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YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS

The Casting
The casting process, with the assistance of Mali Finn, for the six-actor ensemble was jump-started when Panic and Eckhart signed on

The casting process, with the assistance of Mali Finn, for the six-actor ensemble was jump-started when Panic and Eckhart signed on. Both men took on roles that diverged from their previous on-screen appearances.

"I've always admired Jason's work, and he had never done a role that was quite this fierce. In 'After Dark, My Sweet,' or 'Rush,' there was a humanity there that this role doesn't necessarily have," notes LaBute. "I think we're so drawn to beautiful people, and we give them so much rope in this society. I loved the idea of a beautiful person saying horrible things. It's like, 'You didn't really say that, did you? Because you're so good-looking, I don't want to believe you said that.' Having a person that looks like that, and having him continually say these things at you like a battering ram, keeps the audience off-balance."

Panic approached the role as he does every other role he plays: "I try not to make too many judgements while I'm working -- I try to make assessments." With regard to Cary, Panic sees the character as "completely honest about his feelings. There's no guile, and there's no fear, about him as far as who he is or what he wants."

As for Eckhart, LaBute points out that "in 'In the Company of Men,' Aaron was a very charming, good-looking guy who was ultimately quite awful." For the new film, "he wanted to get as far from that as possible," says LaBute, adding that to play an "impotent, cuckolded husband, Aaron gained some weight, dyed his hair, got this mustache, and -- his whole demeanor has really changed. It's quite a nice transformation." LaBute muses that so many moviegoers detested Chad, Eckhart's smiling-cobra character in "In the Company of Men," that Eckhart's new character might function as "the revenge that everybody's been asking for: ten years on [and Chad is] fat and unhappy."

Eckhart, segueing from playing a man who betrays everyone and lives to laugh about it to playing one who's hardly the master of his domain, recalls that "nothing touched Chad. [Starring] as Chad, I played all my strengths, and all the calm in me." However, for the role of Barry in YOUR FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS, Eckhart perceived, and performed, "an arc of denial. I've tried to isolate, as an actor, all my insecurities and inadequacies, amplify them, and play those." Barry, reports Eckhart, "epitomizes stability, [but] he has completely lost control of himself. Where he is in his sex life basically controls his entire life: his work life, his home life, his friendships. He's just blocked completely. He's going from what we would think we should be in our thirties to completely demoralized."

For the third man, "we needed someone who balanced" the other two, explains LaBute. "Ben Stiller came to mind for all of us. He's so sharp, and he has that very urban sensibility."

Stiller recalls, "I had just seen 'In the Company of Men,' and I was blown away by it. I got a call from Jason Panic, who I know through a mutual friends. I read the script, loved the part, met Neil and Jason, and that was it." Stiller sees his character, Jerry, as someone who "definitely keeps secrets, because he's not honest with himself. That's the problem -- when you lie to people you're never having a true relationship in any way. I don't think Jerry's totally honest or open with anybody." Stiller explains Jerry's motivation for initiating an ex

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