"Our cast came together in an amazingly varied way," says GreeneStreet Partner and Executive Producer Fisher Stevens. "Because the project was in development for a while, the original list of people we came up with was obsolete after six months. By the time we were actually ready to cast the project, our original choices were too old, too big or unavailable. We also needed a strong enough cast to support the financing of a project this size - an important aspect of any type of independent financing. When it came down to it, the casting process was directly effected by when we shot, who seemed right at the time and who was of the right age. "
"Jesse Bradford is an actor we had watched and always kept in our mind," says Penotti. "Fisher had worked with Jesse in "Hackers" and felt very strongly about his talent and ability to pull off a role like this. " While they considered other actors, Bradford was the first choice.
"I took this role because 'Ben' is a great character" says Bradford. "I kind of said to myself after I did my last movie that I wasn't going to do another all-encompassing role because the hours were getting to me. I did two back to back, so it was four months of being on the set 14 hours a day. It can wear you down. But this particular role had a big enough arc that it was very appealing to be able to go through the emotional gauntlet that this character experiences. From having his life stripped from him, to being wrongfully accused, to all of these horrible things happening to him, I thought that it would be interesting to play. I was excited to work with Erika and Shiri, both of whom are very talented. And, the kicker was Polson because I saw "Siam Sunset" and I thought it was fantastic - - it was a really solid film with a lot of creative stuff in it. So, the combination of Erika, Shiri and Polson was a win-win for me. "
Erika Christensen was a lesser-known quantity at the time the casting process started, as "Traffic" had not yet been released. Christensen originally read for the role of 'Amy,' and Polson had liked her performance. When the director and producers saw her performance in "Traffic," they were convinced she should play the role of 'Madison. '
For Christensen, the role was a no brainer. Having come off of the four time Oscar winning "Traffic," she was drawn to darker kind of characters. "I really like that she is in essence the bad guy, but at the same time, she's got vulnerabilities. One can play a villain in different ways - - as completely evil through and through, or evil mixed with vulnerability. I think it is more interesting when there is more dimension to the character - - it makes it more fun for me to play. "
Not only were the characters fun for the actors, the set definitely had its share of pranks as well. For Bradford, the film marked his first on-screen sex scene. "We (Erika and I) had just started making out, and I guess Erika had convinced the sound guy before the scene to put on "Let's Get It On," so when we started making out and the song came on, I just lost it. I couldn't handle it. It was too funny. It was just hilarious. Everybody got a good laugh out of that and it was a late night, so we needed a good laugh!" Christensen was nervous for the love scene as well. "I gave the Marvin Gaye CD to the sound department and said 'Okay, at some point during the night, you have to play "Let's Get It On. "' And so, we're in the middle of a take, making out and you hear that opening part, and we cracked up!"
For the role of 'Amy,' GreeneStreet suggested Shiri Appleby based on her work on "Roswell. " They brought her in to meet with Polson who liked her immediately. "Shiri was the perfect complement to Erika, and with Jesse as the male lead, the three of them created an exceptional 'love' triangle," says Polson.
"My agents told me there was a great script running around town that Jesse Bradford was starring in with Erika Christensen," says Appleby. "The two of them were both people whom I was really excited about, so I went and auditioned, met with Polson and then got the part a week later!"
Appleby identified the most with the character of 'Amy. ' "She's very much an open person, incredibly honest with how she feels and willing to apologize when things aren't going her way, when she has done something wrong, and I think I have some of those traits," she says. "But she's more free and just a lot more creative that I am, which is a lot of fun to play. "
Appleby took intense scuba lessons to prepare for her role (since the production spent almost eight days shooting underwater) and Bradford worked with a swim coach and went on a strict diet to physically look like a championship swimmer. Bradford trained extensively, committing hours on end to lessons and training. "For the month before this movie started, I was literally swimming everyday. I took a lot of lessons and really worked at getting the right form" he says.
Dan Hedaya, who also met with Polson during the initial casting process, was the perfect actor to play "Coach Simkins," Ben's high school swim coach. Kate Burton (Broadway's "Hedda Gabler") followed, and her rapport with the director was instantaneous as well. She slid right into her role as 'Carla Cronin,' Jesse's mother.
"These actors were the best. They did things that I never expected from any of them. With Erika, although I knew what she had in her from "Traffic," I found her range inspiring. Jesse's work from to "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries" all the way back to "King of the Hill" was so impressive," says producer Joe Caracciolo. Polson completely agreed, "The best thing about the shoot was that they were always there, always ready to do anything, always willing to give what was needed to give, always willing to try something…just lovely people. There was no attitude. They were a great cast and we got very lucky. "