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The Landscape Of Love
With their singular ensemble cast chosen, Benton, Rosenberg and Lucchesi, as well as producer Richard S. Wright and executive producer David Scott Rubin, now began the search for a shooting location, in which to unfold this reverie of longing, loss and life-affirming encounters with love. Although Charles Baxter's book was set in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the filmmakers went off in search of a dynamic, smaller city with a neighborhood feel that would allow them to shoot on a budget within the U.S. When Tom Rosenberg read an article about the beauty and distinctive feel of Portland, Oregon, he had a feeling the up-and-coming Pacific Northwest city might be perfect.

"I talked to Richard Wright, and said ‘Find out what's it like to shoot in Portland' and he came back and said it is competitive. Then I took a trip there and really fell in love with the city,” recalls Rosenberg. "It's a terrific place, surprising in lots of ways, very sophisticated, with very sensible, nice people.”

Adds Gary Lucchesi: "It is one of the most beautiful cities in America. Even though Portland has 800,000 people and has all the art and culture of a big city, as well as great restaurants and terrific coffee, it still has a quieter, calmer feeling. Our entire Los Angeles crew fell in love with Portland, too, and we now plan on doing more movies there.”

The production started in one of Portland's hidden neighborhoods, the so-called Mississippi District surrounding Mississippi Ave. on the East side of the Willamette River, which is lined with local shops and plenty of foot traffic. Here, the popular Fresh Pot coffee house was transformed into Bradley's "Jitters Coffee Shop,” for 2 weeks of filming. Later, the lush, green Mt. Tabor area in Southeast Portland with its beautiful older homes became the location for Harry's and Bradley's side-by-side residences; while world-renowned Reed College, set in a Portland residential neighborhood, served as Harry's university, where he takes his late night strolls, as well as the location for the film's football and baseball games .

Everyone on the film crew was impressed by the graciousness and enthusiasm of the Portland locals, while the locals in turn were amused to see the film crew actually resort to making rain in a city that usually provides more than its share of wet, cloudy days.

Much as Portland provided a lovely atmosphere for the film, it was Robert Benton's set that really made the entire cast and crew feel at home. "It's like he's throwing a cocktail party for the cast and crew in a way,” describes Greg Kinnear of the atmosphere. Adds Alexa Davalos: "Robert Benton gives you all the freedom in the world to play and experiment and see what works. He's incredibly supportive. And he has such vision that you just trust your instincts. I love him to death.”

In working with his crew -- including cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, who blends a touch of the dream-like into his otherwise realistic portrait of Portland's neighborhood ambience, and production designer Missy Stewart, who carefully created the nuances of the many different houses and bedrooms in which the strands of the story unfold – Benton always emphasized bringing the universal nature of love to the fore.

Summarizes Benton: "My hope was always that this would be a picture that audiences young or old, whether they're in New York or Los Angeles, Kansas City or Des Moines, all find enriching. I want them to feel some of what I felt when I read Charles Baxter's novel, about what love is and what it isn't, and what life is and what it isn't. I always saw FEAST OF LOVE as referring to this life that's set out for us with this enormous, complicated rich variety of love.”


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