About The Production (Continued)
Scott Bakula and Sam Robards play the couple to which Cooper refers, namely Jim and his partner, also named Jim
Scott Bakula and Sam Robards play the couple
to which Cooper refers, namely Jim and his partner, also named
Jim. Robards laughs, "I think they're probably the most normal
people in the neighborhood."
Bakula agrees, "Their relationship seems to be the only functional
one in the movie.
Completing the main cast is Peter Gallagher as Buddy Kane, the
"king of real estate," who, Gallagher notes, "comes
to represent the pinnacle of success and the epitome of what can
be achieved in this small town-especially in the eyes of Carolyn
Mendes states, "I think one of the greatest strengths of
Alan Ball's script is that he managed to imbue every part with
an inner landscape and a complete back story. Even when the parts
are relatively small, you feel they bring a whole world with them
onto the screen."
Part of that world was constructed during a lengthy rehearsal
period, in which the actors themselves contributed to the back
stories of their characters. Alan Ball recalls, "We spent
several weeks sitting around a table talking about the script.
The actors were able to offer ideas about story and lines that
ended up in the script because they were so right on the money."
Mendes allows that, in films, rehearsal time might be considered
a luxury, though coming from the theatre, he regarded it as a
necessity. His cast agrees that the rehearsal process was invaluable,
not only to hone their characters, but to create the relationships
that were so integral to the story.
"The rehearsals were such a bonding experience for everyone,"
Annette Bening reflects. "One of the most difficult things
about most films is portraying a relationship with people you
haven't spent any time with, but, in contrast, this was wonderful.
We got to know one another as we explored the script and talked
about past histories of the characters, which were important for
us to know and helped us to develop our performances. It was obvious
Sam Mendes had come from the theatre, because on a play you become
like a family, and that's what we did on this film. There was
a camaraderie, a feeling of comfort and safety; it was really
a joyful experience."
That joy translated into a great deal of fun on the set, of which
Kevin Spacey was usually at the center. Thora Birch attests, "Kevin
is quite an entertainer. I remember shooting one scene-a dinner
table argument-which I thought we'd never finish because we couldn't
"We were laughing about 17 hours a day," Spacey says.
"We were having so much fun, it was probably illegal."
Fun might not have been how Spacey would describe the preparation
needed for the more tangible requirements of his role. Over the
course of the story, Lester Burnham transforms his middle-aged
paunch into a lean and fit shadow of his former self. To depict
this metamorphosis, Spacey embarked on a regimen of diet and exercise,
working out with a trainer twice a day in a special gym housed
in a large truck near the set.
"The physical transformation was the biggest challenge for
me in the film," Spacey admits. "I start the film as
sort of a schlub-bad posture, overweight-and through the course
of the story completely change my appearance. It was very time
consuming and demanded a great deal of commitment, but on the
other hand, I saw results pretty quickly, which was inspiring.
It dramatically changed not only my eating habits but
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