`Entertainment Weekly` Magazine, April 23, 1993

When Mary Stuart Masterson is first seen in `Benny & Joon,` she is in full 
splatter, painting in a glass-enclosed, light-filled studio overlooking the 
Spokane River. For her character, the mentally ill Joon, painting is 
integral -- an essential means of expressing herself. For the actress, the 
paintings also had special meaning: She helped create them.

Initially, Spokane-based artist Harold Balazs was brought in to provide the 
canvases. But, as production designer Neil Spisak explains, "Balazs' style 
was more accomplished and more sophisticated" than what was needed. So 
Spisak, along with assistant art director Troy Sizemore, agreed on an 
unusual approach: They scoured thrift stores for old paintings and recycled 
them by having Masterson and scenic artists paint over them to create new 

"It was a long process," says Spisak, who originally envisioned the 
paintings in the styles of abstract artists such as Helen Frankenthaler 
(airy and colorful) and Jackson Pollock (high energy). But when Masterson 
was given paint and brushed and encouraged to play around with them, things 
changed. She and director Jeremiah Chechik decided Joon's art should be 
more representational, "more figurative," says Spisak, "because there is 
such a passive quality to her character -- she's in her own world where the 
paintings and the studio are safe," and she can express herself freely. 
Both Masterson's originals and recycled canvases were used in the film.

Masterson makes no claims to being a great painter -- she cites `Sesame 
Street` as her main inspiration -- but adds, "I never had the nerve to 
paint before. It definitely became a great outlet." Fans can forget about 
owning any of the featured art -- most of the paintings were destroyed in a 
fire sequence that didn't make it into the final cut of the film. Besides, 
says Masterson, "I don't think anyone would want a Mary Stuart Masterson 
original hanging anywhere other than in their bathroom."