Not to be confused with the producer of Pimp My Ride who went to jail for murdering his wife—that's Bruce Beresford-Redman—our Bruce Beresford is an Australian film director responsible for Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Tender Mercies (1983), and Double Jeopardy (1999). That's the Ashley Judd suspense flick, not the Jeopardy! round. Although Driving Miss Daisy was Beresford's most celebrated film, nominated for nine Academy Awards, Beresford himself was snubbed in the Oscar nom department.
What do Beresford and Ben Affleck both have in common? No, it's not Matt Damon. Even though Miss Daisy was nominated for Best Picture, Beresford didn't receive a nomination for Best Director from the Academy or the Golden Globe Awards. Billy Crystal cracked that Driving Miss Daisy was "the film that apparently directed itself." The only director who's been dissed like this since was Ben Affleck for Argo in 2012.
Alfred Uhry is a Tony Award-winning playwright, responsible for The Robber Bridegroom (1975), The Last Night of Ballyhoo (1996), and Driving Miss Daisy (1987) Yes, the Miss Daisy. Uhry adapted his own play, which had already earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, into the film, which won him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Obviously, the story was a winner.
Uhry grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and had a cranky old Jewish grandma with a black chauffeur. Sound familiar? He drew on his own Southern Jewish upbringing when he wrote the play Driving Miss Daisy. Uhry's best known for his Atlanta trilogy of plays—all with similar themes but with different characters and plotlines. Driving Miss Daisy is the first of these; Ballyhoo and Parade (1998) are the other two. Uhry also co-wrote the screenplay for the delicious Julia Roberts hit Mystic Pizza (1988). Hey, wait—wasn't Julia's character named Daisy?
Coincidence? We think not.
Richard and Lili Zanuck formed their production company after producing Cocoon (1985), another hit movie about old folks. Before he was old himself, Zanuck was a top executive at 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., which distributed Miss Daisy.
Son of legendary Hollywood producer and Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck, Richard joined Warner Brothers after being fired from 20th Century Fox by his father during a company shake-up.During his career Zanuck worked with Stephen Spielberg to produce Jaws, and with his wife, Lili, hitched up with Tim Burton to produce Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Dark Shadows, among others. (Source)
One not-so-successful item on Zanuck's resume is the failed TV pilot of Driving Miss Daisy. (See our "Best of the Web" section for more on this.)It aired in the summer of 1992, and featured Joan Plowright and Robert Guillaume doing their best Daisy and Hoke impersonations against a canned laugh track. The show was dead on arrival, and wasn't picked up. Zanuck himself lived another twenty years. (Source)
Driving Miss Daisy is based on Uhry's play of the same name, and not much changes from stage to screen. It's very theatrical in its production—intimate scenes, no blockbuster effects or elaborate sets. The film has very few characters. Boolie's wife, Florine, is unseen in the play, but in the film she's played by Tony award and Grammy-winning stage actress Patti Lupone to provide some contrast and conflict with her mother-in-law, Miss Daisy.
Many of the scenes are shot as you would see on a stage. The characters are in the same house, even if Miss Daisy is separated by the wall between dining room where she eats and the kitchen where the help stays. The majority of the film's scenes are of Miss Daisy and Hoke in the car. Again, they're quiet affairs. No high-speed chases here. You can easily see these scenes taking place on an intimate stage. The fanciest production values are the awesome cars that Boolie buys for Hoke to drive Miss Daisy, particularly that 1949 Hudson Commodore. If you'd been in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2014, you could have bought it at auction for $66,000.
Hans Zimmer, the award-winning composer of The Lion King and many Christopher Nolan films, took an unusual approach to Driving Miss Daisy. The film spans the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, so you might expect to hear Big Band era music or even some 60s rock. Instead, Zimmer, who had scored Rain Man the year before, went with the most popular instrument of the 1980s: the synthesizer.
Zimmer's electronic score has a Southern flavor but transcends any single time period. Driving Miss Daisy was nominated for many Academy Awards, but the score wasn't one of them.
However, the score works. It zips along just like that awesome '49 Hudson Commodore.
Driving Miss Daisy has more of an anti-fandom these days. We can't print Spike Lee's comment about the film without a few asterisks, but Lee, whose film Do the Right Thing was nominated for Best Screenplay (but not Best Picture) in 1990, said "When Driving Miss M***********g Daisy won Best Picture, that hurt."
Um, we don't think that was her actual middle name, but we understand where he's coming from.
Driving Miss Daisy is a film that many believe looks at pre-Civil Rights days with rose-colored glasses. It's a feel-good film, but the only people feeling good are the white people living in a world where happy blacks serve them with smiles on their faces. Even Morgan Freeman called the film a "mistake" later in his career.
Despite the backlash, the play Driving Miss Daisy was revived in 2010, featuring Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones as Miss Daisy and Hoke. We can only hope he says, "Miss Daisy…I am your driver."
You know what does have fans? The cars. They sure don't make them like this anymore.