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DIRTY DANCING HAVANA NIGHTS

About The Cast
The demands of a dramatic love story were central to casting the film. Comments Ferland, "One of the things that makes this story different than the original film is the nature of the love story. Katey and Javier become best friends before they truly fall in love.” He had to find actors who could make that passage believable as well as sexy and romantic.

Romola Garai, the rising star of Nicholas Nickleby and I Capture the Castle, won the role of Katey Miller, a straight-A student whom Ferland describes as "a little separate, lost in her books. Romola's manner was absolutely right for this world and this period. And like Katey, she's extremely intelligent.”

Garai notes that Katey initially resists looking beyond her books. "Katey doesn't want to be in Cuba; she's on an academic path and has set goals and ambitions. She's a very serious person who doesn't immediately embrace the warmth and life and passion she sees in this place.”

For the role of Javier, Ferland sought an actor able to convey a lightness that would draw Katey out. He turned to charismatic young Mexican actor Diego Luna, who had starred in Alfonso Cuarón's sexy smash Y Tu Mamá También. Explains Ferland, "With Diego, you just look at his face and his smile and you see that easygoing, playful nature. He's the kind of best friend that Katey needs. And the chemistry between Romola and Diego began the moment we paired them in a screen test.”

The romance that blossoms between Katey and Javier is a first for both. Though Javier has assumed an adult role in his family, he has no experience to guide him when he falls in love with an American girl. As Luna describes him, "Javier's making very important decisions in his life, but at the same time he's a young guy. He doesn't know about love and being in love.”

The rapport between Garai and Luna flourished once shooting began, as both actors tackled the demands of portraying characters from different backgrounds and countries. Says producer Sarah Green, "Romola buried her English accent and became a very American young girl. Diego turned his Mexican roots into Cuban roots and spoke English with a Cuban accent. I think because of that challenge, they brought a real freshness to the story. It enhanced the love story of two people who are so different from each other.”

In casting the roles of Katey's parents, Bert and Jeannie Miller, the filmmakers had to consider the Millers' earlier lives as championship ballroom dancers, as well as the path that led them to Havana. As Ferland summarizes, "These actors had to be beautiful and graceful; they had to look like dancers. They also had to look like successful people, who would fit in at a company's executive level.”

Adds Green, "The film is set in the 1950s, when people married and had children early. We needed a young, attractive couple.”

Sela Ward, the Emmy-winning star of "Once and Again,” was cast as Jeannie Miller. Says Green, "Sela is so beautiful and so gracious, and she has a dancer's body. She also has a genuine warmth, and that was very important because Jeannie and Katey feud throughout the movie. With Sela, you believe that she'd argue with her daughter and you believe that she absolutely loves her.”

Ward notes that her character's reactions are inevitably colored by her own experience as a ballroom dancer. "Jeannie gave up her career and dancing to have children. So it's bittersweet for Jeannie to see her daughter on the dance floor, doing what she misses so much.”

Playing opposite Ward is John Slattery, currently starring in HBO's "K Street.” Green had admired Slattery's performance in the Oscar®-winning Traffic, and considers him one of Hollywood's more versatile actors. "John is one of those chameleons who can just disappear into role after role,” the producer comments. "He has a simplicity and warmth about him that was per

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