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Disney, Lynch go "Straight"

By Chris Petrikin and Adam Dawtrey
Reuters/Variety, May 10, 1999 1:36 AM EDT

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - In an unlikely pairing, the wholesome Walt Disney Pictures has agreed to distribute edgy filmmaker David Lynch's latest slice of Americana, "The Straight Story," in the United States, Scandinavia and Australia.

Based on true-life events, the picture follows the six-week, 350-mile trek made by 73-year-old Alvin Straight from Laurens, Iowa, to Mt. Zion, Wis., on his '66 John Deere riding mower. Straight struck out on the tedious road trip in order to mend his relationship with his 75-year-old, ailing brother. Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek and Harry Dean Stanton star.

While the film, in typical Lynch style, exposes the seeming fringe of American society, "Straight Story" (Lynch's first film since 1997's "Lost Highway") is said to be a more mainstream film than most of his prior entries, thus earning its release through Walt Disney Pictures. (The label's last release was the animated "Doug's 1st Movie" in March.)

"It's a beautiful movie about values, forgiveness and healing and celebrates America. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a Walt Disney film," said Peter Schneider, president of Walt Disney Motion Picture Group.

"The Straight Story," budgeted at about $9 million, premieres May 21 in competition at the Cannes Film Festival; Disney has yet to set a date for theatrical release.

Lynch said his "core audience will be shocked" by his latest film, which, unlike previous films, shouldn't have any problems with the ratings board. His previous works include "Blue Velvet," Wild at Heart" and "Eraserhead."

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