About The Production
Steven Rogers' original screenplay was set in Arkansas, but Obst
and Bullock, both of whom enjoy strong Texas ties, decided to
film HOPE FLOATS in the Lone Star State. The majority of filming
took place in Smithville, a small town about an hour outside of
Bullock explains the reason for choosing Texas as
the production's home: "I wanted to find a place where the
people had a sense of pride and honesty about who they were. Texans
have a great sense of humor about life that I haven't quite figured
out, but which I nonetheless find very appealing. There is a special
atmosphere that is almost palpable and an energy that says 'Home'.
I wanted that feeling in the film. It's certainly not something
that could ever be created in a studio."
Location scouting was an almost eerie experience,
for Smithville was laid out just as it read in the script. "It
was remarkable how we found the various locales " a haunted
house, retirement home, school and bar " just as they had
been written," says Obst. "It was almost as though we
had been there before."
The central location was Birdee's family home. Her father had
been a taxidermist and the character's house subsequently was
filled with stuffed animals, a constant embarrassment to Birdee
during her youth. "I think Ramona could only accept the stuffed
animals in the house by making them fanciful or unique, so she
dressed them in ways that made them acceptable to her," explains
production designer Larry Fulton, referencing the bizarre collection
of animals seen adorned in various costumes.
Not only did Smithville serve as a spiritual haven
from the stresses and strains of the modern world, it also seemed
to be an oasis of calm during some turbulent Texas weather. When
filming began in early May amid some of the worst storms in recent
history, Smithville somehow remained relatively unscathed. In
fact, the filmmakers were shocked to find, when returning to Austin
after a trouble-free day of filming, that the city and some adjacent
towns had been hit by some of the worst storms ever: the town
of Jarryl was obliterated by a devastating tornado, electricity
was out, roads flooded and television stations were off the air.
Everyone on the film was deeply disturbed by the
tragedy. Led by Bullock, they collected money and provisions to
help the survivors.
The bad weather continued throughout May and June,
with abnormally high rainfall and cool temperatures. Flooding
became a serious problem, and there were many days where the crew
drove through blinding rain and winds only to find the sun shining
when they arrived at the location.
The uncertain weather was evident during a key sequence in which
Birdee and Justin kicked up their heels at a traditional dance
out in the beautiful Texas hill country. To prepare for the scene,
both Bullock and Connick had spent many hours learning the two-step
with choreographer Patsy Swayze. Connick, for one, really needed
the practice. "I had lied to everyone when I did the audition,"
he jokes "and told them I was one of the founders for the
two-stepping association of America, so I could get this gig.
In reality, I had never done it before in my life. So I was pretty
awful when I started the film, but I practiced a lot at different
bars and dance halls around town " and of course working
with Patsy was sensational."
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