Proof of Life
By David Landau
Published Oct 1, 2008 8:10 AM
Copyright ©Photo Courtesy of Lifetime Television.
Dr. Dennis "Denny" Slamon, director of clinical/translational research at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, developed the breast cancer drug Herceptin that has saved thousands of women's lives. Harry Connick Jr. is the actor and jazzman who's made thousands of women swoon. This month, they'll put both of those considerable talents to work on cable television.
Lifetime is airing Living Proof, a movie version of Slamon's heroic struggles to find funding and his battles with the Food and Drug Administration to develop Herceptin. The lifesaving drug targets a specific, aggressive type of breast cancer that affects about 25 percent of sufferers, 250,000 women worldwide.
Connick (P.S. I Love You, Independence Day) portrays Slamon alongside a cast of well-known actresses, including Amanda Bynes and Swoosie Kurtz. The movie is executive-produced by Renée Zellweger (Bridget Jones's Diary, Cold Mountain, Jerry Maguire), whose publicist is one of the many women saved by Herceptin.
The film tells the story of how, after the sponsoring drug company withdraws its money from the project, Slamon has to act fast to raise funds for the trials needed for approval. The longer it takes, the more lives will be lost, including those of women Slamon is close to. "It's a story that people may be interested in," says Slamon, "but the real heroes of this story are all the women who enrolled in the clinical studies without knowing whether or not this drug would help them. They deserve all the credit."
Although the story (which took writer Vivienne Radkoff M.F.A. '87 seven years to complete) takes place at UCLA, the movie was filmed in Louisiana, the actor's home state. Says Connick: "It's expensive to film in Los Angeles, and my being from New Orleans, it's a chance to help the city get back on its feet a little bit by employing a lot of the local people. So it looks like it takes place in California, but, like many movies, it's shot outside [the state]."