Michael: Production Notes

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The archangel Michael is the most popular of all the angels, having made miraculous appearances throughout history. He is most often described as being young, handsome, strong and sporting the most prodigious set of wings an angel can bare.

Known as the commander-in-chief of the celestial army, Michael is most often invoked in battles. It was Michael who delivered Daniel from the Lion's den. It was Michael who purportedly gave Joan of Arc the power to battle against all odds. It was Michael who appeared to a doomed division of French soldiers on the World War II battlefield. It was Michael who Pope Pius XII declared to be the patron saint of all embattled policemen.
me and fortune will follow. But Michael is an angel, not a saint, and he has another agenda in mind.

For Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, Michael represented a chance to create a modern yet magical comedy set in America's heartland - something the sisters had long talked about. When they came across a script written by National Enquirer veteran Jim Quinlan and award-winning journalist and National Book Award Winner Pete Dexter about a tabloid reporter on the trail of an earthbound archangel, the sisters were intrigued.

"One of the things that drew me in the first place is that I had never quite seen anything like this," says Nora Ephron. "I loved the idea of two tabloid reporters going out to get an angel."

The sisters, who previously teamed on a number of films including Sleepless in Seattle, immediately delved into angel research, exploring not only the history of winged guardians, but the contemporary angel craze in which celestial spirits carry out such mundane missions as helping people find parking spaces as well as fall in love. "It was clearly a subject tinged with everyday magic and we were very interested in that," says Nora Ephron.

Adds Delia: "The powerful thing about believing in angels is that there is a sense that things can change in your favor at any moment. In this story, you have two people who have really given up on love, who are stuck in a rut, but the adventure of finding an angel opens them up and changes their lives."

Both women were also fascinated with the concept of bringing the iconic Michael, heaven's most famous warrior, to life as a contemporary flesh-and-blood character. Contrary to popular belief, escorting an angel through the middle of America turns out to be rough and dirty work - especially when it becomes clear that the angel is intent on experiencing every earthly sensation to its most glorious extreme.

"The archangel Michael is one of the world's great fighters. So every chance he has, he gets into trouble. He is also irresistible to women," explains Delia. "He turns out to be quite a handful."

Michael was shot in the winter and spring of 1996, in Austin, Texas and Chicago - with Austin's heartland-style fields and bars standing in for Iowa. Capturing a little of the enchantment of both country and city was paramount in Nora Ephron's game plan. She worked closely with production designer Dan Davis and cinematographer John Lindley to create a very special look for the film, one that would be both true to the American landscape but add a dash of unexpected magic.

"I wanted to work with John because he did Field of Dreams, and he was able to create the feeling where you are absolutely in reality and the next minute you're not. And the only thing that changed is what you were seeing," explains Nora.

She continues: "I knew he had a great feeling for this kind of material and he's also done a lot of comedies and action pictures, which was a great help. For example, there's a bar fight in this movie, and it may not surprise you to hear that I'm not an expert in bar fights. It was a great comfort to be working with someone who had done quite a few and knew how to make a bar fight work."

Adds Delia Ephron: "John Lindley has given us a look that is both beautiful and a little eerie. Nora had this wonderful idea that the movie should feel a little like heaven, with lots of shades of white. That's the feeling we wanted in the palate of the movie. And John, Dan and everyone on the film has done an incredible job. There's the feeling of magic hovering all the time."

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