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WELCOME TO THE RILEYS

A Different Kind Of Family
WELCOME TO THE RILEYS brings together three well-respected performers, James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo, in roles that allow them to create characters far different from what audiences have come to expect from them. "All three went deep into themselves and I think they may be playing more themselves than we've seen before,” says Scott.

Doug is the lynchpin in the emotional triangle and the filmmakers began and ended their search with actor James Gandolfini. "From the beginning, we said there was only one person to play Doug,” says Michael Costigan. "We needed an actor who could handle the range of emotions and stay believable in this world. We went straight to Jim.”

Gandolfini had only recently completed almost a decade of playing Tony Soprano on the critically acclaimed HBO series. "I was a bit nervous about going into a film with a very good actor who had played one character for so long,” Scott says. "Once I saw ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES, an unusual musical he made with Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet, I changed my mind. He gets cast all the time as a wise guy, but he has an incredible range.”

Doug Riley is a self-made man, a successful plumbing contractor sidelined by tragedy. "He started as a plumber, and the fact that he's enormously successful is his own doing,” says Scott. "I wanted a big man who was credible as a blue-collar guy, much like my grandfather in the north of England. Jim has thatinnate quality. He's like a big grizzly bear, very lovable and cuddly, but he's still got claws and he's very powerful. It's important that Doug is a man's man who is felled by this pain. Jim's capacity for tenderness is immense and very powerful. He's a complex man, but also a very sweet and kind person.”

"Jake is a great director,” says Gandolfini. "He's an enormously creative talent, and made the film enjoyable to work on, which was no small feat considering the darkness of the material.”

Emotionally as well as professionally, Doug sees a problem, rolls up his sleeves and gets to work. "Doug is a damaged man who is trying to mend his broken heart,” says the actor. "When he sees Mallory is broken, he tries to fix himself by fixing her.”

Doug finds closure and redemption in the experience of helping Mallory, Gandolfini says. "He has a chance to feel he has made a difference in a young girl's life, and a second chance for his marriage. Without giving anything away, Doug and Lois may not be in such a different place from where they started, but it does seem like they find a reason to go on that they may not have had when the story started.”

When she first met with Jake Scott, Kristen Stewart had just finished filming TWILIGHT, the film that would make her a global star. But she was best known at the time for her finely wrought performance as a lonely girl living in a trailer park in INTO THE WILD. "Kristen had a vulpine, feral wiliness combined with a childlike quality and an almost hidden beauty,” he says. "It was exactly the quality we were looking for.”

Bloom and Agnelli were already admirers of her work as well. "When this project came along, we were already thinking she was one of the best young actresses out there,” says Bloom. "It's very rare to find someone, especially in that age range, with the emotional availability and willingness to take the risks required to play a character as vulnerable and tortured as Mallory. We were also very confident in Jake's trust in her.”

Stewart confesses that when she first read the script, she was reluctant to commit. "I loved the material so much that I didn't want to let it down,” she says. But Scott was determined to have her play the role and kept in touch during the development period. "Jake asked me to talk to him about it again. It was sort of intimidating. Mallory was probably the most broken character of that age that I'd ever read, yet she was also one of the funniest and most seriously vivacious.

"Mallory is strong and very, very much alive, but she doesn't have one of the key elements that makes life worth living,” Stewart explains. "She doesn't have the capacity for love and trust in others, or at least she thinks she doesn't. Doug and Lois show her that she has not yet gotten to that point.”

To research the role, Stewart spent time in strip clubs in Los Angeles, often accompanied by Scott. "He orchestrated everything and made sure I felt safe,” she says. "We went to a ton of strip clubs. Once at a club in LA, we went to the back door and I was already not washing my hair and looking sort of worse for wear. A guy at the club told me if ‘you want a job, you'll have come back later.' I was like ‘oh, no, I'm just coming to look around.'”

The experience gave the actress a first-hand look at Mallory's world. "What struck me was how hungry the girls are, and how cutthroat and businesslike it is,” she says. "I spoke to people in New Orleans who were not living on the street, but who never really had a steady place to live and who were making their money on the street doing what Mallory does. We actually shot in a real club called Dixie Divas. I practiced in there, and danced with the girls. Not a lot of them were open to talking about themselves, but a few shared some great stories about their lives.”

The actors' onset relationships developed organically, Stewart says, mirroring the relationships in the film. "This was the first time I had been on location alone and I was still a little scared of the role. I was so intimidated by the whole thing that both James and Melissa instantly stepped in. James and I had something of the same dynamic that Doug and Mallory have, and, as in the movie, it's a great relationship.

He's really funny and incredibly serious. It was just inspiring to share energy with him.

"And Melissa was mothering me all the time,” Stewart adds. "She's one of the most incredible actresses and really fun to improv with. She can go anywhere, because she's just right there, so present all the time.”

The film's somewhat ambiguous ending strikes Stewart as realistic. "When they meet, they're all really broken,” she says. "I think that rather than putting each other back together, they show each other they still have that possibility. Maybe Mallory doesn't stop doing her job. Maybe she's still dancing, I don't know. But now that she has someone in the world who cares about her, she cares about herself. Doug gave her that.”

The role of Lois, Doug's soft-spoken, agoraphobic wife, required an actress who could create a world of hurt with a simple gesture or look. "I wanted someone who could wear that anguish and that terrible, profound pain on the surface, but at the same time, remain graceful, meticulous and dignified, just as you find her in the beginning of the film,” says Scott. "She continues the daily routines as she believes a wife should.”

The director recalls writing Melissa Leo's name on top of the front page of his script after reading it. "I already knew her work from 21 GRAMS, and I thought she was fabulous,” says Scott. "Melissa is the rare actress who is not afraid to show her character's lines and damage. She is a genius and deserves every accolade she gets.”

As we went through the financing process, I was given a list of perhaps ten names, some of whom really didn't fit with the story, but who were thought to be more ‘bankable,'” says Scott. "I knew this film would be damaged by miscasting because it's all about character.”

The director championed Leo to the producers, convinced she was the right person to play Lois. "A lot of actresses, including some big marquee names, met wi

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