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Encyclopedia > Empire Falls

Empire Falls is a 2001 novel written by Richard Russo set in a fictional small town in Maine. It was later made into a two part mini-series that aired on HBO in 2005, starring Helen Hunt and Ed Harris, produced by Marc E. Platt. At the author's suggestion, much of it was filmed in Skowhegan and Waterville, Maine. Russo won the Pulitzer Prize for this work, and the television adaptation won a Golden Globe for Best Mini-Series in 2006. 2001: A Space Odyssey. ... Richard Russo (born July 15, 1949, in Johnstown, New York and raised in nearby Gloversville, New York) is an American novelist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. ... Official language(s) None Capital Augusta Largest city Portland Area  - Total   - Width   - Length    - % water  - Latitude  - Longitude Ranked 39th 33,414 sq mi  86,542 km² 190 miles  305 km 320 miles  515 km 13. ... HBO (Home Box Office) is a premium cable television network with headquarters in New York City. ... Helen Hunt at the premier of Cast Away Helen Elizabeth Hunt (born June 15, 1963) is an Emmy and Academy Award-winning American actress. ... Ed Harris Edward Allen Ed Harris (born November 28, 1950) is an American actor. ... Marc E. Platt, sometimes credited as Marc Platt, is an American film producer. ... Skowhegan is a town located in Somerset County, Maine. ... Waterville is a city located in Kennebec County, Maine. ... The gold medal awarded for Public Service in Journalism The Pulitzer Prize is an American award regarded as the highest honor in print journalism, literary achievements, and musical compositions. ... The Golden Globe Awards are American awards for motion pictures and television programs, given out each year during a formal dinner. ... This is a list of television-related events in 2006. ...


Set in the small, decaying, and nearly bankrupt town of Empire Falls, Maine, this is the story of Miles Roby (Ed Harris), the unassuming manager of the Empire Grill, who has spent his entire life in the town. He has a newly thin ex-wife, Janine (Helen Hunt), who has experienced a serious change of attitude as a result of her divorce and weight loss, and who is about to marry Walt Comeau (Dennis Farina), an arrogant gym owner. Miles also has a loving teenage daughter nicknamed "Tick" (Danielle Panabaker) who is dealing with her own issues, such as her struggles with Zack Minty (Trevor Morgan), her relentless ex-boyfriend, and her emotional conflict over her mother's engagement to Walt. In addition, she has a rather complicated friendship with John Voss (Lou Taylor Pucci), an emotionally disturbed boy at her school whose hard-luck story is known all too well around town, and their friendship is further complicated as obnoxious jock Zack and his friends constantly bully John. Official language(s) None Capital Augusta Largest city Portland Area  - Total   - Width   - Length    - % water  - Latitude  - Longitude Ranked 39th 33,414 sq mi  86,542 km² 190 miles  305 km 320 miles  515 km 13. ... Ed Harris Edward Allen Ed Harris (born November 28, 1950) is an American actor. ... Helen Hunt at the premier of Cast Away Helen Elizabeth Hunt (born June 15, 1963) is an Emmy and Academy Award-winning American actress. ... Dennis Farina as Detective Joe Fontana in Law & Order Donaldo Guglielmo Dennis Farina (born February 29, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois) is an Italian-American film and television actor, starring since 2004 as Detective Joe Fontana on NBCs Law & Order. ... Danielle Panabaker Danielle Nicole Panabaker (born September 19, 1987) is an American actress, best known for starring in several films and television programs appealing to a teen audience. ... Trevor Morgan is a fictional character played by Alex Ferns in the British soap EastEnders where he first appeared in December 2000. ... Lou Taylor Pucci in Green Days Jesus of Suburbia music video. ...

Other important people in Miles' life include his grubby ne'er-do-well father (Paul Newman), a rascal who can't resist a handout when it comes his way; his marijuana smoking brother (Aidan Quinn); his good-hearted ex-mother-in-law (Estelle Parsons); the town's wealthiest woman (Joanne Woodward), a condescending matron who looms over the town and who owns the Empire Grill, and her daughter (Kate Burton), who has loved Miles for many years; an attractive waitress (Theresa Russell); and a dimwitted acquaintance (William Fichtner). Miles is plagued by flashbacks of his family when he was a child, including a mysterious affair between his mother (Robin Wright Penn) and a suitor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the details of which might answer some questions Miles has had his entire life. vv Paul Leonard Newman (born January 26, 1925) is an Academy Award-winning American actor and film director. ... Aidan Quinn (born March 8, 1959 Rockford, Illinois, USA) is an Irish-American actor. ... Estelle Margaret Parsons (born November 20, 1927 in Marblehead, Massachusetts) is an Academy Award-winning American theater, film and television actress of Jewish descent. ... Joanne Woodward Joanne Gignilliat Trimmier Woodward (born February 27, 1930) is an Academy Award-winning American actress. ... Kate Burton (born on 10 September 1957 in Geneva, Switzerland) is an American actress. ... Russell in 2005 interview for the Criterion Collection DVD Bad Timing Theresa Russell (born Theresa Paup on 20 March 1957 in San Diego, California) is an American actress. ... William Fichtner (born November 27, 1956 in East Meadow, New York) is an American actor. ... Robin Wright Penn Robin Virginia Wright Penn (born April 8, 1966) is an American film actress who first became famous on television, playing Kelly Capwell on the soap opera Santa Barbara. ... Philip Seymour Hoffman Philip Seymour Hoffman (born July 23, 1967) is an Academy Award-winning American actor. ...

Cast of Characters

  • Miles Roby (Ed Harris)-The middle aged central character of the story. Miles is the seemingly content manager of the Empire Grill in Empire Falls, Maine and is divorced with one teenaged daughter. A blue collar gentleman with his principles intact, he lives in an apartment over the restaurant he has managed ever since he dropped out of college to look after his dying mother.
  • Janine Roby (Helen Hunt)-Miles' ex-wife who is newly fit and trim. Along with her weight loss and her divorce has come a change of attitude that has negatively affected her relationship with her daughter. Despite her boisterous attitude, underneath is a very insecure woman whose life isn't as perfect as she wants it to be. She got the house while Miles ended up in the apartment above the diner, and she also has custody of their daughter. Janine resents the close relationship that exists between father and daughter. As the story progresses, Janine finds things going from bad to worse for her life.
  • Christina "Tick" Roby (Danielle Panabaker)-Miles' daughter. She enjoys exceptionally deep, loving relationships with both her father and her grandfather. Tick is smart, friendly, and more sympathetic than most of her classmates. Her mother's engagement has a negative impact on her.
  • Max Roby (Paul Newman)-Miles' disheveled elderly father. Constantly defiant of those around him, Max has no problem saying what he thinks of people, even directly to their faces. He is happy to accept any "handout" (or to take things that he wants) even when it means stealing money from the church. A rascal from an early age, Max has a lifelong affinity for Key West, Florida, where he attempts to visit as often as he can.
  • Charlie Mayne (Philip Seymour Hoffman)-A friendly, mysterious suitor to Miles' mother and a symbolic figure in Miles' life. Charlie's involvement in his life is pivotal with regard to the reason Miles has lived in Empire Falls his entire life.
  • Grace Roby (Robin Wright Penn)-Miles' late mother who considers her son the jewel of her eye. Her affair with Charlie plays a crucial role in Miles' life.
  • Francine Whiting (Joanne Woodward)-Miles' cold, abrasive boss and the town's wealthiest citizen. Well known by citizens as a powerful force, the manipulative Francine holds puppet strings over the town, not to mention Miles. Her condescending manner and behavior is a thin veil for a cunning woman with ulterior motives.
  • David Roby (Aidan Quinn)-Miles' younger brother. A former alcoholic, reformed marijuana plant grower, and car crash survivor, David is Miles' co-worker at the Empire Grill. He has a talent for cooking exotic food, which brings a considerable amount of business to the diner. He often serves as a champion to his brother and encourages him to take risks and be aggressive, even when it means talking to him bluntly. He does this because of a promise he made to their late mother when she instructed him to watch after Miles.
  • Walt Comeau (Dennis Farina)-Janine's fiance and the proud owner of a fitness club. Walt is extroverted and arrogant, and lives with Janine in Miles' old house. Walt makes daily appearances at the restaurant to challenge Miles to an arm wrestling match. He has some skeletons in his closet, hidden (he hopes) from Janine. David strongly dislikes him because of all that the divorce from Janine has cost Miles.
  • John Voss (Lou Taylor Pucci)-Tick's awkward, introverted classmate. His history as a survivor of child abuse and neglect has created a dangerous violent streak in him. No one but Tick pays enough attention to him until it's too late.
  • Cindy Whiting(Kate Burton)-Francine's daughter. Despite being permanently disabled by a car accident, she is a sweet woman with high spirits. She has a long-standing attraction to Miles; he is aware of it and is sympathetic but does not feel the same way about her. She is one of the few people who really understands Miles.
  • Jimmy Minty (William Fichtner)-A dull-witted and unscrupulous police officer and former classmate of Miles. He has an antagonistic relationship with Miles and is not well liked by most of the town. Francine keeps him in her pocket by providing perks such as a red sports car.
  • Zack Minty (Trevor Morgan)-Son of Jimmy Minty, Tick's antagonistic ex-boyfriend, and an obnoxious and cruel classmate in school. He gets away with bad behavior by hiding behind his father's badge. He is the stereotypical villainous high school jock: meanspirited, bullying and cocky. He loves tormenting John and is indirectly responsible for making John reach his breaking point.
  • Bea (Estelle Parsons)-Janine's mother and ex-mother-in-law to Miles. Bea frequently takes Miles' side rather than Janine's, and often makes rather pointed remarks about Janine's behavior. She owns a local bar and pool hall that attracts a steady stream of regulars.
  • Charlene (Theresa Russell)-The nice and attractive waitress at the Empire Grill. She is aware that Miles is attracted to her, and she's kind to him, but she's dating David.
  • Bill Daws (Stephen Mendillo)-The compassionate chief of police and good friend to Miles. He is dying of cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy which takes a heavy toll on his health. He is overall a good man who has a good deal of integrity.
  • Horace (Jeffrey DeMunn)-A local reporter and a regular patron at the Empire Grill. He is an intellectual with a heavy Maine accent and has intimate knowledge of what goes on around town. He has a prominent birth mark on his forehead and Max often refers to it. Horace is a good friend to Miles and David and a frequent gin opponent to Walt.
  • Father Mark (Adam LeFevre)-A friendly priest who works at a decrepit church in Empire Falls. He has hired Miles to paint the church but Miles is having a hard time getting it done, largely due to his fear of heights.
  • Father Tom (Nesbitt Blaisdell)-An elderly priest who is becoming senile. He sometimes says nasty things to people and often behaves erratically (for example, at one point he helps Max steal money from the church), but is overall a good person.
  • Otto Mayer (Larry Pine)-Principal of the Empire Falls high school. He is an honorable school official who does the right thing, including watching out for students like John and Tick. He does not hesitate to discipline Zack for making trouble regardless of his father's position in the town. He plays a pivotal role in dealing with John when he "snaps". (Pine also serves as narrator for the film.)
  • Candace (Delia Robertson)-Tick's classmate and best friend. She finds herself involved when John reaches his breaking point.
  • Justin (Tony Takacs)-Zack's overweight best friend, who has a penchant for junk food. Although he at first participates with Zack in taunting John, even he draws limits concerning right and wrong. Unfortunately, he too is involved in John's revenge.

Preceded by:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
by Michael Chabon
(2001 winner)
Pulitzer Prize Winners for Fiction Succeeded by:
by Jeffrey Eugenides
(2003 winner)

  Results from FactBites:
Review | Empire Falls by Richard Russo (807 words)
The plots and subplots in Empire Falls are as numerous as the secondary characters, though all of these subplots hinge on a single theme: the generational bloodsucking of the Whitings and the subsequent repercussions on a seemingly doomed New England town.
Empire Falls is a stunning, tragicomic portrait of the lives contained there.
Empire Falls is a perfectly rendered portrait of small town, blue collar life.
Empire Falls - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1466 words)
Empire Falls is a 2001 novel written by Richard Russo set in a fictional small town in Maine.
Empire Falls was the subject of a song by the same title by Chris Thile on his 2004 solo release Deceiver.
Set in the small, decaying, and nearly bankrupt town of Empire Falls, Maine, this is the story of Miles Roby (Ed Harris), the unassuming manager of the Empire Grill, who has spent his entire life in the town.
  More results at FactBites »



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