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A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN

About The Production
The story of how the script came to producer John Davis is not uncommon in Hollywood. While waiting for a friend at the Four Seasons hotel in Los Angeles, Davis struck up a conversation with someone sitting next to him. She had a script, he loved the idea, and the rest is history. But what is uncommon is the delicate mix of comedy and emotion that come together to tell the story of one woman's ultimate self-discovery.

"A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN is a story about a heroic character that, faced with the possibility of her own demise, never lets her comedy down," explains Davis. "Marley has everything, but uses humor to deflect the pressure to commit emotionally in a relationship. Through the process of finding out that she might die, Marley finds the meaning of her life."

"Rarely do you read a script where you laugh out loud and you cry, and cry hard," says producer Neil Sacker. "Here's a woman who is larger than life, everybody's best friend, who brings joy to everybody's life and has everything to look forward to. She finds out that she may have a very limited time to live and in the process she teaches everybody else how to live."

Together Davis, Sacker and producer Mark Gill began the process of casting the lead actress, as well as finding the film's director. Hudson and director Nicole Kassell "felt like they were a great combination, and it finally just gelled," said Davis, who worked on the script for eight years before it started production. Nicole's directing debut, the critically acclaimed "The Woodsman," confirmed her ability to work with actors on the subtle levels the script demanded to obtain a mix of comedic, heroic, and dramatic performance.

Not long after celebrating her recent promotion with friends, Marley is diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer. "What really struck me was her journey and the way it affects all those around her; as she in the process of possibly leaving, they are all coming down to Earth," said Kassell. "I thought, wow this script is a really truthful treatment of the subject matter; it spoke to me and felt like it was a story that would resonate."

"I love the story and I feel that a movie like this hasn't been made in a long time," said Hudson. "I remember after I read the script I cried for 20 minutes. I met with Nicky and realized that the story was representative of so many brave people who have accepted their life as it is. It made me want to join Nicky in making this film and doing it in a way that hopefully you can laugh and you can cry and everyone will be able to relate to."

"Nicky was passionate about the script from the first meeting," Gill said. "Based on what we'd seen in The Woodsman, we expected her to have a great take on the drama, which she did. But she also completely understood and relished the humor, which is so crucial to making the film work. It was a very easy and unanimous decision to hire her, and that's not often the case." Said Kassell: "I was very honest with them about how I felt the film could be, and that we would laugh hard and cry hard."

"There will be moments in the movie that people will feel more connected to because it is so close to home," explained Kate. "Every time I read the script or we did a scene, something about that scene hit me more than it did a previous time. The characters are so full and rounded, and you get to know their dysfunctions and how they deal with their own issues throughout Marley's journey."

Hudson also believes many people will relate to Marley's struggle with her mother and father. Marley's parents, Beverly (Kathy Bates) and Jack (Treat Williams) rush to her side, but the overbearing mother and estranged absentee father don't make for easy company. "Beverly is an emotional freak and a bit of a drama queen at the beginning," said Bates of her character, who we first meet at a dinner with her daughter and ex-husband. "It's funny how we all push each other's buttons, especially when there's unresolved stuff," said Williams of the not-so-idyllic family reunion. "Kathy has this great capacity to make things simultaneously very funny and very real. Marley is caught in this crossfire of hatred and it was fun to enjoy Kathy's performance and be in the scene at the same time," recalled Williams, who worked with Bates previously in "The Late Shift," and was also directed by her in "Everwood."

"Beverly is always trying to get involved in things, and Marley has spent her life trying to get away from her mother," Hudson said. "She comes barreling back into my life, and it's the one relationship that I have to really forgive myself for, for making it difficult on my mother throughout our life together. She's the one person that's always there, so you fight them so hard because you know they're not going anywhere. Then to tell them that you might be going is not the easiest thing in the world to do. That was an amazing thing to play, especially with Kathy who is such an incredible actress."

"In my mind Beverly has always wanted to be more like a buddy and a friend, and in the course of this story she has to sink into the role of being a mom," said Nicky, who first met with Bates in her hometown of Memphis, Tenn. The actress was doing some work for the Methodist Health Care Foundation and over lunch they discussed relationships, their mothers and families. "She goes from being somebody who needs all the attention to realizing it's time to give someone else the attention. She has to grow up and it's really profound and beautiful."

"When I read it I was somewhat touched that Jack really doesn't know how to find his way back to a relationship with Marley," said Williams, who as Marley's detached father can only offer the best medical care money can buy. "He doesn't have the tools to understand women very well. Jack is just trying to control everything and he doesn't have any room for being vulnerable or listening to her, who she is, listening to her heart."

"Treat was just such a perfect Jack because you see him struggling with it, he didn't have it in him to come to terms with his mistakes, and when he does it's so genuine and sweet," Hudson said. There is a key moment between Marley and her father, "they're at a meal and he's just trying to do the superficial thing that he's always done with her, and she can't do it anymore, there's no time for chit chat," continues Kassell, who discovered in early conversations with the actor that his own relationship with his father was difficult. "Marley calls him on it, he rises to the occasion, and it's very moving."

"Marley has had Beverly for a mother, someone who sort of sucks all of the air out of the room," said Bates. She says she laughed more than she cried while reading the script. "I think it's been a very emotional experience for all of us for different reasons. Nicky is very quiet but quiet waters do run deep and I think she has a real fundamental understanding of how she wants to tell the story, and she is very wise about the human condition."

Sarah (Lucy Punch) is Marley's co-worker at the ad agency and her after-hours party partner. The two women share the same ribald humor, and their relationship is obviously complicit in an early scene when Marley arrives late for a big client meeting. Their seamless banter tracks from the moment Marley breezes into the office and "she dumps her stuff, she has her bike, she changes her shoes, she's putting on her jacket, she's doing her hair, she's looking for the story boards, she's in the room, she's does the pitch, she wins the client," recalled P

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