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ABOUT SCHMIDT

About The Production (Continued)
In addition to returning in Omaha, Nebraska, to shoot his films, Alexander Payne favors familiarity when assembling his creative team. Besides production designer Jane Ann Stewart, there is cinematographer James Glennon, editor Kevin Tent, composer Rolfe Kent, casting directors Lisa Beach and John Jackson, and much of the crew. Observant Payne fans can even spot a few familiar faces in the cast of About Schmidt. Payne feels lucky to have developed a sort of creative family who help realize his vision and distinctive style of filmmaking.

Wendy Chuck, costume designer on both About Schmidt and Election, says, "He likes everything to look as far away from Hollywood as it could possibly be. More than other directors, he likes to use real people in their real clothes."

Along with designer wardrobes, Payne eschews many staples of Hollywood production. Working closely with local casting director John Jackson, Payne casts many parts from local people -- housewives, insurance salesmen, students and other Nebraskans. Comments Payne, "I rather enjoy thinking of all of the professional actors who might clamor to be in a movie with Jack Nicholson, and here in Omaha I get people more or less off the street."

His penchant for realism often takes the glamour out of the glamour business. "To work with Alexander Payne," producer Harry Gittes advises, "you cannot be afraid to really strip yourself of any pretense, of glamour. Most people go out of their way to avoid looking like that, and these actors are signing up for it."

Costume designer Chuck, whose work begins early on in the production process, explains, "Very often I find that I have the first conversation with the actors after they've been cast. I bring the news of how Alexander sees things, how he works. It's ‘check your ego at the door.' You've got to give up any idea of what's beautiful or what's acceptable because that's what it's about when you work with him. And I applaud the actors who are willing to do that."

As Hope Davis explains about her character Jeannie, "She works at the shipping and receiving department for a computer company. She's not someone who has much interest in the world of fashion." More Eddie Bauer than Dolce & Gabbana, Hope says her wardrobe suited her character just fine. "You put on the Hush Puppies and the rhinestone headband and, you know, the character is there. The Hush Puppies alone can really send me into another dimension."

Jack Nicholson's career is a rare example of substance over style. "He simply doesn't care about the way he looks," Roman Polanski once remarked. "With Jack, it's only the results that count." Producer Harry Gittes says that Nicholson has a general philosophy about life's inevitabilities: "It's one of the things I've always really loved about Jack. When he realized, early in his life, that he was going to lose his hair, his response was to show everybody that he was losing his hair. To get it out there in front of everybody, to accent it, to get it over with."

"It's simply that the style of these Omaha films demands a certain degree of realism, of trying to recreate what I see in real life, not the supposed realism of other movies," says Payne. "And I make a point of it not for its own sake but rather only to the extent that one must fight a number of stubborn assumptions about how American movies are supposed to look – that hair should be always combed and perfect, that cars are alway

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