Producers of some of 2009's memorable films share stories
EmptyJan Chapman, "Bright Star"
Dan Goldberg, "The Hangover"
"We shot the scene on top of Ceasars Palace first -- where the guys all toast Justin Bartha. We had no proof that this cast would be interesting together whatsoever. Zach Galifianakis was this quirky, weird, interesting performance artist, but there was a lot of nervousness about him because he'd never done anything big. Would he be able to deliver a real character? If you watch Zach in other movies, he's always a short-shrifted character. So when we got to the toast and did the coverage on Zach, he suddenly he slowed it down. He wasn't comedic. He was sincere and real as he invited the guys to be part of his one-man wolf pack. He really got into this guy's psyche. It transcended the script. For me it was about this guy who found his place, who took center stage and who owned the moment -- a small moment, but he made it into a huge moment. After that he just became that character. It led to all the other guys falling in to place and you really felt they were a group. For us as filmmakers, we looked at each other and said, 'Wow, this is gonna work.' "
Jon Landau, "Avatar"
Lori McCreary, "Invictus"
"Morgan (Freeman) and I had been trying to get Nelson Mandela (as a character) in a film for a long time, so Morgan has been studying him over the years every time he had chance to be in the same room him. I'm not sure Mandela actually knew all those times he was being studied. One time, we saw him before we started shooting and Morgan walked in to the room in character. I was holding my breath because even I hadn't seen Morgan do Mandela yet. Morgan walked in with that same gait Mandela has. It's a very specific gait due to one of his knees being hurt. Mandela was sitting down and Morgan went over to him, bent down, just like Mandela does, shook his hand and said a line that had actually come out of Mandela's mouth in 1995. Mandela's accent is different because it's actually more of a cadence than an accent. I finally let my breath out when I saw the grin on Mandela's face from ear to ear. An almost guttural laugh came out of him. That was a moment for me. I felt, in the world of moviemaking, we were on the right track."
Jonas Rivera, "Up"
"Casting Ed Asner was really cool. Carl Fredricksen is a curmudgeonly old guy, but we knew we had to balance that with appeal and make him likable. We watched a lot of Spencer Tracy and Walter Matthau movies to see how they balanced that so delicately. When we met Ed, we knew he had a touch for humor and timing. We had a little maquette -- a 6-inch-tall sculpture -- made of Carl. We came down to Los Angeles to meet with him and he came walking in. We set the maquette on the table and Ed says (low gruff voice): 'You want me to be HIM?' We say, 'Yes, this is Carl.' He says (grumpily): 'Well I don't even look like that!' We looked at each other and said: 'There's Carl!' "
Ivan Reitman, "Up in the Air"
Sarah Siegel-Magness, "Precious"
"We were closing the deal with Lionsgate and it was after Sundance. I was at my sister's wedding in Cabo San Lucas and it was sunset. My phone just kept ringing and ringing and ringing. I literally worked through the vows. I was actually in the wedding. I tried to be as respectful as possible and hide my cell phone in my dress. Right before she said, 'I do,' I had to step away with my cell phone and close the deal. People kept asking me, 'What are you doing?' The crazy thing about Hollywood is they don't care what you're doing. They don't care if it's in the middle of the night or your sister's wedding. If the deal needs to be closed, the deal needs to be closed. We were just hashing out all the final details because we wanted to close it as quickly as possible after Sundance so we could make an announcement. I was pacing back and forth on the veranda, looking at the ocean, trying to close this whole deal. It literally closed before she got married so we had two things to celebrate that night."
Finola Dwyer & Amanda Posey, "An Education"
Dwyer: "When we went to L.A. and were in postproduction, we were editing the film and did a test screening. In that screening, we could feel that the movie was going to work. We still had some things to change on the cut but we knew by how the audience responded that the film would work. That was a very significant moment because you can't always tell. It was the film's first exposure outside of the U.K. and we could feel from the audience how they stayed with it."
Posey: "It's a very British movie and this was the first time we'd shown it in America to Americans. We could tell the audience was taking it to their hearts. It felt a little magical because we got a sense that the movie was going to work across the Pond. It was very gratifying to feel because we always believed it was a very universal story."
Lawrence Bender, "Inglourious Basterds"