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UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN

Casting
From the very beginning, writer-director producer Wells had only one actress in mind to play Frances Mayes, someone she had admired for over 20 years. "Diane Lane was my first choice,” she declares, "and it's one of those miracles that the person I wrote it for was available.” Lane was fresh from her back-to-back successes in "The Perfect Storm” and "Unfaithful” (for which she'd been nominated for an Academy Award®), but Wells had been a confirmed fan long before. "Diane has a vibrant, very modern presence,” she observes, "and a fiery intellect that ignites her eyes. Combined with her chiseled beauty, this makes her fascinating to watch.”

For Lane, it was a delightful meeting of the minds. "I'd been interested from the moment I read the screenplay,” she recalls, "but as I was sitting at dinner with Audrey, a light went off. It was so obvious to me that there was no way I could walk away from this offer.'' 

In particular Lane was attracted to, and intrigued by, the resolute risk-taking romantic that is Frances, and relished the challenge of charting her dramatic rites-of-passage. "I was attracted to Frances' pioneering spirit. Her friends warn her that she's in peril of never getting over her terrible experiences – but it's how she picks herself up by her bootstraps, as it were, that most appeals to me.'' 

The subtle, gentle comedy that drives "Under The Tuscan Sun” also resonated with Lane's comic sensibility. "Growing up, I'd watch all the Jerry Lewis movies or ‘I Love Lucy' late at night. And it's so strange, because right before the script for ‘Under the Tuscan Sun' came my way, I was literally asking myself if it would ever be possible to have that kind of humor shaped into a modern context, because Lucy was so completely ignorant and dependent on her husband. That prototype of 1940's, 1950's woman was the source of a type of humor that doesn't exist any longer. And yet there is still that naiveté, that tremulous feminine lack of courage, which lends itself to comedy. I was really eager to tap into that, but didn't know how. Then along came this movie.” 

When casting, Audrey Wells was careful to choose actors that were, as Lane puts it, "emotionally equipped to play the part from their own personal experience.” She herself empathized with the film's themes of fate, destiny and self-determination, and says: "It's funny how life comes full circle at times. Some people are meant to be in your life. There's a synchronicity at work where you know you're on the right path because things start going your way. That doesn't mean that you're not going to meet obstacles. But by dealing with those obstacles you find out whether you're on the right path, or not. Frances' life in Tuscany is like that.” 

Helping Frances find the right path is Katherine, an ethereal beauty Audrey Wells created for the story. For the role of Katherine, casting director Linda Lowy suggested Lindsay Duncan ("Mansfield Park,” "An Ideal Husband”). At that time – in mid-2002 – the Edinburgh-born actress was enjoying great critical success on Broadway for her performance in "Private Lives,” for which she was subsequently to win both Tony and Drama Desk awards. Says Wells: "I wanted to cast a woman in her fifties who could really work her sexuality. Lindsay was the toast of New York and getting stupendous reviews – the critics were extolling her wit and sensuality. So we all thought: ‘Hmm, wonder if she wants to do a movie?'” 

She did. Duncan was instantly impressed by the evocative power of Wells's screenplay. "Some scripts are impossible to imagine,” says Duncan, "but with this one, just after a few pages, you are there in Tuscany. As soon as I read the script I ran out and rented myself a copy of ‘La Dolce Vita,' because I hadn't really seen the whole movie. I watched it and loved it, and subsequently my husband gave me a tape of the movie as a present.” 

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