About The Production
years ago, Columbia Pictures Chairman Amy Pascal became intent on making a movie
about dance. Committed to developing the idea, Pascal signed screenwriter Carol
Heikkinen to write an original screenplay that would focus on promising young
dancers pursuing their dreams in the face of challenges and triumphs.
While Heikkinen's credits include "The Thing Called Love" and
"Empire Records," two films about young people on the fringes of the
pop music scene, her screenplay for "Center Stage" takes a look at a
different group of young people, highly gifted students enrolled in the
country's best ballet academy competing for a place in one of the world's top
Pascal passed the screenplay along to producer Laurence Mark, suggesting he
become actively involved in the project. Mark responded enthusiastically to the
"The point was to make a movie that would be true to the ballet world and
yet also have broad audience appeal. We wanted to make dancing extremely
accessible," says Mark. "It was a solid idea, and Nicholas Hytner was
the ideal person to bring this project to the screen, if only we could convince
him to do it."
Nick's films show extraordinary breadth, from the witty, intriguing "The
Madness of King George," set in late 18th-century England; to "The
Crucible," his trenchant rendering of the Arthur Miller play ostensibly
about the Salem witch hunts in the 1600s; to "The Object of My
Affection," a new-style and very contemporary romantic comedy set in New
York City. With "Center Stage," Nick would again be in present-day New
York but would now be asked to call upon his musical theatre background, he
directed "Miss Saigon" and "Carousel," in creating a movie
in which dance and music figure so prominently.
ark sent Hytner the screenplay, wondering if he'd be interested in directing it,
Hytner was enthusiastic about the prospect of such a movie.
"I've worked with dancers throughout my career in the
theatre," Hytner says, "and going to the ballet has been one of my
greatest pleasures, particularly since collaborating, eight years ago, with the
great British choreographer Kenneth MacMillan. I hoped that the script I was
sent might prove the basis for an authentic and truthful entertainment about the
dance world, a movie which might communicate the joy and excitement I feel
whenever I see top quality dance of any kind classical or contemporary, jazz or
"I' ve always loved backstage movies," adds Hytner, "and
here was an opportunity to set one in a world I know very well. I know how a
repertory theatre works; I know how big not-for-profit companies are run; I' ve
been to countless jazz and ballet classes; I've directed plays at Lincoln
Center. It seemed like something I should do."
With everyone at the studio behind Hytner and Mark, the project began to move
For Hytner, whose respect for dancers is boundless, it was important not only to
feature the dancing itself in the movie, but to depict the true nature of the
lives of young dance students, including their idealism and sense of commitment.
"These young people have a vocation which has no material reward and is
grotesquely undervalued by society," says Hytner. "They are
proudly aware that they are keeping alive a tradition which aspires to create
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