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The Characters
Running from his past and miles from his purpose, Cleveland Heep "has suffered undeniable loss,” says writer-director M. Night Shyamalan. The former doctor has taken refuge as the superintendent of The Cove, a run-of-the-mill apartment complex in the Philadelphia suburbs, where he buries himself in the busy routine of quick fixes and all but anonymous interactions with the world around him. But Cleveland's attempts to suppress his tremendous pain and sadness have manifested into a stutter, leaving the other tenants to regard him, as Paul Giamatti describes, as "a bit of a sad figure – a guy with a cloud over him.

"Cleveland is trying to turn his back on the past,” Giamatti elaborates. "He's taken this simple job and sort of shut himself off. He's hiding in his little house at The Cove.” Shyamalan began writing the character for Giamatti, an Academy Award nominee for his performance in Cinderella Man, after seeing the actor's hilariously heartbreaking performance in the indie hit Sideways. "I was blown away by his humor, his humanity and his ability to be a leading man. I felt for him in a way that very few actors make me feel,” Shyamalan says.

A screening of American Splendor and a subsequent meeting with Giamatti convinced Shyamalan that he had found his guy. "Paul and I felt a common bond right away. We have a similar sense of humor and share the same point of view on a lot of things. Like all of us, Paul grapples with stuff, but he's a light.”

Giamatti was intrigued by Shyamalan's vision for Lady in the Water and the audacity of his storytelling. "It's a huge idea, and he's telling it in a really bold way,” Giamatti observes.

"Paul Giamatti is my Richard Dreyfuss,” says Shyamalan, who cites Jaws and Close Encounters as two of the films that inspired him to become a filmmaker. "He can make you laugh and yet feel the depths of his character's confusion, and then emerge with a hopefulness for mankind.”

"Paul Giamatti is such an intelligent man and such a good actor. I've never seen someone so technically proficient,” marvels Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Story, the young goddess who changes Cleveland's life. "Paul isn't one of those actors who needs to go off into a corner and get into a certain state. He's very focused and he can go anywhere. At one point in the film, my character reads Cleveland's journal. Paul wrote some entries in the actual journal we filmed with, which I read. They were incredibly helpful. He had tapped into complete and utter darkness.”

When Cleveland finds Story hiding in the shadows of The Cove, he is jolted from his disconnected reverie and compelled to help this powerful and alluring creature make the treacherous journey back to her fabled home, The Blue World. "Cleveland needs to father someone. He needs to give of himself and nurture somebody, but he's not aware of this until he meets Story,” Shyamalan says.

At the same time, Story connects to something in Cleveland beyond his kindness. "She makes him think about things he had wanted to put aside,” says Giamatti. "He was trying to sleepwalk through life, and her presence won't allow that.”

"Story recognizes that Cleveland is a very sad and lost man,” Howard adds. "She can see that he hasn't found his voice. It's a beautiful relationship that they have because she helps him find his way and he helps her find her way.”

Howard sees her highly intuitive character as "an angel who shows people what they are capable of, because she believes in them.” Yet Story has great difficulty believing that she is destined to have a lasting impact on humankind.

"She's the most important figure in this story when it comes to the future of the earth, but that's strange to her because she thinks she's not even good at her job as a Narf,” Howard muses. "I think it's really poignant t

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