"A Painted House" can be seen Sunday on CBS

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Best-selling novelist John Grisham's A Painted House comes to vibrant life in the 216th presentation of the Hallmark Hall of Fame Sunday April 27, 8 p.m. on CBS. A Painted House, John Grisham's 12th novel, draws on the writer's childhood memories and "local lore" from the Arkansas Delta.

Until the summer of 1952, 10-year-old Luke Chandler had never kept a secret or told a single lie. But during that extraordinary summer, two groups of migrant workers - and two dangerous men - come to work the Chandler's Arkansas cotton farm. Suddenly, mysteries flood Luke's world. A murder leaves the town seething in gossip and suspicion. A beautiful young woman catches Luke's eye. Someone begins secretly painting the bare clapboards of the Chandler farmhouse. As young Luke carefully observes the world around him, he unravels secrets that could shatter lives - and change his family and town forever.

Logan Lerman (Riding in Cars with Boys) stars as Luke. Robert Sean Leonard (Dead Poet's Society, The Boys Next Door) and Arija Bareikis (Without a Trace, Snow Falling on Cedars) play his parents; Scott Glenn (The Right Stuff, The Seventh Stream) and Melinda Dillon (Magnolia, How to Make An American Quilt) are his grandparents. Alfonso Arau (Like Water for Chocolate, A Walk in the Clouds) directs from a script by Patrick Sheane Duncan (Courage Under Fire, Mr. Holland's Opus).

John Grisham provides the voice of the adult Luke Chandler as the story progresses.

In an interview on the set of A Painted House, John Grisham says he lived on a cotton farm much like the Chandler's for the first seven years of his life. He remembers it as a "harsh lifestyle."

"If the weather and the cotton buyers cooperated, you'd sell some cotton, but it was always touch-and-go," he says. "Although I had a wonderful childhood, my parents were anxious to get away from it."

Grisham says many of the stories woven together in A Painted House are old family tales ("most of them probably not true") handed down from his grandfather to his father. "A few years ago," he says, "I decided to try to capture them while my parents are still in good health."

Grisham actively consulted his mother and father while writing the book. "There were a lot of details that I needed help with, especially about life on the farm," he remembers. As Grisham finished sections of the manuscript, he'd send them to his parents to review. He describes the writing of A Painted House as "a joint labor."

Director Alfonso Arau describes A Painted House as "really a love story between a boy and his parents and his grandparents. Add nostalgia and romance and mystery and you've got quite a potent mix." Arau says the story takes place at an interesting time in American history. "The Chandlers," he says, "represent a dying breed, independent cotton farmers who couldn't really make a go of it any more economically, who picked up and drove north to places like Detroit, where there were jobs and money."

Arau says the book is "almost Steinbeckian, the way it portrays independent farmers competing against big corporations."

A Painted House, with 7 million copies in print, was on the New York Times bestseller list for 18 consecutive weeks. John Grisham's newest legal thriller, King of Torts, was the best-selling book in America just two weeks after its release on February 4, 2003. An estimated 37 million Grisham hardcovers are in print in North America; his paperback total is expected to top 100 million this year.

A Painted House is executive produced by Richard Welsh. Brent Shields is the co-executive producer. It is from Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Inc.

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