RETURN TO ME
About The Production
Return to Me completed production as it began: a labor of love about life by first-time feature director/co-writer/co-star Bonnie Hunt, who designed the film as a valentine not only to the possibilities of romance, but also to her native city of Chicago. Composing the script with writing partner Don Lake — whom she both wrote and performed with on the famed Second City comedy troupe — Hunt deliberately and tenaciously set out to create a love story which was at once timeless and timely, comedic and tragic.
"This is a movie about everyday life," notes the filmmaker, "rooted in real characters with average lives, who are almost supernaturally touched by the events of the story."
Adds writing partner Lake, "Bonnie and I wanted to make a really nice love story with lots of romance that had a fairy tale quality to it but also a slice-of-life quality that like life you laugh one minute and cry the next.. .or vice versa."
It made perfect sense that Hunt and Lake would choose to set their story against the backdrop of the city in which the filmmaker has her roots — that great monolith of the Midwest, Chicago. "Bonnie has written this in an environment that she fully understands," notes producer Jennie Lew
Tugend, "but it's a movie that will translate all over the world because it's populated with people we all know. We all have overbearing best friends, worried grandfathers, difficult relationships. It's universal."
As Hunt and Lake's script came to fruition, the production team decided that the entire film (save the final two days in Rome) would be shot in Chicago on "practical" locations — real settings rather than studio sets — that would lend complete verisimilitude to the story without any Hollywood artifice. "Chicago is a character in
itself" Hunt says. "There's a certain kindness that permeates the story, and a lot of these characters are from my childhood... especially the older folks who populate O'Reilly' s Restaurant. Don and I felt very strongly that the story had to emerge through the characters.
Once Hunt and Lake completed their script, it didn't take long for some of film's most popular stars, both recent and veteran, to respond with enthusiasm. "Casting is so important in a movie like this," notes
Tugend. "Romantic stories only succeed if the charisma and chemistry of the leading players works out. We had to find stars who could pull off the twists and turns of the story and keep the audience with them every step of the way."
Hunt very quickly focused on two maj or international stars to essay the challenging roles of Bob Rueland and Grace Briggs: David Duchovny and Minnie Driver. "David and I acted in Beethoven together a few years ago," recalls Hunt. "We had a scene together that didn't have a lot written into it, and the director encouraged us to add something of our own. So David and I quickly worked something else out, and it became a really funny scene in the movie. I could see David's potential; he's funny, wry, charming and debonair. We kept in touch."
Hunt had written a role for Duchovny which would certainly call on his dramatic skills apparent to viewers of The X-Files, but at the same time demonstrate the actor's considerable comic abilities as well (anyone who watches Duchovny's occasional appearances on late night talk shows swiftly gets a taste of his endlessly dry and smart sense of humor).
As for Duchovny, the attraction was mutual. "The script of Return To Me was so simple and direct, and it wasn't tainted with the kind of cynicism which seems to affect everything else these days. It had a kind of simple inevitability to it, beautiful, emotional and funny. The script earns its sentimentality through truth, honesty and integrity. I just read it and immediately wanted to do it, knowing th
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