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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Little Miss Sunshine

Abigail Breslin: 'Little Miss Sunshine' grows up in 'Janie Jones'

November 2, 2011 |  4:21 pm

Abigail Breslin

From Tatum O’Neal to Hailee Steinfeld, adorable child stars have long faced an uphill battle in making the shift to an adult career. Many have struggled to prove that there’s more to their talent than just playing cute. Abigail Breslin is well acquainted with that particular conundrum.

At the age of 10, she earned a supporting actress Oscar nomination for 2006’s “Little Miss Sunshine.” She had the memorable role of Olive, a chubby, somewhat dorky girl whose eccentric family rallies behind her efforts to win a beauty pageant. Since then, Breslin’s slowly been transitioning into more grown-up parts, playing Ryan Reynolds’ daughter in the romantic comedy “Definitely, Maybe” and tackling more serious fare in the somber drama “My Sister’s Keeper” opposite Cameron Diaz, not to mention her turn as feisty younger sister to Emma Stone’s gun-toting tough girl in the horror sendup “Zombieland.”

Now 15, she stars in “Janie Jones,” an independent drama opening Friday about a teenager who is introduced for the first time to her estranged father (Alessandro Nivola). Dad is a rock star, and she joins him on the road as the two work on their relationship.

“To anyone who said, ‘Well, she got an Academy Award nomination because she was a cute kid,’ I would say, ‘Look at her in this movie,’ ” said David Rosenthal, who wrote and directed the film and cast Breslin without even auditioning her for the part. “You see why she’s really a star.”

During a recent trip to Los Angeles to promote the movie, the New York City native sat down with 24 Frames' Amy Kaufman to discuss her latest role, her mother’s effect on her career and her new band.

A.K.: This is a pretty mature role for you — there’s lots of swearing and partying in “Janie Jones.” Was there any hesitation on your mom’s part about letting you do it?

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Banderas, Coogan, 'True Blood' star join 'Little Miss Sunshine' reunion

July 12, 2011 |  5:35 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Hoping perhaps for a piece of that "Little Miss Sunshine" mojo, a diverse group of actors have signed on to  "He Loves Me," Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' follow-up to their 2006 road-trip hit.  Antonio Banderas, Steve Coogan, "True Blood" star Deborah Ann Woll, Elliot Gould and Chris Messina are to star in the new dramatic comedy opposite leads Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan, 24 Frames has learned. The castings were confirmed by studio Fox Searchlight.

Meanwhile, "The Daily Show" veteran Aasif Mandvi is in negotiations to join the cast, said a source familiar with the production who asked not to be identified because the last deal points were still being worked out. A Searchlight representative declined to comment on Mandvi.

"He Loves Me" tells of young novelist Calvin (Dano) who achieves success early in his career but begins to face some internal struggles. In an attempt to overcome writer's block, he is told to write the woman he thinks will love him -- and winds up willing her into existence, "Weird Science"-style. Kazan, Dano's real-life girlfriend, will star as the conjured woman; she also wrote the film's screenplay.

In addition to its directors, the movie reunites "Sunshine" star Dano, producers Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa and "Sunshine" studio Fox Searchlight. The film is set, and has begun shooting, in Los Angeles.

Woll, known for playing Jessica Hamby on the HBO vampire series, will play Calvin's ex-girlfriend; although she has several movies in production and a few small independents under her belt, she's yet to be seen in a major theatrical release.

Among the other new cast members, Coogan will play Calvin's pompous author rival, Gould will play Calvin's therapist, Messina will play Calvin's brother, Mandvi will play Calvin's agent and Banderas will play the boyfriend of Calvin's mother (Annette Bening). The move continues a big-screen comeback of sorts for the Spanish-born actor after his well-received turn as a creepy doctor in Pedro Almodovar's recent Cannes entry "The Skin I Live In."

Mandvi, meanwhile, is the latest "Daily Show" performer to work with Dayton and Faris; Steve Carell of course did it on "Sunshine."

The directors (themselves a real-life couple) flirted with several high-profile studio pictures after breaking out with their debut. But they spent the last five years concentrating instead on their lucrative careers as commercial directors until Berger and Yerxa persuaded them to return to the feature world.


Little Miss Sunshine directors, producers and costar will reunite for a new film

A Little Miss Sunshine reunion gets an important new participant

Life, Paul Dano says, is just gigantic

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Little Miss Sunshine." Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

A 'Little Miss Sunshine' reunion gets an important new participant

May 4, 2011 |  7:18 pm

EXCLUSIVE: For a whole swath of moviegoers, a "Little Miss Sunshine" reunion has an oddly reassuring ring.

That's pretty much how a new film project is shaping up.

In February we told you about "He Loves Me," a movie that stars Paul Dano and comes from the same producers and directors as the best-picture nominee.  Now the project has notched another commonality: Fox Searchlight, the division of 20th Century Fox that acquired and released the road-trip original, is in negotiations to finance and distribute the movie.

What does that mean for film fans? That "He Loves Me" could shoot as soon as July and be ready in 2012. A Fox spokeswoman confirmed the negotiations.

"He Loves Me" is based on a script from Zoe Kazan, the writer-actress who's also Dano's real-life girlfriend. She'll star opposite Dano, with the film directed by "Little Miss Sunshine" helmers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and produced by "Sunshine" producers Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa.

Dayton and Faris have flirted with a whole host of films, but the husband-and-wife team, who make their living as well-regarded directors of commercials, have not made a film since they completed "Sunshine" in 2005.

Their new project centers on a young novelist who, while suffering from writer's block, is told to write the woman he thinks will love him. He winds up willing her into existence, "Weird Science" style.

When we first wrote about the movie, Berger said that there were plenty of similarities between "He Loves Me" and its antecedent. "The plot couldn't be more different than 'Little Miss Sunshine,' " he said. "But in terms of a movie with comedy, with heart and with strong characters, I think it's very similar."

The supporting cast is coming together and is expected to be named in the coming weeks. Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin, call your agents.


Little Miss Sunshine star, directors and producers will reunite for a new movie

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Little Miss Sunshine." Credit: Fox Searchlight


'Little Miss Sunshine' directors, producers and costar will reunite for a new film

February 8, 2011 | 12:54 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Five years after it came out, "Little Miss Sunshine" remains the yardstick by which so many indie films are measured: a small movie made with first-time directors that blew up at Sundance, became a box-office sensation and an Oscar best picture nominee.

Many indie films try to match its spirit. Now some of its principals will match the dramatic comedy in more literal ways.

Paul Dano, who starred in the road-trip hit, is set to star in a film called "He Loves Me" that's written by and will costar his real-life girlfriend, Zoe Kazan. He's hardly the only "Sunshine" element: The movie will be directed by "Little Miss Sunshine" directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris — the oft-pursued filmmakers who haven't made a movie since — and produced by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, who were the driving producer forces behind "Sunshine."

"He Loves Me" tells of a young novelist who achieves success early in his career but begins to face struggles. In a bid to overcome writer's block, he is told to write the woman he thinks will love him. He winds up willing her into existence. (Think "Adaptation" meets "Weird Science.")

Reached by phone, Berger said that there were plenty of commonalities in tone, if not in story, to their earlier hit. "The plot couldn't be more different than 'Little Miss Sunshine,' " he said. "But in terms of a movie with comedy, with heart and with strong characters, I think it's very similar."

And there's this: Dano will play a tortured soul not unlike his Nietzsche-loving teenager from "Sunshine."

Dayton and Faris are famously deliberate about their directing assignments. Although the filmmakers, who are also known for their commercials, have been attached to several movies, they have not directed a movie since "Sunshine" five years ago.

As for Kazan, the actress — she's starred in "Savages" and "It's Complicated," as well as numerous stage productions — has written before, though mostly for the stage.

Kazan has already completed a draft of the script, and Dayton and Faris are developing it with her. The rest of the cast is expected to be rounded out soon. Berger and Yerxa are keen to make it one of their next projects and will likely, though not definitively, go the independent-financing route. The VW bus rolls on.

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Little Miss Sunshine." Credit: Fox Searchlight.

Sundance 2011: A 'Little Miss Sunshine' reunion in 'The Convincer'

January 26, 2011 | 11:43 am


"Little Miss Sunshine" was one of the signature hits to emerge from the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Now, its stars Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin have been reunited in another Sundance movie, "The Convincer," from writer-director Jill Sprecher.

Sprecher had her first film, "Clockwatchers," play at the festival almost 15 years ago. As festival director John Cooper said Tuesday night at the Eccles Theater, Sprecher was "a discovery, all the way back in 1997." Her second feature, "13 Conversations About One Thing," played at the festival in 2002.  "The Convincer" was co-written with her sister Karen Sprecher.

Kinnear plays a Wisconsin insurance salesman who is perhaps not as slick as he'd like to think he is, and all the spinning plates of his life -- marriage, business -- are starting to fall. Always looking for an angle, he needs perhaps just one stroke of luck to turn things around.

Into his life suddenly appear a strange group of characters (played by Arkin, Billy Crudup, Bob Balaban and others) and one possibly extremely rare violin. The film goes for a number of wild shifts in tone -- there is one startling act of violence, and Crudup conveys a wild unpredictability -- that Sprecher nimbly navigates. As one person in the audience was overheard to say, "Well, this just became a different movie."

In a Q&A following the screening, Sprecher brought to the stage cast members Kinnear, Arkin, Balaban, Lea Thompson, David Harbour and Michelle Arthur. Sprecher said she wrote Arkin's part with him in mind (he starred in "13 Conversations") and the actor in turn passed the script on to Kinnear, facilitating the big-screen reunion of the "Little Miss Sunshine" co-stars.

When asked what inspired the story, Sprecher said: "My sister and I wanted to write a movie that our dad would finally sit through the whole thing. He sells insurance in Wisconsin, so I think he's really going to like it."

-- Mark Olsen in Park City, Utah

Photo: Greg Kinnear and Billy Crudup in "The Convincer." Credit: From Sundance Film Festival

Screenwriting credits, floating up in the air

January 15, 2010 |  5:54 pm

Reit In Michael Tolkin’s script for the 1992 Hollywood satire “The Player,” studio executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) strangles a screenwriter he believes is trying to blackmail him.

It hasn’t gotten that gruesome in Hollywood. But for some involved in the script business these days, the movie’s arc may feel a little too familiar.

Screenwriters on some of the season’s biggest movies have seen acknowledgment for their work, if not choked off, then certainly minimized -- a group that includes, as fate would have it, Tolkin himself. So when the Golden Globes are handed out on Sunday, the names that viewers associate with the most lauded films may not quite include all the people who drove those movies forward.

That could be particularly true for three of the movies that lead nearly all others in Globes recognition — “Up in the Air,” “Nine” and “Avatar,” which have collectively amassed 15 nominations.

The issue cuts to the heart of contemporary Hollywood, where screenwriters are abundant but successes are rare, leaving a lot of people to scramble for a little bit of glory.

To those removed from the rituals of Hollywood, the fierce debate over credit can seem like arguing over who rides shotgun on a weekend road trip — arbitrary and, in the end, not very consequential. But for writers, credit can mean the difference between getting and not getting future gigs, higher paychecks and the acclaim and envy of peers. And credit issues can extend beyond how the Writers Guild of America arbitrates who did what on a script to shape the public (and media) consciousness about a writer's standing.

All of this comes against the backdrop of writer concerns that they are not given the same respect as their peers, particularly directors. “These things just seem to be messier lately. Everyone wants credit and nobody seems to be able to figure out the truth,” said an agent for several high-profile screenwriters who requested anonymity because the agent may yet work with some of the writers.

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[UPDATED] Zach Galifianakis, Paul Rudd and the 'Little Miss Sunshine' team, together at last

January 12, 2010 |  6:56 pm

Sunsh Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have been some of the most in-demand directors in Hollywood ever since their "Little Miss Sunshine" became a sensation four years back. But they've been pretty choosy ever since, courted by many but committing to few.

Now it looks like they've settled on a new project. It's a movie called "Will," a high-concept comedy about a world in which people's lives are scripted by angels, and the particular predicament of one man when his angel quits. Dayton and Faris are near a deal to direct the movie, adding it to a short list of films they've signed on for (the science-fiction comedy "Used Guys" and the sex comedy "The Abstinence Teacher," specifically; the status of both, however, is uncertain).

Generic title notwithstanding, "Will" has an offbeat comedy vibe to it -- Demetri Martin wrote the script -- that's been taking hold in the zeitgeist lately, the kind of comedy vibe that's embodied by Zach Galifianakis. Actually, he's not an incidental example, as we've learned that that the BabyBjorn one has been attached to star in "Will." And Paul Rudd, he of many studio and indie comedy hits, is also on board, according to sources. Several high-profile producers are also expected to join the project. [Updated 7:01 p.m.: Will Ferrell and producing partner Adam McKay of Gary Sanchez Productions are likely to be among those producers, we've learned, joining Scot Armstrong as the original producer and Ravi Nandan as executive producer.]

If it hits its marks, the Paramount-developed "Will" has the possibility to be a better version of "Stranger Than Fiction" (i.e, a high-concept comedy with a literary conceit). Or with its supernatural overtones, it could be a more commercial version of the under-praised Ricky Gervais comedy "Ghost Town". Either way, we can only hope Dayton and Faris bring some of the subtle comic energy and man-on-the-brink insight they brought to "Little Miss Sunshine."

There's no word yet on who's playing the man and who's playing the angel -- though seeing Galifianakis prance around with wings would be worth our $10.50 right there.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: "Little Miss Sunshine." Credit: : Eric Lee, Fox Searchlight


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