About The Production
The title "American Beauty" has different meanings in the context of the film
The title "American Beauty" has
different meanings in the context of the film. Dan Jinks, who
produced it with partner Bruce Cohen, acknowledges, "It could
allude to the roses grown by Carolyn, Annette Bening's character,
or to the character of Angela, played by Mena Suvari, who initially
seems to be the perfect American beauty. It might also refer to
the American dream and to what we think of as 'beauty' in our
Screenwriter Alan Ball, who also served as the film's co-producer,
allows that the title's ambiguity was somewhat deliberate. "One
of the movie's themes is how we have preconceived notions about
things, but the truth often turns out to be something we never
even considered-where you find true beauty might be in the place
you least expect it."
One notion upon which both Jinks and Cohen immediately agreed
was that Ball's script would become the first film produced under
their Jinks/Cohen Company banner. "Our initial reaction was
that it was about the best script either of us had ever read,"
Jinks says. "We thought it was something quite remarkable
Bruce Cohen adds, "I think I'll always remember that first
read. When we started our company, our goal was to produce really
smart, character-driven movies. I knew immediately that this was
a dream script to begin fulfilling that goal."
The producing team initially questioned whether any studio would
be interested in a script which, as they put it, "definitely
pushed the edge of the envelope." Cohen notes, "Our
hypothesis was that if there was a studio that would want to make
this movie, it would be DreamWorks. So we were thrilled-though
not completely surprised-when DreamWorks was the only major studio
that would take it on." To direct the project, the producers
wanted someone who would not compromise on the biting sensibility
of the material. They found him in award-winning theatre director
Sam Mendes, who had given a sharp new edge to the musical "Cabaret"
in his London and Broadway revivals of the show.
"We went to see 'Cabaret' on Broadway," remembers Jinks.
"This was a show we both knew well, but Sam's production
was unique and exciting. Then when we met with him, he was very
articulate about how he envisioned 'American Beauty.' His ideas
were so fresh and inspiring, we knew right away he was the one
to go with."
The producing partners received corroboration on their decision
from a respected source: DreamWorks principal Steven Spielberg.
Cohen offers, "He had also seen 'Cabaret' and told us its
director was a great visualist with a wonderful cinematic style
that was evident even in a theatrical production. With someone
like Steven in Sam's corner, it made us confident in our decision
to hire a first-time film director."
Though Sam Mendes had been sent other movie scripts following
the success of "Cabaret," "American Beauty"
was the first screenplay to pull him from the theatrical stage
to the soundstage. "I was so gripped when I read it, I immediately
read it again," Mendes recalls. "I thought the script
was exquisitely written, and the characters incredibly well observed.
It had a very complex and tight narrative structure, and operated
on so many different levels, and it also seemed to have a deep
undercurrent of loneliness, quite at odds with its comic surface.
I read it again straight away simply to see how Alan Ball had
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