Across Egypt (1999)
By Anne Waisanen
The title comes from the old-fashioned
expression, "I could no more do [something impossible] than I could walk
across Egypt." The film, set in the Southern United States, is a character
driven drama. It tells the story of Mattie Rigsbee (Ellen Burstyn), an old lady
with deep-rooted Christian values, whose grown children--a stodgy son (Judge
Reinhold) and cold daughter (Gail O'Grady)--have left her lacking for
companionship. That need is filled when she makes the acquaintance of the
town's seedy dogcatcher, Lamar (Mark Hamill) when he comes to her home to
collect a stray dog. Through him she makes the acquaintance of his orphaned
nephew Wesley (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), a foul-mouthed delinquent doing time
for car theft. In the unloved teen, Mattie sees the chance to practice her
Christian ideals of helping "the lesser of these thy brethren."
parents up and left their bastard child after he was born so he grew up in an
orphanage. Shortly after, he turned to a life of crime and ended up in the
correctional facility where he now lives. The warden has said Wesley could
leave if only someone would agree to take care of him. Unfortunately, nobody is
willing to take on the responsibility.
sees beyond Wesley's outward bad guy image, finding some good buried deep in
the boy, opening her life to a boy in need of some affection. From Wesley's
perspective, he is desperate to get out of the correctional facility and sees
Mattie as a soft target. After escaping from confinement, Mattie lets him stay
in her home, under the impression he has been given leave for good behavior.
However, as the authorities close in, Wesley's time grows short as he discovers
the first person in his life to ever genuinely love him.
Across Egypt was directed by four-time Emmy winner
Arthur Allan Seidelman. The film is an adaptation of a Clyde Edgerton
novel by screenwriter Paul Tamasy.
cast includes Ellen Burstyn (as Mattie) who won the Academy Award for Alice
Doesn't Live here Anymore; Jonathan Taylor Thomas (as Wesley) who starred
eight seasons on Home Improvement; Mark Hamill (as Lamar) who starred in
Star Wars; Kevin Pollak (as Robert) who was seen in Grumpier Old Men,
and Unusual Suspects; Gail O'Grady (as Elaine) known for her Emmy
nominated role in NYPD Blue; Gwen Verdon (as Alora) who starred in Damn
Yankees and Marvin's Room; Harv Presnell (as Finner) whose latest
film was Saving Private Ryan; Barbara Rush (as Pearl) who has starred in
numerous films; and Patrick David (as Johnny) who portrayed Greg Louganis in a
made-for-TV movie. Several local actors were used in the filming including Tim
rural, moss-draped locations were all found in and around the city of Orlando,
including Clermont, St Cloud and Windermere.