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Lucy Punch plays Sarah, Kate Hudson’s character Marley’s co-worker at the ad agency and her after-hours party partner, in the new movie ‘A Little Bit of Heaven’. The two women share the same ribald humor, and their relationship is obviously complicit in an early scene when Marley arrives late for a big client meeting.
Their seamless banter tracks from the moment Marley breezes into the office and “she dumps her stuff, she has her bike, she changes her shoes, she’s putting on her jacket, she’s doing her hair, she’s looking for the story boards, she’s in the room, she’s does the pitch, she wins the client,” recalled Punch, who thought Kate’s naturally vivacious personality added an unexpected element to the unfolding of Marley’s story, and motivated Punch to take the role.
“The prospect of losing her childhood friend is crushing, but Sarah makes a promise to herself she’s not going to cry or be sad in front of her,” Punch said. Added Hudson, “She’s the only character in the film who always lets me deal with everything through my sense of humor and helps me keep myself normal.”
“Marley is a very specific type of person who loves being surrounded by a group of friends that evoke different emotions,” says Romany Malco, who plays Peter, Marley’s friend and neighbor. “All her friends serve different purposes, and Peter is a very earnest and engaging individual who has complete understanding that the last thing Marley needs in this scenario is sympathy.
When a friend may be dying, you almost instinctively make it about you because selfishly you don’t want to lose them. Peter became a servant from the beginning and I found that to be an extremely touching and evolved way to go about it.”
Marley’s friend Renee (Rosemarie DeWitt), mother of 2-year-old Cammie and pregnant again when the story begins, is more pragmatic about the situation. “They are the kind of friends who challenge each other and support each other in leading the biggest, best life,” said DeWitt, who was drawn to the “messiness” of the big things that happen in our life and the film’s mix of drama, buoyancy and life.
“She’s a bit of a fixer and thinks the way to Marley’s happiness is to get a guy, get a house, and have some kids. But Marley is always living life to the fullest and I think that causes a lot of concern, so they kind of go separate ways for a time.”
During her early visits with Dr. Julian Goldstein (Gael Garcia Bernal), Marley deflects the seriousness of his questions with humor. “Dr. Goldstein diagnoses Marley and attends to her early in her illness and becomes an accomplice in her journey,” says Bernal. Said Hudson: “In the beginning, he’s so straight and against every type Marley’s ever known and yet he’s so available for her to be vulnerable. She has to literally get naked in front of this man and he’s accepting of it. He truly accepts her.”
“I love casting in kind of unexpected ways and allowing actors to show work that they haven’t necessarily gotten to do, and he hasn’t done an American film of this type, so it feels very exciting,” said director Nicole Kassell about bringing Gael to the production.
“I got very emotional when I read it, because it’s surprising in the nuances and the way that it deals with the matter of death and the enjoyment of life,” said Bernal. “They fall in love with there being no certainty of a future, so it’s perhaps a very pure love in the sense that it’s an uninterested love, and they accompany each other and they live the moment very strongly.”
When Bernal expressed interest in the part, the producers pushed the start date of the film three months to accommodate his schedule. “He brings so much charm to the role,” said John Davis. “He’s mysterious and so accessible at the same time.”
Marley’s joie de vivre is synonymous with the heart and soul of New Orleans, so it is fitting that the production eventually chose to call that city Marley’s home. “It’s a strong choice for a place to live for someone and Marley is not from here,” explained Kassell. “Having lived here through the shoot, I found a lot of people come here and never leave. And Marley fits that mold.”
Image Courtesy of A Little Bit of Heaven