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LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

About The Casting
From the start, the key to LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE clearly lay in finding a cast who could make the Hoovers and all their dysfunction funny yet at the same time devastatingly real. Dayton and Faris knew it could be a daunting challenge for first-time directors. "We needed to find not only six exceptionally strong actors but six actors who would be able to share the screen, and really become a kind of close-knit family in spite of themselves,” says Dayton. "We needed the kind of actors who are as truthful as they are funny.”

With script in hand, the filmmakers went knocking on the doors of their "dream” cast – and instantly found positive responses. "We had our first choices for every role,” notes producer Peter Saraf.

The casting began with the patriarch of the Hoover family: Richard, who has found himself in the ironic position of being a failed motivational speaker who can't even seem to motivate anyone to hire him. Nevertheless, Richard is never without a gung-ho, pop-psychology aphorism for every situation, much to his family's constant chagrin. To bring Richard's unusual mix of surface optimism and underlying anguish to life, there seemed to be no better person than Academy Award® nominee Greg Kinnear, who began his career as a comedian but has developed into one of Hollywood's most diverse talents with roles ranging from AS GOOD AS IT GETS to WE WERE SOLDIERS to the recent MATADOR. "Greg is uniquely able to bring real likeability to even the most unlikable characters,” explains Saraf, "so he was perfect for Richard.”

Adds David Friendly: "I've been friends with Greg for a long time so I knew he had that hilariously caustic side to him that could really get to this character in a way no other actor could.”

Kinnear was hooked by the screenplay. "I think everyone in this film was attracted to the script,” he says. "You have this family seemingly going on a very simple trip and suddenly you uncover this whole complex family dynamic that leads them towards change. It's a very darkly funny movie but at the same time it's also kind of positive and uplifting. It takes unexpected turns that are quite refreshing.”

In approaching Richard and his "refuse to lose” philosophy, Kinnear thought of him as a kind of low-rent Tony Robbins – a guy who wants to believe in the biggest, flashiest, winner-takes-all manifestations of the American Dream, but more often than not finds himself on the losing side of life. "Richard's full of misguided philosophies,” Kinnear laughs. "He really believes in the idea that you have to try to win at everything but when it comes to the ‘Little Miss Sunshine' beauty pageant he suddenly finds everything he believes in coming into conflict with his daughter's happiness.”

One of most exciting elements of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE for Kinnear was getting the chance to work with Alan Arkin as his utterly opposite father. "Alan is very funny and also a truly fantastic actor,” he comments. "Ours was an interesting relationship to explore because while Richard's father is this eccentric, spontaneous, old guy who dabbles in heroin, Richard is this very uptight, self-help, self-responsibility guru, which maybe was his way of rebelling. The key was balancing the characters' eccentricities while keeping them accessible.”

Perhaps the film's least eccentric character is the Hoover's one rock: Sheryl – a divorcee desperately trying to make her second family work, in spite of their overwhelming oddities. The role went to Australian star Toni Collette, who garnered an Academy Award nomination for her work in THE SIXTH SENSE and has gone on to diverse but widely acclaimed roles in such films as THE HOURS, ABOUT A BOY and JAPANESE STORY, most recently appearing in the ensemble comedy IN HER SHOES. Faris and Dayton went to Collette because they knew she had a broad range of comic skills – yet also the ability to bring real depth and honesty to an embattled M

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