Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 22
Adrienne Shelly November 1, 2006
Adrienne Shelly killed

Adrienne Shelly, one of independent film’s true stars of the 1990s and, with her features Sudden Manhattan, I’ll Take You There, and Waitress, a skilled director, died tragically November 1, 2006. Shelly burst onto the scene as Audry in Hal Hartley’s 1989 debut, The Unbelievable Truth. Her portrayal as an Armageddon-obsessed teenager made her something of a generational icon, and she went on to appear in Hartley’s follow-up, Trust, as well as films like Sleep with Me, Grind and Factotum. But with I’ll Take You There, Shelly purposefully moved behind the camera, bringing a deft comic tough and understanding of contemporary female characters to her films. In the fall of 2006 she submitted Waitress to Sundance and was working in a rented apartment she was using as a writer’s studio. When she went downstairs to complain about the noise a workman was causing, he killed her and attempted to stage the death as a suicide. Shelly left behind a young daughter and a husband, Andy Ostroy, who established The Adrienne Shelly Foundation to support young women in their directing careers.


More Flashbacks
Around the World in Eighty Days Dec. 22, 1956
Around the World in Eighty Days Premieres

Based on the novel by Jules Verne, the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days, which opened in L.A. on December 22, 1956, was the kind of glorious cinematic jape that rarely is produced anymore.

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December 22, 1993
Philadelphia breaks the AIDS barrier

A few days before Christmas, Jonathan Demme’s groundbreaking AIDS melodrama hit screens, just in time for Academy consideration. A month later the film was duly rewarded, garnering five nominations, with Tom Hanks winning for Best Actor and Bruce Springsteen winning Best Song. But the road to Philadelphia was neither straight, nor clear. Years earlier, producer Scott Rudin worked with screenwriter Ron Nyswaner to get a film about AIDS started. The two looked at a range of stories, including that of Geoffrey Bowers, a New York City attorney who was fired after he showed signs of HIV in 1986. Rudin sold the concept to TriStar who worked with Jonathan Demme (who’d just won an Oscar for Silence of the Lambs in 1991). For Rudin and Nyswaner, both gay men who’d experienced the deaths of many friends, the issue was personal. Likewise for Demme, who dealt with illness and death of his wife’s best friend: “When Juan [Botas] said he was HIV positive, I reacted in the only positive way I could, which was to try to work somehow.” While Demme made Philadelphia to be “targeted for the malls," he wanted the set to be true to the people dealing with the epidemic. Of the 53 gay men cast in the film, nearly 43 died within the next year. At one point, Demme was forced into a fight with TriStar over casting openly gay actor Ron Vawter; the studio wanted to reject him because they could not take out insurance on him. Demme only had to point out the cruel irony of the studio firing an actor in a film about someone being fired for having HIV.

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