The core of The Last Station's story is the conflict between Leo Tolstoy and his wife, the Countess Sofya, over the rights to his works. But frack that, what really matters is that you've got Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy and Helen Mirren as the Countess, and the opportunity to watch them seduce, cajole, clash, and otherwise play off each other. Throw in Paul Giamatti as Tolstoy's staunchest disciple and Sofya's most daunting antagonist, and even if the battle was about the divvying up of Dave & Buster's prize tickets, you know you'd want to watch.
Fortunately, director Michael Hoffman -- who scripted from the Jay Parini novel and whose previous credits include Restoration and A Midsummer's Night Dream -- gives his actors a suitably meaty drama to tear into. Beyond fame for writing War and Peace and Anna Karenina, Tolstoy also happened to be a potent political force in his time, dedicated to an early incarnation of Socialism. All well and good, except that the Countess -- a passionate supporter of her husband all the way to hand-copying War and Peace six times -- came to realize that the man's growing public profile meant watching him drawn further from her love and deeper into the machinations of his acolytes, including their push to get him to sign over the rights to his stories to the Russian people. As the Countess fights for what she feels is only the due owed to her and Tolstoy's children, the conflict is witnessed by two young disciples, Valentin (James McAvoy) and Masha (Kerry Condon), whose growing love affair plays in contrast to the dissolution of Tolstoy's marriage.
I got Hoffman to talk a bit about managing the on-screen, emotional pyrotechnics, and recreating a bit of early twentieth century Russia in Germany. Click on the player below to hear the interview.
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