James C. Strouse of “Grace is Gone”

Posted on January 30, 2008 at 8:00 am

“Grace is Gone” is the story of a father who cannot bear to tell his daughters that their mother has been killed in Iraq, so he takes them on a road trip to a theme park called Enchanted Garden. It was written and directed by James C. Strouse, who spoke to me about making the film.
You worked with two of my favorite actors on this film, John Cusack, who played Stanley and Alessandro Nivola, who played his brother.
John wanted to try something different. It was written pretty specifically, you could see it on the page that was buttoned down and quiet, slightly repressed, and he was excited to try that. I had a backstory for him and put him in touch with a couple of people including a man who lost his wife and has three kids. John was ready to do and came up with a lot of the performance on his own.
Alessandro is just phenomenal. That was one of the last roles we cast and as soon as he read the script he said, “Yes, I’ll do it.” He’s so smart. It’s great to meet an actor who not only understands their part but the larger story as well. It’s kind of a luxury, when they understand the micro and macro at the same time. From the first take, I had very little to say because he just got it so clearly. Like his character, he was a breath of fresh air, a fun presence. The girls just instantly were smitten with him. I loved his film Junebug and I poached as many people as I could from that film, not just Alessandro but also the editor, screened the movie for Junebug’s director Phil Morrison to get his comments.
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