The Cast And Characters
"I know you want things to stay â€˜pleasant' around here but there are so many other things that are so much better, like silly
"I know you want things to stay 'pleasant' around here
but there are so many other things that are so much better, like
silly . . . or sexy . . . or dangerous . . . or wild. .
. or brief"
Finding a cast capable of harnessing their characters' individual
awakenings while capturing the humor and magic of the script was
a critical process for the filmmakers.
The screenplay demanded two young actors who could slip back and
forth between the real David and Jennifer and the mythical Mary
Sue and Bud of Pleasantville. In the role of David, Ross
immediately embraced Tobey Maguire, who came to the fore with
a lead role in Ang Lee's The Ice Storm. "Tobey has
a very heroic quality," says Ross. "His quiet charm
really carries the story from contemporary times back to the era
of Pleasantville. He was key to the whole ensemble working."
"David likes Pleasantville because he wants to be
part of a secure structure," says Maguire. "He holds
onto the image of Pleasantville as a way to compensate
for the losses he feels in his own life, until his sister starts
screwing up his oasis and things begin to get interesting."
Joining Maguire as the meddling Jennifer is Reese Witherspoon,
the up-and-coming young star who most recently appeared in Twilight
with Paul Newman. Like Maguire, Witherspoon was intrigued
by the range of experiences her character goes through as the
story progresses. "Jennifer goes through a lot of different
phases in the film," she notes. "In Pleasantvllle,
she realizes that she doesn't have to base her identity on
her sexuality and constantly trying to conform. She's always seen
herself as a sexy young woman but when she starts reading books
and really opens her mind, she finds that much more exciting.
After spending so much of her life being objectified, it's really
liberating to be defined by her intellect instead."
Witherspoon was also drawn to Pleasantville's deeply provocative
themes. "I think this is a story that's really important
because it shows people what the possibilities are. It's fascinating
to see how people who are seemingly very innocent and open are
so easily corrupted, how easily they are changed by freedom,"
she says. "I think the blank books in the library are a metaphor
for the entire film. It's like all these people with covers that
are beautiful and well adorned, but there's nothing really on
the inside. And then when they start reading and learning more
about themselves and becoming more self-actualized, their insides
fill in and start to turn to color and sort of bring their insides
out. That's why I think their eyes and tongues turn to color first.
It's really about finding individuality and identity."
The character whose search for identity is perhaps most electrifying
is that of Mrs. Parker, the picture-perfect housewife who discovers
a simmering sensuality and lust for life beneath her socially
correct veneer. As played by Joan Allen, Betty Parker is a woman
on the brink of an exciting and emotional self-discovery.
States Allen: "Betty is a fictional creation of the perfect,
unquestioning housewife until she begins to awaken to the possibilities
in the world. In the beginning, she doesn't even know what sex
is, so when she discovers her sexuality, there is no sense of
shame or guilt. It's more just like 'Oh, wow. Who knew?"'
Yet that is just the beginning of Be
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