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SLEEPWALKING

About The Casting
Once Theron signed on to produce, Sleepwalking quickly attracted an impressive cast of Hollywood heavyweights. "We just really lucked out with the cast,” Theron says. "I can't take that for granted, because a huge part of making a film is getting the right cast. … Bill and I both felt like there was never a compromise in that part.”

In addition to producing, Theron took on the role Joleen, a single mom who abandons her young daughter, Tara, after she takes up with the latest in a string of boyfriends. Theron relished the part, which shared common elements with two memorable characters she has played in recent years— Aileen Wuornos in Monster and Josey Aimes in North Country.

"I wanted to play Joleen because it's rare that actresses get a chance to play flawed women,” Theron explains. "We like to keep our women as mothers and nurturers and rarely do we get to see a woman in conflict. … We're not all suited for motherhood, and I thought this was a great chance to show a woman like that, and not ask for sympathy, but perhaps for empathy—some kind of understanding, because I don't think you can hate her.”

Surprisingly, Theron says that juggling her dual roles as producer and actor actually helped her performance. Having to focus on the practical aspects of getting the film made meant she could switch off the creative part of her brain so when it came time to get in front of the camera, she approached the part fresher. "I'm one of those actors whose head goes 5,000 miles an hour, so if you leave me alone I'll over-think everything,” she says. "And I think it's dangerous for an actor to do that. I think that gut reaction and that initial response really disappear.”

While Dix was impressed by Theron's producing skills, he was blown away by her acting. "You sit behind the monitors and you watch her light up the screen and you just know that you're making something really incredible,” he says. "Just watching it raw, watching the energy that's brought in the room when she's on screen, I know exactly why I made this movie.”

For the lead role of James, who does his best to rise to the challenge of parenting young Tara in her mother's absence despite his all too apparent shortcomings, Nick Stahl was the unanimous choice. "You can have great material and a good director but unless you have an actor who is completely and utterly willing to give himself to the role, you don't have a movie,” says Theron. "I've been a fan of Nick's for a really long time. I've also worked with and talked to actors who have worked with him and always heard incredible things about him. I've always liked watching him on the screen and felt that someone should give him something gut wrenching and challenging for an actor.”

Stahl, who made his big-screen debut at age 12 in Mel Gibson's directorial debut The Man Without a Face and went on to star in such blockbuster films such as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Frank Miller's Sin City, says the role of James is deceptively complex. "At first glance, he reads somewhat simple and has a simple view of the world. And as you get to know him through the story, you see that where he came from, both he and his sister, is a place that complicated his present-day life. James is a wounded man … he's been beaten down and suffered a lot of tough breaks, so everything he deals with in the story he views through those lenses.”

To play Joleen's 11-year-old daughter, the world-weary Tara, the filmmakers chose AnnaSophia Robb, who despite her youth had impressed them with her large and diverse body of performances. Robb made her motion picture debut opposite Jeff Daniels in Wayne Wang's Because of Winn-Dixie, and more recently starred in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and features such as Bridge to Terabithia, Doubting Thomas and The Reaping.

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