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Jolie news sparks interest in film about breast cancer gene researcher


Helen Hunt stars as Mary-Clare King, a geneticist who spent years researching the breast-cancer gene, in the film "Decoding Annie Parker."

Angelina Jolie's revelation in Tuesday's New York Times that she had a preventive double mastectomy stirred many to think about something they may be mostly unfamiliar with: The existence of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that reveal an increased risk of breast cancer.

But a group of actors and filmmakers were already immersed in that realm. Oscar-winning actress Helen Hunt stars in "Decoding Annie Parker," an upcoming film about the discovery of BRCA1. 

Hunt plays geneticist Mary-Claire King, who spent years researching families with histories of cancer and identified BRCA1 in 1990.

The film's trailer shows that it wasn't an easy road for King. In its opening scene, King is asked, "You believe there may be a genetic link to some breast cancers?"

"I do," she says.

"Even though virtually no one else believes this to be true?"

"That's correct," King responds.

The film tells not only King's story, but that of Annie Parker (played by Samantha Morton) who lost her mother and sister to cancer before being diagnosed herself at age 29.

"Your family did have a bit of bad luck, but there are many complex factors--" a doctor in the film tells Parker.

"It's not bad luck," she responds from her hospital bed.

The film's topic may make it a hard sell for some when other screens are showing light entertainment such as "Iron Man 3" and "Fast and Furious 6," but the filmmakers knew that going in.

"We knew there were going to be serious obstacles to getting people to watch (the film)," director Steven Bernstein said at the Dallas International Film Festival. "People's first reaction would be 'Oh, it's a film about cancer, I don't want to see it.' So we had to get the word out the film was about something bigger than that -- although cancer's a very, very big thing indeed -- but it's something about the human condition that we were trying to express. Something that people could actually come and see and feel uplifted by rather than depressed by."

"Decoding Annie Parker" has been playing at film festivals around the nation and will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in France this month, with a general release expected in the fall. Aaron Paul, Rashida Jones, Bradley Whitford and Maggie Grace also star in the movie.