Love's Labors Won


By Anne Burke

Published Jul 21, 2006 5:37 PM

Focus finally let go of the project. "I just don't think they got the film and it wasn't the right time," added Faris, who seems to not want to cause hard feelings. In the end, Focus' departure wasn't a bad thing at all. Marc Turtletaub, a business tycoon and early producer on the project, bought back Little Miss Sunshine and put up the entire $8 million production cost.

The cast fell into place. The filmmakers got Steve Carell (after he had made The 40-year-old Virgin but before the film's release) as the suicidal brother and Greg Kinnear as the dad, an annoyingly upbeat motivational speaker. Toni Collette signed on as the frayed-at-the-edges mom; young Abigail Breslin, who carried a fluffy, live dog to the Los Angeles Film Festival premiere at the Wadsworth Theatre in July, is Olive, the pageant hopeful. "Alan Arkin was the final one to join the group, which was beyond anything we expected," Faris said. Shooting took place over 27 days, mostly in Los Angeles.

At last winter's Sundance Film Festival, Little Miss Sunshine was a surprise hit. When the crowd at the Eccles theater broke into applause not half an hour into the film, Dayton and Faris were elated. Following an all-night bidding war, Little Miss Sunshine sold to Fox Searchlight for $10.5 million, setting a Sundance record for a single-picture deal.

The buzz for Little Miss Sunshine is about as good as it gets. "There is no more satisfying American comedy this year," wrote Newsweek's David Ansen. Film writer John Horn of the Los Angeles Times called it the rare Sundance hit that actually lives up to its hype.

Still, Dayton and Faris aren't sure whether they have a hit on their hands. They'll be thrilled if they do, but if not, that's OK. Making a commercial hit "wasn't necessarily something we set out to do," Faris said. Added Dayton: the best part is that "we now have a finished film that we're really proud of and look forward to showing people."