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WIMBLEDON

Getting The Cast
When it came to casting the leads, the filmmakers were looking for actors who first could portray believable tennis players and who, second, had the right chemistry together on-screen. American actress Kirsten Dunst was cast as Lizzie Bradbury and British actor Paul Bettany was slotted as Peter Colt.

Fellner says, "Kirsten is one of the leading American actresses at the moment and we were lucky in that she really liked the screenplay. Paul's work has been of an incredibly high standard and after meeting him, we felt that he would be great in the role. We put them together for a small screen test and there was immediate chemistry—they really liked each other, looked very good together and they really fitted the roles. Everything really lined up.”

The production felt so strongly in their leads that they were willing to wait until both actors' schedules could accommodate the Wimbledon filming schedule—principal photography commenced more than a year after their casting.

"We cast Kirsten and Paul,” comments the director, "and then we waited for them to complete a project apiece. So it was a matter of waiting a little over a year. But it was something we wanted to do. They really got on with each other and displayed that indefinable ‘chemistry' that is so important in a romantic film.

"I think Paul has got the right look and the right energy, with an easygoing attitude that conceals a champion's spirit, just waiting to spring into action,” Loncraine continues. "Kirsten has proved herself time and again since she was a little girl—she has the magic. And the camera loves them both.”

Dunst explains what drew her to the film: "I really liked the script—it was a smart romantic comedy and I also like the elements of the tennis. I think there is something really sexy about tennis—it has an elegance to it. I am also a big fan of the producers and I knew they would make a good love story.”

Dunst also welcomed the chance to work with Bettany. "He is so talented. It's rare that you get to work with actors like that and it makes you work all the harder.”

Although the actress had scant little experience playing tennis, she felt that she was up for mastering some of the basic mechanics of the sport. Attracted to the character of Lizzie, she was ready to take on the physical challenges of the role.

"I found Lizzie very interesting and a lot of fun to play,” she says. "Here's this champion who has shut out the possibility of love from her life in the interest of winning. She's competitive and aggressive. And then she meets Peter, whom she really respects. Up to that point, she's been able to use men and throw them away and it hasn't really bothered her. But she's able to let herself fall in love with Peter, and that changes everything.”

Bettany had not worked in a romantic comedy before (and never in a "sports” film, either), so the role of Peter Colt was something completely new to him. "The script struck me as clever and funny,” says Bettany. "I've never done a sports movie and I've never done a sort of comedy/drama, so I thought it would be a challenge. In building a character, it's about approximating the role; every job you do is only a representation of something. My last film I played a ship's surgeon, but I wouldn't want to operate on anyone. So with training, I thought I could approximate being a tennis player, even though I'm not. And the falling in love bit, well, that's the easy part.

"Kirsten's character feels that she can't have a career and a relationship at the same time,” continues Bettany, "while my character actually plays better tennis once he's fallen in love with her. I think it's one of the interesting things that was built into the script.”

In addition to the material, the actor was also interested in working with director Loncrai

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