February 28, 2008

Bonneville- A Road Trip with Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Joan Allen- Opens Tomorrow

I was so excited to see that a film starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Joan Allen was happening. I am a fan of each actress and am really happy that this script brought Jessica Lange back to the big screen. Lange plays Arvilla Holden, a recent widow who promised her free spirited, traveler husband that he would never be buried below ground. The problem for her is that her late husband's daughter played by Christine Baranski (yes, he was 20 years older than Lange) wants her father buried next to her long deceased mother. The kicker is that the stupid dead husband never changed his will after they got married, so Arvilla will be homeless if she does not deliver the her husband's ashes for a proper internment.

So, Lange breaks out the old Bonneville and along with her two best friends, Margene (Kathy Bates) and Carol (Joan Allen), they journey west from Pocatello, Idaho to Santa Barbara, CA. This, being a road movie you get the inevitable flat tire and rescue by a young hot man worldly beyond his years on his own journey; a trip to the Grand Canyon; a rented houseboat disaster; and of course the leering truck driver (Tom Skerritt) who turns out quite the gentleman who falls for Margene. The trip also brings the women closer together and helps them rediscover their love for each other.

The film is directed by first timer Christopher N Rowley and his inexperience is evident onscreen especially because of the seasoned actresses he is directing. But the women clearly had fun making the film and seeing Lange, Bates and Allen onscreen together should be reason enough for anyone to fork over $10 bucks.

Lauren Timmons is an Associate Producer on the film. She was the one who first read the script at her company and was instrumental in all phases and facets of the film.

She answered a few questions about the film.

Women & Hollywood: How did you come across the script for Bonneville?

Lauren Timmons: After I finished classes for my MFA at Columbia, I started working in development at SenArt (the Tribeca production company behind “The Station Agent” and the Academy Award Winning Documentary “The Fog of War”). The writer and director of “Bonneville” had seen and loved “The Station Agent,” and they sent us their script because that character-driven, funny, uplifting feel was exactly what they were going for with “Bonneville.”
I was the first at SenArt to read “Bonneville” – I’d read hundreds of scripts at this point, and this story really stood out. I loved the characters, I loved that it was about friendship, fun, travel, living life to the fullest. And I loved that starred three women at an age that Hollywood so often relegates to playing the “supporting mother/grandmother” roles. Robert May, who founded SenArt, loved “Bonneville” as well – and so we started working with the writer and director to refine the script!
W&H: Explain what an associate producer does?
LT: I’ve been involved literally in every step of “Bonneville’s” creation since development: raising the money, casting the film, pre-production. I was on set in Utah and California when we shot it, and around for the post-production/editing as well. And finally, I’ve been working very closely on the marketing and release, which is really exciting. We’ve created an amazing website, www.BonnevilleTheMovie.com, where you can not only see the trailer and find out more on the film, but you can watch an amazing “Behind the Scenes” featurette, enter to win fabulous vacations, download driving directions to take the actual road trip Jessica brings her friends on in the film, and a lot more!
W&H: What in the script resonated with you that you wanted to pursue it?
LT: As I mentioned above, I was immediately struck by the script. I loved the characters - that this was a story about three women, each with a real journey to go on. It was funny, sad, and completely character-driven. It drops you into these women’s world and you really feel like you’re right there on the road with them. Plus, it was fun - a road film, a buddy film. It leaves you feeling good, which is extremely refreshing – it’s a celebration of friendship, fun, travel and living life to the fullest.
W&H: Scripts with female leads are few and far between and this film has three strong female characters. Why do you think there are some few female centric films in Hollywood?
LT: I keep hearing that “women will go see a movie starring men, but men won’t see a movie starring women” but I think that’s crazy. There have been huge “female centric” hits - “Calendar Girls,” “Something’s Got to Give,” “The Devil Wears Prada” – and most recently, “Juno.” I truly believe that if it’s a good story with good characters, it has every opportunity to be a really big, profitable success. And I think women want to see films that resonate with their lives. At preview screenings of “Bonneville,” I can’t tell you how many women have come up to us afterwards, telling us how passionate they are about the film, and asking why more films aren’t made like this. What we tell them is, bring every one of your friends to see “Bonneville” and truly help us make it a success – and there will be more films made like it!
W&H: You worked with a first-time director on the project. Did he come attached to the script and if not, how did you pick him? Why was he the right person to direct this film?
LT: The director, Christopher N Rowley, developed the screenplay along with the writer, Dan Davis. They had brought the screenplay to SenArt together, and we spent over a year working with them on further development, and then on all the pre-production leading up to filming. So we had a long period to get to know each other, and Chris really impressed us with both his preparation and vision. As an independent film company, you absolutely look for new voices, first-time directors with a fresh vision and something interesting to say. Tom McCarthy hadn’t even directed a short film before he made “The Station Agent,” and it’s especially exciting to give someone a shot to make a film that truly might never get made otherwise.
W&H: You yourself are a writer and director. Why do you think women writers and directors continue to struggle to get their work made in Hollywood.
LT: I really do think it’s getting better, and I have every hope that women writers AND directors will continue to get more and more work made at a really rapid pace. I thought it was great that three of the five best original screenplay nominees were women this year, with Diablo Cody winning for “Juno.” A lot of people who see “Bonneville” are surprised that it was written and directed by men, but the screenwriter, Dan Davis, is a really smart and insightful guy who wrote the film from his life. Jessica Lange’s character was very closely based on his grandmother, Margene (Kathy Bates) was a close family friend, and Carol (Joan Allen) was his Aunt Carol, who we actually met on set. But in any case, I think we should absolutely be supporting films both made by and made about women.
W&H: The film was shot in the fall of of 2005. What was the delay from shoot to release?
Well, first of all, it took awhile to find the right balance – “Bonneville” is a true mix of comedy and drama, of character and adventure. Along the way, we would screen cuts of the film to audiences to see how they reacted – and as we went on, we started to get more and more comments like “why doesn’t Hollywood make films like this anymore”. Then, when we started talking to distributors, we found out – in large part, distributors think it’s simply a lot harder to market to “Boomers” than teenage boys. And by this point, we believed so strongly in the film, and we felt that we knew this audience so well, that ultimately we decided we could do a better job. So we partnered with Jeff Lipsky and formed SenArt Films Releasing. And we’re doing all kinds of “outside the box” outreach to get the word out. A key part of our promotion has been preview screenings - we want people to see “Bonneville,” love it, and talk about it to all their friends and family! So we’ve orchestrated screenings for art groups, senior communities, film clubs, boomer groups, the Red Hat Society, and two weeks ago the film screened as a special event on all 16 of Princess Cruises’ ships! We’ve also partnered with AAA, igourmet.com, Xanterra Resorts, and other companies that are helping get the word out to our audience. And what we tell everyone is, if you like “Bonneville,” share it with everyone you know – let’s prove that Boomer women will get out to the theater and support an uplifting, adult story!
W&H: What do you want people to walk out of the theatre thinking after they see the film?
LT: I think ultimately audiences will leave moved, and uplifted. “Bonneville” is a celebration of friendship and of freedom, of letting go of the past and embracing everything life has to offer.
Film opens tomorrow in markets across the country.