LIFE AS A HOUSE
About The Production
Director Irwin Winkler had long dreamed of making a movie about a man trapped in a typical, fast-moving
21st century life who decides to escape and rebuild a new life lived from the heart. The idea was abstract, but when Winkler bounced it off Oscar-nominated screenwriter Mark Andrus (As Good as it Gets), Andrus replied: "What about making it a story about a man in the midst of a crisis rebuilding a house?"
The metaphor seemed perfect — and very apt in an era when more and more people are tearing down and rebuilding houses on their own. 'Mark really turned the idea of constructing a house into a story about how you construct a meaningful life," says Irwin Winkler. "He put at the center of it a wonderful hero:
a man at the end of his rope who finally finds the courage to boldly go after the one dream he's never had a chance to fulfill and who becomes a catalyst for all kinds of changes in the people around him."
Andrus filled his script not only with authentic details about constructing a house, but with numerous characters who are each looking for something simple and direct and human in a world that often threatens those very things. Each is drawn to George Monroe's quest for their own individual reasons. "There are many love stories in this script," observes Winkler. "It's about a man who gives many people the fearlessness to give up their anger and do something out of love.
When Andrus turned in his screenplay the most astonishing thing about it was its tone: heart-wrenching yet hilarious, life-affirming yet filled with the wonderful absurdities of everyday life, teeming with family dysfunction yet also with wit and
passion. "The script was very smart and funny and sad and surprising all at the same time," comments Winkler. "Mark has a real knack for capturing human behavior at its most interesting, real and complicated. He understands longing and loss but he also understands the very funny ways people behave. The script was filled with humor -- the kind of humor that makes you laugh because it's so true and real."
Winkler knew the script would require an extraordinarily nuanced and ultimately heroic performance from its lead actor and it was clear from the start that Kevin Kline would be George Monroe. According to the director, "Kevin was perfect for the role, because he's someone clearly capable of transformation. He can go from rock-bottom to a guy so full of life it's almost scary. No matter how you feel about the character in the beginning, Kevin makes you fall in love with George Monroe.
Adds producer Rob Cowan: "We knew Kevin could pull off a tough, edgy character that you nevertheless really, really care about."
Kline was drawn to the script because of the story's surprising turns and twists as well as the humaness of its characters. "It's a beautifully written script. George Monroe is trying to make sense of his life and inadvertently becomes a catalyst for others involved in the same struggle," says Kline. "Among other things it's about a man who has lived in fear most of his life and then finds courage.
Kline was also drawn to the relationship George Monroe has with his ex-wife, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, which turns into a very subtle modern romance. "It's a very real relationship," he notes. "They were two fairly damaged people who found each other once and now they're discovering each other again."
To take on the role, Kline found himself literally stripping and sanding wood, as he underwent an intensive crash-course in mortise and tenon construction —
learning everything from how to hack down walls with a sledgehammer, to carpentry, welding and working with dangerous power-tools like the chainsaw. He particularly enjoyed the physicality of the role, but he also became an unabashed fan of the more quiet art of model-making, which he learned from architectural model builder Nick Dorr. "I found the model building ver
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