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NURSE BETTY

About The Production

"Two things struck me immediately upon reading Nurse Betty: one, this script is incredibly fun and clever, and two, no one will ever expect me to direct it. So, I instantly jumped at the chance," notes director Neil LaBute.

Producer Gail Mutrux also responded instantly to the material: "It was truly original and very witty. The unexpectedness of Betty's journey, both literally and psychologically, seemed so real and poignant that I knew it would make a memorable film."

Nurse Betty originated with writers John C. Richards and James Flamberg, who gave their screenplay to Mutrux. She in turn set it up with Steve Golin at Propaganda Films. Golin, too, responded to the script's qualities: "It reminded me of movies I had really admired -- 'Being There,' 'To Die For.' I thought it would be fun to embark on a project where the tone was different than most of the movies that are getting made."

The producers gave the script to Neil LaBute, who was completing post-production on "Your Friends & Neighbors" for Propaganda Films. With Nurse Betty, his third film as director, this accomplished screenwriter and playwright marks several firsts. "This is the first film I've directed that I haven't written myself. I think that most writers find that they're actually better editors than they are writers," comments LaBute. "Because I hadn't birthed the story, I was able to look at it a little more clear-headedly and say, this is what I think you're accomplishing or not accomplishing."

LaBute remained attentive to the screenwriters' rights. "I've been on that other side -- and continue to be on that other side," he notes. "Mindful of that, I made sure that we were not trying to take it away from John and Jim.. .you know, not just say, 'Loved your script, see you at the premiere!"'

Flamberg says, "As a playwright and screenwriter, Neil has a sublime understanding of story and character. He was invaluable in suggesting nuances and touches that really enhanced the script and the film.

Unlike his previous films, which were low-budget intimate tales set in unnamed major cities, Nurse Betty is a larger-scaled story set in specific locales. For the first time in a LaBute film, characters break out of their natural (confining) environments, both physically and psychologically.

The director found it all added up to "a year of bold experimentation for me." Reflecting on the progression of his films as director, LaBute comments: "For my first film, I picked from among my scripts the one that I knew I was most capable of pulling off with the amount of money that I had. The jump between the first and second movie was that I felt that, with more money, I had more time to devote to directing, rather than wearing so many hats because I couldn't afford to pay anyone. I felt that again with Nurse Betty."

For the title role, LaBute knew that he needed an actress who would convey "genuine, imbued-in- the-bone goodness. That was very important for the journey that she makes in the story -- and for the audience to say, 'I want to go with her.' Renee Zellweger has all of that, in spades. She was ideal for the part." LaBu

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