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LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

About The Story
Five years in the making and an underdog that like the Hoovers was nearly passed over, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE ultimately prevailed through the passion of its producers, directors and stars. The project began when promising writer Michael Arndt's screenplay came to producing partners Marc Turtletaub, David T. Friendly and Peter Saraf of Big Beach -- and they instantly found themselves disarmed by the offbeat but distinctly American family at the heart of the comedy.

"I think there is only one other time in my entire life I had such a visceral reaction to a film as I did with this one,” says Friendly. "The feeling in my gut said that I had to make this movie. It's a very rare thing to find a film that really makes you laugh and then can turn around and make you cry like this one.” Adds Saraf: "What really stood out to us is that there was something in each of these characters for the audience to relate to.”

Big Beach soon joined up with Bona Fide Productions' Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa to kick the project into gear. Berger and Yerxa were likewise drawn in by the screenplay's mix of cutting humor and raw truth, as well as its ultimate optimism about how families survive and even thrive in spite of themselves. As Yerxa notes: "Every character in this story undergoes a major transformation, – even the family's VW bus.” Berger adds: "LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is the family vacation movie revisited – but in a fresher, darker way and with a lot more honesty about how families really interact and love one another.”

Searching for a director with a point of view as distinctive as the screenplay's comic edge, the producers ultimately brought the film to the rare husband-and-wife team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Already known as award-winning music video and commercial directors, Dayton and Faris had been searching for years to fall in love with a feature film project . . . to little avail. But as soon as they read the screenplay for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, they knew this was it. They were instantly off and running with ideas about how to capture the wild emotional vicissitudes of the family road trip as they have never been seen before, further impressing the producers.

"Jonathan and Valerie had such a passionate take on the film right from the start that they immediately won our trust,” says Turtletaub, "and they really hung with us through the entire process.”

Says Albert Berger: "We always had a good feeling about them because their videos had both a visual flair and humanism to them. They're cutting edge but they also have wisdom and a heartfelt side to them – and in the end, I think they couldn't have been more right for the project.”

Better known as iconoclasts on the culture's leading edge, Dayton and Faris didn't necessarily expect to make their debut with a family comedy – but then they never expected to run into the anything-but-typical Hoover family.

"We joked about the story being a thinking man's NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION,” says Jonathan Dayton. "A lot of people had come to us with style pieces, but we liked that LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE felt very distant from that world. Sure, we wanted to do something with style, but we loved these characters and that was the most important thing. We wanted the experience to be drawn from what we love most in movies, one that celebrates human eccentricities.”

Adds Valerie Faris: "The story instantly struck a chord with us. We had always wanted to make a film that would ride a lot of tones; that would have a strong emotional life as well as lots of humor. We felt that LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE was a story that shifts much in the same way that life shifts, moving from drama to farce to reflection and back to farce again.”

But even all the combined fervor for the story, the project kept running into walls, especially because no one wanted to take a risk on a family movie with such a darkly tinged, sar

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