Location. Location. Location.
A few years back, Hart Bochner was making a movie in Bakersfield. The production moved to the desert town of Trona for two night shoots. The experience there proved so overwhelming that he was compelled to write and direct a movie about it. "Just Add Water," which opens Friday, is set in the town on the edge of Death Valley.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, March 25, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
"Just Add Water": The subject of a photo that accompanied the Week Ahead column about "Just Add Water" in Monday's Calendar section was identified as being Hart Bochner, the film's writer and director. The photo was of Dylan Walsh, who stars in the movie.
"It is the worst place I've ever seen," says Bochner, whose many credits include the films "Rich and Famous" and "Die Hard" and the 1988 TV miniseries "War and Remembrance."
"And I've seen Third World poverty. It was beyond bleak and beyond heartbreaking and almost comical in the personality of the place, where at the center you have this decay where people are forgotten, and surrounding it was all of this exquisite beauty."
Trona's population of 6,000 has declined to 1,800. Drug dealers and parolees have been drawn by the ultra-cheap housing.
The high school, with only 160 students, is said to be the only one in the country where the football field surface is gravel because nothing can grow there.
After directing a couple of formula comedies in the '90s that didn't do well ("PCU," "High School High"), Bochner was looking to do a film about "what we have physically done to this planet and also to do a story about the common man and certainly how, in the last seven years, the affordability of life for the common man has been getting worse and worse."
The result is a quirky comedy starring Dylan Walsh of "Nip/Tuck" as Ray Tuckby, an average guy who is stuck in a dreadful job and a loveless marriage in Trona.
He becomes transformed after befriending a colorful new resident (Danny DeVito).
Although the environment was inhospitable, the people of Trona welcomed the cast and crew, Bochner says. One crew member even adopted a child from Trona. "The community -- everyone was so sweet to us," he says.
-- Susan King