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ABOUT A BOY

About The Production (Continued)
Tribeca had started searching for Marcus very early, well aware that it could take some time to find the right boy. "We wanted a child who would be accessible and with whom the audience would fall in love," said Rosenthal. "He also had to be a bit quirky, but with a magical presence."

Marcus is an awkward 12-year-old. Between home and school he is miserable. He is bullied at school because he does not conform. He is very protective of Fiona, his hippie vegetarian mother, who encourages him to be different. Marcus is made unhappier by Fiona's depression and recent attempt at suicide. Will could not be less ideal as a father figure, but Marcus decides to make him one. And as it turns outs, Will is a perfect friend for Marcus, who needs to learn how to be a 12-year-old, and Marcus is perfect for Will, who needs to gain some substance to his life.

Cast from hundreds, Nicholas was everyone's choice to play Marcus. "He is incredibly natural and honest in front of the camera," said Paul Weitz. Both directors acknowledged the risk in choosing Nicholas whose previous experience included a handful of small television roles. But, said Chris, "Every day it became more and more clear that he was the right boy and I just thank my lucky stars that we chose him. He is so natural, so organic, that he cannot play a false moment. Everything is just honest and simple."

"He has an incredible power of concentration and cares about his performance," added Paul.

Grant had not worked, at least to this extent, with a child before and somewhat dreaded the prospect. During the auditions, in which he was very involved, he noticed that the kids lost interest after a take or two. "Even I last for three before I get bored," said the actor, "but Nicholas was different. He is so focused and grown-up about the art. He knows his lines and has immaculate instincts." Grant, who sometimes brings new material into a scene as he plays it, was impressed by his young colleague's ability to adapt. "Nicholas would always go along with me and quite often – rather to my annoyance – top my line."

Concluded Fellner: "Nicholas has done an amazing job".

For Nicholas, the chance to play Marcus was a dream come true. He enjoyed learning about everyone else's roles and revelled in being on set so much that his mother who chaperoned him had to literally drag him away at the end of a day's shoot. Cast and crew were impressed that in spite of long working hours he was always focused and always on time. When the directors announced it was a wrap for Nicholas, he cried because he was so upset the experience had come to an end. It took a PlayStation 2 given to him by the filmmakers for a job enormously well done to stop the tears.

Nicholas was thrilled to work with Grant. "He helped me a lot by giving me ideas and teaching me something new every day. At first, I think I was quite rigid but he has made me more natural." The young actor also gave high marks to the Weitzes: "Working with two directors is better than one because they have double the number of ideas."

With the males in place, it was time to turn attention to the ladies. For the role of Fiona, it was important to have an actress who would bring humor to what is essentially a sad character.

"Toni Collette is really, really funny," said Paul Weitz. "We had all seen Muriel's Wedding, in which she plays such a poignant character, but where she is also hilarious. It's hard to find an actress who is so honest with her emotions – and with great comic timing."

Collette savored the chance to play Fiona. "The role is complex and the story moves me," she said. "It takes the knowledge and sheer guts of this kid to make two people who are so set in their ways lean a l

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