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SWING VOTE

The Primaries
Long-time friends, writer/director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Jason Richman had always wanted to work together, but it wasn't until Richman threw out an idea that they were both passionate about that they decided to dive in. "It's hard to write with somebody,” says Stern. "But it really worked. It was a dream-writing scenario.”

The idea was a comedic look at this country's political process, seen through the eyes of a small-town girl and her apathetic dad. "We felt it was important to write something that had some meaning beyond just the entertainment factor of the comedy,” says Stern. "Our goal was to write a movie about a father and a daughter. The political craziness and chaos was almost a secondary story.”

The idea caught the attention of Kevin Costner, both as a producer and as an actor, for its comic elements and believable characters. "It felt cinematic and I liked it immediately,” recalls Costner. "I didn't really dance around. They've done a brilliant job with this comedy and I think you could put this in the same category as ‘Tin Cup' or ‘Bull Durham.' It doesn't stay a pure comedy. There are moments that have an emotional bottom and it adds to the experience. It's fun and funny but there are moments where, you know, your heart can break a little bit.”

Oscar®-winning producer Jim Wilson, Costner's producing partner since "Dances with Wolves,” agrees. "The first few pages absolutely grabbed me because it wasn't about politics at all,” recalls Wilson. "It was about a single father raising a 12-year-old daughter and their relationship. And the dialogue, the banter between these two is great.”

"It's very much a ‘Paper Moon' story,” says Stern. "We follow the relationship between a father and daughter and how they deal with the chaos that surrounds them.”

"Comedy is always part of everything I do because it's a natural human reaction,” adds Richman about the tone of the script. "But I think the most important thing in this movie — and the most difficult — is truth.” The writers felt strongly that if they were going to write about politics, that the story had to be based in reality. "The 2000 election was quite a snafu,” notes Richman about the initial inspiration for the story. "It really drove home the simple idea that every vote counts because it was so incredibly close.”

Adds Stern, "We thought that if an entire election could come down to a district in Florida — some 500 votes — and a gubernatorial race in Oregon could come down to 30 votes — we could create a believable election that came down to one vote.”

Stern says the filmmakers didn't want to take sides in the film's political story. "If there's a message to this film beyond the comedy and the relationships,” he says, "it's that every vote counts.”

Costner concludes, "I saw a billboard about eight years ago and it really stuck with me. It said, ‘92 million people in last year's election made a difference. They didn't vote.' It was so profound it was devastating.”

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