Producer Deborah Aal first saw the original "Sweet November" in 1969, and was so deeply affected by its emotional impact that the story stayed with her. "Long before I ever thought of the possibility of making movies, it was one of the films I most wanted to see remade," says
Aal. "I knew there was a way of contemporizing the story without losing what was so wonderful about the original. The story is very much about the enduring and abiding strength of the human heart."
Aal screened the film for her husband, producer Erwin Stoff who shared her vision for a remake.
"Besides the emotional impact, there seemed to be a very timeless element to the story," remarks
Stoff, who was concurrently looking for a love story for his client Keanu Reeves, whom he manages. In addition to the challenge of working in a different genre, what also appealed to Keanu was the idea of doing a movie that had absolutely not one blue screen, not one car chase, not one fight sequence," Stoff explains. "This role is simply about relating to another character."
"I like what happens to Sara and Nelson in the piece and the nature of choice it presents," says Reeves. "It's a great part in a good piece and I was glad to be involved."
The producers felt that Reeves embodied all the traits needed to depict Nelson's emotional metamorphosis. "One of Keanu's great qualities is that he is both enigmatic and incredibly vulnerable," Aal says. "And the role of Nelson gives Keanu an opportunity to show a different side of himself onscreen than we have seen before." She adds, laughing, "He plays a great jerk."
"Keanu has a great gift for self-mockery and humor," notes director Pat
O'Connor. "There's a real true emotion in him. He never lies when he's on the screen. With Reeves on board, the filmmakers approached his talented costar from "The
Devil's Advocate," actress Charlize Theron. "The role of Sara requires enormous range, and Charlize has that Carole Lombard quality," Aal says. "I knew she would be able to give us the lightness and the weight necessary to make the sadness in Sara's life believable, to capture the dichotomy in Sara's personality. And she's not afraid to show the non glamorous side of herself"
When Theron read the script she immediately related to the timeless and unconventional elements of the material. "The way these two characters come together really celebrates a lot of old love stories, while still being completely original and new, remarks
Theron. "At the same time, the story focuses on the things we take for granted. It makes you think twice about what you're doing with the certain amount of time you have on this earth. Are you using it the way you should? Enjoying it the way you should? Are you making the most of it? This film will make you think about what life is really all about."
"They're perfect casting," notes costar Jason Isaacs. "Like Nelson and Sara, Keanu and Charlize are two opposites who like and respect each other, but on paper you wouldn't think their relationship could work because they're about as different as two people can get."
"This film is a classic love story." adds producer Steve Reuther. "The casting of Keanu and Charlize brings to it a spirit of timeless romance that can melt your heart."
After Reeves and Theron were cast, the producers sought a director who could give the film a European sensibility to capture the combination of intimacy and the mundane that makes up real life. "Silences in Pat O'Connor's movies speak volumes," says Stoff of the accomplished Irish director. "Often the words in his movies belie the emotions of the characters. He understands sentiment and feeling as opposed to sentimentality. He finds the beauty in truth."
O'Connor read the "Sweet November
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