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Capote, gay kiss rule Venice fest

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Friday, September 01, 2006
Venice (Reuters): Truman Capote returns to the big screen with a new star-packed Hollywood film about the brilliant but conflicted writer and an ''abrasive'' kiss between its two main male characters. Douglas McGrath's Infamous, presented at the Venice film festival, comes hard on the heels of Bennett Miller's critically acclaimed ''Capote'', which won Philip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar as best actor for his portrait of the fey, elfin-like author. Both films, which were virtually shot at the same time, tell the story of how Capote came to write In Cold Blood, the book that made him one of the most celebrated writers in America but ultimately destroyed his life.

McGrath picked British theatre actor Toby Jones, who bears a striking physical resemblance with Capote, to play the writer alongside a cast including Sandra Bullock, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Daniels and Daniel Craig. The film chronicles the painful six years it took Capote to write In Cold Blood, the tale of how two drifters brutally murdered a family of four in a Kansas farmhouse in 1959. Capote spent months researching his book in Kansas, where his transparently gay manners and high-pitched voice initially met with widespread diffidence. As he gradually became friends with many of those involved in the case, he developed an intense, tortured relationship with one of the murderers, Perry Smith, played in the film by Craig, the new face of James Bond. At one point in the film the two kiss in a prison cell and Jones described the experience yesterday as ''slightly abrasive, ultimately rewarding''.

''I've never dreamt that I would kiss James Bond, it's not something I have ever aspired to. Now I've done it, I can say that I hope I am the first of many,'' Jones told reporters. McGrath said the emotional and ambiguous bond between Perry and Capote, who needed the murderers to be executed so that he could write the last chapter of his book, was eventually what eventually ruined him. ''Truman says in the movie 'All I ever wanted to do my whole life was to create a work of art'. I think he saw early on that that was his chance to be remembered and he was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen,'' he said.

''The bond he formed with Perry Smith and then having to see Perry Smith hanged was so shattering that he never really fully recovered from it and I believe he actually became desperate after that.'' McGrath said knowing that ''Capote'' was being made just as he shot his own film did not have an impact on his work, and Jones said he had had little time to be intimidated by Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning performance as he prepared for the role. ''They'd only just wrapped when we started filming, so there was no element of being intimidated other than the fact that Philip Seymour Hoffman is a fantastic actor,'' he said. ''I had so much work to do on all levels, so much stuff to read and so much stuff to watch, to listen to and to imagine, that the idea of other people performing in anything was kind of a distraction from what I was doing.'' After publishing In Cold Blood, Capote never wrote another full-length work. In the 1970s and 1980s he drifted into drug use and alcoholism. He died in 1984 at age 59.

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