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WIN WIN

About The Production
Tom McCarthy's WIN WIN starts with an ordinary man who is struggling to survive and provide in these tough economic times. As portrayed by Oscar® nominee Paul Giamatti, Mike Flaherty is a suburban father who wants more than anything to be a victorious wrestling coach, a winning husband and father and a better friend. He gets his chance to be all those things with one questionable choice that changes his life in ways he never expected, leading him not only on an incredible sports run with a young wrestling phenom, but also to heartbreak, hard truths and a surprising road to redemption.

The result is McCarthy's own witty, warm take as several of the characters -- especially Mike Flaherty and his unexpected house-guest turned wrestling star, Kyle Poplar -- confront one of the underlying dilemmas of our era: when times get tough, should you do whatever it takes to get ahead or what you know is right in your heart?

"Mike Flaherty had a simple plan for his life, but in these times, it just doesn't seem to be happening. He's a decent, humorous, hard-working guy who just makes one bad decision – and the fact of the matter is that if he had really thought things through, he probably wouldn't have done what he did,” McCarthy comments. "What interested me was how good people sometimes make very faulty decisions and have to find a way to live with them in the end. That became the compelling through-line of the story. What started as a broad sports comedy became more of a human comedy.”

McCarthy's first two films were critical and popular indie hits that introduced a compelling voice to the film world – a comedic voice that is deeply humane at its core. THE STATION AGENT was a poignantly funny character study of a loner drawn, in spite of himself, into a quirky, yet sustaining circle of friends; THE VISITOR was the powerful story of a college professor who becomes unwittingly embroiled in the lives of an immigrant couple trying to stay in America.

But with WIN WIN, McCarthy enters broader, lighter territory with a tale of sudden sports success that is not just about winning but also about whether winning is really the point. At the center of the film's action, McCarthy chose a sport rarely seen at the movies, yet one close to his heart: high school wrestling. Having once sported a wrestling singlet himself in his New Jersey youth, McCarthy was inspired by the vision of a last-place high-school wrestling team in a town where nearly everyone is hoping for a lucky break – and suddenly, they get one. That was the initial spark for WIN WIN.

"The idea really spoke to me and the challenge, I thought, would be to bring to life what, on the surface, looks like a very conventional world – suburban America and high school sports – but do it in a way that would be authentic, funny and alive,” McCarthy says.

To create this world, McCarthy partnered with a former wrestling buddy and current New Jersey lawyer, Joe Tiboni, to pen the script. They began by envisioning the team's coach, Mike Flaherty, a former high school wrestler turned eldercare lawyer. Mike is hovering on the brink of financial despair when an opportunity to solve all his problems suddenly appears -- at the seemingly small cost of taking advantage of a client with dementia, who might not even know the difference. By all accounts, Mike has always been a decent guy, but he has no idea his decision will have all kinds of consequences – both thrilling and unsettling -- for strangers he has yet to meet as well as his loved ones.

"Mike is kind of an everyman,” observes McCarthy. "He has a sense of commitment to his family and to his community and maybe he's not an extraordinary success, but up until now, he's been doing a pretty decent job of things. The problem is that Mike has ideas of where he should be in life and that doesn't quite match up with the reality of where he actually is. He's looking for some easy money, but the way he does it, brings a whole new set of obstacles into his life.”

With money as his motivation, Mike makes a bid to become the legal guardian for his client, Leo, whose confusion keeps him from realizing what is happening to him. It seems like a fail-proof plan – until, out-of-the-blue, Leo's unmet grandson, Kyle, a scruffy teen rebel on the run from a broken home, shows up on the Flaherty family's doorstep, and reveals himself to be both a remarkable wrestling genius, and a troubled soul hungering for a true home.

Kyle might be the catalyst for much of the film's humor, but his situation is also heartrending. "Kyle is a kid in a tough spot,” notes McCarthy. "He's a runaway, his mom is in rehab and he's come to find his grandfather who he's never actually met. But the one thing this kid lives for is to wrestle, and when he's offered the chance to wrestle for Mike's team, he just can't pass it up. And that's when the fun starts, because Mike realizes he's got a true ringer.”

McCarthy and Tiboni surrounded Mike and Kyle with a vibrant cast of characters from the community who each have their own need to rebound from rough times. They include Jackie, Mike's wife who unexpectedly becomes Kyle's confidante; Terry, Mike's recently divorced friend, who can't get his mind off his wife's affairs, literally; Vigman, Mike's fellow coach and stressed-out CPA who can't afford his stepson's Lasik; and Stemler, the skinny, petrified nerd whose presence on the wrestling team is a mystery even to himself.

As the town's characters came to life, McCarthy and Tiboni modeled the relationship between Mike and Terry, best friends and wrestling coaches, on their own friendship. "We're very different guys than they are, but we wanted to get at that kind of ease that comes when two friends have a very long history with each other,” says McCarthy, "and at the way a good friend can push your buttons at one moment and then make you laugh the next. Paul Giamatti and Bobby Cannavale really nailed that.”

That type of funny/moving duality is a big part of McCarthy's comedic style, which, no matter the subject, always focuses on the real experiences of everyday people. "I love to find moments of quiet humanity,” he says, "where you get the feeling that the people on screen are people you know, flaws and all. If you can do that, I think the audience will go on any ride, and this is quite a ride.”

When the screenplay was completed, WIN WIN attracted a producing trio that includes long-time McCarthy associate Mary Jane Skalski, who produced THE STATION AGENT and THE VISITOR; Groundswell Productions president Michael London, whose films include THE VISITOR and SIDEWAYS; and Everest Entertainment President Lisa Maria Falcone, who recently served as an executive producer on Danny Boyle's 127 HOURS and producer on MOTHER AND CHILD. They were each drawn to the human side of the film as well as to its spirited humor.

"What I love about Tom's work is that his films are always about characters that just need one little push to change their whole world,” says Skalski. "I love seeing that kind of story on screen. WIN WIN is about a single impulsive move that simultaneously brings people together and takes Mike Flaherty down a path that makes him question everything.”

Adds Michael London, "Tom's movies have all been about disconnected people who come together and create surrogate families. It's a theme I really love, and I think it's the reason his movies resonate so much with audiences. It's also why his movies are so exhilarating to be part of. In creating a family on screen, he creates a family behind the scenes as well during the making of each movie. WIN WIN was that kind of experi

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