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DAN IN REAL LIFE

We Are Family
Dan, Mitch and their mutual love, Marie, are surrounded on this family weekend by the entire Burns clan, who, between touch-football games on the lawn, family talent shows and massive feasts, give them little chance to work out their mix-up in peace and privacy. Yet for all their meddling and critiquing and fretting, the family proves, in the end, to truly stand by the one thing they all agree is most important: true love. In casting the supporting roles, Peter Hedges worked closely with his longtime friend and acclaimed Broadway casting director Bernard Telsey ("Rent,” "Hairspray,” "Wicked”) to find a team of actors who could create an authentically close-knit family atmosphere, replete with both love and conflict. "The challenge was to try to find actors who were able to really create with Peter. We wanted great actors who would make the parts jump off the page,” says Telsey. Peter had the vision and it was such a great and different way to cast for us. We had a blast.”

As Poppy and Nana Burns, the patriarch and matriarch of the Burns clan, two extraordinary actors were cast by Hedges: two-time Academy Award® winner Dianne Wiest and stage and screen star John Mahoney, best recognized as the retired policeman father of Frasier Crane on the hit series "Frasier.” They, in turn, were drawn by the depth of their characters, who aren't cardboard cutouts of grandparents, by any means. Says Mahoney: "Each of the characters in this story are such individuals. Poppy isn't your typical grandfather, all cuddly and warm; he has a lot of very strong opinions and strong ideas. That he wasn't what you would expect really appealed to me. Poppy knows that Dan feels that, with his first wife, he'd won the lottery, and that he might feel a little greedy trying to find the same thing again.

Next came the task of finding three talented young actresses to play Dan's alternately yearning and defiant daughters: teenaged Jane who, with her new driver's license, wants to be treated as an adult right now; middle daughter Cara, whose clothes and passion for her young boyfriend keep her father in a state of shock; and savvy fourth-grader Lilly, whose handmade gift to her father opens his eyes to what is most important. To form a true sibling trio, the filmmakers set out on a nationwide search, holding extensive open calls. Ultimately, Hedges cast Tony® nominee Alison Pill, with whom he had worked on "Pieces of April,” as Jane—and then sought two girls with a similar essence as her sisters, choosing the remarkable 8-year-old Marlene Lawston, who came to notice playing Jodie Foster's imperiled daughter in "Flightplan,” as young Lilly and newcomer Brittany Robertson as the provocative Cara. Hedges and the entire cast were amazed by how easily the girls slipped into the role of sisters who have been brought closer by their united front against their father's stuck-in-the-mud routine.

"The three of them together were exceptional because they bonded immediately—they did things together and they took care of each other very much like real sisters,” says Steve Carell.

"They are just great, funny, sweet, talented kids, and I had a great time working with them.” Alison Pill loved getting the chance to work with Hedges again and adored her character. "Jane's the mother figure in the family—she's the practical, sensible sister in the midst of a rebellious middle sibling and a younger, sweet thing,” she observes. "I enjoyed being the oldest one in the family, because I'm used to being the baby!”

Brittany Robertson instantly related to Cara as the family rebel crossing swords with her disciplinarian dad: "Cara's really just high-spirited—and she's not as crazy as her father believes. She's just really in love and has all these intense feelings,” comments Robertson. "She's the one trying to convince her dad that ma

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