SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD
About The End of the World
We've all imagined the end of the world - along with the attendant floods,
fires, earthquakes, pandemic viruses, and the asteroid hurtling towards
Earth which will be destroyed at the last possible moment by human
intervention of epic proportions. That is not the end of the world as
Lorene Scafaria sees it.
In writing her feature directorial debut Seeking a Friend for the End of
the World, Scafaria was more intrigued by what could happen to ordinary
people - and how they would interact with each other - in the days
preceding The Event.
Scafaria found herself casting a cockeyed glance at "apocalyptic
tradition." She notes, "I had a small obsession with 'the end is near,' and
a larger obsession with love. So it became a fun challenge to see what
would happen when worlds collide - so to speak.
"I figured I would keep the screenplay at a very human level in scope and
tell a story of relationships; what people would do, and how a person
with feelings towards another person would be affected."
The writer/director didn't necessarily want to make "a 'road movie.' I
kept trying not to write it as that, though eventually I gave in and started
to embrace the concept a little more - but I keep halting the lead
characters' road trip because of basic things like gas. They find
themselves in some pickles along their route."
A couple of drafts were written, but work stopped and Scafaria's
perspective changed once her father fell ill and passed away. She reflects,
"I took six months off. Then I came back and rewrote the script,
concentrating more on the concept of time - having it, and losing it."
Ultimately, she offers, "There is a lot in this story that is me; of the two
lead characters, I'm more the Penny type, but I have a strong dose of
Dodge in me as well.
"Up until this tipping point, these two people have lived their lives very
differently. As much as Dodge has avoided life, Penny has been diving in
head first. Together, they find they can face the end of the world."
Mandate Pictures, which had backed the Scafaria-scripted Nick & Norah's
Infinite Playlist, came aboard the new project as co-financier, while
Anonymous Content's Steve Golin and Joy Gorman Wettels committed to
produce the movie. Golin recounts, "Joy and I liked Lorene's pitch - a
small story of two people set against a looming bigger background - and
how she would combine humor and drama."
Next to come aboard was co-financier Indian Paintbrush with producers
Steven Rales and Mark Roybal. The latter notes that he found the script
"wholly original and surprising. The story has a big concept, yet never
loses sight of its humanity because Lorene is always in tune with evoking
real emotions. I was tremendously moved by it - I found myself laughing
and crying by the end of the script, which is very rare.
"I think my strong response was emotional because Lorene is telling a
story about a thrilling, thought-provoking situation in which you are
potentially going on the most important journey of your life by yourself."
Seeking a Cast
With complete faith in Lorene Scafaria's script and her ability to realize it
as director, Mark Roybal notes, "The first thing that we asked Lorene
about was the casting. She told us that she didn't want to veer toward
broad comedy, and that the actors had to be able to maintain a balance
between humor and pathos."
Joy Gorman Wettels adds, "The lead role of Dodge is that of a man who,
with the world now coming to end, realizes that he regrets his entire life.
An insurance salesman by trade, he hasn't taken risks in his existence. He
thinks of his long-ago love - and is moved to act on that yearning.
"In order for this to play believably on-screen, Dodge has to be someone
that you can see yourself in, or your dad, your brother, your husband.
Steve Carell engenders so much goodwill and conveys such warmth; he is
an Everyman. People relate to him; he was the only choice for Dodge."
Carell remarks, "I read the script and could not stop thinking about it. It
haunted me, to an extent. It was funny, sweet, emotionally intense at
times, and a story that I hadn't seen. This is the flip side of Armageddon;
there's no president with a hot line to the astronauts who are going to
blow up the asteroid. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is what's
happening while all of those things are going on; how ordinary human
beings respond, and the choices they make when they know that
everything is going to be over in a matter of days.
"Lorene delicately maneuvers the comedy and the subject matter
together. What I think makes it very funny is the characters being put
into a life-or-death situation so that they are stripped down to their
essence - it's really amusing when you see them trying to continue their
lives under extraordinary circumstances."
With that in mind, the actor honed in on his character straight away,
noting, "Initially, Dodge doesn't want to deal with what's happening; he
continues to go to his job. But then he decides to come to terms with his
impending demise and with the end of the world; he is going to make a
pilgrimage, to visit his high-school sweetheart Olivia and try to reconnect
with her. He's always idealized her as the love of his life, and before it all
ends, he wants to be with her."
"I think this, in a big way, is what our movie is about: people connecting
with one another, or attempting to, when faced with something
momentous. Your perspective changes," says Carell.
Scafaria compares Carell to "actors who could do comedy with pitch perfect
timing but also be subtle and still, like Peter Sellers or Jack
Lemmon; Steve can do so much with a look.
"We were ridiculously lucky to have him. When making a movie, he is a
collaborative, generous, kindhearted gentleman."
For the role of the more free-spirited Penny, the filmmakers sought out
Keira Knightley. The actress recalls, "My agent sent me the script. I
thought it was one of the most strangely optimistic pieces that I'd read,
and I instantly said, 'Yeah, I want to be a part of it.' It was one of the best
scripts I'd seen in years - and so unique.
"I got on the phone with Lorene and we had a great chat for about an
hour. I don't think we even actually talked about the film. We talked
about our mothers, and about family."
Roybal notes that "there's a profound depth Keira brings to Penny even
when her character's behavior is whimsical, spontaneous, or flighty.
There's a light in her eyes that reflects her inner light, which is why
Penny is Dodge's beacon."
Steve Golin adds, "Keira is a lot of fun to watch as Penny. She is well known
for making movies set in different time periods, so playing a
funny modern girl - in sneakers! - is a fresh turn for her."
Knightley admits, "I love doing modern-day movies - because I'm able to
get up later in the morning."
"I knew she'd be amazing and stunning and super-smart," says Scafaria.
"But here's the surprise; she is so damn funny. So there's this refreshing
blend of Keira, known as a dramatic actress, being more of a comedienne;
and Steve, known as a comedic actor, doing a more dramatic role.
"Steve and Keira play off each other so well and have such great
chemistry. Getting to hear my words said by these two actors? I couldn't
have asked for more."
Carell's real-life wife, actress Nancy Carell, makes a very brief but
memorable appearance opposite him in the first scene of the film - as
Dodge's wife Linda, who abandons him upon hearing a breaking news
report; namely, Earth has less than one month left because
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