A filmmaker whose humanistic consideration toward the inner-workings of his sophisticated characters found him procuring both a well-established film star and one of Hollywood's hottest up-and-comers for his very first feature film, writer/director Patrick Stettner made a notable impression on critics and arthouse audiences alike with the dialogue-driven Sundance Film Festival favorite The Business of Strangers. A complex tale of two businesswomen who plot revenge against an assumed rapist while stuck at an airport hotel over the course of 24 hours, The Business of Strangers not only earned the recent Columbia Film School graduate a Grand Jury Prize nomination at the 2001 Sundance proceedings, but also earned star Stockard Channing an AFI nomination for Best Female Actress and helped to prove that emerging actress Julia Stiles had much more to offer to the world of film than just another pretty face. However, Stettner's luck didn't start with the production of his first feature.
It was during preparation for his student short Flux at Columbia University that Stettner had the good fortune of casting actress Allison Janney before her breakout performances in Big Night and The West Wing made her a hot commodity in Hollywood, and when the award-winning film made the festival rounds, thanks in part to the impressive performance of its female lead, it seemed that the filmmaker's career had successfully launched even before his graduation. Though it would be a good five years before Stettner's feature debut would see the light of the projector bulb, his time was well spent as he deliberately perfected the dialogue and characterization of The Business of Strangers. Inspired by the director's interaction with high-powered businesswomen while working at various advertising agencies and law firms during his graduate-school years, The Business of Strangers needed an experienced and self-assured female lead to truly be effective. When Stettner sent the script to the manager and agent of actress Stockard Channing, the subsequent interest expressed by the actress assured the emerging director that he had found just the right woman for the part. Fortunately for Stettner, both Channing and Stiles were being represented by ICM at the time, and the script quickly made its way into the hands of the eager young actress.
Equally deliberate in the preparation for his sophomore effort as a director, Stettner next chose to collaborate with author Armistead Maupin and screenwriter Terry Anderson for an adaptation of Maupin's controversial novel The Night Listener. When rumors of the adaptation began to float through the Hollywood ranks and the finished script eventually landed in the hands of popular comic-turned-actor Robin Williams, the material proved so powerful that Williams eventually agreed to a dramatically reduced salary to essay the role of a homosexual talk-radio host who is drawn into a dark mystery concerning abused children, AIDS, and obsessive fans.