Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Wednesday 25th July 2012
Taking audiences on a humorous, moving and intimate journey against an epic backdrop of Earth's final days, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is the feature directorial debut of screenwriter Lorene Scafaria (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist). Set in a too-near future where time at once stands still and is slipping away forever, the writer/director explores what people will do and how they will feel when humanity's end is near.
A 70-mile-wide asteroid is en route to Earth and the last best attempt to counter it has failed. Also failing is the marriage of soft-spoken insurance salesman Dodge (Golden Globe Award winner Steve Carell); the breaking news that the world will end in an estimated 21 days cues his wife to leave him on the spot.
Dodge is a man who has always played by the rules of life, while his neighbor Penny (Academy Award nominee Keira Knightley) is an extroverted woman who hasn't. From these opposite perspectives, both initially choose to navigate the impending end of the world with blinders on. Dodge declines joining his friends in increasingly reckless behavior, while Penny fixates on her relationship issues with a self-absorbed musician.
The two misfits meet first when Penny has a rough night and then again when she belatedly delivers Dodge a lost letter. That letter could alter Dodge's future; it's from his high-school sweetheart Olivia, the love of his life. When a riot breaks out around their apartment building, Dodge realizes that he must seek Olivia out before it's too late while Penny makes the decision to spend her last days with family in England. Seizing the moment, Dodge promises to help Penny reach her family if she will provide transport for the two of them in her car immediately. She agrees and they escape.
On the road together, the unlikely traveling companions' respective personal journeys accelerate and their outlooks - if not the world's - brighten.
We've all imagined the end of the world - along with the attendant floods, fires, earthquakes, pandemic viruses and the asteroid hurtling towards Earth which will be destroyed at the last possible moment by human intervention of epic proportions. That is not the end of the world as Lorene Scafaria sees it. In writing her feature directorial debut Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Scafaria was more intrigued by what could happen to ordinary people - and how they would interact with each other - in the days preceding The Event. Scafaria found herself casting a cockeyed glance at "apocalyptic tradition". She notes, "I had a small obsession with 'the end is near,' and a larger obsession with love. So it became a fun challenge to see what would happen when worlds collide - so to speak. I figured I would keep the screenplay at a very human level in scope and tell a story of relationships; what people would do and how a person with feelings towards another person would be affected".
The writer/director didn't necessarily want to make "a 'road movie.' I kept trying not to write it as that, though eventually I gave in and started to embrace the concept a little more - but I keep halting the lead characters' road trip because of basic things like gas. They find themselves in some pickles along their route". A couple of drafts were written, but work stopped and Scafaria's perspective changed once her father fell ill and passed away. She reflects, "I took six months off. Then I came back and rewrote the script, concentrating more on the concept of time - having it and losing it". Ultimately, she offers, "There is a lot in this story that is me; of the two lead characters, I'm more the Penny type, but I have a strong dose of Dodge in me as well. "Up until this tipping point, these two people have lived their lives very differently. As much as Dodge has avoided life, Penny has been diving in head first. Together, they find they can face the end of the world".
Mandate Pictures, which had backed the Scafaria-scripted Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, came aboard the new project as co-financier, while Anonymous Content's Steve Golin and Joy Gorman Wettels committed to produce the movie. Golin recounts, "Joy and I liked Lorene's pitch - a small story of two people set against a looming bigger background - and how she would combine humor and drama". Next to come aboard was co-financier Indian Paintbrush with producers Steven Rales and Mark Roybal. The latter notes that he found the script "wholly original and surprising. The story has a big concept, yet never loses sight of its humanity because Lorene is always in tune with evoking real emotions. I was tremendously moved by it - I found myself laughing and crying by the end of the script, which is very rare.
"I think my strong response was emotional because Lorene is telling a story about a thrilling, thought-provoking situation in which you are potentially going on the most important journey of your life by yourself".
With complete faith in Lorene Scafaria's script and her ability to realize it as director, Mark Roybal notes, "The first thing that we asked Lorene about was the casting. She told us that she didn't want to veer toward broad comedy and that the actors had to be able to maintain a balance between humor and pathos".
Joy Gorman Wettels adds, "The lead role of Dodge is that of a man who, with the world now coming to end, realizes that he regrets his entire life. An insurance salesman by trade, he hasn't taken risks in his existence. He thinks of his long-ago love - and is moved to act on that yearning.
"In order for this to play believably on-screen, Dodge has to be someone that you can see yourself in, or your dad, your brother, your husband. Steve Carell engenders so much goodwill and conveys such warmth; he is an Everyman. People relate to him; he was the only choice for Dodge".
Carell remarks, "I read the script and could not stop thinking about it. It haunted me, to an extent. It was funny, sweet, emotionally intense at times and a story that I hadn't seen. This is the flip side of Armageddon; there's no president with a hot line to the astronauts who are going to blow up the asteroid. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is what's happening while all of those things are going on; how ordinary human beings respond and the choices they make when they know that everything is going to be over in a matter of days.
"Lorene delicately maneuvers the comedy and the subject matter together. What I think makes it very funny is the characters being put into a life-or-death situation so that they are stripped down to their essence - it's really amusing when you see them trying to continue their lives under extraordinary circumstances".
With that in mind, the actor honed in on his character straight away, noting, "Initially, Dodge doesn't want to deal with what's happening; he continues to go to his job. But then he decides to come to terms with his impending demise and with the end of the world; he is going to make a pilgrimage, to visit his high-school sweetheart Olivia and try to reconnect with her. He's always idealized her as the love of his life and before it all ends, he wants to be with her".
"I think this, in a big way, is what our movie is about: people connecting with one another, or attempting to, when faced with something momentous. Your perspective changes", says Carell.
Scafaria compares Carell to "actors who could do comedy with pitch-perfect timing but also be subtle and still, like Peter Sellers or Jack Lemmon; Steve can do so much with a look. "We were ridiculously lucky to have him. When making a movie, he is a collaborative, generous, kindhearted gentleman".
For the role of the more free-spirited Penny, the filmmakers sought out Keira Knightley. The actress recalls, "My agent sent me the script. I thought it was one of the most strangely optimistic pieces that I'd read and I instantly said, 'Yeah, I want to be a part of it.' It was one of the best scripts I'd seen in years - and so unique.
"I got on the phone with Lorene and we had a great chat for about an hour. I don't think we even actually talked about the film. We talked about our mothers and about family". Roybal notes that "there's a profound depth Keira brings to Penny even when her character's behavior is whimsical, spontaneous, or flighty. There's a light in her eyes that reflects her inner light, which is why Penny is Dodge's beacon".
Steve Golin adds, "Keira is a lot of fun to watch as Penny. She is well-known for making movies set in different time periods, so playing a funny modern girl - in sneakers! - is a fresh turn for her".
Knightley admits, "I love doing modern-day movies - because I'm able to get up later in the morning".
"I knew she'd be amazing and stunning and super-smart", says Scafaria. "But here's the surprise; she is so damn funny. So there's this refreshing blend of Keira, known as a dramatic actress, being more of a comedienne; and Steve, known as a comedic actor, doing a more dramatic role. Steve and Keira play off each other so well and have such great chemistry. Getting to hear my words said by these two actors? I couldn't have asked for more".
Carell's real-life wife, actress Nancy Carell, makes a very brief but memorable appearance opposite him in the first scene of the film - as Dodge's wife Linda, who abandons him upon hearing a breaking news report; namely, Earth has less than one month left because the attempt to obliterate the 70-mile-wide asteroid ("Matilda") has failed. As Scafaria remembers it, "Since she was so right for the part, I suggested it to Steve's agent; would his wife be interested in playing his wife? I was secretly a little worried, but Nancy saw the humor in it. "It was the last scene we shot and we filmed it on their actual anniversary, which was both very appropriate and very inappropriate".
A key sequence further dramatizing people coping - or not - with the world ending soon follows with the dinner party hosted by Dodge's closest friends, Warren (Rob Corddry) and Diane (Connie Britton). Scafaria wrote the set piece as one "which would normally put Dodge in a safe place, but it's not quite as safe any more. There are couples and individuals, acting out. Some debauched behavior ensues, which is not what Dodge is looking for even at this critical time".
Dodge's journey is jump-started after he and his barely acquainted neighbor Penny are set on their course - by a full-blown riot. "I've always found the mob mentality to be so strange", says Scafaria. "I don't know how people get so caught up in it and lose sight of the fact that they're human beings and not animals. But if the world were ending, I do think some people would get violent. So, in the story, people are rioting but it's like, for what? Against what? For what possible result? I wanted it to feel not only scary but also ridiculous".
Roybal sees the sequence as "crucial, because Dodge and Penny reach their decisions to trust each other. The presence of Adam Brody as Penny's very-soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend Owen brings comic absurdity to a dangerous situation".
Knightley found filming the sequence rewarding, above and beyond what it meant for her character's evolution. She reports, "Penny has parked her car in a small space and can't get it out easily, so I got to bash these other cars! I don't know that Steve Carell enjoyed it so much, but I really did".
Carell confirms, "I'm not a big mayhem guy. Now, I do think it was highly cathartic for Keira, because she's not much of a driver back in the U.K. and she readily admits that. Here was a good learning experience for her, actually feeling a car smashing into another car, giving her a sense memory of reality for that day when she does in fact start to drive".
"Our amazing crew got the scene done, with stunt work and pyrotechnics and vermin, as how I had envisioned it", enthuses Scafaria. "Which was, basically, as a mini-version of a sequence I admired in Children of Men. "I also had fun filming our Friendsy's [restaurant] scenes, where things get chaotic for Dodge and Penny. Our Friendsy's extras should win MVP awards".
Knightley laughs, "Penny thinks it's excellent at Friendsy's, then all of a sudden it goes a little bit wonky.T.J. Miller and Gillian Jacobs are so funny - completely brilliant - in this crazy sequence".
Scafaria notes, "Every few days, we'd have new 'special guest stars!' It was a wonderful group of actors".
Many of these performers had adjusted their schedules so that they could be part of the highly original story. As Connie Britton, who was contacted directly by Scafaria to be in the movie, remarks, "For an actor, it's great to have it on the page - who and what your character is and with Lorene you get that.
"The sequence I'm in is hilarious and provocative and during filming of one scene Steve Carell and I turned to each other and said, 'This is heartbreaking.'"
Britton adds, "The environment on the set was welcoming and comfortable because Lorene is a great collaborator".
Carell states, "You would never have known that this was Lorene's directorial debut. She knew what she wanted to achieve and set a tone of support and grace".
Roybal remarks, "Lorene is a confident filmmaker with a distinct voice. She inspires everyone to work at a high level".
Production got underway in mid-May 2011 - with one date, believed by some to be the set date of the end of the world, among the first shooting days of the 34-day filming schedule.
"We were all curious that whole day", admits Scafaria. "We stopped in our tracks around 9:00 PM because someone did the math and said that was 'the time.' Everyone stood there and nothing happened, so we went on to the next shot".
Golin muses, "It was a good omen. Our movie will be released not long before the Mayan calendar runs out and the world is supposedly ending, so we have another 'stop date' to, well, look forward to".
Even before Dodge and Penny band together as traveling companions, Dodge encounters someone else who positively impacts his life. "Sorry", reads the note attached to a canine's collar, which has been affixed to Dodge's leg during his overnight blackout following a failed suicide attempt. Upon awakening, Dodge reads the note and takes it literally, addressing the Terrier as Sorry; Sorry is portrayed by Aleister.
"Sorry enters the story right when Dodge has reached his lowest low and given up hope altogether", explains writer/director Lorene Scafaria, herself a longtime dog owner. "He wakes up that morning and finds he has been given someone else's burden, which becomes a responsibility that gives Dodge's life meaning again.
"When I saw Aleister and his wonderful scrappy snaggletooth and wiry coat, I loved him and felt, 'Here's our hero dog.'"
In keeping with a story that is about last chances, Aleister was a shelter dog. Dog trainer Sarah Clifford of Animal Savvy reveals, "He was adopted from the shelter a couple of years ago and ever since then he's been acting in TV commercials".
Dogs' lives were saved anew for Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, by virtue of the fact that "when a dog has a movie role as large as the Sorry one, you have to have a couple of different dogs at the ready", comments Clifford. Accordingly, she scouted local animal shelters and found doubles for Aleister. She named one Mulligan, meaning "second chance", or "do-over" and he served as Aleister's stunt double.
"Mulligan was rescued from the shelter on the morning he was scheduled to be euthanized", reports Clifford. "He learned the ropes and was doing takes only two weeks after we took him out of the shelter. Mulligan did the scene where Sorry is crawling down the fire escape and anything else that required a lot of action.
"Rita, another double, was loaned to us from I Care Dog Rescue, which pulled her out of an animal shelter. All of these dogs were lucky".
"There was another Terrier on-set, a fourth Sorry", adds Scafaria. "They just make the set better. Or maybe I'm a crazy-dog-lady-in-the-making..".
As first among equals, Aleister won hearts early and often; he was particularly enamored of Keira Knightley, meeting her just before production began. "He went up to her and nestled on her dress", recalls Clifford. "It was so cute and right away she thought he was charming".
But it was his on-screen interaction with Steve Carell that was crucial to the story. Clifford says, "Steve is good with dogs, so he was a natural with Aleister.
"We would take a little bit of time every day before we started filming for what we called a bonding session; we'd get Steve and Aleister comfortable together. Steve gave him treats and kissed and cuddled him. That way, when Aleister worked with Steve on camera, there was already a bond".
The writer/director was relieved to see that bond. Regarding Dodge and Sorry, she notes, "When you know that you have a responsibility to someone who is more in need than you are, that forces you to stand up and take care of them. That starts changing Dodge's outlook and giving his life purpose, leading him towards more human contact - beginning with Penny and then going further for him on his journey.
"I like to think that Sorry also represents our capacity for forgiveness".
Seeking Friend for the End of the World takes place sometime in the future - but not too far away.
Writer/director Lorene Scafaria explains, "I always intended to be vague about it in the telling. The only time we see a date is on a bottle of cough syrup and we don't know if the expiration date is coming up or it's already come and gone. By being only relatively in the future, I had options to play with the look of the film. [Production designer] Chris Spellman and [director of photography] Tim Orr helped create the aesthetic for the movie".
Spellman remembers, "When Lorene and I first met up, we talked about some films that she wanted me to see. I was inspired by films like Defending Your Life and Songs from the Second Floor, movies which created their own world", says Scafaria, who also discussed with Spellman how the design, sets and set dressing should not overpower the story and characters - as in many an end-of-the-world tale - but instead inform them. "Chris and I figured out the tiny little stories within our story, whether it was for an object or for a person you see only fleetingly".
Producer Mark Roybal found that "the aesthetic that's been achieved is that of a future which is recognizable. Since things are not overdesigned, there is no detracting from the heart of the story. Chris was so good at doing research when it was needed; for example, the plot point of if a small plane could in fact transport someone overseas was something that he ratified".
Spellman notes, "We went with what the script dictated. Tim - whom I've worked with before - and Lorene and I went through it page by page and discussed what the mood might be in terms of lighting, for instance".
Scafaria reveals, "I had had high hopes we would get Tim for Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist; I'd seen and loved his work. When that didn't pan out, I became obsessed with working with him some day and I felt so fortunate when we landed him for this - my first time out as director. We mapped out the entire shot list well before production started, then revised it as we went along and certainly improvised when we had to on a given day. It was a very symbiotic collaboration. We agreed on our process together out of the gate, coordinating on shot composition. I come from a theater background, so I had to keep reminding myself to try to get as much coverage as possible. I learned more from Tim than from anyone else and often referred to our time together as 'my film school with Tim Orr.'"
The writer/director also worked closely with Orr's actual film school classmate and longtime collaborator, film editor Zene Baker; during filming, Scafaria would watch all of the dailies as she went along and then discuss them with Baker, which in turn made the post-production phase progress that much more efficiently.
Like Spellman, costume designer Kristin Burke was tasked with anticipating the near future. She notes, "When a script ventures even a little bit into the future, you naturally wonder, 'Okay, what are we going to be wearing? What fabric are we going to have that we don't have now?' But Lorene wanted to make the clothing as classic as possible, so that the film doesn't date itself and also so it wouldn't be implausible. For example, where were we 10 years ago and how much is the fashion sensibility different from today's? Well, it's not that far; between 1972 and 1962, now there was a huge gap".
She elaborates, "What we were trying to do overall was 'retro future,' and as accessibly as possible for the viewer. As apocalyptic as this story might seem, it's not depressing and our costuming reflects that".
Burke was particularly pleased to be able to costume Knightley for a rare non-"costume" role. The designer says, "Penny is eclectically minded; we were looking to create a look for Keira which spoke to that. The way Penny dresses incorporates vintage elements and something of that mindset. While there were no corsets for Keira on this movie, Penny is accessorised with something from the past - vinyl record albums".
While Dodge totes along Sorry, Penny hand-carries vinyl albums from her coveted record collection. As Lorene Scafaria muses, "There's always that 'what if' question; in case of a fire, what are you going to grab when you're on your way out the door? What can you in fact physically carry? Dodge by then feels responsible for the dog, but for Penny these albums have long had meaning to her; her record collection is something that she's taken care of for years and years - in part because it is a connection to her parents".
Scafaria reveals, "Music is important to me, so I felt that this story wouldn't be complete without it. Part of showing Penny's journey was through what - if not who - she has".
Production designer Chris Spellman and his team didn't have to search far for the record albums that Keira Knightley would be clutching; Penny's urgently streamlined collection is curated from Scafaria's own. Specific songs, albums and artists had been written into the script from the earliest drafts.
When asked which albums she would rescue in case of fire - or worse - the writer/director says, "Lou Reed's 'Coney Island Baby,' some Gene Clark, The Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds,' The Beatles".
Knightley states that her picks would have to be "Supertramp and Talking Heads. Also, if in fact the world were ending, I would get on the road to North Devon".
Steve Carell would not take "albums because my car lacks a turntable. My family would go to Disney World, with a steady stream of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez; what the kids are listening to these days - 'What the kids are listening to these days?' I just sounded about 85 years old. I would eat a lot of junk food, but I wouldn't steal it; I would purchase cupcakes and brownies. Chinese food and pizza, too".
Scafaria muses, "I might stay put; I'm happy in L.A. I might drive north. I do have a 'what if' box ready to grab, plus my dogs and the person I'm with. I would want to be with friends and family as much as possible".
Producer Mark Roybal says, "There would have to be one serious camper with full entertainment and a limitless supply of gas so we could go anywhere we wanted. There would be debaucherous eating and drinking - within the confines of safety, since I have kids. But I do think there would be hot dogs for breakfast. Our family road trip's soundtrack would include 'Harvest Moon,' by Neil Young. That was our wedding song. Also, U2's 'Joshua Tree,' The Band and lots of Adele, because my kids love to belt out her songs".
Producer Joy Gorman Wettels demurs, "I'd do anything within reason that's under a good rationale. If the idea of living on an island in Greece is moot, I would just try to relax".
For everyone on the set, variations on these questions and answers were invariably put forth and debated on a daily basis. What Scafaria had described as the "wonderful group of actors", many of whom were on-set for just a couple of days, proved eager to chat with each other and the crew between takes, comparing notes on ultimate musical collections and cities of their final destinations.
Actor Derek Luke offers, "I'd go and find people to help, or friends that I need to apologize to". Actress Connie Britton reflects, "I would probably drive across the country and I would listen to every single kind of music, especially music from my childhood and Prince's '1999,' even though he was off with the year by a little bit".
Expanding on Britton's playlist, Scafaria's assistant Virginia Shearer "would take 'Purple Rain,' 'Sign o' the Times,' 'Dirty Mind,' and 'Controversy.' And, Prince himself". Actress Melanie Lynskey comments, "My husband and our dog and I would hopefully go to Savannah. I'd bring The Cure and The Smiths and Pavement and just listen and feel comforted". Camera loader/production assistant Josh Novak picks "anything by Otis Redding - let's just say 'Greatest Hits,' for the sake of not carrying bulk on the road trip to somewhere peaceful and tropical".
Opting for neither peaceful nor tropical, actress Gillian Jacobs enthuses, "I've never really broken any laws in my life, so I'd probably break a lot of them. I would probably destroy a lot of buildings using heavy equipment from construction sites. Maybe crash cars into medians on the highway, firebomb empty buildings - standard stuff".
Actor Patton Oswalt states, "I would have the theme to the TV show The Facts of Life on a loop and drive towards Elton John, wherever he was. Because I'd want to hear him sing 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' while the meteor was approaching us; I just don't think there's any better way to end the world".
Gail Scafaria, the writer/director's mother, says, "Just to be with Lorene. Yeah, that would be it".
Well before the whole world and/or one's own life might end, every one of us ponders how we will face that moment.
Steve Carell says, "I think Lorene Scafaria's story beautifully transcends aspects of the normalcy of life. The movie is about finding the value of life and finding what makes you happy".
Scafaria reflects, "Time is the great equalizer and our time here is limited. Everyone can relate to that and hopefully learn from it. One of the most precious things you can offer to another person is your time".
Producer Steve Golin says, "I feel everyone harbors the beliefs that somebody is out there for them and that options exist".
Producer Mark Roybal adds, "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is about coming together at the most crucial time - at the end of time. It's profound, funny and uplifting".
Keira Knightley offers, "For these two, it's about what suddenly becomes important. I think what's actually being said here is, why do we not live as we should live? Why do we not see what things are important? Why do we not spend time with the people that we love? We act as if we have 'tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,' but what if we don't?
"That's why I found the story so optimistic; aside from the occasional riot, positive things will come forth from humanity at the turning point".
Steve Carell (Dodge) is one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. After first gaining recognition for his contributions as a correspondent on Comedy Central's Emmy Award-winning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Mr. Carell successfully segued into primetime television and feature film stardom.
The Massachusetts native's first movie lead was in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, for which he wrote the screenplay with director Judd Apatow; the picture opened at #1 and remained atop the domestic box office for two straight weekends. The 2005 sleeper hit went on to gross more than $175 million worldwide and achieve #1 openings in 12 countries, followed by over $100 million in DVD sales in North America alone. The movie won an American Film Institute Award as one of its (10 Best) AFI Movies of the Year, among other honors. Mr. Carell and Mr. Apatow shared a Writers Guild of America Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Mr. Carell shared the Screen Actors Guild Awards' top movies prize, for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, with his fellow actors from Little Miss Sunshine, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris from Michael Arndt's Academy Award-winning screenplay. The movie's many other accolades included an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
He recently produced Glen Ficarra and John Requa's Crazy, Stupid, Love, in which he starred with Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore; Among his other popular movies are Jay Roach's Dinner for Schmucks, opposite Paul Rudd; Shawn Levy's Date Night, with Tina Fey; Peter Segal's Get Smart, opposite Anne Hathaway and Alan Arkin; Peter Hedges'Dan in Real Life, with Juliette Binoche and Emily Blunt; Tom Shadyac's Bruce Almighty, opposite Jim Carrey and Evan Almighty; Adam McKay's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, with Will Ferrell; and, in voiceover, Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino's Horton Hears a Who! as well as Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud's Despicable Me. Production is under way on a sequel to the latter animated feature, with Mr. Carell again starring as Gru.
In 2011, he concluded his starring role in the acclaimed Americanized adaptation of Ricky Gervais' celebrated television series The Office. Mr. Carell's portrayal of Michael Scott earned him multiple Emmy Award nominations as well as a Golden Globe Award. He also received Emmy nominations as a producer of the series; and he twice shared the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series, with his fellow actors from the show.
Building on his successes in acting, writing and producing, he has inaugurated his own production company, Carousel Productions. Mr. Carell is an alumnus of the Second City Theater Group in Chicago. He is currently filming Burt Wonderstone, directed by Don Scardino, which reteams him with Jim Carrey; and will next be seen starring in David Frankel's Hope Springs, also for Mandate Pictures, opposite Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones.
Keira Knightley (Penny) earned Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright's version of Pride & Prejudice, based on Jane Austen's novel, also for Focus Features. Two years later, she was a Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominee for her performance as Cecilia Tallis in Atonement, again directed by Joe Wright and for Focus Features, based on the novel by Ian McEwan. In the fall of 2012, she stars in the title role of Anna Karenina, reuniting with Mr. Wright and Focus, based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy and adapted by Academy Award winner Tom Stoppard.
The U.K. native made her television debut at the age of 6 in the telefilm Royal Celebration, directed by Ferdinand Fairfax. Her subsequent television credits included such telefilms and miniseries as The Treasure Seekers, directed by Juliet May; Coming Home, directed by Giles Foster; Oliver Twist; Doctor Zhivago, directed by Giacomo Campiotti; and Princess of Thieves, directed by Peter Hewitt, starring as Robin Hood's daughter.
Ms. Knightley landed her first feature film role at the age of 10, in Patrick Dewolf's Innocent Lies. She then starred in Nick Hamm's The Hole, with Thora Birch and Gillies MacKinnon's Pure; and appeared alongside Natalie Portman in George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
Her breakout movie role was in Gurinder Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham, for which she won the London Critics Circle Film Awards' British Newcomer of the Year prize. Audiences worldwide then took notice of her as the heroine Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, directed by Gore Verbinski, in which she starred with Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush. She then reteamed with the film's producer Jerry Bruckheimer on Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur; and was part of the ensemble cast of Richard Curtis' Love Actually.
Ms. Knightley next starred opposite Adrien Brody in The Jacket, directed by John Maybury and as real-life bounty hunter Domino Harvey in Tony Scott's Domino, before reuniting with the Pirates of the Caribbean team on two sequels; the respective movies, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, were again directed by Gore Verbinski.
Her subsequent movies have included The Edge of Love, which reteamed her with director John Maybury and which was scripted by Ms. Knightley's mother Sharman Macdonald; François Girard's Silk; Saul Dibb's The Duchess, for which she earned a British Independent Film Award (BIFA) nomination for Best Actress; Mark Romanek's Never Let Me Go, for which she was again a BIFA Award nominee; Massy Tadjedin's Last Night; William Monahan's London Boulevard; and David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, in which she starred as real-life psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein.
She made her West End theatrical debut in Martin Crimp's translation of Molière's comedy The Misanthrope, staged by Thea Sharrock at the Comedy Theatre in London, in December 2009. She received an Olivier Award nomination as well as an Evening Standard Award nomination for the Natasha Richardson Award. In January 2011, Ms. Knightley returned to the Comedy Theatre and starred in Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, staged by Ian Rickson.
She supports - among other charitable and humanitarian causes - Amnesty International, Comic Relief and Women's Aid; and is a patron of theSMA Trust, which funds medical research into the children's disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
Connie Britton (Diane) notably starred in Peter Berg's hit movie Friday Night Lights, opposite Billy Bob Thornton and then became the only cast member to reprise her role in the beloved television program of the same name, opposite Kyle Chandler. She received two Emmy Award and Television Critics Association Award nominations for her work in the series. The show and its creators received several awards over the course of the series' five-year run, including the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for broadcasting excellence. Ms. Britton's performance also earned her a Women's Image Network (WIN) Award nomination.
The Boston native has had guest arcs on Ellen, 24 and The West Wing; and starred in such hit shows as Spin City and the much-talked-about American Horror Story, which recently concluded its first season. Ms. Britton's breakthrough movie role was in Edward Burns' independent film The Brothers McMullen, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. She has since reteamed with the writer/director on the features No Looking Back and Looking for Kitty. Her other films include Sarah Kelly's The Lather Effect; Sebastian Gutierrez's Women in Trouble; Samuel Bayer's A Nightmare on Elm Street; Larry Fessenden's The Last Winter, for which she shared with her fellow actors a Gotham Independent Film Award nomination for Best Ensemble Cast; and writer/director Maggie Carey's upcoming The To Do List.
Ms. Britton is currently completing a documentary, which she produced and directed, on the orphans of Ethiopia. Also as producer, she is developing television projects including a new series to star in. She attended Dartmouth College, where she majored in Asian studies and spent a term in Beijing studying Chinese. Upon graduation, she moved to New York City, where she spent two years at the Neighborhood Playhouse studying with Sanford Meisner before performing in regional theater and off-Broadway productions.
Adam Brody (Owen) is known to audiences for his work in film and television.
In the first half of 2012, moviegoers will see him starring in not only Seeking a Friend for the End of the World but also Damsels in Distress and The Oranges. Damsels in Distress is the long-awaited new movie from writer/director Whit Stillman, with Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton, Caitlin Fitzgerald and Megalyn Echikunwoke. In The Oranges, directed by Julian Farino from Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss' screenplay, Mr. Brody is part of an ensemble that includes Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Alia Shawkat, Leighton Meester, Oliver Platt and Allison Janney.
Mr. Brody will next star in the lead role of Some Girls, adapted by Neil LaBute from his play of the same name and directed by Jennifer Getzinger; in Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's Lovelace, portraying Harry Reems, with Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard and James Franco; and in Rob Meltzer's Welcome to the Jungle. His previous movies include Jon Kasdan'sIn the Land of Women, starring opposite Meg Ryan and Kristen Stewart; Wes Craven's Scream 4; Kevin Smith's Cop Out; Galt Niederhoffer's The Romantics; Karyn Kusama's Jennifer's Body, written by Diablo Cody; Boaz Yakin's Death in Love, with Josh Lucas, Lukas Haas and Jacqueline Bisset; Gregg Araki's Smiley Face, with Anna Faris; David Wain's The Ten; Jason Reitman's Thank You For Smoking; Gore Verbinski's smash The Ring; and Doug Liman's blockbuster Mr. & Mrs. Smith, alongside Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Mr. Brody memorably starred as Seth Cohen on the popular television series The O.C., the pilot episode of which was directed by Doug Liman. His television work also includes recurring roles on Once and Again and Gilmore Girls; and standout guest turns on Judging Amy, Family Law and Smallville.
Rob Corddry (Warren) 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 program. He continued with the show through the fall of 2006 and has since made guest appearances.
In 2007, he starred in the television series The Winner, created by 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.
Writing and creating his own comedic content, Mr. Corddry was one of the first talents to craft original "television-esque" programming for the Internet. Teaming up with Warner Bros. TV Group's digital arm, Studio 2.0, he served as creator, writer and director of the web series Childrens Hospital, which spoofs the medical drama genre. Launched in December 2008, the 5-minute chapters starred him alongside Jason Sudeikis, Lake Bell, Megan Mullally and Ed Helms, among others. The series won the Webby Award for Comedy: Long Form or Series and received two other nominations including for his performance. Season 2 then debuted on Adult Swim, making Childrens Hospital one of only two shows ever to make the successful transition from a web series to a television series. Season 3 aired in 2011 and season 4 will debut this year.
He has starred in a host of features, including Oliver Stone's W., as Ari Fleischer; Steve Pink's Hot Tub Time Machine, with John Cusack and Craig Robinson; Miguel Arteta's Cedar Rapids, opposite Ed Helms; Tom Vaughan's What Happens in Vegas, written by Dana Fox, opposite Ashton Kucther, Cameron Diaz and Lake Bell; James C. Strouse's The Winning Season, opposite Sam Rockwell; Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg's Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay; Todd Phillips' Old School; Jim Field Smith'sButter, with Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde and Alicia Silverstone; and Jonathan Levine's Warm Bodies, with Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer and John Malkovich, which is due out in February 2013.
Mr. Corddry has guest-starred on such television series as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development.
Gillian Jacobs (Waitress/Katie)'s vibrant presence has been noted by audiences in the film, stage and television mediums. In the latter, she has portrayed Britta for all three seasons of the acclaimed comedy series Community, with Joel McHale. Her guest appearances include ones on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Royal Pains, The Good Wife, Fringe and in an arc on The Book of Daniel.
In addition to Richard Kelly's cult film The Box, Ms. Jacobs' movie work has included such independent features as Clark Gregg's Choke, opposite Sam Rockwell and for which she shared the Sundance Film Festival's Special Jury Prize with her fellow actors; Damian Harris' Gardens of the Night, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and which was a Prism Award nominee; Kathy Lindboe's No Names, opposite James Badge Dale, for which she was a Best Actress nominee at Method Fest and for which she won a Special Jury Award for Best Acting Achievement at the Phoenix Film Festival; Joseph Infantolino's Helena from the Wedding, in which she played the title role; Brian Koppelman and David Levien's Solitary Man, alongside Michael Douglas; Will Frears' Coach, with Hugh Dancy; and four recently completed movies. The latter are Shimon Dotan's Watching TV with the Red Chinese; Billy Federighi's Sin Bin; Brian Jett's Let Go; and Chadd Harbold's Revenge for Jolly!, starring as part of a stellar ensemble.
She has starred off-Broadway at the Public Theater in Stephen Adly Guirgis' play The Little Flower of East Orange, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, opposite Michael Shannon; in Sarah Treem's play A Feminine Ending, directed by Blair Brown at Playwrights Horizons; and in Christopher Denham's play Cagelove, directed by Adam Rapp at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.
Ms. Jacobs received her Bachelor of Fine Arts at The Juilliard School.
Derek Luke (Speck) previously starred for Focus Features as real-life South African hero Patrick Chamusso in Catch a Fire. His performance brought him Satellite and Black Reel Award nominations, as well as the Breakthrough Award from the Hollywood Awards and the Star of Tomorrow Award from the Motion Picture Club.
The New Jersey native made his feature film debut in 2002 in the title role of Antwone Fisher, written by the real-life Antwone Fisher and directed by and starring Denzel Washington. He won the part after five auditions and while working at the Sony Pictures gift shop. Up until that time, his acting credits had consisted of small appearances in the television series Moesha and The King of Queens.
Mr. Luke's performance in Antwone Fisher earned him the Independent Spirit and Black Reel Awards for Best Actor. He was also honored by the National Board of Review, for Breakthrough Performance; and nominated for an MTV Movie Award for the portrayal.
His subsequent movies have included Peter Hedges' award-winning Pieces of April, opposite Katie Holmes and Academy Award nominee Patricia Clarkson; Peter Berg's Friday Night Lights; David Mamet's Spartan; Reggie Rock Bythewood's Biker Boyz; James Gartner's Glory Road; Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs; Adam Brooks' Definitely, Maybe; Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna, for which he was again a Best Actor nominee at the Black Reel Awards as well as an Image Award nominee; George Tillman Jr.'s Notorious; Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail; Joe Johnston's Captain America: The First Avenger; and Salim Akil's Sparkle, opening in the second half of 2012, in which Mr. Luke stars as part of an ensemble that includes Michael Beach, Carmen Ejogo, Mike Epps, Omari Hardwick, Whitney Houston, Jordin Sparks and Tika Sumpter.
Television audiences have seen him starring in the series Trauma and in a guest arc on the show Hawthorne.
Melanie Lynskey (Karen) is an accomplished and versatile actress who took worldwide audiences by storm in 1994 with her debut performance opposite Kate Winslet in Peter Jackson's Academy Award-nominated Heavenly Creatures. Her portrayal of Pauline Parker earned Ms. Lynskey the New Zealand Film and Television Award for Best Actress.
In 2009, her notable work in several of the year's films - including Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, Steven Soderbergh's The Informant! (opposite Matt Damon) and Sam Mendes' Away We Go (also for Focus Features) - earned her the Spotlight Award from the Hollywood Awards. Her other movies include Tom McCarthy's Win Win; Tim Blake Nelson's Leaves of Grass; Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers; Joseph Infantolino's Helena from the Wedding; Anthony McCarten's Show of Hands and Gillian Ashurst's Snakeskin, both of which earned her New Zealand Film and Television Award nominations for Best Actress; Billy Ray's Shattered Glass; David McNally's Coyote Ugly; Jamie Babbit's But I'm a Cheerleader; Andy Tennant's Sweet Home Alabama and Ever After: A Cinderella Story; and Stephen Chbosky's upcoming The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
The native New Zealander most recently starred in the lead role of Hello I Must Be Going, directed by Todd Louiso from Sarah Koskoff's original screenplay, which world-premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Television audiences know Ms. Lynskey best for her recurring role on the hit series Two and a Half Men and she voices a continuing character in the animated series The Life and Times of Tim. Among the shows that she has guest-starred on are House, Psych, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The L Word. She was a regular on the series Drive; and starred in the miniseries Rose Red and Comanche Moon.
T.J. Miller (Chipper Host/Darcy) is quickly becoming one of the industry's most sought-after comedians and actors. He has been cited by Variety as one of its "Top 10 Comics to Watch;" and as one of Entertainment Weekly's "Next Big Things in Comedy".
He first came to movie audiences' attention in Matt Reeves' hit Cloverfield, which marked his feature debut. He concurrently starred opposite Jerry O'Connell in the television series Carpoolers. Mr. Miller starred in and wrote two short films that notably played at the 2010 and 2011 Sundance Film Festivals; these were, respectively, Successful Alcoholics and I'm Having a Difficult Time Killing My Parents. His feature films have included Mike Judge's Extract; Jim Field Smith's She's Out of My League; Nicholas Stoller's Get Him to the Greek; Rob Letterman's Gulliver's Travels; Eric Brevig's Yogi Bear; Jesse Peretz's Our Idiot Brother, with Paul Rudd and Kathryn Hahn; and Tony Scott's Unstoppable.
Mr. Miller voiced the character Tuffnut in Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders' beloved animated feature How to Train Your Dragon, alongside Jay Baruchel and Kristen Wiig; he will reprise his role for the sequel, again directed by Mr. DeBlois. He will also be starring in voiceover in Tom Gianas and Ross Shuman's stop-motion animated feature Hell & Back.
He is currently crisscrossing the country performing his stand-up act. Last year he recorded his first hour-long stand-up special, "T.J. Miller: No Real Reason", for Comedy Central, in his hometown of Denver; he has also released a music satire pop/hip-hop/folk album, "The Extended Play EP", through Comedy Central Records.
Mr. Miller also performs in the sketch comedy group Heavy Weight, with Brady Novak, Mark Raterman and Nick Vatterott. He toured with Second City in Chicago for almost two years; and insists on reminding people that he was the Regional Winner of the Sierra Mist Search for the Next Great Comic in 2005.
Mark Moses (Anchorman) is an actor whom audiences know from his 25 years of performing in film, television and theater.
He made his film debut in the Best Picture Academy Award winner Platoon and then appeared in Born on the Fourth of July and The Doors, each directed by Oliver Stone. Among his other movies have been Ridley Scott's Someone to Watch Over Me; Ronald Maxwell's Gettysburg; Mimi Leder's Deep Impact; Sean McNamara's Race to Space, as astronaut Alan Shepard; Brett Ratner's Red Dragon and After the Sunset; Robert Luketic's Monster-in-Law; John Whitesell's Big Momma's House 2; Joshua Stern's Swing Vote; and Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima.
Mr. Moses' many telefilm and miniseries credits include North and South, in which he portrayed Ulysses S. Grant. He has guest-starred on a host of programs, from ER and The West Wing to multiple respective CSI and Star Trek incarnations. He will next be seen in a recurring role on The Killing. Also for television, he has recurred through all four seasons of the Emmy Award-winning Mad Men as Duck Phillips; and starred for several seasons, including the first, on the smash Desperate Housewives as Paul Young. With his colleagues from these two series, he has shared three Screen Actors Guild Awards for their ensemble work.
Mr. Moses began his career on the stage, starring on Broadway in Slab Boys; in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of Love's Labour's Lost; and Our Country's Good, in its premiere staging at the Mark Taper Forum.
Patton Oswalt (Roache) was recently a Critics' Choice Movie Award nominee for Best Supporting Actor, for his performance in Young Adult. He starred opposite Charlize Theron in the movie directed by Jason Reitman from Diablo Cody's original screenplay; the quartet was honored with the Vanguard Award at the 2012 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Mr. Oswalt previously earned rave reviews for his performance in the title role of Robert Siegel's Big Fan, receiving a Gotham Independent Film Award nomination. His other movies include Paul Thomas Anderson's award-winning Magnolia; Robert Ben Garant's Reno 911!: Miami; Jody Hill's Observe and Report; and Steven Soderbergh's The Informant!; he will next be seen starring opposite Anton Yelchin in Stephen Sommers' Odd Thomas, adapted from the bestselling Dean Koontz novels.
He memorably provided the voice for the lead character of Remy the rat, in Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava's Ratatouille, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. He has also voiced characters on such television series as WordGirl, Kim Possible and Neighbors from Hell.
Also for television, Mr. Oswalt was a series regular on the shows United States of Tara and The King of Queens. His guest appearances include ones on The Sarah Silverman Program, Flight of the Conchords, Seinfeld, Reaper and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Additionally, he had recurring roles on Caprica and Bored to Death; and is a frequent contributor to such programs as Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Real Time with Bill Maher and Lewis Black's Root of All Evil.
As a comedian, he has recorded four television specials, including Patton Oswalt: Finest Hour, which premiered in September 2011 and three critically acclaimed albums; the most recent album, My Weakness is Strong, brought him a Grammy Award nomination. He tours regularly, headlining in both the U.S. and the U.K; and has a bimonthly show at the Coronet Theater in Los Angeles. Mr. Oswalt's first published book, Spaceship Zombie Wasteland, made The New York Times bestseller list.
William Petersen (Trucker) continues to show the full range of his unique talent to audiences in multiple mediums.
The Evanston, Illinois native first discovered acting while pursuing a football scholarship at Idaho State University. He first drew film industry and critical attention with his back-to-back starring roles in William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A., opposite Willem Dafoe and based on the Gerald Petievich novel; and Michael Mann's Manhunter, opposite Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecktor and based on the Thomas Harris novel. Mr. Petersen's subsequent movies included Joel Schumacher's Cousins; Geoff Murphy's Young Guns II, as Pat Garrett; and Martin Davidson's telefilm Long Gone. He reteamed with the latter director on Hard Promises, which he also produced with his partner Cindy Chvatal for his High Horse Films production banner. Another High Horse production was the telefilm Keep the Change, directed by Andy Tennant.
Among the other features that he has starred in are James Foley's Fear, with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg; Roger Young's Kiss the Sky, with Gary Cole and Sheryl Lee; Rob Cohen's The Skulls and telefilm The Rat Pack, in which he portrayed John F. Kennedy after earlier portraying the latter's father Joseph Kennedy in Lamont Johnson's miniseries The Kennedys of Massachusetts; the telefilm 12 Angry Men, which reunited Mr. Petersen with director William Friedkin and teamed him with a stellar ensemble headed by Jack Lemmon; and Rod Lurie's The Contender, opposite Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges and Gary Oldman, for which he shared with the director and cast the Broadcast Film Critics Association's prestigious Alan J. Pakula Award.
For 10 seasons, he starred as Gil Grissom on the top-rated drama series C.S.I: Crime Scene Investigation, for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination. As executive producer on the show, he has shared multiple Producers Guild of America and Emmy Award nominations with his fellow producers of the series when the program was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series. With his fellow actors from the show, he won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. He continues as an executive producer on the program.
In 1979, Mr. Petersen founded the Remains Theater Ensemble in Chicago with a group of fellow actors. In 1983, he starred as Jack Henry Abbott in In the Belly of the Beast, which he performed at the Wisdom Bridge Theatre in Chicago; at the Edinburgh Festival; and at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.
In 1996, he made his Broadway debut in a revival of Tennessee Williams' The Night of the Iguana. He has also appeared in a number of regional stage productions, including ones of A Streetcar Named Desire, The Time of Your Life, Glengarry Glen Ross, Fool for Love and Speed-the-Plow. More recently he starred in A Dublin Carol and Endgame at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago; and in David Harrower's Blackbird at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago.
Aleister (Sorry) is a 5-year-old (approximately) Terrier mix dog who was rescued from a California animal shelter in 2008. He now largely resides on a movie animals' ranch in Castaic, CA, sharing spacious accommodations with a dog buddy. Aleister gets along with other dogs, humans and even cats. When away on assignment, he stays with one of his trainers and at leisure can be found sleeping upside down on the couch or sunning himself.
His previous credits include print and/or television commercials for Pedigree Dog Food, Eli Lilly, Texas Energy, Intuit and Microsoft. He appeared in the student film Worst Enemy, but Seeking a Friend for the End of the World marks his feature debut.