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REIGN OVER ME

About The Characters
For Mike Binder, the most important part of casting a film is finding actors whose response to the material stems from a deep emotional empathy with the characters. "I don't want somebody to do a movie because of the money or because it would be a good career move,” he says. "I'm looking for actors who say, ‘Something about this part is touching me.'”

Binder began the casting process by seeking out the actor who would play Charlie Fineman, the lost man at the center of the story. "Charlie's never been able to get off the couch,” the writer-director continues. "He doesn't talk to anybody; he wanders the city late at night on his little motor scooter and has no relationships with anybody.” To walk the fine line between Charlie's comic and heartbreaking moments, Binder cast Adam Sandler.

For Binder, Sandler brought the character to life, making real a man who has experienced a great loss. "I love the character he created,” says Binder. "It's original. I love the way he walks, I love the way he and Cheadle fight about who's going to play drums and who's going to play guitar. He's the kind of friend you always wanted to have. There's a humility about the character that makes me laugh.”

In creating the role, both Sandler and Binder researched the psychology of people who had experienced the loss of a loved one. "We both did a lot of reading and talking with as many people as we could,” says Binder. "We researched therapists and doctors and people who had lost their families, from people who lost spouses or parents to people whose loss was only tangential – third- and fourth-cousins.” Through this, the filmmakers and actors were able to see firsthand not only the effect of a terrible loss on a person like Charlie, but also how that person's reaction affects those around him.

Gaining both perspectives was critical, of course, because the character of Charlie was just the starting point. The heart of the film would focus on the profound friendship between Charlie and his long-lost college roommate, Alan Johnson. "When I started to read about people in different scenarios who had suffered terrible loss, they all seemed to speak about the love of a person – friend or family member – who got them through and helped them move on,” says Binder.

Key to portraying that on screen was Sandler's relationship with Don Cheadle. From the moment the actors first got together, Binder knew the relationship would work. "They were over at my house – hanging out in the backyard – and you could see these two guys just liked each other,” he says. "They have a lot of similar qualities and interests. They're both athletic, both talented musicians, both intelligent and talented guys. They had chemistry.”

For Cheadle, that chemistry is replayed between the characters in the film. "My character's a mess and Adam's character's a mess,” he says. "It was interesting playing these two guys who need each other to figure things out, even if at the end of the film you're still not necessarily sure what it is they've figured out. It's not overly simplistic and that's interesting.”

Though Charlie is the one with deep, profound issues, Alan is not without burdens of his own. "At the beginning of their relationship, Alan's not trying to help Charlie – Alan's trying to help Alan,” Cheadle continues. "He's found an outlet, somebody he can kick it with – and he hasn't had that for a long time. He needs that. He plays on the fact that Charlie is sick in order to get permission from his wife to spend more time with Charlie, but that has the unintended consequence of giving him some perspective on his own life, gratitude for what he has, and a rekindled affection for the people in his life.”

The problems that Alan faces are not the insurmountable, irreconcilable differences of two people who have grown apart, but

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