up in a far different place from the one you expected."

The adaptation process began after the late Merchant Ivory Executive Producer Ismail Merchant saw Anita Gates' New York Times review of Fox's play, which premiered at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York, and commissioned her to adapt it into a screenplay. In the script that emerged over the next several months, the story took on new characters, a more complex plot and several additional twists.

The main characters, however, remained. "It was the interactions between these three characters that formed the backbone of the play. That's what I wanted to keep when we made the transition from stage to screen. It's their personalities and complexities that make this an interesting story. When I went to write the screenplay I simply backed up and asked myself how these characters would have gotten into this situation," says Fox.

In many ways, Heights represents new territory for Merchant Ivory, which is better known for elaborate costume dramas and meticulously crafted historical films than for stories with a contemporary setting. "But Merchant Ivory makes movies that are grounded in their setting and in their characters. In that respect, this is Merchant Ivory filmmaking at its best," says Fox.

Fox's writing -- including several full length and one-act plays that have been produced in New York, London, and throughout the U.S. -- is known for its empathy and humanity. "I've been writing for as long as I can remember -- it's the way that I've always made sense out of my experiences in the world," says Fox. "My characters have depth and inner conflict and it's their struggles that drive the plot, not the other way around."

"I'm interested in serious themes and serious questions, but I try to handle them with a light touch. On a line-by-line level, my writing can be funny," says Fox.

The press agrees. The New York Times has called Heights "an ingenious puzzle of love and deception." Variety says it's "marbled with wit and heartache" while The Miami Herald writes "Heights is the movie I wanted Closer to be … an eviscerating look at the state of modern relationships." The film has also been featured in Playboy, O: The Opera Magazine, Vogue, and The Advocate.

Fox continues to write plays, screenplays and fiction from her home in New York City, where she has lived since 1997. She is currently working on a novel. Her next film script is Stuvesant Town, about the struggle against housing discrimination in 1940s New York City, and it has already attracted the attention of academy-nominated director Joan Stein.

Fox is a graduate of Amherst College and will receive her Master's degree, in fiction writing, from Brooklyn College in May 2005. She teaches playwriting and screenwriting classes for adults at Gotham Writer's Workshop and also teaches literature and composition to college undergraduates. She is originally from Boulder, Colorado.

The play Heights is published by Dramatist's Play Service as part of a compilation called Thicker than Water.

For more about Amy Fox, or to arrange an interview, please visit www.amyfox.net or call 917-744-5557. More detail about Heights is available at heights.amyfox.net. The film's official Web site is www.heights-movie.com.