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MONTE CARLO

Casting And Pre-Production
Bezucha responded to the story on many levels, not the least of which was his own childhood experiences growing up in France, where his father and mother, both Americans, were a European history professor and accomplished musician, respectively. "This story is about the experiences and memories of youth that forever affect your life, and I felt it was a meaningful and emotionally honest take,” he says. "I think that's what resonates with girls this age.”

Di Novi and producer Alison Greenspan were just coming off a rewarding experience with Selena Gomez on Ramona & Beezus, and Bezucha shared their enthusiasm for the young actress. "I was completely charmed by Selena. She's at a remarkable point in her career and life that mimics the story,” he says. "She's about to lift off, and I saw an opportunity to do an Audrey Hepburn thing where she transforms from a girl to a young lady.” Adds Greenspan: "Selena is very charming and beautiful, but also very accessible, which lends her an ‘every girl' appeal. She projects a kindness and normalcy that enables her to embody Grace, and for audiences to hook onto her journey.”

The filmmakers were well aware that casting Gomez was laying the bedrock of the movie, as she would be challenged to play three roles: Cordelia, Grace, and Grace pretending to be Cordelia. The actress began working with a dialect coach weeks before cameras rolled, finding the appropriate British accents for both Cordelia and ‘fake' Cordelia. "I had no idea there are so many different forms of British dialect,” Selena remarks. "We came up with one that worked, and we did exercises and voice training two hours a day. I was quite nervous about it, really, and worked very hard to try to get it right. Cordelia's voice is in a lower range, while Grace pretending to be Cordelia has a slightly higher registry. Grace is more my natural voice, but with a slight Texas accent, which didn't need emphasizing. The trick was keeping it consistent throughout the movie.”

The sassy character of Emma was entrusted to Katie Cassidy, who has garnered attention on Melrose Place and the hit remake of Nightmare on Elm Street. "Katie instantly captured Emma's spark,” describes Bezucha. "She can demonstrate shrewdness, innocence and comedy simultaneously, which you don't realize is so rare until trying to find it.”

Recalls Cassidy: "I had a Paris work adventure when I was 19, with a similar experience as Emma. I remember walking into the hotel where we were staying carrying bags of groceries because we couldn't afford to dine at the hotel, and getting some strange looks. I can relate to the feeling of being on a lower rung of the European economic-social strata.”

In mulling over casting for the role of Meg, the yin to Emma's yang, Bezucha kept hearing the name of Leighton Meester. "I hadn't seen Gossip Girl,” he remembers, "but the people I was discussing the character with all said, ‘You have to meet Leighton.' So I read some parts with her from a very rough and unfinished previous draft and was very impressed with her effortless range.” Di Novi says Meester possesses "the aura of a 1940s movie star, like Myrna Loy. She's a classic beauty, with a wonderful dry delivery, who can hit all the comedic and dramatic notes.”

In casting the three principal roles, Greenspan notes, "Tom always reiterated this idea of Neapolitan ice cream, with three very distinct looks, personalities and energies among the three leads. I think that's exactly what we were able to find for this ensemble.”

With the troika of actresses settled, the filmmakers turned their attention to the role of Owen, in which Bezucha said he always envisioned Cory Monteith, who plays the role of Finn Hudson on the Golden Globe winning, hugely popular FOX television series, Glee. "In my office I had pictures up of the sort of iconic faces I wanted for the part, and Cory was always up there for Owen. He's a big, friendly, very funny and likable guy. He sells the character the instant he's on screen.”

A global casting search enabled filmmakers to fill the roles of the male romantic interests with two emerging young international actors: French thespian Pierre Boulanger (as Theo), who, at age 14, starred opposite Omar Sharif in 2003's Monsieur Ibrahim, which was a Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language film; and Australian Luke Bracey (as Riley), star of the popular Oz series Home and Away. The two are making their Hollywood debuts.

High fashion also plays a key role in the movie, and costume designer Shay Cunliffe spent the precious weeks before principal photography on whirlwind shopping tours of Paris, New York, London and Budapest. States Cunliffe: "We have some wonderful couture dresses that we bought from designer stores or borrowed from archives, or that have been custom-made. Our task was to lend a vintage flair to contemporary clothes. Tom and I referenced a lot of period films and are trying to capture a more timeless world. We have clothes from Dior, Chanel, De La Renta, and Gucci. The tone is classic and elegant. The clothes are all fitted, accessories restrained.” Cunliffe traveled with two suitcases containing $100,000 worth of dresses to Los Angeles for fittings with Gomez, and then on to New York for fittings with Katie Cassidy and Leighton Meester. The three actresses were excited about the wardrobes, offered a lot of input, and "had a great time trying on various looks,” Cunliffe states.

Much of the story takes place in Monaco's ultra glamorous Hotel de Paris. Hosting some of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world, the hotel was only available to production for a few short days, with limited access. That required most of the shooting to take place on a "recreated” hotel set. Remarks production designer Hugo Lucyzc-Wyhowski: "The key to making this thing work was being able to convincingly replicate a substantial portion of the lobby of the Hotel de Paris on our Budapest soundstages. "

Landmark locations in Paris cannot be recreated, so a five-day shoot took place in the City of Light prior to filming in Monaco. Mimicking the frantic pace set by the storyline's tour guide, Madame Valerie, filming took place in and around Charles de Gaulle airport, the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Sacre Coeur, Pont des Arts, Arc de Triomphe, and, for good measure, the Gare de Lyon train station. "Our filming in Paris was like The Amazing Race,” laughs Bezucha. "A whirlwind tour of the great sights of the city, with a few visual nods to some of my favorite French films, such as Lavender Hill Mob.”

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