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Birthday Girl
The film with Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Vincent Cassel, Mathieu Kassovitz. Directed by Jez Butterworth. Get Birthday Girl on DVD from Amazon.com, Amazon.de and Amazon.co.uk.
Article added on March 23, 2003
 
The film is about an ordinary, shy bank clerk, John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin), living a rather dull life in St. Albans, a sleepy London commuter suburb in the Hertfordshire countryside. In England, he has "about 20 million girls to choose from". However, as John remarks, "if you live in a small town and work long hours, you're just not going to get a chance to meet them all." Therefore, lonely John decides to "mail-order" a bride from the "From Russia With Love" website.
 
What he gets is not a James Bond girl, but Nadia (Nicole Kidman). She is a shy, chain-smoking and head-nodding enigma who seemingly does not speak a word of English, contrary to her website profile. Cross-cultural tensions are inevitable. And there is much more which does not turn out as expected.
 
The film dramatically changes after Nadia's "Russian cousins", Yuri and Alexei, played by the French actors Mathieu Kassovitz and Vincent Cassel, show up for her birthday. John is even forced into robbing his own bank to seemingly save Nadia's life. Everybody involved in the story comes up with a few surprises. The result is a comic thriller-romance.
 
Directed by Jez Butterworth and written by Tom and Jez Butterworth, the film's twists and turns, which include sexual entanglements, and its black humor catch the viewer from the beginning.

Three of the film's main characters are heavily accented Russians for which the Butterworths cast an Australian and two Frenchmen because none of the great Russian actor's they approached spoke word of English, even though the Butterworth's had been assured that they were fluent. This inspired the first joke of Birthday Girl.
 
Nicole Kidman, who won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Gus Van Sant's black comedy To Die For, said about the film and her character: "I am always drawn to black comedies. And I was also interested in playing a Russian woman, because she's obviously so far from me and it allowed me to really create her character from scratch."
 
After her glamorous part in Moulin Rouge and her elegant look in The Others, Nicole Kidman plays a totally unglamorous part in Birthday Girl, proving once more that she can be physically transformed and transform herself in almost any character. Her Oscar nominated performance in The Hours is a further testimony to the fact that she has become the world's most versatile actress (probably only matched by Meryl Streep).
 
Although the Butterworths try to capture authentically the atmosphere of St. Albans, the interiors of Birthday Girl were mainly shot in Sydney, Australia. It is not only Nicole Kidman's hometown, Ben Chaplin's family also lives there. As for the choice of St. Albans as the film's setting, Jez Butterworth, explains: "What I like so much about Hertfordshire and St. Albans is that the beauty is there, but you have to search for it. ... They may be beautiful people deep down, but they have been overridden, alienated and separated from themselves. The surface shows one thing, but there's a lot happening underneath."
 
Jeremy Jez Butterworth

Writer and director Jeremy Jez Butterworth made his feature film directorial debut with Mojo, a drug underworld gangster movie about greed and amorality, based on Jez's stage play of the same name which opened at the Royal Court Theatre in 1995. Mojo won five major theatre awards, including the Olivier and the Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright Award.
 
Born in London in 1969, Jez Butterworth grew up in St. Albans, the setting of Birthday Girl, and was educated at Cambridge University. With his brother, Tom Butterworth, he co-wrote the The Census Man as part of Carlton Television New Writer Course. This led them to being commissioned in 1993 to make David Giles' The Night of the Golden Brain, a short film about a pub quiz team, as part of the Going Underground series, co-written by the brothers, as well as Marc Munden's Christmas.
 
Tom Butterworth
Tom Butterworth was an associate producer on his brother Jez's first film Mojo and on Tim Roth's controversial directorial debut The War Zone


Get Birthday Girl on DVD from Amazon.com, Amazon.de or Amazon.co.uk.

 
Ben Chaplin
Ben Chaplin first played an important part in Michael Lehmann's romantic comedy The Truth About Cats and Dogs, opposite the co-stars Uma Thurman and Janeane Garofalo. Ben Chaplin has received critical acclaim for his performance as Private Jack Bell in Terence Malick's World War II drama The Thin Red Line. His credits also include Janusz Kaminski's Lost Souls, Agnieszka Holland's Washington Square, Chris Menaul's Feast of July and James Ivory's The Remains of the Day. Among his latest projects is Barbet Schroeder's Fool Proof with Sandra Bullock and the Hong Kong action film The Touch. Chaplin's theatre credits include John Burgess' The Neighbour at the Royal National Theatre, James McDonald's Peaches at the Royal Court Theatre and Sam Mendes' The Glass Menagerie at the Donmar Warehouse for which Chaplin was nominated for an Olivier Award.
 
Mathieu Kassovitz
Mathieu Kassovitz wrote and directed La Haine (Hate), for which he won a Palme d'Or for Best Director at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival as well as Cesar (French Academy) awards for best Screenplay and Editing. He also directed French films such as The Crimson Rivers, Assassins and Métisse. As an actor, Mathieu Kassovitz won the Best Young Actor Cesar for his performance in A Self-Made Hero. He has appeared in such films as Luc Besson's The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc and The Fifth Element and in Peter Kassovitz's (his father) Jakob the Liar. Mathieu also had a part in Amélie, 2001's most charming film, which was nominated for five Oscars and did not win a single one - a shame (get Amélie on DVD from Amazon.com, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de).
 
Vincent Cassel
Vincent Cassel starred, among other films, in Mathieu Kassovitz's critically acclaimed Hate and The Crimson Rivers, in Luc Besson's The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, in Gilles Mimouni's brilliant L'Appartement (together with his later wife Monica Bellucci) and in the horror move Le Pacte des Loups (Brotherhood of the Wolves). Cassel made his English language debut as the effete Duc d'Anjou in Shekhar Kapur's period drama Elizabeth. He also played in the English language film The Reckoning with Willem Dafoe. As a director, Vincent Cassel made the short film Shabbat Night Fever.