Rose Lorkowski (Adams), a former high school cheerleader and now a thirty-something maid, is trying to create a better life for herself and her eccentric eight-year-old son Oscar (Spevack). Her burn-out younger sister Norah (Blunt) still lives at home with their father Joe (Arkin), who's on the latest of a life-long string of get-rich-quick schemes. When Rose learns of the big money to be made in the crime scene cleaning and bio-hazard removal business, she and Norah partner up to create their own company, Sunshine Cleaning. The venture proves useful in helping the girls clean up their own lives, as well as what's left of the lives of others.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
The Inspiration for Sunshine Cleaning
"I got the idea for Sunshine Cleaning from a story I heard on NPR. I'm a big fan of NPR and they were doing a piece on crime scene cleaning," explains writer Megan Holly. "I thought you know that would be a fantastic backdrop to tell a story. I started working on the script and I just wrote a couple hours everyday before work. It took me a while but I finally got it finished. Then I sent it off to a local screenwriting contest. It just happened that Glenn Williamson, one of the producers, was on the panel of the contest. I ended up winning, which was fantastic. But even better than that, I made this connection with Glenn and he told me he really loved the script and wanted to produce it."
From Little Miss Sunshine to Sunshine Cleaning
Sunshine Cleaning is produced by Clean Sweep Productions, LLC. Clean Sweep joins Back Lot Productions head Glenn Williamson, producer of the critically acclaimed Hollywoodland and Big Beach's Jeb Brody, Peter Saraf and Marc Turtletaub, producers of the Academy Award Nominee, Little Miss Sunshine.
"The Sunshine Cleaning script was sent to me by the writer's agent who's a childhood friend of mine. She said, 'Read this; let me know what you think,'" explains producer Jeb Brody. "I read it and I said, 'Call her back right away, we're going to make this movie.' I just think it's brilliant. I sent it to Marc (Turtletaub) and Peter (Saraf) and they took a look, and everybody agreed. I called Glenn Williamson, who was already attached to the project. We started having great conversations about it and it was as simple as that. We fell in love with it and felt like this is a movie that needed to be made. It's a story with such subtlety and nuance, and we found it to be an incredible story about loneliness, loss and coming of age."
"It's just one of those crazy coincidences," says Brody when asked if all films the Big Beach team makes will have the word "Sunshine" in the title. "Peter (Saraf) has two kids, Olive and Oscar, and Olive is the name of the little girl in Little Miss Sunshine, and Oscar is the name of the little boy in Sunshine Cleaning and that's just another weird coincidence that has nothing to do with anything."
About the Story
Sunshine Cleaning revolves around Rose and Norah Lorkowski and the crime-scene cleaning business they start as a way to earn money and self-respect. "It's about people finding themselves and getting closer to who they are and accepting that," says Williamson. "It's also about family healing, which is the theme or thread that runs through it."
"I had heard a radio show about a crime scene cleaner a number of years ago, and I thought that would be a great character for a movie," says producer Peter Saraf. "I never went anywhere with it and then this script lands on my desk, which is this wonderfully emotional story, where these young women start cleaning up after crimes as a way to make money and find a sense of self-esteem through the work. In doing something practical and useful for people in a time of crisis, they're able to figure out their own lives."
"Rose is a single mom who doesn't always make the best choices for herself or her son who has been getting in trouble in school," says actor Amy Adams when asked about her character. "She's put in a predicament where she feels that private school would be best for him but can't afford it. She hears through a man that she's having an affair with, a cop (Steve Zahn), that there is a service of cleaners that clean up crime scenes and that they make a lot of money. She gets it in her head that maybe she could do this and provide better for her son and her family."
"Rose convinces her sister Norah to start a crime scene cleaning service," explains Adams. "At first they're not very good at it. They don't really know that it's a profession that involves a lot of rules. They end up getting pretty good at it though."
"Norah is attracted to anything that's colorful and of a different dimension. I think she lives in her own world partly to escape," says actor Emily Blunt. "That's why she smokes a lot of pot I think. Partly to escape but also because I think she has a lot of questions that have never been answered, everything has sort of been swept under the carpet in her family.
"Rose and Norah start up a crime scene and biohazard removal company called Sunshine Cleaning," Blunt continues. "This is not colorful or interesting to Norah so she is dragged kicking and screaming to the first gig. But I think eventually she's fascinated by other people's worlds, with this job, other people's tragedy and the trinkets that surround her when she enters each crime scene."
Directing Sunshine Cleaning
"At one point there was a different director involved and for all sorts of reasons it ended up a different way. We were looking for directors and I'd worked with Christine Jeffs on Sylvia when I was head of production at Focus Features," says Williamson. "I knew her and really believed in her talent. She read the script and fell in love with it. The story's got a real interesting mix of comedy and real human drama and emotion. Christine is really talented with drama and she's got an off beat sense of humor. She has a gift with the camera and with the actors. I knew she'd create a great visual style for this movie."
"She's really brought a lot to my creativity," says Adams when asked about working with Jeffs. "I'll go in to a scene really seeing it a certain way and she'll give me just a couple clues that'll take it in a completely different direction and give it so much more dimension than I thought possible."
"I like Christine a lot," adds actor Steve Zahn. "She's very instinctual, not very vocal, but for some reason on set you really kind of trust it."
Casting the right characters to play Rose and Norah Lorkowski was essential. "The film is a story about sisters in a lot of ways," explains Brody. "It was really important to find the right Rose, and then, once we had the right Rose to find the right Norah. Amy Adams' name came up early for the character of Rose. The character is an ex-cheerleader who, as an adult, finds that just being an ex-cheerleader doesn't really get you very far. Rose has this depth that she hasn't really tapped very often, and now is her opportunity. Amy just seemed like the perfect person for that."
Emily Blunt was cast as Rose's sister, Norah. "It's easy to paint Nora as a character who's a bit of a stoner that just hasn't done anything with her time because she's lazy, but that's an incredibly boring character," says Brody. "Emily brings a great amount of depth to the character. She can be naturally funny without pushing it, and she can also be incredibly sweet and real."
The film also stars Alan Arkin as Joe Lorkowski, Rose and Norah's father. "Allan Arkin is a national treasure and getting to work with him on Little Miss Sunshine was a dream come true," says Saraf. "I called him for the part of Joe because he lives in New Mexico."
"If you like performers and if you like movies you can't help but love Alan Arkin," adds Brody. "When it came time for this movie we thought about Alan Arkin but there was definitely a sense of oh, we just worked with Alan. But the more we talked about other actors, the more we realized he was really the only person we wanted."
Filming in Albuquerque, New Mexico
A key element in the production was the decision to shoot the film in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "We decided to film in New Mexico for a couple of reasons," says producer Marc Turtletaub. "First we had to have a good tax incentive. There were a few states that offered good incentives but New Mexico and in particular Albuquerque gave a great feel to the film. We needed a city that had 2 sides of the tracks because one of the leading characters, Rose, is somebody who had all these aspirations in high school and then sort of ends up on the wrong side of the tracks. Albuquerque offered us that."
"We were flying here to scout the location," explains Williamson. "We were maybe 5 minutes from landing when Christine (Jeffs) says, 'I love it, I want to make the movie here.' We hadn't even landed yet. It's got this real natural beauty but it's also got this real sort of suburban landscape of fast food restaurants and chain stores which is everywhere in America."
"In terms of visual style you can shoot wide in this town," says Director of Photography John Toon. "In Albuquerque you can shoot almost anywhere, the city's extremely film friendly. You can travel around the city really easily, and the light and the weather are very conducive to what we wanted to do."
ABOUT THE CAST
AMY ADAMS (Rose Lorkowski)
Academy Award nominated actress Amy Adams has built an impressive list of credits in a short period of time, challenging herself with each new role. Adams' role as the pregnant, childlike 'Ashley' who is awe-struck by the arrival of her glamorous sister-in-law in Phil Morrison's Junebug earned her nominations for an Academy Award and a SAG Award in 2005. She also won awards for this role from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, National Society of Film Critics, San Francisco Film Critics Society, as well as the Independent Spirit Award, Breakthrough Gotham Award and the Special Jury Prize for Acting at the Sundance Film Festival.
Adams' other film credits include Adam McKay's Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby with Will Ferrell, Clare Kilner's The Wedding Date with Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney, Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, Reginald Hudlin's Serving Sara, Anthony Abrams' Pumpkin, Drop Dead Gorgeous, and Psycho Beach Party.
Adams will next be seen in Kevin Lima's Enchanted opposite James Marsden, Idina Menzel, Patrick Dempsey and Susan Sarandon scheduled to be released by Disney on November 21, 2007. She will also star in Mike Nichols' Charlie Wilson's War opposite Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Emily Blunt and Phillip Seymour Hoffman to be released by Universal Pictures on December 25, 2007.
EMILY BLUNT (Norah Lorkowski)
Emily Blunt shot to international prominence with her role as the mysterious, privileged Tamsin in Pawel Pawlikowski's award-winning film, My Summer of Love, which earned her Most Promising Newcomer at the 2004 Evening Standard Film Awards and a nomination in the Best Newcomer category at the British Independent Film Awards.
In 2006, Blunt starred as the intensely neurotic Emily Charlton in The Devil Wears Prada opposite Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. For her performance, Blunt was honored with the Breakthrough Award at Movieline's Young Hollywood Awards. She also received several nominations including Breakthrough Female by the Teen Choice Awards and Best Supporting Actress by the Golden Globes and BAFTA.
In 2007, Blunt received a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series for her performance as Natasha in the British Television series, Gideon's Daughter.
Blunt will next be seen in multiple projects including The Jane Austen Book Club co-starring Maria Bello, Frances McDormand, Kevin Zegers and Hugh Dancy. She will also star in Mike Nicholls's Charlie Wilson's War opposite Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams and Philip Seymor Hoffman to be released by Universal Pictures on December 25, 2007.
STEVE ZAHN (Mack)
A versatile actor with extensive credits, Steve Zahn has received critical praise for his work on both stage and screen. His standout performance in Miramax Films' Happy, Texas garnered him many accolades, including a Grand Jury Special Actor Award at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, and an Independent Spirit Award for Best Actor.
Zahn's past credits include Paramount Pictures' Sahara, with Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz, and provided the voice of Runt for the Disney animated blockbuster Chicken Little, alongside Zach Braff, Garry Marshall and Joan Cuzack. Other credits include Shattered Glass, from Lion's Gate Films, with Hayden Christensen and Chloe Sevigny, Revolution Films' Daddy Daycare, opposite Eddie Murphy, National Security, with Martin Lawrence, John Dahl's thriller Joy Ride, and Penny Marshall's Riding in Cars with Boys.
Zahn recently completed production on The Great Buck Howard alongside Tom Hanks, John Malkovich and Colin Hanks for Playtone Films and Bristol Bay Productions. His upcoming feature films include Strange Wilderness, produced by Happy Madison and Level One," and 20th Century Fox's Bandidas, opposite Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
CHRISTINE JEFFS (Director)
Christine Jeffs was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. She graduated from Massey University with a B.A. in Sociology and Geography.
Jeffs entered the film industry to work in post-production sound. Becoming an assistant editor, she worked on several New Zealand documentaries as well as such feature films as Melanie Read's Send a Gorilla, Gaylene Preston's Ruby and Rata, John Laing's Absent Without Leave, and Alison Maclean's Crush (starring Marcia Gay Harden). In 1990, she completed a diploma in editing at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School and began cutting films as well as commercials.
Her first short film, Stroke, which she wrote, directed and edited, was screened at numerous film festivals including Cannes and Sundance. Her first feature film, Rain, for which she adapted the screenplay from Kirsty Gunn's novel, was selected for its World Premiere in the Directors Fortnight at the 2001 Cannes International Film Festival. After Cannes, Rain was invited to screen all over the world. Concurrent with its screening at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2002, Jeffs was named one of Daily Variety's "10 Directors to Watch."
In 2003, Jeffs directed Focus Features' Sylvia, the biographical story of prominent American Poet, Syliva Plath and her husband Ted Hughes. The film starred Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig.
MEGAN HOLLY (Writer)
Based in Richmond, Virginia, Megan Holley was named one of Variety's 10 Screenwriter's to watch in 2005. Her first studio assignment followed soon after, adapting Maureen Johnson's teen lit novel 'The Key to the Golden Firebird' for Fox 2000. Les Morgenstein and Bob Levy of Alloy Entertainment are producing. Currently, she is adapting A.N. Wilson's supernatural thriller, A Jealous Ghost for Paramount Vantage. Kirsten Dunst is attached to both star in and produce the project along with Management 360's feature film label, film 360. In addition to the feature film work, Megan is also developing a television project with Greer Shepard (The Closer, Nip/Tuck) for Warner Brothers.
THE ART OF ORIGINAL FILMMAKING