About The Casting
Lawrence Kasdan cast Loren Dean in the pivotal role of Dr. Mumford, having admired the actor's work since his performance in Robert Benton's "Billy Bathgate." A few years later, Kasdan saw Dean perform on Broadway. "I went to see John Patrick Shanley's play, 'Beggars in the House of Plenty,' and Loren played the young Shanley in the autobiographical story," Kasdan recalls. "He was very powerful— phenomenal."
Dean explains his natural affinity for the role of a psychologist. "My mother is a therapist, so I grew up around that environment. I've been interested in the subject for a long time, and I've read a few books about it. So I definitely identified with the role."
According to Dean, Dr. Mumford's greatest strength is his ability to empathize with his patients. "He's really able to put himself in another person's shoes. He's sort of the straight man in the midst of all these crazy and chaotic characters, but he's completely empathetic."
Says Kasdan, "The population of Mumford is a varied group—they're all real people. They are all struggling, in one way or another, with what I think is a common problem—reconciling the person that we feel we re supposed to be, with the person inside who has all kinds of drives and desires and weaknesses."
Actress Hope Davis portrays Sofie Crisp, a young divorcee suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Forced to return to her parents' home in Mumford, she reluctantly seeks Dr. Mumford's help.
After seeing Davis in the films "The Daytrippers" and "The Myth of Fingerprints," director Kasdan asked to meet the actress to discuss the role of Sofie. Says Kasdan, "There's an incredible kind of virtuosity about her—she's skilled, funny, and generous of heart. I thought she was perfect for Sofie because her face is different every time you look at her. You really see her character bloom."
Davis recalls her early meetings with the director quickly evolving into something akin to a therapy session. "The second time we met, I was there for two hours. I think I even cried. With Larry, you end up talking about your whole life, because that's what he cares about. That's also what his movies are about— how strange life is and how hard and fantastical and serendipitous."
The role of Sofie was an exciting challenge for the actress, who wore lead weights in her shoes to achieve the appropriate semblance of overwhelming lethargy. Says Davis, "She's a fascinating character because she's so broken-hearted. She's so depressed that she's become ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Epstein-Barr virus, or whatever her mysterious condition, but meanwhile there's a real fire in her. She's not dead— she's just completely trapped."
Despite her initial reluctance, Sofie follows Mumford on a rather unorthodox course of therapy, which includes long walks and calisthenics. Explains Davis, "For Sofie, Dr. Mumford is the first person she's come in contact with who actually knows how to listen. Part of Mumford's brilliance is that he's not a therapist who sits in the office and yaks at everybody—he takes them where they need to go.
What eccentric young billionaire Skip Skipperton, played by actor Jason Lee, needs most is simply a friend. Lee, who won an Independent Spirit Award for his role in "Chasing Amy," was cast as the skateboard-riding technology whiz whose company, Panda Modem, is the town of Mumford's chief employer.
Explains Lee, "Skip's got a lot of money, but he's pretty lonely. He doesn't have any friends, because everybody in town works for him. He can't find a person who wants to hang out with him just because they like him."
Lee, a former international skateboard champion, was perfect for the role of Skip, who zips through the
streets of Mumford on his skateboard. Adds Lee, "
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