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In the newly Oscar-winning film ‘The Descendants’, Alexandra‘s overbearingly boyish and goofy best friend Sid, played with abandon by rising teen star Nick Krause, is an interloper into the King family who winds up making his own iconoclastic mark on their road adventure. “Sid kind of serves as Alexandra‘s comic relief,” Krause says, so they hang out together, especially in troubled times.
Sid is so laid back that he‘s completely forgotten any social standards. He never knows what to say or how to put anything tactfully. Even though he always means well, he just doesn‘t know how to express it.
That dismaying lack of tact often leads Sid into trouble — as it does when Alexandra‘s grandfather hauls off and socks him for giggling at his wife. The scene became one of author Kaui Hart Hemmings‘ favorites on screen. “I like it because it’s absurd but it also feels so real,” she says. “It‘s almost all dialogue. I really like the moments in a film where not a lot happens, and yet a lot happens.”
“I mean, how often do old people just haul off and cold-cock you in the face?”
Yet, no matter how much Sid provokes the people around him, he also becomes an unlikely uniting force. “I think Sid really grows to be a part of the family while they deal with all these crazy situations that are just stacked one on top of another,” Krause says. “His journey is about becoming part of a new family. He starts out as this kind of stoner guy meeting a friend‘s dad but by the end of the story, he and Matt have a deeper understanding of each other.”
Note: There may be spoilers in the following.
Producer Jim Burke sees Sid as an essential link in the story. “He winds up allowing Matt to connect to his daughters in a way that he never could have if Sid was not there,” says the producer. “Towards the end, he realizes Sid might be the only guy he has to talk to.”
Sid becomes his confessor, although a very unusual one. Like Sid, Matt‘s long-time friends Mark and Kai have a galvanizing effect on the King family — as the only ones who have the real scoop about with whom his wife was cheating. Taking the roles are two actors who both emerged from the comedy world, Rob Huebel and Mary Birdsong. Huebel was excited to be part of one of the film‘s most dramatic scenes, as Matt bursts into their house out of the blue, demanding immediate details on his wife‘s affair, even as she lies in a vegetative state.
Huebel and Birdsong had to walk a tightrope balanced between angst and absurdity. “It‘s a tricky scene because it‘s serious but it has to be funny, too,” notes Huebel. “Mark and Kai are horrified because they knew this was going on and we‘re supposed to be Matt‘s best friends. We try back-pedaling, we try getting out of telling him, we try defending Matt‘s wife, but it only makes Matt angrier. In the end, Mark wants to retain his friendship with Matt, so he tells him the identity of the man his wife was sleeping with. I think that‘s what most guys would do.”
The nervy, multi-layered scene worked, Huebel says, mainly because of Payne‘s ability to set his cast completely at ease. “He‘s just the most precise director I‘ve ever worked with,” he observes. “He had already imagined every nuance and every gesture by the time we were doing the scene and you really feel like ‘oh we‘re going to be fine, because he‘s driving the boat’.”
Birdsong sees Kai as being in a particularly precarious position when Matt finds out about the affair because her loyalties are split. “Matt‘s wife Elizabeth was her closest friend,” she explains. “Now she‘s torn between her devotion to Elizabeth and telling the truth. To her, Elizabeth was this amazing free spirit and now she wants to protect her.”
Like Huebel, Birdsong gives credit to Payne for taking a chance on casting actors from diverse backgrounds. “He has a very original and individual brain,” she describes. “And I think the casting of the film is a testament to his sensibility. He saw something in each of us that would help the story.”