"Lovely Bones" overcomes rough start

Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:27pm EST
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By Irene Lacher

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - It was October 2007, a month before filming began on "The Lovely Bones," when Fran Walsh realized she had miscast her male lead.

The co-writer/producer, along with director Peter Jackson and the rest of the filmmakers, had cast Ryan Gosling and Rachel Weisz as parents of 14-year-old Susie Salmon, whose murder and journey through the "in-between" powers Alice Sebold's novel and the film. Although Gosling, then 27, had grown a beard and packed on 20 pounds to appear more convincing as the father of a teenager, he dropped out because of what was reported at the time as "creative differences."

But Walsh says that everyone agreed he was miscast.

"Ryan came to us two or three times and said, 'I'm not the right person for this role. I'm too young,'" she recalled. "And we said, 'No, no, no. We can age you up. We can thin your hair.' We were very keen.

"It wasn't until we were in preproduction and we had the cast there that it became increasingly clear: He was so uncomfortable moving forward, and we began to feel he was not right. It was our blindness, the desire to make it work no matter what."

That desire to make "Bones" work has powered the filmmakers through several obstacles on the path to awards season. Case in point: Mark Wahlberg, who is a decade older and the father of three, quickly was signed to step in for Gosling.

"He has seven or eight siblings, and he understands the chaos of family," Walsh said. "He really anchored the story. He gave a solidity to the storytelling from our point of view."

Before "Bones" could become a Jackson film, the director needed to secure the film rights from FilmFour. The film unit of London-based Channel 4 first boarded the project in 2000, when "Bones" was an uncompleted manuscript.   Continued...

<p>Director Peter Jackson (L) of New Zealand poses for photographers with actresses Saoirse Ronan (C) of Ireland and Susan Sarandon on the red carpet at the Australian premiere of the film "The Lovely Bones" in Sydney December 10, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz</p>