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Casting The Adults
"The villains you need for fiction are in the papers every day,” says Carl Hiaasen, who is well-known for populating his books with a colorful gallery of eclectic, eccentric characters and tough guys. "The luxury of writing a novel is that you can make it turn out the way that you think it should. For once, the bad guys get what they deserve. And that was always the attraction of working on fiction at the same time I was working as a journalist.”

While the teenage school bully tortures Roy on his daily bus ride, the story's hero, in turn, torments the true bully of Hiaasen's story – "Chuck Muckle, Vice President for corporate relations for Mother Paula's Pancakes,” co-star Clark Gregg says about the character the author describes in his book as "having a name more suitable for a circus clown.” 

"Muckle, hardly a jolly fellow, is trying to get his 100th pancake house built,” the veteran actor Gregg (a favorite of writer-director David Mamet) explains. "Unfortunately, he's trying to get it built on land that is inhabited by some endangered burrowing owls. Usually, Muckle just comes in for the ribbon cutting ceremony, or with the silver shovel on the first day of construction. But, there's a lot of problems with vandalism on this site. People sabotaging the bulldozer, stuff like that. So, he has to go down a little earlier and get things going in person, because this guy, the site foreman, Curly, is not able to handle it.”

The filmmakers chose another seasoned performer, acclaimed actor Tim Blake Nelson, to portray Leroy ‘Curly' Branitt, a character Hiaasen depicts in the novel as "the bald man under too much pressure. His eyelids twitched from lack of sleep and all day long he perspired like an Arkansas hog. Supervising a construction job was a large responsibility. And every morning brought new obstacles and headaches. Thanks to the mystery intruders, the pancake house project already was two weeks behind schedule.”

"Curly is a man who's truly under siege,” says Nelson, who donned a close-cropped coif for the part. "That's what interested me in the role. He's caught between the kids who are destroying his construction site and his boss, Muckle, the regional manager for Mother Paula's, who's berating him daily on the phone because of delays in construction. So he's caught in the middle. And it interested me to play a character under such duress.” 

"I think that Curly has chosen to compromise so that he can keep his job,” Nelson elaborates about his character. "He's not idealistic, he's not heroic. He knows the owls are there, but he's more interested in keeping his job. He does, however, have a conscience and so in the end when he realizes that others have figured out that the owls are there, he doesn't side with Muckle in trying to cover them up. He's decent enough to be on the right side at the end.”

Nelson also liked the role and the project because "what distinguishes this movie and what also distinguished Holes was a real adult aesthetic. There's nothing saccharine about this film. There's real narrative and character complexity. There's nothing simplistic or condescending about the story. It is three-dimensional in its portrayal of the character relationships. I really appreciated being involved in a family film that actually talks up to the children, not down to them.”

"The story itself is very simple – a group of kids is trying to protect owls nesting in their natural habitat which is being endangered by a construction site to put in a pancake house in a wilderness that should be protected,” he continues. "The reason the story is complex is because all the inner relationships, particularly among the younger characters, are very real for middle schoolers.” 

As for his own relationship in the story, Nelson adds, "Curly, who is a very comical character in the story, is quite obsessed with the actr

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