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Film: Finding Neverland

Marc Forster
Director
Friday, October 29, 2004; 2:00 PM

Though the Academy Awards won't be held until February, the film "Finding Neverland" is already generating Oscar buzz. The drama focuses on "Peter Pan" author J.M. Barrie (played by Johnny Depp), whose relationship with a young widow (Kate Winslet) and her three sons inspire him to write the classic children's tale.

Watch the trailer:"Finding Neverland"


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Marc Forster, the film's director, was online Friday, Oct. 29, at 2 p.m. ET to answer questions about the movie and his career.

In addition to "Neverland," which also stars Dustin Hoffman and Julie Christie, Forster directed 2001's "Monster's Ball," which earned Halle Berry an Academy Award as Best Actress. His next film is "Stay," a thriller starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts.

"Finding Neverland" opens in theaters on Nov. 12.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Syracuse, N.Y.: What was it that led you to cast Johnny Depp in the role of J.M. Barrie? Were there any particular characteristics of his that you thought would work well for this part?

Marc Forster: You know, first when I read the script Johnny Depp popped into my mind. I think very few actors out there able to play dramatic scenes as well as Johnny Depp and also all the fantasy sequences as believably as he does.
He has this ability to go back and forth between the dramatic sequences and the fantasy sequences with an ease and subtlety.

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Houston, Tex.: I heard that Jan A.P. Kaczmarek would be writing the music for your movie. How did you select him and what do you think of his contributions to the movie?

Marc Forster: I selected him because I think his previous scores are very subtle and not typical, over the top dramatic Hollywood scores. Also he's Polish and I'm Swiss. Both os uf come from two emotionally repressed cultures. I thought he would understand and be able to get into my head better. His previous scores, "Unfaithful" and a lot of the scores for Agnieska Holland, were always very understated and beautiful. His contribution to the film was tremendous. I think his score is beautiful.

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Bethesda, Md.: I'm looking forward to seeing the film. I'm also wondering how you handle Barrie's relationship with the young sons of Kate Winslet's character. If I'm not mistaken, there were intimations during Barrie's life that his relationship with them was "inappropriate." Does the movie address that at all? Thanks.

Marc Forster: The movies does address it. But also the rumor of pedophilia came into our present much later in the 20th century. In my research with everyone, based on the historians, all the kids said he was absolutely not a pedophile. He was an asexual man. He didn't like to be touched or touch people.

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Woodbridge, Va.: What was it like working with Johnny Depp?

Marc Forster: It was amazing because he's just humble, kind and just a great, creative collaborator. I loved it. I'd love to work with him again.

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Hillsdale, N.J.: Didn't you film "Finding Neverland" two years ago? Why did it take so long to be distributed?

Marc Forster: I finished it last year. It was suppsoed to be released last October. We couldn't release it because of the other Peter Pan movie by P.J. Hogan, as Sony owned the rights to Peter Pan. Our film build up to the premiere of Peter Pan. All the lines of the original play, they had the rights to. They said we would not get the rights until 90 days after the release, which was until spring of 2004. Miramax thought it was more of a fall picture so they pushed it to fall of 2004.

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Washington, D.C.: Did you approach Dustin Hoffman for his role in "Finding Neverland," or did he approach you? It's surprising to see him in such a small role.

Marc Forster: We approached him and he wanted to work with Johnny Depp. And he loved "Monster's Ball" and wanted to work with me. He just wanted to do it out of fun. He liked the two of us and wanted to work with us.

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Tallahassee, Fla.: What makes this film different from all the other "Peter Pan" films that have been released?

Marc Forster: Because this deals with how J.M. Barrie was inspired to write "Peter Pan." So it's a journey about the transformation of imagination.

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Naperville, Ill.: Was Johnny Depp your first choice to play Barrie? Why or why not?

Marc Forster: Yes he was my first choice to play Barrie because he's one of the greatest actors working today. Also, he would understand how to go back and forth between dramatic sequences and the fantasy sequences. The eccentricity of the character and the reality of the character. And still make it truthful and real.

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Arlington, Va.: I realize this isn't related to "Neverland," but I'm wondering what the process was like on the "Monster's Ball" set. You got raw performances out of Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton. How did you work with the actors to achieve that? Do you find that your approach to the acting in that film differs from your approach to the actors in "Neverland," which sounds like a very different kind of story?

Marc Forster: My approach to the actors is different from actor to actor because every actor needs something different. Ultimately my intent is always to get from the actor what I need to sort of fulfill the vision I have in my head. It's the truth of a present state of a character, which in the case of "Monster's Ball" mostly came out of pain and repression. And it's similar though in "Neverland," even though the picture is very different. Most of the emotional depth comes from pain and repression. Even though it's a very different film there are certain parallels.

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Washington, D.C.: How was working with Kate Winslet? Like Johnny Depp, I think she consistently makes smart and interesting choices. Was she eager to do this film or did you have to coax her at all?

Marc Forster: No, she was very passionate in doing this movie. And one of the key things why I wanted to cast her in it is she's a mother herself and would understand working with children. I think she's phenomenal and brilliant and very down to Earth. And smart and creative and passionate about her work.

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Han, Washington, D.C.: Marc, I'm really rooting for this one because I thought the trailer looked really good. Also, because I think every "Peter Pan"-related movie (including the old animated Disney one) was disappointing to awful. Have you gone back to tweak up "Finding Neverland" since the studio has pushed back the release so far?

Marc Forster: No, I didn't. I was pleased with the movie when I finished it last year and haven't touched it since. I was just disappointed I wasn't able to release it last October because of the other Peter Pan film and the rights issues. And thank you for liking the trailer. I hope you will enjoy the movie.

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Belmont Shore, Calif.: Hi Mr. Forster-

Just a comment on how much I enjoyed Finding Neverland and to applaud the decision to remove the Elton John song during the end credits (no offense meant to Sir Elton as I enjoy his work). There were so many emotions running through my mind that listening to another's words would have lessened the impact of the last scene. It's a beautiful movie, heartbreaking and upliftng at the same time; an absolute treasure. Thank you.

Marc Forster: Thank you and thank you for the comment. I agree with you whole-heartedly.

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Washington, D.C.: What about the Oscar buzz surrounding the film? Think Depp will score a nod?

Marc Forster: At this point I just hope that the film finds an audience and that the release will go well. Hopefully we will be received well. We'll see what the next step is. I'm not really thinking ahead that far. I do believe that he deserves a nomination because he's such a good actor.

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Marc Forster: Thank you all for asking and being interested. I hope you all enjoy the movie. There are some preview screenings this weekend so go see the movie if you can.

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