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Touched By Good Fortune
HOPE FLOATS was touched by good fortune from the moment Steven Rogers' original screenplay landed on the desk of producer Lynda Obst

HOPE FLOATS was touched by good fortune from the moment Steven Rogers' original screenplay landed on the desk of producer Lynda Obst. "I read the script and immediately adored it," she says. "It made me laugh and cry, and by the time I had finished, I knew I had to make it."

   Coincidentally, Sandra Bullock had also read the script and shared Obst's enthusiasm. "The story reminded me of why I went to New York to study acting," Bullock remembers, "and what I aspired to do as a performer. It really moved me. I felt that HOPE FLOATS was a special story which tells us that although life may be really difficult at times, there can be a light at the end of the tunnel to which we can aim."

Bullock's strong support for the screenplay was the catalyst Obst needed to move the project into production. "Films like HOPE FLOATS are normally hard to get off the ground," Obst points out. "There aren't any car crashes, explosions or special effects. HOPE FLOATS is a piece about human emotion, love, family relations and the healing power of a family. It's also about starting over again and what happens when the perfect picture you thought defined your life crumbles before your eyes. In the end, we learn that even the most emotionally-troubling events can help us find our destiny."

The role of the troubled and uncertain Birdee is played by Sandra Bullock. The role represented a significant departure from Bullock's previous roles. The actress/producer realized that only a director with extensive acting experience would be able to help her realize Birdee's turmoil, complexity and inner strength. Forest Whitaker, who had last guided a gifted cast in the box-office hit "Waiting to Exhale," and who has also received critical attention for his numerous acting stints, seemed the perfect choice. "Forest knows what's inside an actor even when they don't and gives them the confidence to go there," says Bullock. "We were totally in tune." Whitaker's previous directorial effort also made a strong impact. Says Obst, "We were very impressed by the great performances he got out of the women in Waiting to Exhale, and realized he was the perfect choice for our movie."

Finding the right actors to bring Hope Floats to life was a major challenge, so the filmmakers were thrilled when Gena Rowlands agreed to play the role of Birdee's mother, Ramona. "Gena has a sense of peace to her that comes from experience," says Bullock. "I learned a lot from her about dignity, honor and respect."

Finding the perfect 'Justin', Birdee's ardent suitor, was equally daunting, but in a different way. While Rowlands had stepped in almost immediately to play Ramona, the filmmakers had to screen test several actors before making a surprising choice to play Justin " actor/musician Harry Connick, Jr. "I'm just wild about Harry," Obst says laughing. "His southern charm, warmth and good looks haven't ever been used properly in a romantic lead prior to this. He and Sandra make a perfect movie couple."

   In addition to working opposite such a stellar and dedicated company, Connick was pleased to be playing a character very different from himself. "I am very impulsive and very much an extrovert," Connick explains. "Justin is not like that at all. There are a lot of decisions he makes that I wouldn't make. If I were in love, I'd send flowers " re

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