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Casting the Film

2007-10-05 15:10

First attached to the project was Lindsay Lohan. The actor had made her mark in a string of successful comedies over the past decade, but she began widening her range with key roles in 2006's Bobby and A Prairie Home Companion. Recalls Lohan of her attraction to the part of Rachel: "The script reminded me of Ann-Margret's character in one of my favorite films, Kitten With a Whip. She was very Lolita-esque as well."

Lohan was curious to understand Rachel's choices and what landed her in Hull – friendless, desperately hurt and seething mad. "Rachel doesn't understand the difference between love and sex in a lot of ways," she reflects. "I think it's important to play a character so any girl or boy that has ever gone through a situation like this can hopefully learn from."

Of the chance to work with Oscar-winner Jane Fonda, Lohan was a bit star struck. The actor laughs: "I dressed as her in Barbarella for Halloween one year… it's a very small world. I just feel very lucky to work with people I've always admired."

Jane Fonda (oddly enough, a Georgia resident) chose the role of the title character as a chance to work with director Garry Marshall and bring writer Mark Andrus' words to the screen. With her hit Monster-in-Law recently under her belt, the actor was certainly back and at the top of her game. Producer James Robinson believes: "Jane came onboard because she believed in the role, she liked Garry Marshall and she liked the challenge of working on this movie."

Fonda notes: "Mark observes characters beautifully, and this is a character-driven story about three generations of women who are all multidimensional. They have humor as well as pathos and depth."

She appreciated the fact that though Georgia "didn't know how to be a mother to her daughter, she's ready to be a better grandmother. I'm a grandmother now, and I know how very often as parents we can find it easier to be intimate with other people than with our own children. Sometimes grandchildren provide us with a second chance."

Fonda was also impressed by the caliber of talent that came with her on-screen granddaughter. She compliments: "Lindsay's raw and has an ability to access her emotions that's very beautiful. She's made me cry several times when I gave her the offstage lines; she's very moving."

The role of Lilly, Rachel's alcoholic mother and Georgia's distant daughter, went to Felicity Huffman. It was a challenge for the actor, who was simultaneously filming her television show Desperate Housewives during the weekdays. Notes Huffman: "I thought the characters were rich and true and three-dimensional and funny and heartbreaking."

She found working with the women who played her daughter and mother especially moving. Of Fonda's acting camaraderie, Huffman commends: "Here's a woman that has a resume as long as my body and two Academy Awards and she comes in and asks me, 'What do you think'?"

Lindsay Lohan would also strike her as powerful. The actor remarks: "Lindsay moves from being dangerous to wounded. You're always waiting to see where it's going to come from. That’s a great game to play when it almost turns into emotional improv."

For the character of Simon, the filmmakers cast actor Dermot Mulroney, (a fellow Northwestern University alum of director Marshall). The director notes: "We were looking for a Sam Shepard-type, and Dermot fell into this role. Simon becomes in Rachel's life what her father who ran away didn’t become."

Veteran actor Cary Elwes was brought in to play Arnold. Of casting a performer to play a distasteful character, Marshall admits: "It is a tough role, so a number of actors avoided it. And lo and behold, Cary Elwes came and was quite good. He wasn't afraid of it. He said, 'Let me try it', and he made contributions to the script I thought were excellent"

Finally, newcomer Garrett Hedlund was cast as Harlan, the naive boy who doesn't know what to make of Rachel and her charms. Hedlund hails from the region of the country where Georgia Rule is set and could easily relate to the farm boy. Of his character's growing relationship with Rachel, Hedlund comments: "It's the red zone for Harlan… he can't go there. He's got a girl, and he's about to be married. This is out-of-bounds territory."

Casting completed with such favorites as longtime Marshall friends Hector Elizondo and Laurie Metcalf in key supporting roles, it was time to start filming. Marshall dryly jokes: "When in doubt, you bring in friends and relatives; you can always pick on relatives. Nepotism is a part of my work."

Jane Fonda best synopsizes the cast and crew's strong draw to the story. She explains: "Imagine this quiet, sleepy town in Idaho – a town where everybody knows everybody. The boys are all virgins until they get married, and they go away to do their mission work for the Mormon Church. Suddenly, this creature from outer space appears. Nobody's seen anything like her, and it's hard to know what to make of her because she's also smart and funny and provocative and outrageous."
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