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About The Film's Origins
Like so many Americans, writer/director Tamara Jenkins woke up one day to discover she was living in a strange, new, rapidly aging world. Every day, she walked her dog by a neighborhood nursing home, observing aides wheeling their ever-multiplying charges around the block. She'd seen her grandmother go into a nursing home and then watched, as her own father developed dementia. Through it all, she began to realize that almost nobody was writing about these core experiences – except in the most grave, mawkish or sentimental of ways. Thus it was that Jenkins decided to tackle the subject from her own raw, real, comically tinged perspective. She was fascinated by how younger adults react to seeing their own parents drop through the rabbit hole of aging, and wanted to dig under the skin of our societal anxiety about growing up, let alone getting old.

"It was something that was happening all around me and at first I was scared to write about it. It's an intimidating subject, but ultimately, I think THE SAVAGES is a story that is not just about confronting death but really also about seizing upon your life, even in the smallest of ways.” . Jenkins had earlier come to the fore with her critically acclaimed screenwriting and directing debut, SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS, the gritty and hilarious story of a poor Jewish family trying to make it on the fringes of Beverly Hills in the freewheeling 1970s. Starring Natasha Lyonne, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, Carl Reiner and Jessica Walter, the film became a cult favorite – and established Jenkins' skill at traversing dark territory with devastating wit.

No one was quite sure where Jenkins' imagination would go next, including producer Ted Hope, who, impressed by her previous work, had signed Jenkins to a blind deal to write "whatever she wanted to write, provided it had some humor to it.” Hope, who had since founded the production company This is that with Anne Carey and Anthony Bregman, remembers vividly the moment when Jenkins called him and told him she had figured out what her next movie was going to be about. She invited him to her spoken word performance at The Moth, a Gramercy Park venue devoted to urban storytelling where listeners can hear everyone from storytellers-in-training to master storytellers and best-selling authors.

"At the performance, Tamara told the story of taking her dad who was suffering from dementia on an airplane cross-country,” explains Hope. "She had the audience in hysterics. It was incredibly moving and heartfelt, and it had these real characters that were unique and fascinating to watch. And all of the things that came out in that performance—the dynamic characters, the raw emotions, that balance between humor, tragedy and real life—Tamara was able to put on the page, and up on the screen, in THE SAVAGES,” says Hope.

Jenkins notes that her story-telling stint at The Moth was just one of several seeds that led to the multi-layered creation of THE SAVAGES. "The story came together as a mosaic made out of all these little fragments of ideas, some of them from my own experiences, some of them from things I observed around me,” she explains. "Then, it really started to come together through the characters of Wendy and Jon, these two adult siblings who have such completely different ways of dealing with the world and yet are thrust into this completely primal experience in which they've got no choice but to rely on each other.”

The story began to broaden out into another rich but rarely-explored cinematic theme – the complex web woven by brother-sister relationships. As Jenkins continued to write, she began to see Wendy and Jon in terms of two rather unlikely-seeming fairy tale characters: Hansel & Gretel, the duo forged by the Brothers Grimm who, abandoned by their poor woodcutter father, find themselves lost in a haunted wood.


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