NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND
Throughout it all, however, Gelfant never really met his co-romantic lead, Hope Davis
Throughout it all, however, Gelfant never really met his co-romantic
lead, Hope Davis. For although NEXT STOP WONDERLAND is about the
meeting of Erin and Alan, the actors only had one real scene together.
"Alan is a really nice guy, but I have no idea what he is
like to work with -- we were never on set together!" points
out Hope Davis.
Adds Gelfant: "It wasn't really until after the movie was
shot and we were in post-production that I got to know Hope and
saw how intelligent and talented she was. To me it was the ultimate
kind of reward and completion of the experience to finally get
to know each other."
In fact, throughout production, Gelfant and Davis purposefully
avoided one another so that when their characters did meet for
the first time the fresh electricity of the moment would be preserved.
"So the first time we really met was the day of our sole
scene together," explains Davis. "It turned out to be
very moving, because we'd been waiting for so long and there was
so much pent-up emotion involved."
Capturing the freshness of impulsive reactions is key to Brad
Anderson's unique directorial style. As with his premier film,
the award-winning "Darien Gap," Anderson utilized a
mixture of tightly scripted sequences and improvisation intended
to give NEXT STOP WONDERLAND an intensity, a spontaneity and a
lightness that reflect the natural rhythms of real life.
"I like improvisation because you find what I call 'beautiful
accidents' where something you could never have written just comes
out of the air. Of course we had a script and many scenes are
just as they were originally written. But especially in the conversational
scenes in the bar, I just let the actors go. I gave them the themes
and just waited to see what they would come up with. When you
have really good actors to work with, you end up with some fascinating
"It does mean shooting a lot more film and it means a much
more chaotic shoot, but it's also a more creative process,"
says Anderson. "Since I also edit my films, it works well
The actors also enjoyed the freedom of Anderson's set. Comments
Hope Davis: "The thing about Brad is that he's not at all
precious about his writing. If he came to a moment where he wasn't
sure if what he wrote worked, he would turn it over to
us to try our own ideas. He also hired actors who were very, very
good at improvising. It was really a treat for me, and very freeing."
For Alan Gelfant improvising scenes meant "coming to terms
with the themes of the movie in a personal way. Brad would give
us points to hit and then we would explore them in our own words."
He continues: "Erin was always more delineated but my character
was purposely less developed in the script. It was really a collaboration
to bring it off the page and figure out as we went along who the
guy was. I think that's why there's such a simplicity and a sweetness
to the story -- it came from reality."
One of the most hilarious improvised sequences turned out to be
the early scene in which Erin's boyfriend Sean, played by Phil
Hoffman, leaves her to go protest the unfair treatment of the
Tantuni Indians. Brad Anderson gave Hoffman certain key props,
including a cat named Fidel and a videotaped good-bye and then
let him run with the scene. "Phil just went wild," recalls
Hope Davis. "He came up with amazing things. We shot a whole
day's worth of film just of him making his departure speech."
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