Multiple story ideas and acting styles converge in the schmaltzy fantasy-romance Winter's Tale—not to be confused with Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale or Jennifer Lawrence's Winter's Bone. In 1916 New York, skilled thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) has his heart stolen by Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a virginal beauty stricken with consumption. These two lovers dance, drink, talk of destiny, and stroll through winterscapes resembling Thomas Kinkade paintings. Then Beverly dies mere moments after Peter deflowers her. (Hey, go out with a bang!) Peter tries to save his true love and even travels across time, all while being hunted by evil Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Before falling for this Tale, get it on with our five hot facts:
1. Star-Crossed Love: The film is based on Mark Helprin's acclaimed novel and marks the directorial debut of Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), who also penned the script. Goldsman first read and fell in love with Helprin's book in the '80s and spent years thinking about how he'd adapt the lengthy tome for the big screen. He probably should have taken a tip from Martin Scorsese, who was reportedly attached to direct a version in the mid '80s before abandoning the project.
2. Raising Hell: Russell Crowe growls and scowls as scar-faced Pearly, a demon who pursues Peter across the centuries—a satanic Javert, if you will (though Crowe mercifully doesn't sing here). Goldsman wrote the Pearly role for Crowe, with whom he'd previously collaborated on A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man. And guess who cameos as Pearly's boss, Lucifer—Will Smith. Yep, it's the Fresh Prince of Darkness, and Smith acts as if he's in a completely different movie.
3. Several Strong Players: Goldsman rounds out his supporting cast with impressive actors, including William Hurt as Beverly's wealthy and wary father, Isaac Penn. Jennifer Connelly, a close friend of Goldsman for over a decade, plays Virginia Gamely, a present-day woman who gamely helps Peter shake his amnesia. Also watch for Matt Bomer in the small role of Peter's dad—and legendary actress Eva Marie Saint (North by Northwest, On the Waterfront).
4. From Victorian to Modern: Filmmakers were tasked with capturing New York in three different eras—1895, 1916 and 2014. Fortunately, the five boroughs of the Big Apple provided most of the places they needed, since certain neighborhoods (like Red Hook in Brooklyn) still have streets paved with cobblestones and buildings that date back 100 years. The production faced major delays when—after only two days of shooting—Hurricane Sandy struck and flooded many of their locations.
5. A Flying Horse, Of Course, Of Course: One of Peter's Guardian Angels is a white horse named Athansor, who shows up at the most opportune times to carry and even fly Peter out of harm's way. (Remember the horse "Miracle" in Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I? Kinda like that). The production trained four Andalusian horses to play Athansor alongside Farrell and Crowe. For trickier, CGI-enhanced scenes, a special effects team worked with the horses to perform in front of a green screen. Worth it? Neigh.