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EVERYTHING MUST GO

About The Production
When writer-director Dan Rush read Raymond Carver's short story, "Why Don't You Dance?,” he realized that he had found the source material he was looking for for his first feature. He explains, "I thought I needed to write something with a great role for an actor. Here was the tale of a man whose marriage falls apart and who finds his belongings dumped out in his yard. He then rearranges the furniture on his front lawn so that he can watch television and listen to his record player. In ‘Why Don't You Dance,' you have a situation where everything is stripped away and you have no belongings, no friends, and in this case you have a problem as well, an alcohol problem, what do you do? And to me, I think that that's the definition of character.”

Beginning with the simple three-person story, he introduced new characters to populate the film, including Kenny (played by Christopher Jordan Wallace), an awkward young kid who helps Nick conduct his yard sale and Samantha (played by Golden Globe nominated actress Rebecca Hall), the neighbor who helps him to realize that not everything is lost. From the depths of despair, Nick is able to find hope. As producer Marty Bowen puts it: "he starts to consider reassembling the pieces to his life, and gets to know the neighbors in his neighborhood, this very bucolic neighborhood, who he's never really known before as human beings.”

The script eventually became what Rush had intended: a real story with deeply human characters: " whether the scenes play funny or whether they play sad or whether they play funny and sad at the same time, it's based upon the moment.”

With they saw the finished script, producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey knew that the film was one that needed to be made. "When I first read it, I knew immediately that this was the type of movie that Temple Hill would want to do because it goes straight to the heart of the human condition and it does it with a bit of a smile on its face,” says Bowen. It had also struck a chord with Bowen's producing partner, Wyck Godfrey: "It's an adult story, it's ultimately about a guy who has to look at his life and say: "everything that I've done until now may be totally falling apart, what am I going to do from here?” I think we live in a time where that's happening to a lot of people, people lose their jobs all the time, people get divorced all the time and I think that's something that a lot of people can relate to.” Says Bowen: "I was driving back into the office that morning excited to tell Wyck that I had found a script that I thought we should do and it just so happens that Wyck was making the exact same phone call to me.”

Any concerns about working with a first-time director (albeit one with extensive experience behind the camera) were immediately dispelled. As Godfrey puts it: "When we sat down with him, he was really direct about what he wanted to accomplish with the film visually and I think that's something that filled us with a lot of confidence. The way that he's landed his cast, actors don't just do a movie because they like a script, they have to feel confident in the director.” That confidence carried over onto the set, with Bowen amazed at the energy Rush brought to the production: "Dan has the gift of exuberance, he's making the movie that he's been dying to make for three or four years now. Sometimes you'll see a great take and he'll turn around and his eyes will be big and wide and his smile goes across his face… and that's infectious - you take that with you, you're excited to be there to support his vision. And I think the actors feed off that. He's a very, very bright man and he knows these characters inside and out.”

This confidence was crucial in assembling the cast. From the beginning, it was clear that the key would be the casting of Nick, who appears in almost every scene of the film. He is also a very complicated character. As Rush puts it: "the idea is that Nick is a guy who does bad things but isn't inherently a bad person”. There was only one person for the role – Will Ferrell, an actor who has anchored some of the most successful films of the last decade, as well showing admirable range in such films as STRANGER THAN FICTION. Says Bowen: "We thought that, in order to be able to get the full emotional impact of this character who has some irredeemable elements to him, it was better to get somebody you inherently liked.” For Bowen, Ferrell was just that kind of person: "he has an inherent sympathy… there's not a mean-spirited bone in his body”.

Ferrell was immediately attracted to the script: ''it constantly ebbs and flows between these extremely sad, serious moments and these situations that are really humorous… It's not afraid to be emotional, it's not afraid to be touching, but what I loved most about it is that it's ambiguous at times – it gives the audience the opportunity to work things out for themselves.'' Ferrell ''jumped at the chance'' to play Nick Halsey: 'you just don't get that many opportunities to work with great material.'' As Ferrell puts it: ''I've gotten to do a couple of movies outside the box of what I usually do, but nothing as emotionally driven as this.'' Despite having barely any time ("I was booked for about a year”), he signed on to the movie, setting the precedent for the remaining cast. As Michael Peña, who plays Detective Frank Garcia, puts it: "you just want to be part of something that could be special.”

Golden Globe-nominated actress Rebecca Hall was similarly attracted to the script: "I read all those Raymond Carver short stories and I think they're brilliant and it fascinated me that Dan was able to take what is essentially four pages of a story and expand it into something that is an entire world and a entire, fully formed narrative with characters that are very three-dimensional and complicated”. Rebecca's character, Samantha, forms a stark counter-point to Nick. She is young and pregnant and new to the neighborhood. Yet, she too has a weariness to her and soon she and Nick strike up a friendship: "I think it's the gravitational pull between two lonely types.”

The cast quickly filled out, with acclaimed actors Laura Dern and Michael Peña boarding the project. There was, however, one role that still needed to be cast: that of Kenny, the young boy who befriends Nick and helps him carry out his yard sale – and finally gain some perspective on his life. Says Ferrell: "it's the most crucial relationship in the movie… because this guy becomes him best friend, this kid almost becomes the only person he can talk to.” The filmmakers decided on Christopher Jordan (CJ) Wallace (currently age 14), the son of the late rapper Notorious B.I.G., who had played his father as a youth in NOTORIOUS, the biopic of his life. "He's been amazing”, says Rush. The respect is mutual: "Dan is a great director. He's really honest with me, he doesn't treat me like a little kid and I like that”.

For Rush, the production of EVERYTHING MUST GO is a testament to Hollywood's enduring ability to construct great films from limited resources: "I think that's something that's really nice about the business of Hollywood – that people still want to do things because they love them. And they'll take pay cuts - and they'll make sacrifices - because they're trying to do something creative and special, and I think that's a really nice, nice part of the business.”

In the end, Rush hopes that the film will inspire the same passion in an audience as it did in him and his cast: "for me, the greatest movies whether big or small are movies that move me an

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