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DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES

Wimpy Friends
Robert Capron returns as Greg Heffley's best friend, Rowley Jefferson, "Rowley is still wide-eyed,” says Simpson. "He thinks you should just be yourself and people will like you.” "Rowley and Greg's relationship hasn't really changed,” Capron elaborates. "They're still really good friends and Greg is still making Rowley do things that he doesn't want to, but Rowley's doing them anyway.”

Jeff Kinney notes that, "In the first movie, Greg is worried about Rowley weighing him down in the social world. But now, he is comfortable with Rowley as his best friend. There's something about the relationship that's really one-sided, but there's something that also works. And in this movie, we're exploring the part that works.”

Adds Nina Jacobson: "The fans love Rowley and his friendship with Greg, so we worked hard to make the character even more prominent than he is in the book. We knew that Greg couldn't take Rowley for granted the way he did in the first movie. They still have their ["The Odd Couple” duo] Oscar-and-Felix dynamic, but their friendship had to evolve. We wanted to give Robert the opportunity to do all the things he does so well, especially the way he brings out Rowley's humor, sweetness and unexpected depth. Even though the focal point of this movie is the brothers' relationship, we looked for places in the script where Rowley could play a genuine role in the evolution of the story.”

In addition to Rowley, Greg's inner circle continues to include Fregley (Grayson Russell), a thin, hyper, weird kid and, as we'll never forget from the first film, the proud owner of a secret freckle. Then there's Chirag Gupta (Karan Brar), a diminutive Indian youngster with whom Greg is vying for the affections of pretty new seventh grader Holly Hills. Also returning is Greg's arch-nemesis Patty Farrell (Laine MacNeil), who remains determined to see Greg suffer as much as possible during his middle school years.

Making a special appearance – as Holly's dad – is Jeff Kinney. In his other role, as executive producer, Kinney spent as much time on set as his busy schedule would allow. "It meant a lot to the cast and crew to have Jeff on set because he's an inspiration,” says Simpson.

Kinney joined some of the young actors on their press tour for the first film and, when the fifth book in the series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth, was published a few weeks after filming wrapped on the second film, Kinney invited Zachary, Robert and Grayson to join him for his book tour. Some of the young cast also joined Kinney for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, where Greg Heffley took flight as a gigantic Wimpy Kid helium balloon.

While new to the franchise, director David Bowers was well aware of its appeal. A fan of the books and of the first movie, he embraced the opportunity, he says, "to jump into something that was already terrific and loved, while bringing to it a little of my own sense of humor and sensibilities.” Bowers says his approach to storytelling is discovering the humor and emotion in everyday situations. "I like to go to the emotional heart of a story,” he explains. "If there's something that's going to move an audience or something they can relate to, that's what I like to hone in on.”

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