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Larry Crowne

Tuesday 9th August 2011

Until he was downsized, affable, amiable Larry Crowne (Hanks) was a superstar team leader at the big-box company where he's worked since his time in the navy. Academy Award® winners Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts come together for a romantic and optimistic comedy about how the hard knocks from today's recession inspire one everyday guy to undergo a personal reinvention and find an unexpected second act in his life: Larry Crowne.
Tom Hanks, Sarah Mahoney, Roxana Ortega, Randall Park, Brady Rubin, Alex Quijano, Tina Huang, E-Kan Soong, Tarina Pouncy, Sy Richardson, Julie Wagner, Rob Riggle
Tom Hanks
Jeb Brody, David Coatsworth, Katterli Frauenfelder, Fabrice Gianfermi, Gary Goetzman
Optimum Releasing
1 hour 38 minutes
2011

Academy Award® winners Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts come together for a romantic and optimistic comedy about how the hard knocks from today's recession inspire one everyday guy to undergo a personal reinvention and find an unexpected second act in his life: Larry Crowne.

Until he was downsized, affable, amiable Larry Crowne (Hanks) was a superstar team leader at the big-box company where he's worked since his time in the navy. Underwater on his mortgage and unclear on what to do with his suddenly free days, Larry heeds the advice of his good friends and neighbors-Lamar (Cedric The Entertainer) and B'Ella (Taraji P. Henson) - and heads to his local college to start over.

At East Valley Community College, Larry becomes part of a colorful group of fellow scooter-riding students-including the charming Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her boyfriend, Dell (Wilmer Valderrama) - all trying to find a better future for themselves.

Much to his surprise, he develops a crush on his public-speaking teacher, Mercedes Tainot (Roberts), who has lost as much passion for teaching as she has for her deadbeat husband, Dean (Bryan Cranston). Mercedes can't deny the changes in Larry are inspiring, nor can she deny her budding attraction to this middle-aged student, who is undergoing a fascinating transformation.

The simple guy who has every reason to think his life has stalled will come to learn an unexpected lesson: When you think everything worth having has passed you by, you just might discover your reason to live.

Hanks directs Larry Crowne from a script he wrote with Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Connie and Carla) and produces the romantic comedy with his longtime partner at Playtone, Gary Goetzman (Mamma Mia!, Where the Wild Things Are). Their production team includes Academy Award®-winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (A River Runs Through It, Sherlock Holmes), editor Alan Cody (TV's The Pacific, Big Love), production designer Victor Kempster (Charlie Wilson's War, Natural Born Killers), two-time Oscar®-winning costume designer Albert Wolsky (Bugsy, All That Jazz) and composer James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight, My Best Friend's Wedding). Larry Crowne's executive producers are Philippe Rousselet (Source Code), Steven Shareshian (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Jeb Brody (Little Miss Sunshine), Fabrice Gianfermi} (Source Code) and David Coatsworth (Underworld: Evolution).

For Tom Hanks, the story of Larry Crowne was one that was years in the making. Just after high school, Hanks attended junior college and his experiences there had a huge impact. He notes: "This was in the mid-'70s and there was a sensibility of flux. In my class, there was somebody who was middle-aged, somebody in his fifties, somebody who was just back from Vietnam. I became friends with almost everybody in class and I found this rich life experience amongst them".

Along with Playtone partner and Larry Crowne producer Gary Goetzman, Hanks spent the past decade producing such hit films as The Polar Express, Charlie Wilson's War, Mamma Mia! and Where the Wild Things Are; the Emmy Award-winning HBO miniseries The Pacific, Band of Brothers and John Adams; and the critically acclaimed HBO television series Big Love. Simultaneously, Hanks took on acting roles in such blockbuster films as The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, Catch Me If You Can and Toy Story 3. Throughout this time, the writer/director continued to take notes and build scenes as he reflected upon the idea of what would happen to a man who starts over at the point in his life in which many would find it unthinkable.

Shares Hanks: "Out of my experience in junior college came this character of Larry Crowne. He has his life completely altered by the fact that he gets fired. They let him go under the pretense that he couldn't advance because he didn't go to college. So what does Larry do? Much like when I was out of high school, thank goodness, there's a place called junior college, where nothing is expected of you except what you put into the day when you drive to campus".

In 2006, Hanks further developed the concept with screenwriter Nia Vardalos, with whom he had collaborated as a producer on the blockbuster breakout film My Big Fat Greek Wedding. He says, "I wanted to work with Nia because I needed her expertise. There are characters in this film that needed to have complete voices and complete arcs; they had to be authentic. She worked on Larry Crowne for many drafts and then I took it and began to edit. The give and take with Nia continued right up until the end".

In their screenplay, the writers explored the emotional toll of unemployment on a middle-aged navy vet who, until now, had been a standout worker at U-Mart. His frustration is matched by the financial toll of divorce, a whopping mortgage and a gas-guzzling SUV. In an attempt to widen his job prospects, Larry enrolls in East Valley Community College (EVCC) to secure a degree and make himself more marketable. Little does he realize that this one small step will alter the course of his life.

The idea of the blue-collar guy who loses his job and has to reinvent himself was one that came to Hanks years before the recent fiscal crisis hit the U.S. economy. In the midst of co-writing the screenplay and witnessing the aftereffects that have left millions of Americans in financial turmoil and with uncertain futures, Hanks could not help but be influenced and incorporate these elements into the material.

Vardalos appreciated that the story Hanks had constructed was one that is not so far-fetched. She notes: "What I like about this story is that it's very real. It is for every man, every woman out there who has felt: 'I'm working really hard and I don't know if I'm appreciated or part of an infrastructure that will make America a better place.' All of us are replaceable and that's a harsh reality. When that happens, you have to adapt. You have to reconstruct, pick up the pieces of your life and find a way to move on".

It has been well over a decade since Hanks made his screenwriting/directorial debut with the 1996 comedy That Thing You Do!, but it has long been the plan for Hanks to direct this original screenplay. Though he took a supporting role in his last directorial film, he always had an eye to portray the title character in this romantic comedy. Goetzman elaborates on the details of our protagonist's life: "Larry is a regular, hard-working guy who has always tried to do the right thing. But look what happens to him? He has a home that he's underwater on and the bank won't give him any leeway on his payments.so he gives up gives up his house to find a much simpler lifestyle".

For Hanks' longtime collaborator, production flowed in the efficient manner to which they had grown accustomed over their decades of work together. Says Goetzman: "As a filmmaker, Tom doesn't procrastinate or overthink every decision. He's very focused and directing for him is a natural process. Even though he's the director and stars in the film, he was able to divide his time between these roles efficiently and effectively".

With the shooting script ready, Hanks would make one of his first casting calls to fellow Oscar® winner Julia Roberts. The writer/director and the actress have been friends for years but it was their memorable pairing in director Mike Nichols' last film, Charlie Wilson's War, which, according to Roberts, "cemented" their friendship. She was in Rome on the set of Eat Pray Love when she was asked to consider working with Hanks again.

Roberts was impressed with the part of Mercedes Tainot, the lushy college professor who studied to become an expert in political comparative discourse between Shakespeare and Shaw before she arrived at junior college. Much like Larry, Mercedes has a catharsis of her own. The performer didn't just bring her megawatt star power to the production, Roberts proved her commitment to the project daily. Goetzman commends the actress' work ethic on the set of Larry Crowne: "I've never seen anyone so prepared. She brought fascinating nuances to the character and shaped Mercedes into the complicated woman you see on screen. She's pitch perfect".

Hanks describes that Mercedes has found herself in a place where she feels she is stuck. Of the character's arc, he notes, "There comes a time when you have to stop suffering fools.even if that means the one who sleeps in your bed every night and gets up every morning with you. Maybe that fool has to go".

Roberts liked the challenge of portraying the teacher with an escalating need to drink her day away and a husband who was more interested in online porn than in his wife. Says the performer: "The story was charming, yet topical, for so many of the characters who are losing faith and trying to cope by rediscovering themselves. I was intrigued by it all, especially Mercedes and her drinking problem. As an actor to be able to play that, it is so fun and heartbreaking and challenging. She has pickled herself into this cocoon of an unhappy life. So without hesitation, I called Tom back and said I would hitch my wagon to his".

The unlikely pairing of Larry and Mercedes plays out in the classroom, when Larry's yearning to express himself motivates the professor to challenge her numbed existence. "Mercedes has issues", explains Roberts. "She's in a position where her dreams are not coming to fruition the way she pictured them. In a way, she's in opposition to what Larry has decided to do for his life. She's given up a bit and he inspires her to reinvigorate herself".

While it required a great deal of juggling, Hanks' actors were impressed that he was able to pull off his multiple roles on the set effortlessly. Says Roberts: "Tom gives 100 percent in every department all day long. He's happy. He's buoyant. He's present. It's mind-boggling that this is his second time directing and he has it down. He can shape-shift from acting to directing. It's pretty impressive".

Once Roberts had been cast as his leading lady, Hanks seeded his eclectic ensemble with a mix of familiar and up-and-coming performers. The process proved to be easier than expected, as Hanks and Goetzman knew early on what performers they wanted for each role. They began by upping the comedy with Bryan Cranston as Mercedes' husband, Dean Tainot, as well as Cedric the Entertainer and Academy Award® nominee Taraji P. Henson as Larry's close friends and neighbors, Lamar and B'Ella.

Cranston, an old friend of Hanks since their work together on That Thing You Do!, welcomed the call and carved out time during the hiatus of his critically acclaimed AMC series Breaking Bad to lens Larry Crowne. Preparing for the role of Dean Tainot, the self-published author with a penchant for porn, turned out to be an interesting one for Cranston. Referring to any online research, he laughs, "I didn't go there". The performer does admit: "I was a bit intimidated. I needed to look as young and vibrant as possible, so I dropped weight, got a spray tan, bleached my teeth and made sure I was firmed up. Otherwise, how would you believe that Bryan Cranston was in Julia Roberts' league?"

When discussing the crumbling of Dean and Mercedes' marriage, Cranston captures the subtext: "Any time you see couples who are separating slowly, almost at a glacial speed, it's not easily identifiable; it just starts slipping away. There's the natural instinct to self-medicate and for the Tainots, self-medication is alcohol and the escape of online porn. Dean justifies this as research for his next great novel, but we know better".

Memorable characters such as Larry's lottery-winning neighbors Lamar and B'Ella, who host a daily yard sale on the cul-de-sac, punctuate the irreverence of the story. Admittedly, the opportunity to work with Hanks and Roberts sparked Cedric the Entertainer's interest in the project, but the wisecracking character of Lamar is what fully captured his attention. He states, "Lamar is a really funny cat. He runs a daily yard sale as a business after winning the lottery. He didn't move when he won the big money. He stayed in his neighborhood and is officially the big man on the block".

As Larry's close friends, Lamar and B'Ella have front-row seats to observe the changes in Larry's world. They watch with initial dismay and then cautious delight, as Larry starts a new chapter in his life. The actors, who have known one another for years, looked forward to working together again and easily fell into the rhythms of a long-married couple.

Hanks' interactions with his cast as a director and leading man blended on set. Each of the cast can cite instances in which they were working with Hanks and the actor forgot their director was not just a fellow cast member. That is, until Hanks would yell "cut" after a take and run to the video monitor to check out what had been shot. Sums Henson: "He trusts his actors. It gives us all a lot of freedom, which is very rare".

Fellow community college students provide just the spark Larry needs to get his life together. Leading the motor-scooter pack is Talia, portrayed by British performer Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who most recently starred in the {NBC series Undercovers. The actress was eager to take on the role of the insouciant beauty who is a catalyst for Larry's transformation. Mbatha-Raw reflects: "I just fell in love with Talia, who is quite a free spirit and inspires Larry to be the person he can be. That's the beautiful message of this movie: the end is not just the end; it's also a new beginning. Larry is faced with this potentially devastating experience, yet it inspires him to meet new people who have such an impact on his life".

The vibrantly quirky Talia's desire to makeover Crowne from head to toe ultimately leads to his hipper incarnation, one she nicknames Lance Corona. She also did the same with her beau Dell Gordo, whose own real name, Don Gordon, doesn't quite match the black leather-clad persona she's created. This plays out alongside Larry's budding crush on Mercedes. The unlikely pairing of the attractive intellectual with a fondness for daily margaritas and the seemingly nerdy guy with his bad haircut and pleated khakis is the heart of the story and lends it charm.

Hanks and Goetzman called in veteran actors Pam Grier, George Takei and Rita Wilson to add even more star power to the romantic comedy. The performers play, respectively, Mercedes' best friend, fellow EVCC professor Frances; quirky economics professor Dr. Matsutani; and bank loan officer Wilma Q. Gammelgaard.

1970s film icon Grier recently starred in the television series The L Word and stars in the upcoming actioner The Man with the Iron Fists, alongside Russell Crowe and RZA. After a number of dramas, Grier was looking forward to flexing her comedy muscle once again. "I thought, 'Hey, if I have any comedic chops left I'm going to do it for Tom", says the actress. But she couldn't overlook the dramatic strength Hanks brought to the film. "The moments that Tom takes to portray his emotions, it's easy to forget anything else. Just watching him and everyone else react to that, it's incredible. Audiences are going to feel a connection to this character who is going through so much".

George Takei, known for his iconic role of Mr. Sulu in the television and film series Star Trek, portrays Dr. Ed Matsutani, Larry's pompous but encouraging economics professor. Says Takei of his preparation for the teacher who plays a part in Crowne's evolution: "There's a little bit of John Houseman, the college professor in The Paper Chase [1980s television series], in Dr. Matsutani. I also mixed in one of my English lit professors from UCLA. I tap into people I know and some of the things that I have in me". He jokes, "I hope people don't think I've got the ego of a Dr. Matsutani. Although I am brilliant and people would be wise to follow my guidance".

For supporting roles in Larry Crowne, Hanks and Goetzman culled from a stable of actors with whom they have worked over the years, including My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Ian Gomez as Larry's café boss, Frank; The Pacific alumnae Rami Malek as Larry's classmate Dibiasi, Tom Budge as Stan, Jon Seda as Officer Diamond and Joshua Biton as Officer Baker; and That Thing You Do!'s Holmes Osborne as Dave Busik. Newcomers to the Playtone family include The Hangover's Rob Riggle as Larry's cocky former supervisor at U-Mart, Jack Strang and Margin Call's Grace Gummer and Wizards of Waverly Place's Maria Canals-Barrera as, respectively, fellow EVCC classmates Natalie and Lala.

Principal photography on Larry Crowne began in spring 2010 and the comedy filmed on locations throughout the Los Angeles area including the San Fernando Valley, Long Beach and Burbank. The filmmakers gathered a behind-the-scenes team made up of experienced veterans and longtime friends with whom Hanks and Goetzman have worked over the years.

One of the first locations to be shot was a Northridge neighborhood that served as the backdrop for the cul-de-sac where Larry lives next door to Lamar and B'Ella. His neighbors have a lawn littered with thousands of collectibles and bric-a-brac that any yard sale aficionado would covet. Kempster, set decorator Cheryl Carasik and their respective departments spent days making sure that these items were meticulously placed for filming.

Frank's Coffee Shop in Burbank played host to the production for a week as cast and crew filmed interior and exterior scenes of the small diner where Larry works as a line cook while attending community college at EVCC.

The team traversed multiple locations before decamping to the studio lot for filming of the interior sets of Larry's home, Mercedes and Dean's town house and several of the school classrooms and offices. The crew also spent a week filming on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, where actual faculty and students stumbled upon the production as they walked across campus. The idyllic grounds allowed for cast and crew to ride on bicycles, golf carts and the occasional scooter as they moved from one end of campus to the other.

True to his interest in improvisational style, Hanks gave all his actors an assignment for the film's public-speaking scenes: select your own topic and talk about it for several minutes. Hanks explains the process: "Larry's first class is like speech class for boneheads. You take people who do not know how to stand up and give informal remarks and teach them how to do that. I've taken classes like that in junior college, where you have to get up and read things you've never read and you think you're going to die the first time you have to do them. But by the end of the semester, it's the most fun class you've ever had. You look around and everybody is enthusiastic about the final".

Admittedly, the public-speaking aspect of those scenes proved to be the most disconcerting of the shoot for all the trained actors. Roberts is the first to admit the experience was awkward: "One of my first days of filming, we shot in the classroom and I was standing in front of this group of 10 people. I was unhinged. If I locked eyes with somebody, I would forget my place. It was nerve-wracking. It wasn't until the end of that week where, one by one, everyone else had to get up and sit in my spot to give their final essay to the class". She laughs, "Every single person who got up there, including Tom, said, 'It is horrible up here.'"

Hanks and production designer Victor Kempster led the search for the film's many scooters, which would serve as an integral force behind Larry Crowne's transformation. Supported by transportation coordinator Dan Marrow, Kempster and Hanks matched up each actor with his or her scooter. Their aim was to ensure that the vehicles in the film were not simply set dressing and would complement the color palette requested by cinematographer Philippe Rousselot.

When Larry purchases a scooter from Lamar and B'Ella's yard sale, his life begins to change. Explains Hanks of Larry's rationale: "There's a big difference between driving to school in a huge SUV with a radio on and the air conditioning blasting versus riding to school on a noisy, oil-belching scooter. You have to have a helmet, the wind is in your face and you're feeling every element. If it's cold, you're cold; if it's hot, you're hot. Right off the bat, Larry has a new tactile experience of simply getting to class".

A sizable scooter-loving subculture exists across the U.S. and fortunately, Kempster's team discovered an abundance of clubs and owners who were excited to share their passion for the vehicles-whether vintage or new models. Most were willing to loan them out and the enthusiasts provided information on where to get parts. Still, others offered up themselves to ride as part of Larry's posse.

Pairing a scooter to each character took some thought and Kempster, Goetzman and Hanks began meticulously researching the aesthetics and mechanics of the cast of vehicles. The search went far beyond suburban Los Angeles to all corners of the United States. From postings on Craigslist to putting out the call to scooter clubs nationwide, the crew was tasked to secure multiple bikes.at least two each of the core-character scooters.

When assembling the primary and the background scooters was almost complete, the filmmakers had still not decided on a bike for Hanks' character. Serendipitously, as Hanks, Goetzman and their production crew were scouting locations, they stumbled upon the perfect bike at CSU} Dominguez Hills, the location they would use for the fictitious East Valley Community College.

Hanks left a note for the owner that explained how he was making a film and wanted to use the scooter. The owner, a middle-aged man who himself had recently returned to college, was initially a bit skeptical. After he Googled "Tom Hanks and Larry Crowne", he called the number.still thinking it was a prank. His fears assuaged, his 1983 Yamaha Riva 180 was cast in the film, along with three other identical scooters that Marrow tracked down from different corners of California.

In all, key crew-along with several L.A.-based shops that work specifically with scooters-borrowed and refurbished a total of 30 bikes, a mix of vintage and fresh off the assembly line. Valderrama's leader of the pack, Dell Gordo, rocks a black Vespa Vino, while Mbatha-Raw's Talia zooms around on a rare Italian import, an Italjet Bella Figura that had its manual transmission converted to a specialized electric engine. This made the Figura an easier ride for the non-driving Brit, who had to take driving lessons and get a driver's license for the role. Finally, a vintage 1960s Lambretta X200 Special, an Italjet Velocifero, a three-wheel Piaggio and genuine Stella scooters round out the core group of bikes.

As invaluable as the technical and mechanical scooter-club resources were for the team, they also provided a wealth of background material for the actors portraying the scooter posse that indoctrinates Larry into its club. Valderrama, admittedly a car guy who had never ridden a scooter prior to his involvement in Larry Crowne, was inclined to do some research. "I discovered this wonderful community that was so passionate and proud about their scooting", he says. "It was so charming and special to see people who enjoy something so much. It's terrific that Tom is able to highlight this unique culture".

Mbatha-Raw was able to experience a little of that magic when she went with Hanks and a group of 20 scooter enthusiasts to take over streets in the San Fernando Valley for the filming of a montage sequence on the open road. "Tom and I were scooting in the Californian sunshine and then we were joined by the whole group", the actress recounts. "I felt that sense of unity and it was wonderful".

To ensure that the entire cast was comfortable handling the bikes, the filmmakers conducted a training camp that gave all the opportunity to get acquainted with their bikes as they navigated an obstacle course. "No green screen for us, we just went for it", laughs Valderrama.

Tom Hanks (Larry Crowne/Directed by/Written by/Produced by) became the first actor in 50 years to be awarded back-to-back Best Actor Academy Awards®-in 1994 as the AIDS-stricken lawyer in Philadelphia and the following year in Forrest Gump. He also won Golden Globe Awards for both of these performances, along with his work in Big and Cast Away.

Most recently, Hanks reprised two popular roles: Woody in Pixar's hit franchise Toy Story 3, with Tim Allen and Robert Langdon inAngels & Demons, Ron Howard's 2009 sequel to The Da Vinci Code. He also starred, opposite Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, in Mike Nichols' Charlie Wilson's War. He recently completed filming Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, with Sandra Bullock.

Raised in Oakland, California, Hanks became interested in acting during high school. He attended Chabot College in Hayward, California and the California State University at Sacramento. At the invitation of artistic director Vincent Dowling, he made his professional debut at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. He performed in that company for three seasons.

Hanks moved to New York City in 1978 and performed with the Riverside Shakespeare Company before he was teamed with Peter Scolari in the ABC television comedy series Bosom Buddies. This led to starring roles in Ron Howard's Splash, his first collaboration with the director. In 1988, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association recognized his performances in both Big and Punchline, bestowing Hanks their Best Actor Award. Roles followed in films such as A League of Their Own and Sleepless in Seattle.

In 1996, Hanks wrote and directed That Thing You Do! The film's title song was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Original Song. After reteaming with Ron Howard in Apollo 13, Hanks served as an executive producer, writer, director and actor for HBO's From the Earth to the Moon - an Emmy-winning 12-hour dramatic film anthology that explored the Apollo space program.

In 1998, Hanks starred in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, for which he received his fourth Oscar® nomination. The following year, he starred in The Green Mile, which was written and directed by Frank Darabont and is based on the six-part serialized novel by Stephen King. In 2000, Hanks reunited with director Robert Zemeckis and screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. in Cast Away, for which he received yet another Oscar® nomination. That same year, he served with Steven Spielberg as executive producer, writer and director for another epic HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers, based on Stephen Ambrose's book. The miniseries aired in the fall of 2001 to wide-scale critical acclaim, leading to an Emmy Award and Golden Globe for Best Miniseries in 2002.

In 2002, Hanks starred in Road to Perdition, opposite Paul Newman and Jude Law, under Sam Mendes' direction. It was followed by Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, which was based on the true-life exploits of international confidence man Frank Abagnale, Jr. Hanks teamed for a third time with Spielberg on The Terminal, opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones and followed it with the Coen brothers' dark comedy The Ladykillers. In November 2004, Hanks starred in the film adaptation of the Caldecott Medal-winning children's book The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, which reunited him once again with director Robert Zemeckis.

In 2006, Hanks was seen playing Robert Langdon in the film adaptation of Dan Brown's novel "The Da Vinci Code", helmed by Ron Howard and also starring Audrey Tautou, Paul Bettany, Ian McKellen and Jean Reno. In 2008, Hanks, with his production company Playtone, executive produced the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries John Adams, starring Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson. The series went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries and a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television. Hanks recently reteamed with Spielberg to produce the HBO miniseries The Pacific, which premiered in March 2010 and went on to win a staggering 15 Emmy Awards including Outstanding Miniseries. In 2009, the Film Society of Lincoln Center honored Hanks at its Gala Tribute.

An Academy Award® winner for Erin Brockovich, Julia Roberts (Mercedes Tainot) has appeared in many of Hollywood's most successful films, worked with the industry's most esteemed directors and her films have grossed more than $2.5 billion worldwide. She first came to the attention of audiences with her critically acclaimed role in Mystic Pizza. She received her first Academy Award® nomination for her role in Steel Magnolias. Her next film, Pretty Woman, was the top-grossing film of 1990 and brought Roberts her second Academy Award® nomination. Her memorable performance in that film was followed by a series of notable films including Flatliners, Sleeping With the Enemy, Dying Young, The Pelican Brief and Something to Talk About. Most recently, Roberts starred in Eat Pray Love, based on Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir "Eat, Pray, Love" directed by Ryan Murphy. Additionally, Roberts starred opposite Clive Owen in Duplicity, directed by Tony Gilroy and appeared in the ensemble romantic comedy Valentine's Day, directed by Garry Marshall.

Roberts also starred with Liam Neeson in Neil Jordan's Michael Collins and in Woody Allen's romantic, musical comedy Everyone Says I Love You. In 1997, she starred in the box-office smash My Best Friend's Wedding, directed by P.J. Hogan and the Richard Donner-directed thriller Conspiracy Theory, co-starring Mel Gibson. Roberts starred opposite Susan Sarandon and Ed Harris in the Chris Columbus film Stepmom. In 1999, she starred in two box-office hits: Notting Hill, co-starring Hugh Grant and directed by Roger Michell and Runaway Bride, in which she reteamed with her Pretty Woman co-star and director, Richard Gere and Garry Marshall.

Since 2000's Erin Brockovich, she has appeared in Mona Lisa Smile and America's Sweethearts, both from Revolution Studios. She has starred in three films by director Steven Soderbergh: Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve and Full Frontal. She also appeared with her Ocean's co-star, Brad Pitt, in The Mexican, directed by Gore Verbinski and she starred in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the directorial debut of her Ocean's co-star, George Clooney. She has worked with director Mike Nichols on both Closer and Charlie Wilson's War, opposite Tom Hanks. Roberts provided the voice of Charlotte in the animated film Charlotte's Web and made her Broadway debut in Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain.

Last year, Bryan Cranston (Dean Tainot) received his third consecutive Emmy win as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Walter White on AMC's Breaking Bad. Cranston holds the honor of being the first actor in a cable series and the second lead actor in the history of the Emmy Awards to receive three consecutive wins. His performance has also earned him a Television Critics Association Award, a Golden Globe nomination and two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.

On the big screen, Cranston will next star in Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, opposite Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, which will be released by FilmDistrict on September 16, 2011; Steven Soderbergh's Contagion, opposite Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard and Gwyneth Paltrow, which will be released by Warner Bros. on October 21, 2011; and Andrew Stanton's John Carter of Mars, which will be released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2012.

Cranston was recently cast as the villain, Vilos Cohaagen, in the highly anticipated Len Wiseman remake of Total Recall. The film is expected to begin production in May. Cranston's additional feature film credits include The Lincoln Lawyer, Saving Private Ryan, Little Miss Sunshine, Seeing Other People and That Thing You Do!

Born to a show business family and raised in Southern California, Cranston made his acting debut at the age of eight in a United Way commercial. It wasn't until he finished college that acting became a serious consideration. While on a cross-country motorcycle trip with his brother, he discovered community theater and began exploring every aspect of the stage. Soon, he was cast in a summer stock company.

Cranston returned to Los Angeles and quickly landed a role on the television movie Love Without End, which led to being signed as an original cast member of ABC's Loving. He went on to appear in numerous television roles including a seven-year run as Hal on Fox's Malcolm in the Middle, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe and three Emmys; a recurring role of the dentist, Dr. Tim Whatley, on Seinfeld; in HBO's acclaimed miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon, as Buzz Aldrin; and in the made-for-television movie I Know My First Name is Steven, among others. He has guest-starred on numerous TV programs.

Cranston continues to pursue his love for theater whenever possible. His theater credits includeThe God of Hell, Chapter Two, The Taming of the Shrew, A Doll's House, Eastern Standard, Wrestlers, Barefoot in the Park and The Steven Weed Show, for which he won a Drama-Logue Award. Cranston is also a dedicated screenwriter and director. He wrote the original romantic drama, Last Chance, as a birthday gift for his wife, Robin Dearden and directed and starred in the film. Cranston has also directed several episodes of Malcolm in the Middle, the Comedy Central pilot Special Unit and episodes of Breaking Bad.

In early 2011, Cranston served as executive producer and star of an exclusive online series called The Handlers, for Atom.com. The comedic short series followed Cranston as the character Jack Powers and his race to win a seat on the State Senate. Cranston also produced an instructional DVD called KidSmartz, which is designed to educate families on how to stay safe from child abduction and Internet predators. KidSmartz raises money for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Cedric The Entertainer (Lamar) is best known for his crowd-pleasing roles in such hit films as Barbershop; Be Cool, with John Travolta; Madagascar; Intolerable Cruelty, with George Clooney; and The Original Kings of Comedy, the MTV documentary feature directed by Spike Lee. He will next be seen starring in the political drama Grassroots, directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal.

Cedric now helms his own feature and television production company, A Bird and a Bear Entertainment, which developed and produced Johnson Family Vacation, the 2004 box-office hit in which Cedric also starred. In 2010, he made his directorial debut with Chicago Pulaski Jones, a dance spoof feature, starring comic actor Kel Mitchell. Cedric will also executive produce a new teen comedy series on Nickelodeon along with an original game show for NBC titled It's Worth What?, which he will also host.

His other film credits include Cadillac Records, co-starring Adrien Brody and Beyoncé Knowles; Street Kings, opposite Keanu Reeves; Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, with Martin Lawrence; Talk to Me, starring Don Cheadle; Code Name: The Cleaner, opposite Lucy Liu; The Honeymooners, in which he starred as Jackie Gleason's famed character, Ralph Kramden and received a "Thumbs up".® from Roger Ebert; Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, with Jim Carrey; Man of the House, with Tommy Lee Jones; Barbershop 2: Back in Business; Big Momma's House; Kingdom Come, with Whoopi Goldberg; and Serving Sara, with Matthew Perry. He has also displayed tremendous vocal talent in the family features Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Charlotte's Web, Dr. Dolittle 2 and Ice Age.

In July 2006, Cedric's first-ever HBO Comedy Special, Cedric: Taking You Higher, was the highest-rated special of that year for the network. In November 2008, Cedric made his Broadway debut in David Mamet's masterpiece American Buffalo. His performance was singled out for critical praise. Cedric's universal appeal, versatility and tremendous career successes spanning television, live performances and film have solidified his standing as one of the premier entertainers in the world. Cedric will next lend his voice to Madagascar 3 and will soon be seen co-starring opposite Christina Ricci in All's Faire in Love.

Some notable career accolades for the multitalented funnyman include nabbing the AFTRA Award of Excellence in Television Programming for his Fox television series Cedric the Entertainer Presents; and a record-breaking four consecutive NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his portrayal of the lovable Coach Cedric Robinson on The WB's No. 1-rated The Steve Harvey Show, which ran for six seasons.

His first comedy book, "Grown-A$$ Man", was released in January of 2002 and sold out across the country. In 2001, a viewing audience of more than 144 million saw Cedric star in the Bud Light commercial that landed in the No. 1 spot during the Super Bowl broadcast (subsequently, USA Today dubbed him "Madison Avenue's Most Valuable Player"). In 1994, Cedric received the Richard Pryor Comic of the Year Award from Black Entertainment Television for his groundbreaking work as host of Def Comedy Jam and BET ComicView (from 1994 to 1995).

As a philanthropist, Cedric founded the Cedric "The Entertainer" Charitable Foundation, which provides scholarships and outreach programs to enhance the lives of inner-city youth and their families in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. He plans to expand the foundation nationally. Cedric has awarded more than 56 scholarships and countless incentives through his foundation.

Taraji P. Henson (B'Ella) earned an Academy Award® nomination for Best Supporting Actress, opposite Brad Pitt, in David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. She starred in the hugely successful The Karate Kid, opposite Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan and inDate Night, with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. For her role in Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, she received the 2009 Diversity Award for Best Actress. She also starred in Peep World, as Rainn Wilson's love interest; The Good Doctor, with Orlando Bloom; and Once Fallen, co-starring Ed Harris. Henson recently completed production on the biopic From the Rough, in which she stars as the first female head coach of an NCAA Division I men's golf team.

Henson received rave reviews for her role in Focus Features' Talk to Me, starring opposite Don Cheadle. She co-starred in the ensemble action drama Smokin' Aces, with Ben Affleck and Alicia Keys. Henson received a Black Movie Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role and a BET Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance as Shug in the gutsy drama Hustle & Flow, which also starred Terrence Howard. She starred in Sony's Not Easily Broken, opposite Morris Chestnut; opposite Forest Whitaker in Hurricane Season; and with Kathy Bates in Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys.

Henson made her singing debut in Hustle & Flow and performed its Academy Award®-winning song, It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp, on the Oscar® telecast. She reunited for the third time with John Singleton to film Four Brothers, with Mark Wahlberg and André Benjamin, for Paramount Pictures. Henson co-starred with Simon Baker and Sanaa Lathan in Focus Features' Something New and is well remembered for her role as Yvette, opposite Tyrese Gibson, in Baby Boy. On television, she starred as the title character in Lifetime's Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story, which depicts the true story of a mother whose child was illegally taken from her. Henson was a series regular on David E. Kelley's Boston Legal and had a recurring role on ABC's Eli Stone. She was featured in Jamie Foxx's video Just Like Me and also appeared in Estelle's video Pretty Please (Love Me).

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., the Howard University graduate resides in Los Angeles with her son. Henson has a strong dedication to helping disabled and less fortunate children and reveals, "I always stress to kids to have faith in themselves; the greatest recipe for success is self confidence". Henson is the newest spokesperson for PETA's I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur campaign, which launched in February 2011.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Talia) is a talented British actress poised to take the U.S. by storm with several high-profile film and television projects. In addition to making her feature film debut in Larry Crowne, Mbatha-Raw recently starred in J.J. Abrams' NBC television series Undercovers. She is currently filming the feature film Odd Thomas in New Mexico. The film is directed by Stephen Sommers.

Gugu (pronounced Goo-Goo) Mbatha-Raw was born in Oxford in the United Kingdom. Her full first name is Gugulethu, which originates from her father's South African heritage and means "our pride" in Zulu. Classically trained, Mbatha-Raw accepted her place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) on its prestigious three-year acting course at just 18 years old. Having studied Shakespeare in A-Level English literature, Mbatha-Raw had her first practical experience at RADA and left the third year a month early to hone her skills in an Open Air Theatre production of As You Like It, playing Celia in her first professional engagement. She followed that role with more stage work appearing in Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre's production of Antony and Cleopatra, followed by the title role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, opposite Andrew Garfield, for which she was nominated for the Manchester Evening News Theatre Award for Best Actress in 2005.

The year 2006 was spent steadily building upon her U.K. television experience including the semiregular role of Jenny in the fifth season of the groundbreaking spy drama MI-5 (known as Spooks in the U.K.) for BBC One, opposite Rupert Penry-Jones. A stint on the popular hit Doctor Who followed, in which Mbatha-Raw played Tish Jones, the ambitious and heroic sister to Freema Agyeman's Martha Jones, David Tennant's companion in season three of Russell T. Davies' incarnation of the cult classic. Mbatha-Raw also appeared in ITV's period piece Marple: Ordeal by Innocence, part of Agatha Christie's enduring serial Marple, with Geraldine McEwan, Alison Steadman, Jane Seymour and Juliet Stevenson.

Later that year, Mbatha-Raw returned to the stage in the European premiere of the critically acclaimed Big White Fog, by Theodore Ward at the Almeida Theatre. It was shortly after the run of Big White Fog that Mbatha-Raw was invited by director Michael Attenborough to take part in a two-week international Shakespeare lab in Australia.

Upon her return to the U.K., she began rehearsals for her first leading role in the gritty, thought-provoking drama Fallout, written by Roy Williams, adapted from his scorching stage play at the Royal Court Theatre and directed by the theater's former artistic director Ian Rickson. Soon after, Mbatha-Raw was selected as a 2008 Star of Tomorrow by industry magazine Screen International. Mbatha-Raw embarked on her next lead role in the BBC One television series Bonekickers, in which she played Viv Davis, the bright and incurably curious archaeology intern, alongside Hugh Bonneville, Adrian Lester and Julie Graham.

The year 2008 saw Mbatha-Raw take up a six-month stint at the National Theatre in David Hare's Gethsemane, a political ensemble piece inspired by the New Labour government. Following its sellout London run, Gethsemane{i/} continued on a five-week U.K. national tour. Mbatha-Raw made her West End debut as Ophelia in Hamlet, opposite Jude Law, in the Donmar Warehouse Theatre's sellout production, directed by Michael Grandage. The production transferred to New York's Broadhurst Theatre in the fall of 2009 for a limited run and was a hit on Broadway, notably recouping after just six weeks.

Wilmer Valderrama (Dell Gordo), best known for his role as Fez on the Fox television series That '70s Show, has been in high demand above and beyond the small screen since the premiere of the series in 1998. Valderrama has produced, directed, written, hosted and acted in numerous projects over the past decade and continues to have many in development. He will also co-star, opposite Jason Isaacs, in the upcoming NBC show Awake.

He was recently seen in the drama The Dry Land, which premiered in dramatic competition at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In the film, Valderrama stars opposite America Ferrera, Jason Ritter and Melissa Leo. The film is about a U.S. soldier who returns home from war. He was also seen in the Lionsgate dramedy From Prada to Nada, alongside Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega and Adriana Barraza. The film is a Latin spin on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. He also recently filmed the Wim Wenders produced short film La Torcedura.

Valderrama also starred in Days of Wrath, opposite Laurence Fishburne and directed by Celia Fox and can also be heard as the voice of Manny on the Disney animated show Handy Manny. The show was nominated for a daytime Emmy Award in 2009 and has won a number of other awards for excellence in children's animated programming. He is also working with Warner Bros. on the action-comedy CHiPs.

Valderrama recently started a production company, WV Enterprises and currently has a deal with Relativity Media to create, develop and executive produce series for broadcast and cable networks. He currently has several projects in the pipeline. In 2009, Valderrama made his directorial debut with the video short Creepshow Raw: Insomnia from HDFilms and followed it with Imagination Movers for Disney.

His past film credits include the 2008 thriller Columbus Day, with Val Kilmer; Fast Food Nation, for Fox Searchlight, starring opposite Ethan Hawke, Greg Kinnear, Patricia Arquette and Catalina Sandino Moreno; and the 2006 feature Unaccompanied Minors, for Warner Bros. He was seen in the 2006 Sundance hit film The Darwin Awards, a dark comedy directed by Finn Taylor and starring Winona Ryder and Joseph Fiennes. Valderrama also starred in the indie film El Muerto, directed by Brian Cox and based on the comic book created by Javier Hernandez. His other feature film credits include Party Monster and Summer Catch and as the voice of Rodrigo in the feature film Clifford's Really Big Movie, alongside John Ritter. From 2006 to 2007, Valderrama created, executive produced and hosted three seasons of the hit MTV show Yo Momma.

On stage, Valderrama appeared in the Los Angeles Times critics' choice play Blackout, which was adapted from the feature film Drunks. The play gave an in-depth portrayal of an AA meeting. In April 2005, Valderrama performed opposite Anjelica Huston and Sir Ben Kingsley in the Actors Fund of America all-star reading of the Paramount Pictures screenplay Sunset Boulevard, directed by Peter Hunt.

At 13 years old, Valderrama moved to Los Angeles from Venezuela with his family and did not speak a word of English. He quickly learned the language and began drama classes in high school to help assimilate him into American culture. He performed in numerous plays while making his professional debut in a Spanish Pacific Bell commercial. At his high-school drama teacher's suggestion, Valderrama got an agent and was immediately cast in the CBS miniseries Four Corners in 1998, Disney Channel's Omba Makamba and the pilot for That '70s Show.

Pam Grier (Frances) began her acting career and achieved fame in the early 1970s, when she starred in a series of films including Coffy, Foxy Brown and Sheba, Baby. In the 1990s, she made an impact as the title character in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown and was honored with Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and NAACP Image Award nominations. More recently, she co-starred in Sanaa Hamri's feature comedy Just Wright, starring Queen Latifah and Common. Grier also portrayed Kit Porter on the popular Showtime series The L Word and appeared in The CW series Smallville.

Grier's feature film credits include Holy Smoke, In Too Deep, Snow Day and, more recently, the animated feature Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of Cleopatra, in which she was the voice of Cleopatra and Back in the Day, starring Ving Rhames, Joe Morton and Ja Rule. On the small screen, Grier was nominated for a daytime Emmy Award for her work in Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, as well as appearing in the miniseries First to Die and Showtime's Feast of All Saints. Grier recently finished production on The Man With the Iron Fists, also starring Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu.

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