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LOLA VERSUS

A Small Circle of Friends - Plus Mom and Dad
Wein and Lister-Jones bring their finely honed acting instincts to their screenplays from years of intense training in one of the nation's top theater and film schools. They consistently craft rich and authentic characters that offer the kind of challenge that actors relish taking on, which helped attract top actors to their second project. "This is definitely an ensemble film," says Lister-Jones. "Every character is fully imagined and has something important to do. We are lucky enough to have an incredible cast that understands and embodies those complexities."

LOLA VERSUS' impressive ensemble of veterans and newcomers was assembled by the filmmakers with the help of casting directors Suzanna Smith Crowley and Jessica Kelly. "The script was smart and witty, so the challenge was finding actors that could handle the comedy without going too broad," says Kelly. "I think we found exactly the right actors for these roles. Greta Gerwig is a great leading lady. She's fearless, likeable and funny, like Lola. Hamish Linklater is brilliant, quirky and sensitive like Henry. Joel Kinnaman is intense and charismatic like Luke, and Zoe is that adorable, fun best friend that pushes the envelope, like Alice."

The film's unconventional heroine, Lola, was a challenging role to fill, says producer Michael London. "As a character, she has so many flaws. She can be unlikeable at times. But I'm drawn to characters who make mistakes. When good people are allowed to do bad things, then you can fall in love with them again when they redeem themselves. We needed an actress with the guts and talent to make it her own, as well as the charm to hold the audience's sympathy through those tough moments."

Greta Gerwig brings an unconventional beauty, startling bravura and great vulnerability to the role, says the producer. "It would be hard to imagine the movie without Greta," he adds. "She has a style that is all her own. Greta is not an actress you can bend around the character. She doesn't speak or look like other actresses. From the moment we heard the words come out of her mouth, she became an inescapable version of the character."

Gerwig first garnered critical recognition in 2010 when she starred opposite Ben Stiller in Noah Baumbach's GREENBERG, then followed up with a leading role in a big-budget remake of the classic comedy ARTHUR, opposite Russell Brand. Most recently, she starred in director Whit Stillman's long-awaited fourth feature, DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, and will soon be seen in Woody Allen's TO ROME WITH LOVE.

"We had been following Greta's career for a long time," says producer Simpson. "It was exciting to have the opportunity to cast someone on the verge of being a movie star and showcase her to the world in a new way."

Well-connected in New York's relatively small film community, Gerwig was already familiar with Wein and Lister-Jones' earlier work. "It felt very fortuitous," the actress says. "We all live in New York. We saw each other a lot socially right before I was cast. I think it was just meant to be."

"Lola is a good friend and a good daughter, someone following a plan and staying on schedule," says the actress. "She's headed for a safe academic life. It's almost a continuation of college, just like her relationship with Luke is. Certainly it's hard to go to graduate school or maintain a long relationship, but for Lola, it's the safe option. When Luke pulls the rug out from under her, she has to figure out what she's doing. It's a different kind of romantic comedy, because ultimately the person Lola is trying to get together with is herself."

But as the character tries to manage the precarious path to independence, she becomes alarmingly self-involved, often alienating the people who most want to help her. "She can't seem to get off of her own hamster wheel," says Gerwig. "She's definitely not a cute mess, which I like. She's just a mess."

Portrayed by another actress, Lola might have come off as self-indulgent, says Wein, but Gerwig never makes obvious choices for the character. "As we rehearsed, Greta and I worked hard to find different, more hopeful and inspiring moments for her. Lola is processing what's happening, as opposed to wallowing in her own sorrow."

Gerwig's emotional range and technical versatility inspired the other actors, according to Wein. "Every other take we'd try something new. She's not afraid of that. She's very loose and good at being real. She listens very well, which makes her able to gauge what the other actor is giving her and respond in the moment."

The actress says she prefers to keep her options open as a scene unfolds. "I tend not to repeat what I do from take to take," Gerwig says. "I have an idea of what things should be and I'm prepared going into the scene. But sometimes it's worth it when a take goes totally wrong, because it jostles something else."

Lola's erstwhile fiancé, Luke, is a handsome and sensitive visual artist who is preparing for a prestigious solo show of his paintings based on images from celebrity sex tapes. Luke is played by Joel Kinnaman, the Swedish actor best known for his breakout role in AMC's hit series "The Killing." He was recently featured in SAFE HOUSE, with Denzel Washington, and David Fincher's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and will star in the upcoming ROBOCOP reboot. Kinnaman manages to keep the character sympathetic even after he dumps Lola.

"It was a tough character to write," says Lister-Jones. "We made no black-and-white distinction between hero and villain. He had to be someone the audience could get behind. Joel is the sexiest man alive, which helps. He also refuses to apologize for Luke's flaws, which is a brave thing for an actor to do. Joel plays Luke as a thoughtful guy who realizes he can't marry Lola right now, even though it would have been much easier to just go along with the plan."

Kinnaman brought his own strong opinions about the character to the set. "I based Luke first on my intuitions," the actor says. "He is a good person with a big heart. His actions are both selfish and also selfless. Unfortunately, he is stuck being the adult and making the difficult decision. Daryl added his own touches. He is both very opinionated and very relaxed. He's got good taste for both comedy and style and a really good ear."

The actor says he also found himself caught up in Gerwig's distinctive style of playing. "Greta has a very special, natural comedic energy around her that is just wonderful to watch. She is unique as an actress. She remains very natural while making big, bold choices, and I rolled with that, which was fun."

Lola's perennially single but always hopeful girlfriend Alice was conceived with Lister- Jones in mind, a rising talent who stars on the television series "Whitney." "Daryl and Zoe always wanted her to play Alice," says London. "She is the quintessential best friend and comic foil, and she runs away with almost every scene she's in."

Alice's romantic misadventures represent the worst-and sometimes the funniest-of what Lister-Jones discovered during her year as a single woman. "Her expectations have been depleted over the years," she explains. "She gets excited when the breakup brings her friend back to her and she has a wing woman again. They start going out to clubs, partying, finding dudes to have sex with. That's a good solution, right? And she copes with the disappointment and anxiety by telling herself things like, 'maybe I'll adopt a foreign baby like all of the movie stars, or freeze

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