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The Unwanted Protege
Ironically one of the reasons Demi Moore was initially interested in MR. BROOKS was the chance to work with Costner – yet their characters are usually playing cat-and-mouse. Instead, she mainly interacts with Mr. Brooks' unexpected new "protégé,” the inept, out-of-his-league blackmailer, Mr. Smith, played with riveting verve by Dane Cook. "Dane was really wonderful,” says Moore. "It was great to see somebody bridge into something that is such unfamiliar territory. He brings some of his comedic qualities to the role and yet it's not about that.” 

Cook, who is one of today's hottest stand-up comics, was an unexpected choice for such a challenging dramatic role, but it was a choice the filmmakers thought was worth the risk – especially after he sent them a videotape of himself in character. "Dane was definitely a wild card,” says Jim Wilson. "Nobody knew quite what he would do with this character because he's never done anything even remotely like this. But when we all saw his videotape, it was a revelation. He had simply nailed it. I think people will be very surprised.” 

Adds Bruce Evans: "Dane is the real discovery of the movie. He was able to go to the edge of craziness with Mr. Smith in a very exciting way. When Dane showed up on the set I saw this guy coming at me with the jacket and the beard and I thought ‘oh my God, Mr. Smith lives.' He came ready to work and completely channeled the character.” 

Cook doggedly pursued the role because he was ready to break out into something entirely new and different. As the photographer and amateur voyeur who catches Mr. Brooks in the act of murder – and tries to turn it into an opportunity to play out his own most wicked fantasies – Cook knew he would be pushed in ways he wanted to be pushed as an actor. 

"I'm interested in breaking out into cinematic roles of every size, shape and form, so this was really a chance for me to start doing that,” Cook says. "When I got the script, it was a definite page-turner. It was one of those things where I was racing to figure out what would happen next.” 

Cook was freaked out by Mr. Brooks' secrets, but also is keenly aware that "anytime you're in a room full of people you know there's going to be some who have not just a few skeletons in the closet but a whole barnyard full of them,” he says. "But that's what is so compelling about Mr. Brooks: you realize this guy could be your buddy. He could be your boss. But, look what he really is underneath the facade.” 

Most of all, Cook couldn't resist the challenges of the ordinary-seeming Mr. Smith, who misguidedly sees Mr. Brooks' sickness and compulsion to kill as merely a game and an adventure. "As I was reading the lines of Mr. Smith, I found myself already picturing how I would do it,” he recalls. "What excited me about Mr. Smith is that he is unwittingly on a path of total self-destruction. Every move he makes is the wrong step. I'm a guy who likes to constantly keep myself on the right path so it was really interesting for me to play someone who's so completely off the path.” 

Once on the set, as he began interacting with Kevin Costner and Demi Moore, the character deepened even further for Cook. "In stand-up comedy it's all you, but in a movie like this, you're part of a storytelling puzzle,” he observes. "It was interesting for me to work collectively with all these incredibly talented people while figuring out where Mr. Smith's story fits into the overall picture.” He continues: "It was especially great for me to experience Kevin's passion and creativity. He's also a very funny dude. Even though we were playing such despicable people, the experience we had together was great.” 

The key to Mr. Smith for Cook was getting to the core of why he latches onto Mr. Brooks as a mentor. "I think Mr. Smith accidentally witnessed something and it was<

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