is a crucifying aloneness. There's a silent, screaming slide into
the bowels if ultimate despair. Hostage is a man hanging by his fingernails
over the edge of chaos and feeling his fingers slowly straightening."
is the humilating stripping away of every sense and fiber of body and mind
and spirit that make you what you are. Hostage is a mutant creature,
full of self loathing, guilt and death wishing. But he's a man, a rare
unique, and beautiful creation of which these things are no part."
Keenan, at his post release press conference taken from Terry Anderson's
Den of Lions
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Comments by Colin
Granada Films (UK) and HBO (US)
Feb 20, 8-9:45 p.m.
Other Cast Members:
Ciaran Hinds (Brian Keenan), Jay O. Sanders (Terry Anderson),
Harry Dean Stanton (Frank Reed), Josef Sommer (Tom Sutherland),
Kathy Bates (Peggy Say), Natasha Richardson (Jill Morrell),
Conrad Asquith (Terry Waite)
Callendar (executive), Ray Fitzwalter (executive), Alasdair Palmer (associate)
and Sita Williams
of Jill Morrell immediately above from book Some Other Rainbow by
John McCarthy and Jill Morrell
on the real-life occurrences, this made-for-TV film is about the kidnapping
of Westerners by fundamentalist Islamic forces in Lebanon. It focuses on
the experiences of six men: John McCarthy, Brian Keenan, Terry Anderson,
Tom Sutherland, Frank Reed and Terry Waite. Although it is "reality-based"
and mixes actual news footage with the dramatized events, a disclaimer
at the beginning makes it clear that the incidents and dialogue in the
film are "based on publicly available material, interviews with former
hostages, their friends and relatives, diplomats and politicians from the
United States, Europe and the Middle East. No endorsement has been received
from anyone portrayed."
is a tough film to watch. It makes no attempt to soften the experiences
of the hostages to please the viewer's sensibilities. And, although it
occasionally walks a thin line regarding the political aspects of the situation,
it never shirks from the main point - these men (and others like them)
spent years locked in dirty, dark rooms, never knowing from day to day
what would happen, with little news from the outside world, and no certainty
of release. It is worth noting that, while all six hostages portrayed in
this film were eventually released, other hostages were killed by their
not have the support of most of the men shown in the film when it was made.
In his book Some Other Rainbow, written with Jill Morrell, McCarthy explains
some of his objections:
film was a recurring irritation. While I appreciated that their original
intention had been to make a campaigning film which would have brought
our plight to wider public notice, I couldn't understand their urgency
now that we were free. None of us had yet fully come to terms with our
experiences and, until we had done so, were not in a position to help anyone
else make sense of what we had gone through. The fact that it went ahead
was an unnecessary strain at an already difficult time.
expressed similar concerns. McCarthy, Keenan, Anderson, and Waite all signed
an open letter that appeared in the press just before the film was first
shown on British television. Calling claims that the film was true an “abuse
of public trust,” the four noted that “the film contains scenes involving
us that are pure fiction.”
Time seems to
have softened Terry Anderson's views though. When the History Channel in
the United States began to show Hostages last year as part of its “Movies
in Time” series, Anderson appeared with the program's host to discuss his
experiences and his perspective on the film. When asked about the film's
most accurate moments, Anderson replied:
above right from book Some Other Rainbow by John McCarthy and Jill
It's an emotional
accuracy that runs through it. It doesn't matter that they don't get the
facts quite right, although they did a pretty good job on it. The feelings
are there, the humiliations, the anger, the frustration of not knowing,
the ups and the downs. You saw some of that in the film. So, those are
all true portrayals, those kinds of things did happen.
McCarthy, Tom Sutherland did assist the filmmakers. And, he attended a
press conference in the United States when it was released. At that point
he said, "frankly, I was kind of shocked at the reality of it. I watched
it in amazement. To see somebody re-creating what we had been through,
so vividly and so accurately, I was kind of blown away."
Waite, Anderson and Sutherland have all written books about their experiences.
McCarthy, John, and Morrell, Jill. Some Other Rainbow. Bantam Press, 1993.
Keenan, Brian. An Evil Cradling: The Five-Year Ordeal of a Hostage. (The
book is perhaps the best-written, most humanly probing analysis of the
Waite, Terry. Taken on Trust: An Autobiography. Quill, 1995.
Waite, Terry. Footfalls in Memory: Reflections from Solitude. Doubleday
Anderson, Terry. Den of Lions: Memoirs of Seven Years. Ballantine Books,
Sutherland, Tom, and Sutherland, Jean. At Your Own Risk: An American Chronicle
of Crisis and Captivity in the Middle East. Fulcrum Publishers, 1996.
McCarthy and Keenan have a new book due out in September, 1999 titled:
Between Extremes: A Journey Beyond Imagination.
COLIN IN THE
Colin plays John
McCarthy. As mentioned, his role frames
the movie—the personal story of the hostages starts with his kidnapping
on April 17, 1986 and ends when he returns to England in August 1991 to
be reunited with his family and his girlfriend, Jill Morrell, who worked
hard to keep his name and plight before the public during McCarthy’s more
than five years in captivity. Although the film depends on an ensemble,
McCarthy and Keenan (Ciaran Hinds) are used to most vividly portray the
daily human plight of the hostages, and the pair has the most screen time.
character provides the humor or comic relief in the film (see below, “Favorite
Quotes and Scenes”). Yet Colin is also asked to convey much of the horror
and humiliation of being a hostage. One of the most painful scenes to watch
shows is one where Colin shows the terror that McCarthy feels at being
wrapped in tape and then unwrapped as he and Keenan are being transported
in the bottom of a truck from one location to another. The humiliation
is also clear in his initial scenes at being made a captive and later being
asked to beg to use the toilet.
Natasha Richardson (Jill Morrell) also co-starred with Colin in A Month
in the Country.
Ciaran Hinds (Brian Keenan) and Colin both had roles in Circle of Friends.
The filmmakers made a mistake in their portrayal of McCarthy as a reporter;
he was, in fact, a news producer.
Colin has portrayed a well-known living person in another film: Robert
Lawrence, a soldier in the Falklands War in Tumbledown (Granada, 1989).
FROM OR BY COLIN
none of the reviews (at least the ones we could find) comment on Colin's
performance in Hostages and we have not been able to locate any public
comments Colin made about the film. According to an article in Newsday
(cited in reviews below), he did appear with Kathy Bates at press conference
in Los Angeles sponsored by HBO before the film's premiere on the U. S.
cable station. But Tom Sutherland was also there and all the questions
were directed to him.
above right from book Some Other Rainbow by John McCarthy and Jill
Morrell; The only photo of John McCarthy in captivity, taken between February
and May 1988
In his commentary
on the History Channel, Terry Anderson said that the film did a good job
of characterizing the men, that “the man who played John McCarthy looked
and sounded like him” as did the actors who portrayed many of the other
St. Louis Post
Dispatch, February 19, 1993
Snatch a baby
for ransom, and you’re guilty of kidnapping. Seize an airplane and force
it to land in Cuba, and you’re a hijacker. But grab a newsman or a
professor off the streets of Beirut, beat him, humiliate him and steal
years of his life from him, and you’re making a political statement . .
. But this is not The Captors. It’s Hostages and it uses McCarthy’s confinement
as the unifying element in a story about the inhumane treatment of hostages
and the effects of that treatment on the minds and bodies of the men who
February 20, 1993, review by Tom Shales
a properly sobering HBO docudrama...seems longer than its 95 minutes, perhaps
because so much of it details life in bitter captivity....Scenes of the
hostages being tormented, either by their captors or by the intense sense
of loneliness and isolation, are grueling but not gratuitously violent.
Writer Bernard MacLaverty and director David Wheatley do give you an extremely
discomforting idea of what it must be like to be locked away with no concrete
hope that you will ever be released ...Hostages continues the HBO tradition
of tackling hot topics in intelligent and relatively non-hokey docudramas..
February 19, 1993, review by Ken Tucker
..This is television
with class, and also television with guts.
are coming to American TV again, and they're putting us to shame yet another
time. As if PBS' current run of Prime Suspect 2 on the “Mystery” series
dramatic one-upmanship, HBO has the latest from its fruitful partnerships
with the investigative filmmakers at Granada and the BBC...
even more than its title promises: not just a portrait of the westerners
held captive by Moslem extremists during the ’80s in Beirut, but a wide-scope
view of the entire hostage situation – of those who take them, and those
who also sit and await their return.
MOMENTS FROM THE FILM
of the dialogue spoken by Colin in this film focuses on McCarthy's sense
of humor, something his family and friends spoke about often and that more
than one of his fellow hostages credited with helping them survive their
ordeal. Some examples:
There are other
scenes that bear numerous viewings:
and Keenan are given a video to watch, McCarthy asks his captor:
Please, sir, can we take our blindfolds off to watch it?
At one point,
Keenan and McCarthy are moved and join, for the first time, Anderson, Sutherland
and Reed. McCarthy looks at them and says: Doesn't anyone ever kidnap
any women around here?
As the guard
leaves the room he asks if they want anything. McCarthy quips: A
and Keenan are watching a video and turn the television to broadcast channels.
They happen on coverage of a benefit for McCarthy and an interview with
Jill Morrell. Watch Colin's face as he expresses the range of emotions
McCarthy feels as he sees the woman he loves: astonishment, joy, frustration.
It's a great example of Colin's phenomenal ability to convey the character's
inner self without words and almost without moving a muscle.
Watch him when
McCarthy is told he's being released. He's blindfolded and almost totally
silent throughout the scene, but again, all of the feelings that McCarthy
is having are
And, of course,
the reunion scene between McCarthy and Morrell at the end. It can't
be reduced to words – it must be watched.
*** (but, he's not supposed to look good in this one)
To come: FOF's
The film in
Ranking in the
films of Colin Firth: ****
and rewind factor: *** (it's a hard film to watch)
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Link to Jane's articles page
page was written by Chris, edited by Janet, designed and assembled by Meluchie
from Entertainment Weekly magazine (provided by UKAAS); Snappies by Vicki
Harris and Meluchie
photos from Some Other Rainbow by John McCarthy and Jill Morell (as noted)