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Casting A "Nation"
With the script completed, the filmmakers of FAST FOOD NATION faced a potentially daunting task: casting the film's vastly diverse range of roles, which span a wide variety of ages, ethnicities and personalities. Fortunately, it turned out that Linklater's reputation and the success of Schlosser's book quickly drew a roster of award-winning actors willing to take on small but vital parts. Indeed, many of the actors the filmmakers sought out were already big fans of the book.

"The book is a must-read,” says Ethan Hawke, who plays radical-minded Uncle Pete. "It's fascinating to get a better picture of how these fast food corporations work and how that affects our lives and health and what we and our kids eat.”

"I thought the book was really well investigated and very enlightening,” comments Patricia Arquette, who plays a Cody single mom. "I have a teenage son, so I've experienced the world of fast food and that harried life of having five minutes to eat somehow.” Colombian-born Catalina Sandino Moreno, who portrays the migrant Sylvia, adds: "I found it quite scary to read. I didn't know about the fast food industry in America, so it was an eye-opener for me.”

The book also had a major influence on Bobby Cannavale, who takes on the role of Mike, the meat-packing supervisor who exploits his female employees. "Reading the book changed my life,” he explains. "I haven't gone near fast food since then, and I got my ten-year-old son off fast food. The whole thing about the advertising being geared toward children really freaked me out, so I got rid of my television, too.”

But even those familiar with the book were surprised to find the screenplay adaptation so filled with original and appealing characters. At the center of the story is Don Anderson, the loyal Mickey's marketing executive who hails his company's hamburgers – but is forced to head off on a fact-finding mission after discovering "The Big One” might be contaminated with "fecal material.” To play Don, who links all the stories of FAST FOOD NATION together, the filmmakers chose Greg Kinnear, one of today's leading screen stars who also came to the fore this year as a failed self-help guru in the acclaimed comedy LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and as legendary football coach Dick Vermeil in INVINCIBLE.

Kinnear was attracted to the transformation that Don, who initially adores the burgers he markets, undergoes in the course of his investigation. "I found Don quite interesting,” he says. "When he starts to get an education in how the burgers are made and finds out who it affects, he's forced to make some big moral decisions in his life, personally and professionally.”

Kinnear also admired the way the film starts out about burgers but soon delves into even meatier questions about the very social fabric of the United States. "FAST FOOD NATION is a great title, but even it doesn't really encapsulate the breadth of what this story's about. There are so many different issues involved—illegal aliens, dangerous workplace conditions, contaminated food issues, obesity,” he says. "There might be a lot of places to point the finger, but I don't think this story has a target. It's much smarter than that, and it ultimately lets viewers determine for themselves how they feel. It tells the whole sociological story of fast food, encapsulated in a really interesting narrative with characters you believe in.”

Patricia Arquette, a 2005 Emmy® winner for her starring role on the NBC series "Medium” and who has collaborated with Linklater before, was excited to be part of a project that looks at the kinds of everyday, working-class American characters who usually don't make it into motion pictures. Her character, Cindy, a struggling single mom who has watched Cody change and encourages her daughter to work at a Mickey's fast food restaurant to help pay the rent, is a

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