University of Iowa News Release
Release: March 31, 2003
Bijou Theatre to Premiere Film by Writers' Workshop Student
The outrageous meets the incredible in UI Writers' Workshop student Joshua Miller's debut film The Mao Game, based on his widely celebrated semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. The Mao Game will have its national theatrical debut at the Bijou Theatre Friday, April 4 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, April 5 at 7 p.m.
Director, writer, producer, and actor Miller will attend the Friday screening and hold a Q&A session following the screening. The film has previously screened at the American Film Institutes Film (AFI) Festival 1999 and the Seattle International Film Festival.
In a film that exhibits nearly unprecedented creative control, Miller has been involved in every step of his story and its journey from life experience to acclaimed novel to motion picture. It features an award-winning performance by Piper Laurie as the grandmother (Best Actress, Special Grand Jury Prize, Seattle International Film Festival), as well as cinematic turns by Kirstie Allie, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeffrey Tambor, and Jodi Leesley. After screening at the Seattle International Film Festival and the AFI Film Festival, The Mao Game was executive produced by Whoopi Goldberg.
The secrets of Hollywood come to life in The Mao Game, which focuses on the dysfunctional yet uniquely connected family of Jordan Highland (Miller), as well as his own struggles with his career and addiction. The son of a former NFL player and a former Playmate-actress, Jordan is a teenage actor whose custodial fate is determined by the outcome of an ever-changing game called Mao. After his grandmother beats his mother in Mao, Jordan becomes an accomplice to her quest to deal with cancer.
To complicate matters further, Jordan reflects on his sexual molestation at the hands of his father and confronts the older man. He also battles his suicidal demons on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Meanwhile, his dying grandmother, a famous photographer, leads him into the desert to complete a final shoot. As Jordan reaches closure with his grandmother and father, he reconciles with his mother, whose ego often outshone her parental duties.
Ultimately, The Mao Game tells the story of a foundering family and the capacity to overcome troubling emotional situations. It is gratifying because it transcends its sensational narrative and speaks to the heart of what sustains a fulfilling, rich life.
Josh Miller truly evokes the term prodigy, having transformed his experiences as a child-actor growing up in a Hollywood family into an affecting film, and all on his own. He acted in films such as River's Edge and Near Dark and completed the novel version of The Mao Game while an undergraduate at Yale University. Although he had no initial intention to direct the movie version of his quasi-memoir, Miller eventually decided that he "wanted to have the most creative control over it." To that extent, he has also shied away from major distributors in order to control the movie's release. "So many movies about young Hollywood are told in such an apathetic and tragic way. But there are so many people who do make it in this city," he said.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.