Know Your Nominees: “The Kids Are All Right”

7 02 2011

The Oscars are a great cultural conversation for all to participate in, but it’s all too easy to only have surface knowledge of the nominees.  It’s all too easy to know “Black Swan” as the ballet movie, “The Fighter” as the boxing movie, and “The Social Network” as the Facebook movie.  But don’t you want to know more and stun your friends with your knowledge of the movies in the weeks leading up to the awards and ultimately during the broadcast itself?

That’s what my KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series hopes to do.  Every three days, I’ll feature ten interesting facts about the ten Best Picture nominees of 2010 that would be fascinating to pepper into any conversation.  My hope is that you will come away with an enhanced appreciation of the movies but also enjoy learning strange and interesting things about them.

So, as we proceed in alphabetical order, our next stop on the tour is “The Kids Are All Right.”

“The Kids Are All Right” is set in Los Angeles, fairly obviously although not entirely prominently.  But according to writer/director Lisa Choldenko, the movie was originally set in New York.  The availability of Annette Bening, however, was contingent on moving production to Los Angeles.  Cholodenko decided to rewrite the script with the setting changing coasts, and she claims that it helped bring the characters more to life.

Cholodenko also claims that the movie is slightly autobiographical, mainly at the beginning as she and her partner in real life were looking to be impregnated by a sperm donor.  In walks co-writer Stuart Blumberg, who was a sperm donor himself.  He wondered what children he brought into the world, and the two of them came up with what we now know as “The Kids Are All Right.”  In 2006, the movie was nearly greenlit for production – but Cholodenko became pregnant and shelved the project for family matters.

The revision process was also grueling.  The initial draft took a month to write, and as we know, nothing is perfect the first time.  So Cholodenko and Blumberg re-wrote every character, scene, and line at least 10 times.

Who was the first actor onto the project?  Several years before production began on “The Kids Are All Right,” Julianne Moore met Cholodenko and expressed her admiration for the director’s work.  The two kept in touch, and Cholodenko sent Moore the script for her next movie around 2004, which the high-profile actress was attached to for many years.

When Annette Bening came aboard the project later, Cholodenko has stated the she retouched the script to make the character fit Bening better.  The character Nic that we see in the movie better serves a vessel for her voice.

Mark Ruffalo received his first Academy Award nomination for his role in “The Kids Are All Right,” but it might interest you to know that he intially turned down the role.  He was cast sequentially after Moore and Bening, and he was approved from a list that Cholodenko had made for potential actors to play the character.  After his initial refusal, Moore used her personal relationship with Ruffalo, who she starred with in “Blindness,” to reel the actor in, even texting his wife.

How did the kids come aboard?  Cholodenko chose Mia Wasikowska after seeing her work in HBO’s “In Treatment.” On the other hand, her on-screen sibling didn’t have it quite so easy.  Josh Hutcherson received got the script and auditioned for the role.  I guess “Zathura” wasn’t quite convincing enough…

Indie movies are, by their nature, independently financed.  But for the quality of filmmaking you get from “The Kids Are All Right,” you’d be surprised how rushed the schedule was.  The entire movie was filmed in 23 days. And as for the budget, the movie was made on $5 million; according to Ruffalo, the stars made almost no money just like virtually any indie movie.  Oh, and they only had five days to rehearse.

Unlike “The Social Network,” which was shot word-for-word for Aaron Sorkin’s script, “The Kids Are All Right” underwent some metamorphosis during the filming process.  Two scenes were added during the shoot, and the last line of the movie that appears in the final version wasn’t written until pre-production.

Ok, and what about the movie’s politics?  Lisa Cholodenko acknowledges that the political climate in which “The Kids Are All Right” is being released in makes most people believe that it has an agenda.  But in numerous interviews, she has stated that she did not see this as a gay movie.  What she wanted to get at with the movie was something more universal.  It’s a movie about family in any way, shape, or form.  All the stars said they didn’t need to do any research on same-sex parenting because they approached it like any family movie.

Check back on February 10 as the KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series continues with “The King’s Speech.”

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