About The Story
An irreverent teen hero with a wry view of the adult world, an unsinkable belief in the power of youth and an outrageous scheme to ensure his perpetual popularity, CHARLIE BARTLETT quickly drew passionate fans in Hollywood. Among those fans was leading comedy director and producer Jay Roach, who in turn sent the script to his friend Jon Poll, the talented editor who helped create the pace and comedy of Roach's hit "Meet The Parents" and "Austin Powers" series, and a man now on his own quest to find a project for his directorial debut.
For Poll, CHARLIE BARTLETT was love at first read. "I'd read a hundred scripts in the last year, just waiting to find one I really liked, and this was it," recalls Poll. "I laughed out loud as well as felt challenged, entertained, surprised and moved. Here was a high school movie about real people and real issues with lots of humor as well as pathos. Charlie Bartlett was such a great character, someone who could overcome nearly anything with his guileless optimism, and that was really appealing."
The character of Charlie was born in the imagination of rising young screenwriter Gustin Nash, who was making ends meet by working at a camera store in the Burbank Mall at the time he started writing the screenplay. It was there, among the cliques hanging out at the mall, from the super-cool to the outcast, that Nash first started thinking about the wide disparity between raw truth of the teenagers he saw everyday and the far slicker, simplified kinds of kids he saw depicted at the movies. It was a situation he wanted to rectify.
"That's when I set out to write something about teenagers that wouldn't have so much gloss, that would feel pretty authentic," says Nash. "I mean, teenagers are not stupid and at times I think they've got a lot up on adults, so it was important to me that this story feel very real in every aspect."
Thus it was that Nash began probing how a hopeful kid takes on a world of confusion - a world rife with both high pressure and low self esteem, and with both a huge need for acceptance and an irresistible urge for rebellion. As Nash began writing, CHARLIE BARTLETT began down a provocative path -taking up the issue of pharmaceutical psychiatry and the reality of overmedication of teens with powerful psychotropic drugs, as Charlie begins dispensing Ritalin, Prozac and other "feel-good" pills so popular with adults, among his school's populace.
Nash knew he was edging into controversial territory with this storyline - but he had no intention of dodging what is a reality for many kids across America who either use or abuse psychiatric drugs. Yet, he also notes that the film is, at heart, a character-driven comedy that is about Charlie's realization that there's far more to helping people than just giving them a quick fix. "The film isn't really pro psychiatric drugs or anti psychiatric drugs," Nash says. "It's really about a kid who starts off selling these drugs to gain popularity but comes to realize he can help kids talk about their problems through methods other than drugs. It never occurred to Charlie that he could be doing really good things for people until now."
Nash especially enjoyed carving out a teen hero with a completely different kind of attitude than is usually seen at the movies. "What makes Charlie cool to me is that some people deal with their turmoil by getting angry or depressed, but Charlie deals with things through optimism," the writer observes. "He's always giving other people and new ideas the benefit of the doubt which makes him pretty unusual."
Though the film dives fearlessly into darker comic territory, Nash ultimately says it is about hope - for both teens and adults. He comments: "I'm sure people will leave this film talkin
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