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The Clasky Family
In creating the character of John Clasky, Brooks tried to subvert a common movie cliché. "There have been so many movies in which the father is totally consumed with his job, or just a jerk in some other way, and then becomes enlightened and realizes that his kids are important and that he doesn't mind being a father,” he observes. "But the guy in this movie is a great, dedicated father from the get-go. These are the men I see picking up their kids from school every day. This is the truth that surrounds me. So, it was important to me to portray this kind of man — an American male hero.”

Sandler sees Clasky as "a man who knows that his family is his responsibility and it is his primary passion.”

"John is not a traditional Hispanic view of a macho man. He's just not," says Brooks. When the newly hired Flor first meets John, she's taken aback by his relative ease in showing emotion. Brooks describes the scene: "She has just met her new male boss and gets into the car with him and he starts to cry because of something that happened to his daughter. Flor flees the car – actually jumps out to get away from him. She finds him odd and has no idea how to relate to him.” As the narrator says: "To someone with first-hand knowledge of Latin machismo, he seemed to have the emotions of a Mexican … woman.”

Flor is accustomed to stoic, macho Latino men. Having married such a man, who proved incapable of taking on the responsibility of family and parenting, Flor decides she will "no longer be attracted by men's rough surfaces, that goodness would be her catnip,” as we learn from the film's narrator.

And John Clasky is good. Thomas Keller, the world-renowned chef of Napa Valley's famed The French Laundry and the recently opened New York restaurant Per Se, served as the inspiration for Clasky, a gifted chef who, despite extraordinary success, never strays from the work he loves — cooking for others despite options and entreaties to spend his time marketing himself. Years ago, Brooks read a glowing review for Keller's Napa restaurant, touting Keller as the best chef in the United States.

Since then, Brooks has become enamored with The French Laundry's magical setting and elegant cuisine. While drafting Spanglish, Brooks visited the restaurant. "Jim spent two days with us in the kitchen, which really impressed us,” says Keller. "He stood in a corner for about 14 hours. Now, it's hard enough to work and move around the kitchen for that long, but to actually stand in one spot and take notes was record-breaking. He wanted to know everything about what it takes to run a kitchen at that level, everything — equipment, utensils, uniforms...”

The genesis of Deborah Clasky sprung from a painting by D.J. Hall, an L.A.-based artist whose work Brooks collects. The realistic painting, "Summer Pastime,” shows a woman in a broad-brimmed straw hat sitting under a red and white striped parasol glancing at a Matisse art book. This image, like so many in Hall's pieces, offers a glimpse of a particular privileged "West-side” L.A. lifestyle and reflects "a feeling of sadness beneath the façade of bright, beautiful colors,” according to Ansell.

At Brooks request, producer Richard Sakai contacted Hall. The artist had no idea who James L. Brooks was when she received the call but, intrigued, agreed to meet the director in her studio. "He has an affinity for the artist and their process, which is unusual. Jim was still half way through the script and still formulating his ideas, but he knew he wanted to recreate my painting. He seemed to respond to the superficial quality of the seemingly happy lives and the fallacy in the mystique of Southern Californian lifestyle that I try to capture in my work.”

Jim decided to recreate Hall's painting "Studying Matisse” in the scene in which Flor first meets Deborah, Be

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