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On paper an odd couple; on-screen a comic couplet

September 09, 2007|Susan King

Peter Hedges is out of step with the norm . . . in a good way.

His acclaimed novel "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," which he adapted for the 1993 screen version, was an offbeat tale of a loving but extremely dysfunctional family. His feature directorial debut, 2003's quirky romantic comedy "Pieces of April," about a rebellious young woman attempting to cook Thanksgiving for her troubled family, took much the same form. In his latest film, the more mainstream romantic comedy "Dan in Real Life," opening Oct. 26, he goes out on a limb to pair funny man Steve Carell with Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche ("The English Patient").

"I had a conversation with Steve, and I said, 'Is there anyone you would like to act with?' " Hedges says. "He said, 'Find someone with a really good heart.' I found a lot of people with really good hearts, but I was looking for someone who felt surprising and special and that would play beautifully with him."

"Dan in Real Life" finds Carell showing his sensitive side as a widower raising three girls while mourning the loss of his wife. At a family gathering at his parents' home, he meets a woman in the quaint seaside community only to discover he has just fallen for his younger brother's (Dane Cook) new girlfriend.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, September 11, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
'Dan in Real Life': In an article about the film "Dan in Real Life" in Sunday's Calendar section, filmmaker Peter Hedges mentioned the song "You Don't Send Me Flowers." The correct title is "You Don't Bring Me Flowers."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, September 16, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
'Dan in Real Life': In an article about the film "Dan in Real Life" in the Sept. 9 Calendar section, filmmaker Peter Hedges mentioned the song "You Don't Send Me Flowers." The correct title is "You Don't Bring Me Flowers."

"I think she has the most infectious, wonderful laugh and a great sense of humor," Hedges says of Binoche. She was also in the right age range for the character of Marie, someone who was believable as a love interest to Cook's character as well as Carell's.

"The movie is about finding love in a surprising way, and it just seemed like it was important to me to ultimately cast someone close in age to Steve. I didn't want him to seem like he was getting a second shot at youth [Carell is 45; Binoche is 43]; he was actually finding someone he can continue a certain kind of conversation with."

Because his casting choice was a "bit out of the box," Hedges asked Binoche to fly to L.A. to meet with Carell on a Saturday and Cook on a Sunday. At Carell's meet and greet, Hedges had the two sing karaoke together. "Within a minute of having met, they were singing," Hedges says. "They sang 'Endless Love' and then we concluded our little session with 'You Don't Send Me Flowers.' I knew in 10 seconds that they were going to be perfect together."

At the Cook-Binoche meeting, Hedges decided to have them dance. "It was a really sexy song, and they were really great together; they were really playful," he recalls. "It was very important to me that you buy that they would be together but not so much that you wish that they stay together."

-- Susan King

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