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BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE

About The Production
The village of Napoleonville, Louisiana stands in for the story's fictional Naomi, Florida. Sleepy Naomi is a place where people have forgotten how to share their sadness and their joy. But Opal and Winn-Dixie might have something to say about that.

Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Dave Matthews and Eva Marie Saint star as the somewhat eccentric adults who benefit from Opal and Winn-Dixie's bumpy summer of discovery.

Newcomer AnnaSophia Robb won the role of Opal following an intensive talent hunt. "Opal and Winn-Dixie have something in common,” says AnnaSophia. "She doesn't have a mother and he doesn't have a home. They both want somebody to love and somebody to love them. And, as a team, they begin to realize that other people just might want the same things.”

Winn-Dixie guides Opal into places where magic dozes under a coat of dusty disappointment and awakens the people hiding there. Things begin to change day by day
under the summer sun – in a funky pet store, a musty library, a drab mobile home, a ramshackle house and a convenience store-turned temple of worship.

BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE is director Wayne Wang's fourth film based on a well-known book or story, following "The Joy Luck Club,” "Anywhere But Here” and "Smoke” (the latter based on the short story "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story”).

A cursory glance at Wang's body of work, which also includes "Maid in Manhattan,” and "Chinese Box,” seems to offer little common ground. On closer examination, a simple thread is found throughout his work. "I generally make movies about something that is missing in our lives, empty places that we're trying to fill,” says Wang. "I am always attracted to stories about people longing for and finding deep contact with others, about lonely people struggling for some sense of connection. In Opal's case, she has experienced the unexplained loss of a parent.

"This book really touched me in a way that is difficult to describe,” Wang elaborates. "It has humanity and a simplicity that profoundly affected me.”

Because Of Winn-Dixie, published by Candlewick Press, was Kate DiCamillo's first book. It was a New York Times bestseller and recipient of the prestigious Newbery Honor in 2001. It was awarded a Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon, placed on the New York Public Library 100 Books for Reading and Sharing list, was a Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner, a Publishers Weekly Best Book Of The Year and a School Library Journal Best Book Of The Year. The author's subsequent books are The Tiger Rising, a National Book Award finalist, and The Tale Of Desperaux, which earned the 2004 Newbery Medal.

"Because of Winn-Dixie is the result of my own longings,” says DiCamillo. "I'm from Central Florida, where the winters are mild, but found myself living in Minneapolis during the worst winter on record. And it was the first time in my life that I didn't have a dog. I was desperate for the companionship of a dog. So the book was born out of my homesickness and dog-sickness.”

Adults customarily recommend literature to young people. However, in the case of this book, it seems to be the other way around. A story that speaks to those of all ages, Because of Winn-Dixie began its journey to Hollywood when producer/screenwriter Joan Singleton purchased a handful of books for her younger daughter, Elizabeth, then 9, to read on vacation.”

Elizabeth was immediately drawn to Because of Winn-Dixie because of the girl and the dog on the cover. However, when she began reading it, she was so touched by the story of Opal and Winn-Dixie that she couldn't put the book down, finishing it in one day. She then insisted that I read it, and wouldn't let me rest till I did. Children need stories that inspire them as this one does. And so do adults. My 80-year old father had the same heartfelt reaction to reading the book as did (then) 9-year old E

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