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About The Casting
The filmmakers now turned to the next crucial step: creating FEAST OF LOVE's ensemble cast of friends, lovers, family and neighbors. For Robert Benton, nothing could have been more key to the film's creation. "I'm not necessarily a very good director,” he says with characteristic modesty, "but I'm really great at casting, and I'm really great at trusting the actors I cast.”

Gary Lucchesi adds: "I think for a director like Benton, casting is everything because once he gets to the set, he makes very subtle adjustments in performance. He doesn't try to put a very strong hand on the actor and alter their performance drastically; he would rather hire the right actor to begin with. That's much more who Benton is.”

The casting began with the very core of the story: Harry Stevenson, the town philosopher who doles out advice to all of the lovelorn and newly in love, while his own heart is aching. As they considered the roster of venerable actors who could play the role, one stood out early on. Recalls Tom Rosenberg: "Once Harry was there on the page, it was Gary Lucchesi who said, ‘‘This is Morgan Freeman, this is who should play this role.' And he was exactly right. Morgan is such a great actor that he was able to keep in mind, as Harry must, not just his role but everybody's role in the film, and, along the way, he helped all the actors tremendously through his experience and generosity.”

Benton says of Freeman, "He's astounding. He knows what can and cannot be acted, he knows how to be still and he knows how to listen, which are all the most invaluable parts of being an actor. You cannot act moral fiber, or a kind of stature – you either have it or you don't. I don't mean even as an actor, I mean as a human being, and he truly has that quality. That's what makes him a brilliant choice for this role.”

When Morgan Freeman read the screenplay, he felt an immediate affinity with Harry and his role as the man who watches the constant ebb, flow and crash of love all around him. "I do often seem to be drawn to witness characters,” Freeman ponders. "I guess they sort of have the last say, as it were. But this is also quite different from any other film role I've done. The whole thing is about love, and as Harry, I'm right in the middle of it all, so it's a complete departure on that level.”

Harry may be a pillar of the community, but his rock is his wife, Esther, with whom he is still deeply enamored. To play the role, Robert Benton saw an opportunity to work with one of his favorite actresses, Jane Alexander, whom he also directed in "Kramer Vs. Kramer.” She and Freeman had been seen together in two films previously, "Brubaker” and "Glory,” but never had scenes with one another until FEAST OF LOVE.

"I've always looked for a chance to work with Jane again,” says Benton. "She's phenomenal. One of my favorite scenes in the film is between Morgan and Jane. It's a scene about tenderness and love, and she is so amazing in that scene. She was absolutely there in the best sense of the word.”

For Alexander, the attraction lay in working with Benton again. "Anything he would ask me to do, I would jump at doing,” the actress says. "He was a wonderful writer on ‘Kramer Vs. Kramer,' but he also showed that he had great subtlety with regard to acting, and now that's only increased with these 28 years. He's just really extraordinary. He's very, very close to the actors when you're working on the set. It's just so great to have Benton right there, seeing and hearing every little nuance.”

Morgan Freeman was equally excited to finally have a chance to interact with Alexander on screen, especially in such intimate moments revealing the inner workings of something not often depicted on screen: a long, loving marriage. "She gives such perfect performances, that I said, ‘Oh my god, I finally get a chance, here she is!'” says Freeman.


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