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The Supporting Cast
Ben Thomas begins his quest for redemption with a list of seven names – each of them desperate in some way, each of them an integral part of his plan. One of those on the list is Ezra Turner, a blind concert pianist, who is played by Woody Harrelson, the versatile actor who has jumped between comedy and drama with ease as witnessed recently by his roles in the Oscar®-winning No Country For Old Men and the comedy Semi-Pro opposite Will Farrell. Harrelson might not appear the obvious choice for such a specific role, but he had all the qualities for which Muccino was searching. "Woody has a gentleness to his soul that was crucial for Ezra, who is very sensitive, who feels shut down because of his blindness, but has a heart ready to dive into life, which Woody is able to reveal,” says the director. 

Harrelson personally dove into two forms of training for the brief but powerful role: taking lessons from a number of different piano teachers and working with the Braille Institute to experience as accurately as possible how to navigate the world like a blind person. "One of the reasons this part was so rewarding was all the wonderful people I met studying piano and learning to portray a blind character,” he says. 

Harrelson admits the role was a challenge, one which he feels Will Smith helped him to meet. "I remember the first day on the set I was so nervous about playing a blind piano player and Will came in and he was just patting people on the back and giving hugs, and I thought ‘It's pretty amazing that the biggest star in the world is one of the nicest guys in the world' – and that put me at ease. He really was that way the entire time I was on the set. And yet, he was also very focused on the work and always open to trying new things, and I think that helped us all get the full emotional content out of the story.”

Harrelson also enjoyed working closely with Gabriele Muccino in developing Ezra and his relationship with Ben, the full nature of which remains a puzzle until the very last moments of the film. "Gabriele is an extremely talented filmmaker,” he says. "He really pushes you. He always shoots straight and tells you exactly what he's feeling – and somehow he always seems to know what will make the scene better and your character come out more.” 

Other vital supporting characters surrounding Ben in the film include Ben's younger brother, played by Michael Ealy – a Golden Globe® nominee for "Sleeper Cell” whose film roles have ranged from Barbershop and 2 Fast 2 Furious to Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna – and Ben's loyal friend Dan, played by Barry Pepper – a Golden Globe® and Emmy nominee for portraying Roger Maris in Billy Crystal's telefilm "61,” and known for roles in such films as Flags of Our Fathers, Saving Private Ryan and The Green Mile. 

Ben's brother, intimately connected to Ben's quest to make amends yet currently estranged from him, is desperately trying to meet with Ben in person through the first part of the film. Ealy recalls how Will Smith came up with an idea to make their telephone conversations crackle with emotional tension. "When we rehearsed our scenes together, it wasn't quite clicking but then Will had the idea that if we actually spoke on the phone during the scene it would make so much more sense. So we tried that and when I couldn't see him, when I couldn't see his reactions, it naturally created all the tension that needed to be there. It was absolutely great.” 

The role, like many others in Seven Pounds, involved moving through a pendulum range of emotions for Ealy. "Gabriele Muccino loves conflicting emotions,” notes Ealy. "With my role, the key was trying to balance anger with love. When Ben's brother finally confronts him it's explosive, it's passionate, but there's a sense that this kind of feeling can only come between two people who really car

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