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28 DAYS

Behind The Scenes
The script for 28 Days was developed by Amy Pascal, chairman of Columbia Pictures, and screenwriter Susannah Grant. Producer Jenno Topping recalls that it arrived on her desk at Tall Trees Productions-the Sony-based banner headed by Topping and Betty Thomas-at the perfect time.

"Betty and I were trying to decide what our next project should be when Amy approached us with the original script," Topping explains. "We read it and immediately fell in love with it. It was an extremely interesting, well written script, and it was a departure for Betty. She was interested in doing a film with a female protagonist, as we hadn't done that before."

Thomas, whose credits include comedies like Dr. Dolittle, Private Parts and The Brady Bunch Movie, welcomed the challenges the project posed. "When you're making movies, you don't want to be bored; you try not to make the same movie twice," she says. "I felt this was a difficult subject-to use comedy and satire to reveal a personally serious experience. Here's a movie that didn't look like a comedy and wasn't written like one, but ended up with comedy all through it."

Although the movie deals with the subject of addiction and the consequences of denial, Topping and Thomas felt it was extremely important to highlight comedic elements in the story. "That can be a hard thing to do," says Topping. "You have to be very careful not to undercut the emotion of the piece. You want to keep the big emotional moments, but it should also be really, really funny. Betty has always loved to smash those two things up against each other."

Ironically, for Thomas, the sober subject matter serves as a source of the laughs in this complex movie. "28 Days is a darker comedy in the sense that M*A*S*H was a darker comedy-it's similar to the gallows humor that cops and doctors have," explains Thomas. "Most people in rehab admit to having a very serious problem. In this story, however, Gwen's denial and cynicism are sources of comedy.

"No one wants to ask for help nowadays," adds Thomas. "We all want to appear strong and in control even when we aren't."

"It's the characters that make it funny," explains Topping. "It's all about being able to laugh at ourselves and how ridiculous we all are-not just people who are as extreme as Gwen, Eddie and Jasper. If we have done it right, everybody will be able to relate to this film, not just those with addiction issues.

"What I like about Betty's style of directing is what I like about her as a person," continues Topping. "She is incredibly courageous, fun and innovative. Her improv background has given her a loose style, and she is collaborative. She is always looking for a better, funnier idea. She has enormous vitality and energy, and she is a perfectionist. All those qualities I not only respect in her as a director, but I rely on as a partner."

Once Topping and Thomas committed to the film, their goal was to make it palatable to a wider audience. This philosophy played an important role in the casting of the movie.

"I cast Sandra Bullock because I think everyone relates to her as the totally accessible nice girl," explains Thomas

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