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Lars and the Real Girl - In Love with a Doll

Author: Darryn King
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
3D’s Philippa Wherrett talks dolls with Lars And The Real Girl director Craig Gillespie.

As soon as Australian born film director Craig Gillespie read Lars and the Real Girl he wanted to direct it. “I read hundreds of scripts and this is the only script I ever read that I knew exactly how I wanted to shoot it,” he says.

Penned by Six Feet Under writer Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl is the story of a maladjusted young man, played by Ryan Gosling, who buys himself a girlfriend – the anatomically correct doll Bianca. An offbeat romance with a unique sense of humour and a screenplay that it seemed everyone loved, it still took four years to find a studio that would take the film onboard.

Lars and the Real Girl is Gillespie’s second film. His first, a comedy called Mr Woodcock was a mixed experience for Gillespie. He and the studio had different ideas about the film’s tone. For Gillespie it was a worthwhile learning curve.

“As a first time director [on Woodcock] I felt I had to show everybody I knew exactly what I was doing. So I came in and I said the camera’s here, the actor’s doing this and this and let’s go,” he says. “Everybody’s happy, but it wasn’t that fulfilling for me. On Lars I wanted it to be a collaborative experience and let go of the reins a little bit, let everybody be involved and see where it goes.” The result is the best performance of Gosling’s career to date, and a film with an expanse of wide shots and minimal music.

Gillespie and Gosling enjoyed their collaboration so much they kept a special souvenir. Two Bianca dolls were used during the shoot. One went home with Gosling. One went home with Gillespie.

“She sits upstairs in the spare room,” Gillespie admits. “You can see her in the window. The neighbours are always commenting on her. She was in the living room for a while, but the kids asked her to be moved.”

Maybe not so strange when you consider that on set the director, who has a wicked sense of humour, made some rules about interaction with the dolls.

“I felt like Ryan had to go to such an emotional place, if there was any kind of snickering or disrespect going on, it would really hurt the intent of the movie,” he says. The Biancas had their own trailer, were changed off set and one Bianca stood behind the camera when Gosling did his lines. There was even a closed set for the bath scene. It’s no wonder Gillespie couldn’t bring himself to pack Bianca up into her box afterwards. “There’s a whole Freudian thing going on there.”

There’s no over-arching message with Lars, according to Gillespie. “It’s a different experience with everybody I’ve seen it with. Some people will be in this really emotional moment and get annoyed with the person next to them who’s laughing. People are individuals and I love that everybody brings their own baggage to it.”

WHEN: In cinemas 3 April