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'In Her Shoes' Director Curtis Hanson


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

The term `chick flick' has been added to the pages of the latest Merriam-Webster dictionary. It's defined as `a motion picture intended to appeal especially to women,' which brings us to the new film "In Her Shoes" and the question: Does the film fit that definition? It stars Cameron Diaz as Maggie and Toni Collette as Rose, two sisters who are opposites and best friends, that is, until Diaz's character makes herself too welcome on older sister Collette's couch.

(Soundbite of "In Her Shoes")

Ms. TONI COLLETTE: (As Rose Feller) My car has a boot on it. How the hell did my car get a boot on it?

Ms. CAMERON DIAZ: (As Maggie Feller) Well, I was trying to tell you. I used it the other day...

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Rose) Five years I've had that car. Not one ticket. You use it without permission for two days...

(Soundbite of Touch-Tone phone)

Unidentified Woman: (On phone) Melanie Jones.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Rose) Melanie, it's me.

Unidentified Woman: Hi, Rose.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Rose) There's an emergency and I can't make it to court. Can you send someone to cover for me?

Unidentified Woman: Got it.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Rose) Thank you. You ruin everything. I can't take this anymore, Maggie. I can't. I want you out. Now, today, before I get home from work.

Ms. DIAZ: (As Maggie) Where am I supposed to go?

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Rose) That is not my problem. You are your problem. You figure it out.

NORRIS: "In Her Shoes" is a surprising choice for director Curtis Hanson. He's best known for movies that are very much not chick flicks, the noirish "L.A. Confidential" and the gritty "8 Mile" starring rapper Eminem. Hanson resists the chick flick label, even though high heels are a central theme. He says the story that follows the sisters and their grandmother, played by Shirley MacLaine, has universal appeal.

Mr. CURTIS HANSON (Director, "In Her Shoes"): We are encouraged to see them the way they see themselves. You know, Maggie is someone who's been able to cruise by in life based on what she looks like. Rose, on the other hand, her sister, is an overachiever. She's somebody who took on responsibility at a very early age and basically has denied herself the opportunity to discover who she is. Ella, their grandmother, is hiding from life, unable to care for herself. In this sense, what you have are three people who are uncomfortable in their own shoes, and it's that journey to become comfortable with who they are that the story is really about.

NORRIS: The relationship and the chemistry between the two sisters, it would seem to be so important. So how is it that you found just the right actresses for this and how did you finally settle on Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette?

Mr. HANSON: Well, actually when the script was sent to me Cameron was already interested potentially in being in it. Who better than Cameron Diaz to play this character, who has been allowed to cruise by in life based on what she looks like? The question that I had: Was she fully prepared to go to the dark side of Maggie to play the fear and insecurity that lurked behind that beautiful image? And when she and I got together and talked about the character and the movie it could be, we found ourselves finishing each other's sentences and just decided to team up immediately.

Toni Collette came next, and that involved getting Toni over here from Australia and putting her in a room with Cameron and just seeing how the two of them connected. And their...

NORRIS: What happened when you put them in the room together?

Mr. HANSON: It was very interesting 'cause they didn't know each other. It started with a little bit of a discussion about the script, but then it very quickly evolved into a discussion about personal things. And it was as though I wasn't even there, which I liked. It was like being in the girls' locker room for--as a fly on the wall as these two were having this amazingly intimate conversation after only knowing each other literally a few minutes.

With Shirley it was a little bit different. When Shirley walked into the room, they looked up and saw Shirley MacLaine and you could just see their intimidation and a little bit of awe.

NORRIS: It's easy to see how she could be absolutely intimidating. There's actually a scene in the film where Cameron Diaz walks in the kitchen and puts here feet on the counter. I'm thinking `Oh, my goodness. She just put her feet on Shirley MacLaine's counter.'

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HANSON: Yes. With Shirley, my question in terms of casting her, I said to her something to the effect of, you know, on the one hand, it would be really exciting to work together. On the other hand, you are big. You are big in your personality. You are big in your talent. What would happen if you played this character who is hiding from life, who is small in every way? I could just see her eyes lighting up as she was not only absorbing what I was saying about Ella, the character, but she was also, I felt, taking what I was saying as a challenge. And Shirley, first and foremost, is someone that loves a challenge.

NORRIS: Can I go back to the sisters? You noted that when Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette got together that they were very quickly very intimate. But these are two sisters who also could really go at each other's throats. There's a scene in the film where they're actually sitting in front of Rose's closet and they're talking to each other. I'd like to listen to that clip, but why don't you tell us what's going on right here.

(Soundbite of "In Her Shoes")

Ms. DIAZ: (As Maggie) Now, you don't even wear most of these. Shoes like these should not be locked in a closet. They should be living a life of scandal and passion and getting screwed in an alleyway by a billionaire while his frigid wife waits in the limo thinking that he just went back into the bar to get his cell phone. These are cute, too.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Rose): Please tell me you just made that up.

Ms. DIAZ: (As Maggie) Look, if you're not going to wear them, don't buy them. Leave them for somebody who's going to get something out of them.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Rose) I get something out of them. When I feel bad, I like to treat myself. Clothes never look any good. Food just makes me fatter. Shoes always fit.

NORRIS: `Shoes always fit.'

Mr. HANSON: `Shoes always fit.' That clip illustrates what a wonderful title "In Her Shoes" is for this material. You know, who hasn't looked at someone else's life and said `Why can't I have some of that good fortune, that good luck?' And yet what the story is really about, as life is really about, is becoming comfortable in your own shoes.

NORRIS: The movie stars three actresses, but when you see the movie posters that are in movieplexes all across the country, you only see one of those actresses in most of those posters. That's Cameron Diaz. I'm wondering what you think about that.

Mr. HANSON: Well, I think marketing a movie that is not easily targeted for a certain demographic presents a challenge, and the marketing departments are never that excited to see me coming, I think...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HANSON: ...because, you know, what interests me first and foremost in the pictures I make are the people, the life issues that they're dealing with. And from a marketing point of view it's usually the plot that wants to come first. And we live in a time when movies live and die by their opening weekend, and Cameron Diaz is a big movie star and it's, I think, a natural impulse to have led with that. My own preference, actually, is to get away from movie star heads altogether. In other words, for "In Her Shoes" what I would have loved was some kind of image that probably didn't feature any of the actors in it.

NORRIS: What image are you thinking about?

Mr. HANSON: Well, it probably would have been shoe-related.

NORRIS: A killer pair of shoes?

Mr. HANSON: Yes, or a couple of pairs of shoes, you know, that tried to sum up that concept.

NORRIS: Curtis Hanson, it's been great talking to you.

Mr. HANSON: Thank you. I enjoyed it very much.

NORRIS: Curtis Hanson is the director of "In Her Shoes." The film opens on Friday.

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.