GIRL MOST LIKELY
About the Production
As soon as producers Celine Rattray and Trudie Styler formed Maven Pictures in May 2011, they began scouring Hollywood for scripts that fit the vision they had developed for their new production company. Styler, producer of the eerie sci-fi fable Moon, directed by BAFTA Award winner Duncan Jones, and Rattray, producer of the Academy Award -nominated drama, The Kids Are All Right, wanted to focus on making female-driven films, with women directors and actors taking center stage.
"We decided to join forces and combine skills to form a new company," says Styler. "Our goal is to make three pictures in the next two years. Girl Most Likely is the first out of the gate."
The enormous success of the hit comedy Bridesmaids caught the attention of many producers, including Rattray and Styler, who were more than eager to work with the movie's breakout star, Kristen Wiig. When they contacted her agent, they learned she was committed to producing and starring in an original comedy by Michelle Morgan.
"Kristen was one of the people we most wanted to work with," says Rattray. "Then we discovered she was already really interested in a script that was fun, smart and immensely entertaining. We reached out right away."
"I don't know too many people who don't love Kristen Wiig," says Styler. "We're mega fans. We adored her on 'SNL,' as well as in Bridesmaids. When I read the script, I knew it had lots of appeal. Imogene, the main character, is trying to find herself amidst these glamorous Upper East Side partygoers, but they are not particularly great friends. She's an outsider from New Jersey, which embarrasses her, and when she is set adrift by circumstances, she has to come to terms with who she really is."
The producers were also delighted to discover Morgan, a young writer who already had one film to her credit: Middle of Nowhere, a mother-daughter comedy starring Susan Sarandon. Morgan was inspired to create Girl Most Likely by her own living situation while making a transition from actress to writer.
"To help with finances, I moved back in with my mother," she remembers. "It was so generous of her to allow me to live there, but it was difficult to adjust to being back in my childhood home. We fought all the time. The situation was so miserable, it inspired me to write this."
Out of that painful moment in her life she fashioned a fresh and funny look at familial conflict, as Imogene learns to let go of the trappings she thought defined her in order to embrace herself and her family. "Michelle wrote great dialogue and created truly funny situations," says Rattray. "The main character is in total denial of who she is. She is so ambitious and accomplished, but suddenly she gets sent back to this world she worked so hard to get away from. She is stripped of all the glamour she attained: the apartment, the boyfriend, the prestige. It's touching to watch her learning to love her family again in order to learn to love herself."
By the time the script was finished, Morgan was happily living on her own and Girl Most Likely began to make the rounds. "At the time, Kristen Wiig was best known for "SNL" and a couple lines in Knocked Up," Morgan says. "Her agent contacted me to tell me she liked it and we had lunch together. The script resonated with her for a number of reasons and she very generously came on board, along with producer Alix Madigan of Anonymous Content."
Wiig responded to the script's heart and humor and quickly agreed to star and produce. "Michelle is extremely talented," says the actress. "She wrote a beautiful, funny, unique script. And when we met, we instantly clicked. We started talking about directors almost immediately."
Producer Madigan recommended talking to the directing team of Bob Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, who had previously helmed American Splendor and The Nanny Diaries. "When we spoke with them over the phone about the script, it was a no-brainer," says Morgan. "They are great collaborators."
Wiig agreed wholeheartedly. "We saw the film the same way from the start," she says. "I was already a fan of American Splendor. They did just as amazing a job with this film, not to mention that they're also just fun people to hang around with."
Morgan, Wiig, Berman and Pulcini worked on the script for several years before production began. "Development was always ongoing," says Morgan. "Kristen is a very talented writer and she had ideas that we would incorporate. Shari and Bob had their own ideas. It's very different from the script that I originally wrote. The great thing about moviemaking is the collaboration, especially if you love the people you are collaborating with."
Berman says the script made the seasoned co-directors laugh out loud, something they say rarely happens. "We thought Imogene was such a great character, especially with Kristen in the role. We were already huge fans, so this was a great opportunity to work with someone we admire."
The director was also excited by Maven Pictures' female-centric mandate. "The script has great, unconventional female characters in both Imogene and Zelda, her mother," she notes. "And as a woman, I appreciated the unusual experience of working with producers and writers who are all women."
Pulcini was drawn to Morgan's unique comic voice, which lends the film a quirky and personal style. "Plus, it's always a pleasure to have an actor attached that you imagine in the role when you first read the script. Kristen was perfect for this."
Working with a duo of directors was a first for everyone involved with Girl Most Likely. "I admit I was a little bit nervous about how it would work," says Rattray. "Shari and Bob write together, they direct together and they have been married for years. They are fantastic collaborators. Usually you have one creative leader, but they divide and conquer. Bob takes care of the technical side and works primarily with the crew and the camera department. Shari is a wonderful nurturing mother figure to everyone on the set, and tends to work more with the actors."
A directing team is unusual, and a husband and wife directing team is even more so, according to Styler. "Shari and Bob are a remarkable couple. They seem to finish each other's sentences. Their films have an original feel that sets them apart. And they care about the actors' experience on the set. Before I was a producer, I was an actor and I like actor-centric directors."
After years of working together, Pulcini and Berman have developed an almost uncanny creative connection. "They really understand each other's tastes and preferences," says Rattray. "At the end of a take, they look at each other, then Bob rushes to the camera to give notes, and Shari rushes to the actors to give notes. They were always on the same page. It ended up being a very productive way to work."
With a winning script, an outstanding cast and a pair of creative leaders at the ready, the producers were able to move quickly to make the film a reality. "Kristen had a short window of time before she had to get back to 'SNL,'" says Rattray. "It was one of those crazy situations where we had to start preproduction before the deals were firmly in place either for Kristen, the filmmakers or the writer. We just kind of winged it."
"The schedule was the biggest challenge," agrees Pulcini. "Kristen had a tiny window before 'SNL' started. Bridesmaids had just been released. Shari and I were still mixing the movie we had just finished. It was exhilarating too, because the schedule was so tight and it wasn't made for a lot of money. We couldn't spend a lot of time talking about things, we just had to do them."
Imogene's longing for acceptance -- and eventual self-acceptance -- is at the heart of Girl Most Likely's off-beat humor and poignancy, says Berman. "Ultimately it's a story about feeling comfortable in your own skin. Imogene starts out being something she isn't and comes to find a way to be happy with who she is. That's a pretty universal story."
"I hope everyone has a ball watching it," adds Rattray. "It's a multigenerational film that people can watch together, a great movie to see with parents and grandparents. There's a lovely message about learning to embrace your history and your loved ones."
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