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AMERICAN BEAUTY

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 daily life."

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 and different."

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 done it."

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