Friday 27th May 2011
In Miguel Arteta's new comedy Cedar Rapids, to call insurance agent Tim Lippe (Ed Helms), "naïve" is a gross understatement. He's never left his small hometown. He's never stayed at a hotel. And he's never experienced anything like Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Sent to represent his company at the annual insurance convention, Tim is soon distracted by three convention veterans (John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) who will show him the ropes and push his boundaries. For a guy who plays everything by the book, this convention will be anything but conventional.
Fox Searchlight Pictures presents, an Ad Hominem Enterprises Production, Cedar Rapids. Directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Phil Johnston, the film is produced by Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor and executive produced by Ed Helms with Brian Bell as co-producer.
The creative team includes director of photography Chuy Chavez (Youth In Revolt), production designer Doug Meerdink (The Informant!), film editor Eric Kissack (Bruno), music by Christophe Beck (Date Night), music supervisor Margaret Yen (Juno) and costume designer Hope Hanafin (500 Days Of Summer).
"Welcome to the jungle, Timbo". -- Dean "Deanzie" Ziegler
Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is finally ready to go out into the world ... but is the world ready for him? Miguel Arteta's disarming new spin on the heartland comedy starts with a small-town insurance agent who after 34 years in tiny Brown Valley, Wisconsin is let loose into the freewheeling, hothouse atmosphere of the annual Cedar Rapids insurance convention. Now, Tim's unassuming naiveté is about to lead him into one complicated situation after the next. These events result in unlikely friendships as he faces all the things he fears, from sex, lies and temptation ... to the unexpected chance to become the stand-up man he's always wanted to be. Unfolding over one tumultuous, life-altering weekend in a Midwestern town, the making of Cedar Rapids was not unlike a convention itself - bringing together some of contemporary film's sharpest and freshest comic talents to forge a tale as rife with heart and humility as outright humor.
At the helm, director Miguel Arteta, whose indie comedy credits (Star Maps, Chuck And Buck, The Good Girl and Youth In Revolt) have been met with critical success; the team at Ad Hominem Enterprises, led by Alexander Payne, whose biting yet moving slice-of-American-life comedies including Election, About Schmidt and Sideways, have made him one of the most distinctive voices in film; and star and executive producer Ed Helms, whose empathetic brand of humor has won over audiences in the movie blockbuster The Hangover and the television hit "The Office". Joining in the fun is an accomplished cast including Golden Globe® winner Sigourney Weaver as Tim Lippe's former 7th-grade teacher turned girlfriend; Anne Heche as the seductive businesswoman who gives Tim his first taste of grown-up temptation; and the duo of Academy Award® nominee (for Chicago) John C. Reilly and Isiah Whitlock, Jr. as Tim's Cedar Rapids roommates, who introduce him to the pleasures and perils of male bonding. Says Arteta, "Cedar Rapids is a kind of coming-of-age comedy - except it's about a grown man. I think the surprise of the story is how relatable Tim Lippe becomes. You wouldn't think right off the bat that a sheltered Wisconsin insurance salesman could be so compelling, but there's something wonderfully funny and universal about the way he comes out of his shell and takes on the world without losing his moral compass".
"It's like I came to Barbados or somewhere". -- Tim Lippe
When Wisconsin native Phil Johnston began writing a comedy about a Midwestern man who has never left his hometown and is suddenly thrust into the chaos of the world, he had one actor in mind for the part: Ed Helms. Helms, who emerged as a master of awkward comedy in the role of a bachelor facing the consequences of a terrible bender in the runaway hit The Hangover, seemed almost born to play a man whose innocence is both his funniest flaw and his most astonishing asset. Helms fell in love with Johnston's concept and with the unique character he'd come up with: Tim Lippe (as in "don't get lippy with me"). A sheltered and innocent Tim is unleashed for the first time in what for him is the overwhelmingly big city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Home of the annual insurance ASMI convention with the quest to bring home the coveted Two Diamonds prize for his company, Tim is thrust into an ultra competitive world. With his eyes on the prize, the events turn into the craziest and most important adventure of his life. "As soon as I began meeting with Phil, Cedar Rapids became a very personal project, very near and dear to me", explains Helms.
Helms committed fully to the project long before the backing for the film was even a glimmer in the producers' eyes. He and screenwriter Johnston collaborated closely, developing early drafts of the script and deepening the character, as Helms became increasingly excited about tackling the role. He was thrilled to play a man who has absolutely zero pretensions, and even fewer clues as to how to cheat, lie and do the typical, yet clearly outrageous, things it can take to get ahead. "What I really love about Tim Lippe is that the man doesn't have a drop of cynicism", comments Helms. "I think cynicism comes with worldliness and Tim starts out as the polar opposite of worldly. He's never been on a plane, he's never even checked into a hotel or heard of a credit card imprint. Yet, he approaches every situation, no matter how shocking and absurd to him, with hope and optimism, which is an exciting challenge as an actor". He goes on, "The most important thing to Phil and to me and as soon as he joined us, Miguel Arteta, was that Cedar Rapids not become a broad comedy. It could easily have been done that way, but what we all wanted most of all is to make these people feel very real. These characters are funny and charming in their flaws, but hopefully, you believe in them. Phil wrote a wonderful, ingenious script that made me really proud to be a part of it". As a huge fan of Alexander Payne's films and the unabashedly human and distinctly Midwestern comic sensibility that's woven through each of them, Helms sought out the filmmaker's Ad Hominem Enterprises, where Payne is partnered with Jim Burke and Jim Taylor, as a potential home for Cedar Rapids.
Burke was instantly taken with the story. "It was laugh-out loud funny and it was also the kind of movie we like to do - human movies that are all about the characters", he says. Payne was also enchanted by the witty concept, but what made him passionate about it was seeing Ed Helms in The Hangover and realizing he could make Tim Lippe's dilemmas and disasters feel as real as they are hilariously different from the norm. "I had no idea that Ed was such a gifted comedic actor", says Payne. "Sure, I loved him from 'The Daily Show' and all that. But then I saw The Hangover and it really showed off his comic abilities. The way Ed approached Tim Lippe reminds me of a 21st Century version of Harold Lloyd; the innocent who's trying to get ahead and maybe get the girl, but keeps slipping up. You really, really want to root for him".
With the lead role set, the next big task was finding a director who could navigate the razor's edge of the story's distinctly folksy but never mocking comic tone. "This was absolutely key", says Payne. "The script was extremely clever in its construction but we knew it was going to be a bit of a high wire act to keep it feeling real and not going too far. We needed a director who could bring an undercurrent of humanity to it", he says, "who could elevate the humor, bring out the heart, and then twist it into something we haven't seen before".
That director turned out to be Miguel Arteta, who has become renowned for a love of quirky and contemporary characters that set his films apart. Burke says of Arteta, "After a lot of searching, it was clear that Miguel was the perfect person for this job. It was important to us that the movie be very funny but it was equally important to us that the characters be treated with respect and affection, and Miguel is a guy who can do that. He's funny but he cares deeply about people, and on top of that, he's an awesome filmmaker who directs with authority and precision".
For his part, Arteta was thrilled to team up with Ad Hominem and quickly developed his own personal vision for the film, "The inspiration for Cedar Rapids was in many ways the tone of Alexander Payne's Midwestern-based comedies", the director explains. "But the bend for me was that it's about a man who is discovering the world as a full-grown adult. Since I came to the U.S. from another country, I really relate to this kind of fish-out-of-water story. That feeling of being a stranger in a strange land is something I poured into this". Arteta goes on, "My strategy for Cedar Rapids is that the story should be painful for the characters yet funny for us. It's a very delicate thing to make a comedy that is not based solely on broad jokes. You have to get the audience involved emotionally at every beat while also giving them something to laugh at, and that's what we tried to do". "At the heart of it all", says Arteta, "is Tim Lippe's willingness to keep trying new things that unnerve and sometimes upend him, all while trying to hang on to who he is at his core. Ultimately, this might be both the best weekend of Tim Lippe's life and the worst, but he's coming to terms with something we all have to confront: how to be yourself any place you go".
"You realize you just made it sound cool to be an insurance salesman?" -- Joan "O Fox" Ostrowski-Fox
The comedy of Cedar Rapids lies in the hearts of its characters, who have each come to the annual ASMI insurance convention in Iowa with their own hopes, ambitions and desires for the weekend. No one is as shocked and awed by the behind-the-scenes life of the convention as Tim Lippe who, having never before left rural Wisconsin, knows absolutely nothing of the flirting, partying, back-stabbing, friend-making and moral dangers that seem to be so commonplace at such affairs. For years, Tim's been living in a contented, if stunted, state, never venturing beyond Wisconsin's borders while working all his adult life at humble Brown Star Insurance. But now, in Cedar Rapids, he has to figure out how to operate in a world he's avoided all his life while trying to save his job, his company and his soul to boot.
Director Miguel Arteta was thrilled to watch Ed Helms transform himself into a man who is an enchantingly guileless innocent faced with a new world of casual sex, heavy drinking and shady dealings but also a guy ready to take his first real stand for all that he believes. "Ed had such an intuitive sense of this character", says Arteta. "He was willing to just jump off the cliff and try anything. It was really beautiful to see someone so unafraid and who brought so much energy and a spirit of exploration to each scene". Arteta goes on, "There's a Jimmy Stewart quality to Ed's performance, in the way he brings out the nobility of a character who is kind and decent and can find the good side to almost anything. Ed also had tremendous chemistry with the rest of the cast and he really understood that was so important to the film. From the start he kept talking about how this group of insurance agents Tim meets has to become like a family that you adore".
Helms says that, for Tim, "Cedar Rapids is an awakening. He starts as someone who hasn't been exposed to anything, who really doesn't know the drill, any drill. His lack of experience informs everything he does - it's goofy, it's charming but for me, the fun part is that as he discovers the world, he finds a way to hang on to the sweet, funny, optimistic way of looking at things that makes him Tim Lippe".
Guiding Tim Lippe on his journey through Cedar Rapids was a crack ensemble cast.
Tim's first meeting with his one of two roommates is the reliably straight-laced Ronald "the Ronimal" Wilkes, who nevertheless terrifies Tim when he first sees him in his room. Played by Isiah Whitlock, Jr., an acclaimed Broadway star, recently came to the fore in HBO's celebrated series "The Wire", which becomes a hilarious a twist to "the Ronimal's" unexpected obsession with the HBO TV series. While known as the tough State Senator Clay Davis in "The Wire", Whitlock himself hails from the middle of the country, having grown up in Indiana. When presented with the character of Ronald, Whitlock was excited to tackle the part unlike any he'd played before playing a man who keeps himself on a very tight leash but winds up doing things he never expected after meeting Tim Lippe.
"Ronald is a good guy, a little bit nerdy, quite conservative in his demeanor and the way he carries himself but I think we all know people like him", says Whitlock, "and what's fun is that meeting Tim Lippe leads to a bit of a coming out for his character, as well". John C. Reilly joins the group as the third and most lively roommate. Reilly previously won an Independent Spirit Award working with Arteta on The Good Girl, shortly before garnering an Academy Award® nomination for his work in the movie musical Chicago. Reilly plays Dean "Deanzie" Ziegler, the infamously motor-mouthed insurance agent whom Tim Lippe's been warned to avoid ... until he turns out to be his roommate.
Reilly dove into the character, improvising one-liners and wise-cracks aplenty, delivered with the twangy vowels of a Central Wisconsin accent, even as he also exposed Deanzie's secretly tender heart. "John plays Dean so beautifully", says Arteta. "You really can't tell in the beginning if you can trust this guy or whether, behind his potty mouth, there's a good guy there. A big part of the pleasure of the movie is watching the relationship between Dean and Tim develop". Reilly says of Deanzie, "Dean was a lot of fun to play. He's sort of this loud-mouthed, 'Good Time Charlie' kind of guy who always says just the wrong thing, the crudest thing, the most inappropriate thing for any situation. It's great to play a character like that, who is the bull in the china shop, but who turns out to be a guy who buries his problems in humor and sarcasm. One of the big themes for me in the movie is that people aren't always what they seem and that's certainly true of Deanzie. In fact, a lot of the most supposedly immoral people that Tim Lippe comes into contact with at the convention turn out to be the best people he meets - and vice versa".
Another Midwesterner, hailing from Chicago originally, Reilly was also drawn to the story's distinctly heartland quality. "I like that it's not about characters who are hip and slick but who are very real and down to earth", he says. "The movie unfolds in a small world, full of innocence and decency, and I think that makes for the foundations of a great comedy". Working with Arteta for a second time was also an exhilarating experience for Reilly. "I've watched him grow a lot", he says, "and I thought he was terrific for this movie. He has a big heart, a wonderful sense of humor and he's able to really see all the silliness and awkwardness that go on in everyday life". The final addition to this motley crew is Joan Ostrowski-Fox played by Anne Heche, most recently seen starring in HBO's irreverent comedy "Hung", the red-headed siren of an insurance agent who has come to Cedar Rapids to sow some wild oats - and picks Tim Lippe as the object of her affection.
"I thought the idea behind the film was so funny", says Heche, "that all these people come to try and have a good time at an ordinary, typical insurance convention in Cedar Rapids and then along comes this man for whom it's a huge, overwhelming, life-altering adventure. Joan is the old fox who has come to this convention hoping for a little bit of a wild weekend, ready to play, and at first she thinks she's going to play with Tim, but along the way they develop a real bond of friendship". Heche adds, "I had the most wonderful time working with Ed Helms because of the way he reveals his heart through this character. He makes Tim funny, but also heart wrenching. He makes it the journey of a man finding the confidence to be who he really is. I loved doing the scene where Tim explains to Joan why he wants to be an insurance salesman. He has such a sweet point of view and I think that's what grounds this movie. Alongside all these hilarious actors and humor is the story of a man who truly believes in being noble. And that's really beautiful".
There was a natural rapport that developed between the actors comments Arteta, "The chemistry between Ed, Anne, John and Isiah was priceless. Ed was a big part of the casting process and our gut reactions were very similar about creating a constellation of four characters whose relationships are very surprising but really work". Much like Ronald, Whitlock found himself inspired by the camaraderie that developed. "We were like the four musketeers", he says. "There was a lot of creativity and improvising and it allowed me to free myself up a bit. Everybody came in ready to leave nothing on the table. We started out not knowing each other at all and developed a huge bond". Another key casting moment came in choosing Tim's supposed lifeline back in Wisconsin, his girlfriend, Macy Vanderhei, who also happens to be his former 7th grade teacher. But while Tim believes the mis-matched pair are "pre-engaged", Macy keeps trying to let him know it's just a fun-loving fling. Taking the role is Sigourney Weaver, the Oscar® nominated leading actress who most recently starred in the worldwide phenomenon AVATAR.
"Sigourney was fantastic for the role because she's such a sophisticated person", notes Arteta. "Macy's not your stereotypical timid, small-town teacher. She's smart and capable and knows what she wants, and Sigourney was hilarious in the role. She jumped into the pool chest first and just had a blast with the part - and I think her character expands the horizons of the film". Weaver felt she could understand why a woman like Macy would get a kick out of dating the unworldly likes of Tim Lippe. "Tim is such a disarming character, especially the way Ed plays him - he's funny and kooky, but you just have to adore his earnestness, sincerity and joy", she says. "Really, I think there's a bit of Tim Lippe in all of us, a part of us that doesn't like change. We all want to root for Tim, and I think we're in a time right now when we really need to see stories where the little guy conquers". It is Macy who encourages Tim to leave Brown Valley, hoping, as she puts it, to push him out of the nest. "I like Macy because she's not really like any character I've ever played before. She's very centered, kind of like the teacher I would have liked to have had in my life", she says. "She truly wants Tim to go out there and see that there's a whole wide world that he should be living it up in. She doesn't want to be his anchor because she's got her own deal. She's just having fun in their relationship, but now she wants him to see that he can stand on his own two feet".
Rounding out the Cedar Rapids cast of characters are Kurtwood Smith as the hypocritical, holy roller of a convention leader, Orin Helgesson, who is also the master decider of who wins the all-important Two Diamonds Award, Alia Shawkat as the local hooker who lures Tim from the hotel into an urban incident, and Stephen Root as the boss with a hidden agenda, who pushes Tim at every turn to do whatever it takes to win the Two Diamonds Award. Smith, known for his long-running role on the hit sit-com That 70s Show, was himself born in Wisconsin, and says he couldn't resist Cedar Rapids' characters. "They're genuine, funny and easy to connect with", he says, "and Miguel Arteta has such a great feel for these kinds of people". Still, Smith began with a trial by fire - in his very first scene with Ed Helms, the actor kicked things off with the quintessential awkward hug: butt-naked in a locker room. "It was like, 'Kurtwood, meet Ed; now take your clothes off,'" laughs Smith. "But Ed made it easy. He's such a talented guy".
For Alia Shawkat, last seen in The Runaways and Whip It, the film was a chance to break out into an unexpected character as a down-and-out prostitute who initiates a completely unprepared Tim Lippe into a world of parties, drugs and running for your life. "She has a great arc", says Shawkat, "because she starts out just looking for men at the convention who will give her money, but then she meets Tim and she has no idea what he is, he's so completely naïve. And yet, he's just so genuine that she starts to really like him and believe in him. She's never met someone like that who doesn't have a drop of cruelty in his heart, and you know, sometimes you learn the most from the people who seem the dorkiest". Stephen Root, the renowned character actor whose recent work ranges from No Country For Old Men to Office Space, takes on the role of Bill Krogstad, Tim's boss at Brown Star Insurance, who dispatches Tim to the convention after his star salesman succumbs to a freak, or perhaps freaky, accident.
With a lot of experience in the comedy world, Root says he felt the Cedar Rapids script had the right stuff. "What makes a great comedy is the audience caring about the characters", he says. "And that was paramount in my choice to do this - a script with heart and people you root for from beginning to end. As for my character, well, it's always fun to play the bad guy, even a small-time bad guy like Bill Krogstad. He has an unusual arc because he starts out wearing his heart on his sleeve when his prize employee passes away, and ends up being the douche bag that uses Tim to get what he wants". Root loved having the chance to work one-on-one with Helms. "I really enjoyed working with Ed because nobody does comedy of the awkward more brilliantly than he does", he says. "This is really his movie and I think the homespun warmth of his character is going to resonate deeply with America".
"I'm sorry for my role in the malfeasance in the pool". -- Tim Lippe
Most of the action in Cedar Rapids revolves around the Royal Cedar Suites hotel, the scene of Tim Lippe's initiation into the mind-blowing realities of insurance conventions over one unforgettable weekend. Since Tim's dazed and confused reactions to his new environs are so central to the comedy, creating those environs to a T was an absolute essential for Miguel Arteta. To do this, the director recruited an artistic team that includes his long-time director of photography Chuy Chavez, along with production designer Doug Meerdink and costume designer Hope Hanafin. The creation of the Royal Cedar Suite began with a search for the quintessential Midwestern "holidome" hotel, that very specific style of heartland retreat featuring a swimming pool smack in the middle of the central atrium, perfuming the entire place with the tangy scent of chlorine.
Ultimately, the filmmakers found what they were looking for not in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but just outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the local Clarion Hotel and Conference Center offered the characteristic architecture needed for the Royal Cedar. (Additional sequences were shot in Cedar Rapids to capture the flavor of Iowa's second-largest city, rarely seen on film.) "The hotel is the film's anchor", says Meerdink, who most recently designed the equally offbeat comedy The Informant! starring Matt Damon, "and we saw a lot of hotels that had maybe 40% of what we were looking for, but we needed that cohesive environment. We finally found the Clarion at the 11th hour and it had such interesting spaces and a great geometry to it. Then we came in and gave it a whole new personality". Meerdink and his team brought in new furnishings, light fixtures and even paint finishes, crafting an authentically Midwestern but decidedly comical world. Working closely with Arteta, Meerdink contrasted the relatively flashy, frenetic world of the convention with Tim Lippe's more sedate and static Wisconsin home.
"Miguel impressed on me that he wanted to approach the character of Tim Lippe with a lot of respect and affection, so there was a lot of subtlety to what we did", the designer explains. "Tim's Wisconsin home is all about comfort and childlike colors and then, as we move to Cedar Rapids, everything becomes a bit more glitzy. We wanted it to be real, but also to get across that what might seem commonplace to us is this fantastic, incredible new world to Tim where everything really stands out". Meerdink says that the whole team worked in concert to make Tim's journey feel like it could really be happening. "Chuy, our DP, Hope, our costume designer and Jeannette, our set decorator, and I all worked to develop a visual language that reinforces the tone of the film in every scene". Chuy Chavez, who has shot most of Arteta's films, including the recent Youth In Revolt, says that the visual style had to ride a very thin line. "We wanted the look of the film to be very subtle and not distracting to the audience but also to become increasingly more alive", he explains. "In the beginning, it's all earth tones and very steady - there's nothing shiny or flashy -- but then in Cedar Rapids, there's all these bright color and sparkly reflections".
Chavez says he relates to the way Arteta makes movies. "He doesn't care about being precious, or trying to do cool moves", he says. "He's not the kind of director. With Miguel, we never talk about real specific things. We talk about the feeling of the movie and about the story". Costume designer Hope Hanafin, who also designed the costumes for the innovative comedy-musical 500 Days Of Summer, worked in harmony with Chavez and Meerdink to mirror the seismic shifts Tim Lippe goes through in the course of the film. "I used a lot of soft-edged fabrics and clothes, corduroy, sweaters, all looks that are softer and not so crisp. Then, in Cedar Rapids, I moved to a cool palette, inspired by the Cedar Rapids skyline. It's a blue-grey world of business suits, and that then progresses to the wedding Tim and his new friends crash, which is full of the boldest and brightest colors", she says. Hanafin dressed Ed Helms in baggy, slightly-too-big clothing to emphasize Tim Lippe's feeling of being out of place, as well as his childlikeness, but says she always tried to keep it genuine. "I really wanted to communicate the open-heartedness and lack of pretension in Midwestern clothing. But it had to be authentic. I didn't want to make the clothing into a joke", she explains". We bought things from Sears, JC Penney's, Men's Warehouse and local shops.
Even for Sigourney Weaver's more artsy and sophisticated character we bought everything in Ann Arbor. I love her look, too, because it shows a whole other side of small-town America". Throughout the design of the film, Arteta wanted to emphasize the discombobulating nature of conventions - which, whether they are business conventions, political conventions or even film festivals, throw disparate people together for a few intense days. "There's something dangerous and exciting about going to a convention - it's like going to camp", Arteta muses. "You meet this whole bunch of strangers and you don't know who's going to be good and who's going to be bad, and this whole different world opens up to you. It's something very real that a lot of people experience. I think there's something very ancient and powerful about groups of people getting together to raise hell". Adds Jim Burke, "There are hundreds of conventions across America every day, and I think most people have experienced some kind of an event like this. It's something that's familiar to us, and yet it's not familiar on the movie screen. I can't think of any other movies centered around a business convention like this, so there's something very original about the setting. There's so much electricity in the air, and that's what Tim Lippe walks into". For Tim, as well as for his new friends and partners, this singular insurance convention proves to not only be a riotous weekend but a down-right eye-opening one. Arteta hopes audiences experience something similar. "I hope people find humor in unexpected places in Cedar Rapids", he sums up. "We live in tough times and I hope this is a story that allows people to see that goodness and laughter sometimes come out of dark places".
Ed Helms (Tim Lippe/Executive Producer) is best known for his scene-stealing roles on both the big and small screen. Currently, Helms is in production on the sequel to Todd Phillips' critical and commercial success The Hangover, which drew a worldwide gross of over $467 million and won the 2010 Golden Globe® for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical. Helms is also shooting the 6th season of NBC's Emmy® winning comedy The Office, starring as Andy Bernard. Helms recently completed production on the Duplass brothers' Jeff Who Lives At Home for Paramount starring opposite Jason Segal and Susan Sarandon. The film chronicles a day in the life of two brothers, one a loser (Segel) who lives at home and the other (Helms) who is more together, but overbearing.
Helms and scripting partner Jake Fleisher are currently penning an untitled feature about Civil War re-enactors, in which Helms is set to star, and Steve Carell to produce, through his Warner Bros. based Carousel Productions. Helms' previous film credits include Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian, The Goods, Semi-Pro, Knocked Up, Meet Dave, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, Walk Hard and Evan Almighty. His television credits include a four-year stint as a Senior Correspondent and writer on the Emmy Award®-winning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Comedy Central's Premium Blend and Fox's Arrested Development. Helms was born and raised in Atlanta, GA, and headed to New York City to pursue comedy shortly after attending Oberlin College in Ohio. He now resides in Los Angeles and plays a mean banjo.
John C. Reilly (Dean Ziegler), an Academy Award® and multi-Golden Globe nominee, has made an impact in both the comedic and dramatic worlds of cinema. He received Oscar® and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor for his standout performance as Amos Hart in the Academy Award-winning film, Chicago. Additionally, for that role, he was named Best Supporting Actor by the Las Vegas Film Critics, and was nominated by the Chicago Film Critics in the same category. That same year, Reilly starred in two other Academy Award-nominated films; Martin Scorsese's GANGS OF NEW YORK, and Stephen Daldry's The Hours, making it the first time that a single actor had been part of three of the five films in this prestigious category.
Reilly's other Golden Globe nominations were for Columbia Picture's Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, where he was nominated for both Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) and Best Original Song (for Walk Hard). The song was also nominated for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media at the 51st Annual Grammy® Awards. Most recently on the big screen, Reilly reunited with Will Ferrell and producer Judd Apatow in the comedy Step Brothers, which went on to earn over $100 million domestically for Columbia Pictures. Reilly's first film role came in Brian De Palma's 1989 motion picture, Casualties Of War. That was followed by appearances in a wide array of films, including Days Of Thunder, Shadows And Fog, We're No Angels, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Hoffa, Georgia, Dolores Claiborne and The River Wild. As a regular in director Paul Thomas Anderson's films, Reilly earned acclaim for his roles in Hard Eight, Boogie Nights and Magnolia. In 2003, his role as Jennifer Aniston's husband in the independent feature The Good Girl garnered him an IFP Spirit Award nomination.
Other film credits for Reilly include Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, A Prairie Home Companion, Dark Water, The Aviator, Criminal, The Perfect Storm, For Love Of The Game, Never Been Kissed, Anger Management, State Of Grace and The Thin Red Line. Reilly returned to his theater roots in 2000 when he starred in Sam Shepard's Tony® Award-nominated Broadway production, True West, starring opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman, garnering an Outer Critics Circle Award and Tony Award nomination for Best Actor. In April 2005 he starred in the Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' classic A Streetcar Named Desire.
His other stage credits include the Steppenwolf Theater productions of Othello, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Grapes Of Wrath where he starred alongside Gary Sinise. In addition, Reilly produced and played the title role in Ionesco's Exit The King at the Actors Gang Theater in Los Angeles. In 2009, Reilly lent his voice to Focus Feature's animated film 9. He was also joined by Salma Hayek and Jane Krakowski in the adventure film Cirque Du Freak. He was most recently seen in Cyrus, starring with Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill, and The Extra Man with Katie Holmes, Kevin Kline and Paul Dano. Born in Chicago and raised as the fifth of six children in an Irish-Lithuanian family, Reilly studied at the Goodman School of Drama at DePaul University.
Anne Heche (Joan Ostrowski-Fox) has proven herself as an exceptional actress in film, television, and stage. Her talents have earned her critical praise, as well as, both Tony and Emmy award nominations. Currently, Heche co-stars with Thomas Jane and Jane Adams in the HBO comedy-series Hung. The show premiered on June 28, 2009 and has just been picked up for its third season. In 2007, Heche starred in the ABC series Men in Trees as a female relationship guru who moves to Alaska to get over her philandering ex-fiancée, only to discover herself surrounded by available men. Heche earned her first primetime Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of a drug-addicted mother in the 2004 Lifetime Television, original movie Gracie's Choice alongside Diane Ladd. In 2005, Heche appeared in the Lifetime movie, Fatal Desire and the Hallmark Channel's holiday movie Silver Bells on CBS, which was seen by over 16 million viewers.
She has created memorable characters in several guest starring performances on hit shows including Nip/Tuck, Everwood, Ally McBeal and HBO's telefilm, If These Walls Could Talk, directed by Cher. In 2009, Heche was seen alongside Ashton Kutcher in Anchor Bay's Spread, directed by David Mackenzie.In 2004, Heche was seen opposite Nicole Kidman and Lauren Bacall in New Line Cinema's Birth, directed by Jonathan Glazer. Birth was screened at the 2004 Venice Film Festival and the Deauville Film Festival.
Heche won The National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress for Barry Levinson's Wag The Dog, in which she appeared opposite Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman. In the previous year she starred opposite Harrison Ford in Six Days Seven Nights. She starred with Tommy Lee Jones in Volcano and achieved critical acclaim for her role in Donnie Brasco. She co-starred in Gus Van Zant's update of Psycho with Vince Vaughn and Julianne Moore and Auggie Rose, alongside Jeff Goldblum, which was screened at the Montreal Film Festival. In 2002, Heche co-starred in the Denzel Washington drama, John Q and opposite Christina Ricci in the Miramax film, Prozac Nation. Other film credits include Agnieska Holland's The Third Miracle opposite Ed Harris, The Juror with Demi Moore and Alec Baldwin, Walking And Talking, The Wild Side, Twist Of Fate, Pie In The Sky, Milk Money with Melanie Griffith, The Investigator and I'll Do Anything.
In 2002, Heche made her Broadway debut in the critically acclaimed production of the Tony Award-winning play Proof. She garnered rave reviews from theatre critics and the show was extended, making it one of the longest running non-musical plays in recent history. She triumphantly returned to Broadway in the Roundabout Theater stage production of Twentieth Century in 2004. Her critically acclaimed performance opposite Alec Baldwin earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Play. Also a writer and director, Heche wrote and directed a short feature entitled Reaching Normal, for Showtime's First Director Series, as well as the second installment of If These Walls Could Talk II. In September 2001, Simon & Schuster published Anne's autobiographical Call Me Crazy, which appeared on The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times bestseller lists.
Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (Ronald Wilkes), a veteran theater, film and television actor, can next be seen in Gun Hill directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green and Detachment directed by Tony Kaye. He can also be seen in Spike Lee's The 25th Hour and She Hate Me. His other film credits include Brooklyn's Finest, Twelve, Main Street, Choke, Under New Management, 1408, Enchanted, Kettle Of Fish, Pieces Of April, Duane Hopwood, Jump Tomorrow, Harlem Aria, The Fish In The Bathtub, Everyone Says I Love You, The Spanish Prisoner, Eddie and Goodfellas.
On television, Mr. Whitlock starred as Senator Clay Davis on HBO's The Wire. Most recently, he has appeared on The Unusuals as 'Captain Leslie Morgan'. Mr. Whitlock has been featured numerous times in Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: SVU. He has garnered guest leads on The Chappelle Show, and has also been seen on Rubicon, Meet the Browns, Human Giant, New Amsterdam, Madigan Men, Wonderland, New York Undercover and the PBS documentary Liberty, as well as Third Watch and Ed. He can next be seen on Comedy Central's The Onion Sports Show. Mr. Whitlock was nominated in 2002 for a Lucille Lortel award as Best Featured Actor for his work in Four, that enjoyed a renowned off-Broadway run at the Manhattan Theatre Club. The Iceman Cometh, Merchant of Venice and Mastergate are among his Broadway credits, while Farragut North (Atlantic Theatre Co., Geffen Playhouse), The Cherry Orchard, Everything That Rises Must Converge, Up Against The Wind, A Lesson Before Dying, High Life, Edmond, The American Clock, White Panther and The Illusion comprise his off-Broadway credits. He was also part of the national tour of the play The Piano Lesson, in the title role of Boy Willie.
Stephen Root (Bill Krogstad), one of today's most prolific character actors, has several films slated for release in 2011. He co-stars in Everything Must Go with Will Ferrell, The Conspirator directed by Robert Redford, Red State directed by Kevin Smith and he voices the characters of 'Doc' and 'Merrymack' in Paramount's animated feature Rango, starring Johnny Depp and directed by Gore Verbinski. Root has earned rave reviews for bringing a variety of characters to life in such films as O Brother, Where Art Thou?, No Country For Old Men, Leatherheads, Men Who Stare At Goats and Dogeball - A True Underdog Story. He was catapulted into the realm of cult heroes when he starred as the put-upon 'Milton Waddams' in Mike Judge's Office Space. His animated features include Finding Nemo, Ice Age 1 & 2, The Country Bears and Megamind. Root starred as the eccentric station owner, 'Jimmy James', on NBC's Newsradio. Stephen has recently recurred on True Blood, 24, West Wing and Pushing Daises.
He is currently recurring in Justified on FX. His many memorable guest appearances include Californication, The Defenders, CSI and Louie. Root was the voice of 'Bill' and 'Mr. Strickland' on FOX's Emmy-winning hit animated series King of the Hill for an impressive 13 seasons. He has also lent his voice to a number of animated series including American Dad, The Justice League, Kung Fu Panda and SYFY's Tripping the Rift. Born in Sarasota, Root majored in acting and broadcasting at the University of Florida and remains a diehard Gator fan. After three years of touring the U.S. and Canada with the National Shakespeare Company, Root settled in New York, honing his craft in many regional theatres and starring off-Broadway in Journey's End and The Au Pair Man. His Broadway debut came in So Long on Lonely Street, which was followed by the Tony award-winning production of All My Sons, with Richard Kiley. A starring role as 'Boolie', in the Broadway national touring company of Driving Miss Daisy with Julie Harris, brought Root to Los Angeles where he currently resides. Back on the boards, he recently starred with Helen Hunt and Lyle Lovett in Much Ado about Nothing, an LA Shakespeare Production.
Kurtwood Smith (Orin Helgesson) was born in New Lisbon, Wisconsin where he lived until he was ten years old. He studied drama at California State University at San Jose, later earning a drama fellowship for Stanford's MFA program. He worked steadily in regional theatres in California during the seventies, and re-located to Los Angeles in 1979 in order to pursue film and television roles. Smith spent eight seasons playing the hugely popular Red Foreman on That 70's Show and recently finished playing Dick Clayton on the critically acclaimed sitcom Worst Week on CBS. He has made many memorable appearances in television series that include: a long recurring arc on 24, a recurring role on Medium, and lead guest roles on House, Malcolm In The Middle, The X-Files, 3rd Rock From the Sun, Star Trek: Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Picket Fences. He also appeared on such classic series as 21 Jump Street, It's Gary Shandling's Show, Newhart, The A-Team and Soap. He's been seen in such telefilms as A Bright Shining Lie, The Magnificent Seven, While Justice Sleeps, Doorways, The Christmas Gift and The Nightmare Years for which he received a Cable Ace Award nomination for best supporting actor.
He is currently filming a new drama series for CBS entitled Chaos that comes to television in February of 2011. Smith has also made quite a name for himself on the big screen. He has been featured in such successful films as the Academy-Award winners Dead Poets Society and Girl, Interrupted, as well as Deep Impact, Citizen Ruth, A Time To Kill, Broken Arrow, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, To Die For, Boxing Helena, Fortress, The Crush, True Believer and in the memorable role of Clarence Boddicker in Robocop among others. Smith also was the star of a short film, 12:01 P.M. about a man caught in a time warp, which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Short Film category. Smith's commitment to the community keeps him busy. He participates annually in the Day of the Child, where he and his wife Joan met the foster child who is now a part of their family. He brings Christmas gifts to the children at United Care Group Homes. He was also named to the Celebrity Hall of Fame by the Winners Circle for Children for his support of Easter Seals. In the past, he has participated in the Special Olympics and supported Make-A-Wish Foundation. He currently appears in a public service announcement for mentoring. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Joan. He has two children and two wonderful grandchildren.
Alia Shawkat (Bree) (AL-ee-ahh Show-cot) had success arrive early and continues to establish herself as a highly sought after young actress in both film and television. She recently wrapped production on the independent comedy That's What She Said opposite Anne Heche and Marcia Debonis. Shawkat stars as a young interloper who battles New York City and a day of disaster with two best friends (Heche and Debonis) in the film directed by actress Carrie Preston. Shawkat recently signed a deal with HBO to write and produce a single camera comedy Stitch N' Bitch alongside Ellen Page and Sean Tillman. The comedy follows two painfully cool hipster girls as they relocate from Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood to Los Angeles' Silver Lake enclave in hopes of becoming artists -- of any kind. Shawkat was named one of Variety's 10 Actors to Watch for 2009.
Next year, Shawkat will be seen starring opposite Leighton Meester in the independent drama The Oranges with Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney and Adam Brody. Shawkat was recently seen in Drew Barrymore's directorial debut Whip It and Amreeka, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and was released by National Geographic Entertainment. Shawkat was recently seen opposite William H. Macy and Cheryl Hines in the high-school comedy Bart Got A Room, which first premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2008. She also served as a producer on the film. Shawkat's additional film credits include The Runaways, Prom Wars, Rebound, Deck The Halls and Three Kings opposite George Clooney.
In addition to a bustling film career, Shawkat has appeared in many projects on the small screen as well. Her career began at the young age of 11 when she landed a leading role on the ABC Family series State of Grace. However, she is best known for her role as 'Maeby Funke' on Fox's Emmy award winning Arrested Development, where she portrayed a rebellious and mischievous member of a dysfunctional Orange County family trying to adjust to their loss of wealth. She recently had a recurring role on USA Network's Starter Wife with Debra Messing. Her additional television credits also include a starring role in the Lifetime original movie Not Like Everyone Else and guest starring roles on Veronica Mars, JAG, Without a Trace, Boomtown, and Presidio Med. Shawkat was born in Palm Springs, CA and currently lives in Los Angeles. Off screen, she is an emerging artist & painter in talks to show her work in NY and LA galleries. Additionally, she is in talks to develop and create an animation television series and comic book projects.
Thomas Lennon (Roger Lemke) is a writer and comedian from Oak Park, Illinois. He attended New York University, where he co-founded the influential comedy group The State. After The State's three-season run on MTV, he and his partner Robert Ben Garant created two more hit TV series: Viva Variety, which ran for three seasons, and Reno 911! on which he also played Lt. Jim Dangle. Reno 911! ran for 6 seasons, and is syndicated around the world. He has appeared on dozens of television shows including Friends, The League, Funny or Die Presents, Party Down, and Archer He has co-starred in numerous films, including How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, I Love You Man, A Guy Thing, 17 Again, Balls Of Fury, and Le Divorce. In 2011 he can next be seen in the films Bad Teacher, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas and What's Your Number?
Rob Corddry (Gary) made his debut on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in the spring of 2002 and quickly became one of the most popular correspondents to emerge from the groundbreaking talk show. He continued to "educate" audiences with his snarky political sketches through the fall of 2006, and has reprised his role in guest appearances scattered through the years since. He moved to Los Angeles following his run on The Daily Show and in 2007, Corddry starred in the Fox sitcom The Winner created by Family Guy writers/producers Seth MacFarlane and Ricky Blitt. Joining the throngs of many other critically acclaimed shows before it, The Winner lasted only a half-dozen episodes before it was taken off the air.
Continuing to write and create comedic content, Corddry was one of the first talents to create original "television-esque" programming for the Internet. Teaming up with Warner Bros. TV Group's digital arm, Studio 2.0, Corddry served as creator, writer, and director for the series Childrens Hospital, which spoofs the medical drama genre. Launching in December 2008, the series of 5-minute chapters starred, with Corddry, SNL's Jason Sudeikis, Lake Bell, Megan Mullally, and Ed Helms. The series won the Webby Award for Comedy: Long Form or Series and received two other nominations: Best Individual Performance (Corddry), Comedy: Individual Short or Episode (Episode 4). Season 2 of Childrens Hospital debuted on Adult Swim this past summer, making it one of only two shows ever to make the successful transition from a webseries to a television series. It consistently led in the ratings in both the 11:30pm and Midnight programming blocks, and routinely beat simliar Comedy Central programming. Season 3 will begin in early 2011.
Last spring Corddry starred in the ensemble comedy feature Hot Tub Time Machine for MGM and director Steve Pink. He recently wrapped production opposite Jennifer Garner and Hugh Jackman in the comedy feature Butter; the film will be released in 2011. Having been long-embraced by the film community, Corddry has appeared in dozens of comedy features in addition to his television projects, notably Old School, Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story and Blades Of Glory. He was most recently seen in the buddy comedy What Happens In Vegas with Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, and in a more dramatic capacity as Ari Fleischer in Oliver Stone's chronicle on the life and presidency of George W. Bush, W. Corddry was also a part of Sam Rockwell's, The Winning Season, the independent comedy that debuted at last year's Sundance Film Festival. Corddry has appeared previously on television shows including Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development. Film credits also include the Farrelly Brothers' The Heartbreak Kid with Ben Stiller, Semi-Pro with Will Ferrell, Taking Chances with Justin Long, and Failure To Launch with Matthew McConaughey. Corddry currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two young daughters.
Mike O'Malley (Mike Pyle) is a Boston native who has worked in theater, film and television and he continues to showcase his many talents in front of and behind the camera. O'Malley is currently starring in the hit series Glee. He plays 'Burt Hammel' father of a gay son, played by Chris Colfer. O'Malley received an Emmy Award nomination for his work in the role. Glee is in the midst of its second season on Fox, and has enjoyed excellent ratings. O'Malley was last seen on the silver screen in Eat Pray Love starring Julia Roberts. Ryan Murphy wrote a role especially for O'Malley in the film which is based on the popular book. The film also starred Javier Bardem, James Franco, Billy Crudup and Viola Davis. O'Malley is an accomplished writer and is currently producing and writing Shameless, a new series for Showtime, starring William H. Macy. In addition, he penned the newly completed film Certainty. Other film and television credits include, Leatherheads, 28 Days, Pushing Tin, The Perfect Man, My Name is Earl, Yes, Dear and Life with Roger. He also wrote the off-Broadway plays, Three Years From Thirty and Diverting Devotion. O'Malley currently resides in Los Angeles.
Sigourney Weaver (Macy Vanderhei) has created a host of memorable film characters, both dramatic and comic, from Ellen Ripley of the Alien franchise to Gorillas In The Mist's Dian Fossey to Ghostbusters' Dana Barrett to Dr. Grace Augustine in James Cameron's most recent blockbuster AVATAR. She has captivated audiences and won acclaim as one of the most esteemed actresses on both stage and screen. Born and educated in New York City, Weaver graduated from Stanford University and received a Masters degree from the Yale School of Drama. Her first professional job was as an understudy in Sir John Gielgud's production of The Constant Wife starring Ingrid Bergman.
Weaver made her motion picture debut in Ridley Scott's blockbuster Alien. She later reprised the role of Warrant Officer Ripley in James Cameron's Aliens which earned her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress. She again brought Ripley back to life in David Fincher's Alien 3, which she also co-produced, and Alien Resurection for director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Following Alien, Weaver had starring roles in three back to back hit movies: Gorillas In The Mist, in which she portrayed primatologist Dian Fossey, the Mike Nichols comedy Working Girl and Ghostbusters II. Weaver received her second and third Academy Award nominations and was awarded Golden Globes for her performances in Gorillas In The Mist and Working Girl. Other films include the thriller Copycat, Paul Rudnick's comedy Jeffrey, Roman Polanski's gripping film adaptation of Death And The Maiden, Half Moon Street with Michael Caine, Ridley Scott's 1492, One Woman Or Two with Gerard Depardieu, Eyewitness with William Hurt and Showtime's live-action film Snow White, based on the original Grimm's fairytale, which earned her an Emmy® nomination and a Screen Actors Guild nomination.
In 1997 Weaver joined the ensemble of Ang Lee's critically acclaimed film The Ice Storm playing alongside Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Elijah Wood and Christina Ricci. Her performance earned Weaver a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe nomination and a Screen Actors Guild Award® nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She later gave a galvanizing performance in A Map Of The World, Scott Elliott's powerful drama based on the novel by Jane Hamilton, which earned Weaver critical praise and a Golden Globe nomination for best actress. Alongside crewmates Tim Allen and Alan Rickman, she delighted audiences with her flair for comedy in the science fiction comedy Galaxy Quest, directed by Dean Parisot, which proved to be a hit of the 1999 holiday season. She followed this with the popular comedy Heartbreakers, playing opposite Gene Hackman and Jennifer Love Hewitt. In 2003, Weaver played the cold-blooded, red-headed warden in the hit comedy Holes directed by Andy Davis, and starred in the film version of The Guys with Anthony LaPaglia, directed by Jim Simpson. Following this, Weaver appeared in M. Night Shyamalan's The Village and received rave reviews for her performance in Imaginary Heroes, written and directed by Dan Harris.
In addition to her film credits, Weaver has also taken time to shine on the stage. Weaver started out on Off-Off Broadway in Christopher Durang's The Nature and Purpose of the Universe, Titanic and Das Lusitania Songspiel. She and Durang co-wrote Das Lusitania, which earned them both Drama Desk nominations. She has appeared in numerous Off-Broadway productions in New York, working with the playwrights John Guare, Albert Innaurato, Richard Nelson and Len Jenkin. In regional repertory, she has performed works by Pinter, Williams, Feydeau and Shakespeare. Weaver received a Tony® Award nomination for her starring role in Hurlyburly on Broadway, directed by Mike Nichols. She played Portia in the Classic Stage Company of New York's production of The Merchant of Venice. In 1996, Weaver returned to Broadway in the Lincoln Center production of Sex and Longing, written by Christopher Durang. Weaver originated roles in two A.R. Gurney world premieres, Crazy Mary at Playwrights Horizons, and Mrs. Farnsworth at the Flea Theater. She also starred in Neil LaBute's play The Mercy Seat opposite Liev Schreiber.
Weaver also originated the female lead in Anne Nelson's The Guys at The Flea, commissioned and directed by Jim Simpson. The play tells the story of a fire captain dealing with the aftermath of 9/11. Recent films include Infamous with Toby Jones and Sandra Bullock; Jake Kasdan's The TV Set; Snow Cake opposite Alan Rickman; The Girl In The Park opposite Kate Bosworth; Vantage Point with Dennis Quaid and Forest Whitaker; and the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Baby Mama. In 2008 Weaver lent her voice to Pixar's box office smash WALL-E, as well as to The Tale Of Despereaux with Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Watson. Upcoming films include Crazy On The Outside, which marks Tim Allen's directorial debut; Universal Pictures and Working Title Film's comedy Paul starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as well as Seth Rogen and Jason Bateman; and Andy Fickman's comedy You Again alongside Jamie Lee Curtis and Kristen Bell. In TV, Weaver received an Emmy nomination for lead actress for her role as Mary Griffith in Lifetime's Prayers for Bobby, which was also nominated for Outstanding Made for Television Movie.