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For the role of the more free-spirited Penny in the new movie ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’, the filmmakers sought out Keira Knightley. The actress recalls, “My agent sent me the script. I thought it was one of the most strangely optimistic pieces that I’d read, and I instantly said, ‘Yeah, I want to be a part of it.’ It was one of the best scripts I’d seen in years – and so unique.
“I got on the phone with Lorene and we had a great chat for about an hour. I don’t think we even actually talked about the film. We talked about our mothers, and about family.” Producer Mark Roybal notes that “there’s a profound depth Keira brings to Penny even when her character’s behavior is whimsical, spontaneous, or flighty. There’s a light in her eyes that reflects her inner light, which is why Penny is Dodge’s beacon.”
Producer Steve Golin adds, “Keira is a lot of fun to watch as Penny. She is wellknown for making movies set in different time periods, so playing a funny modern girl – in sneakers! – is a fresh turn for her.” Knightley admits, “I love doing modern-day movies – because I’m able to get up later in the morning.”
“I knew she’d be amazing and stunning and super-smart,” says director Lorene Scafaria. “But here’s the surprise; she is so damn funny. So there’s this refreshing blend of Keira, known as a dramatic actress, being more of a comedienne; and Steve, known as a comedic actor, doing a more dramatic role.
“Steve and Keira play off each other so well and have such great chemistry. Getting to hear my words said by these two actors? I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Carell’s real-life wife, actress Nancy Carell, makes a very brief but memorable appearance opposite him in the first scene of the film – as Dodge’s wife Linda, who abandons him upon hearing a breaking news report; namely, Earth has less than one month left because the attempt to obliterate the 70-mile-wide asteroid (“Matilda”) has failed. As Scafaria remembers it, “Since she was so right for the part, I suggested it to Steve’s agent; would his wife be interested in playing his wife? I was secretly a little worried, but Nancy saw the humor in it. “It was the last scene we shot, and we filmed it on their actual anniversary, which was both very appropriate and very inappropriate.”
A key sequence further dramatizing people coping – or not – with the world ending soon follows with the dinner party hosted by Dodge’s closest friends, Warren (Rob Corddry) and Diane (Connie Britton). Scafaria wrote the set piece as one “which would normally put Dodge in a safe place, but it’s not quite as safe any more. There are couples, and individuals, acting out. Some debauched behavior ensues, which is not what Dodge is looking for even at this critical time.”
Dodge’s journey is jump-started after he and his barely acquainted neighbor Penny are set on their course – by a full-blown riot. “I’ve always found the mob mentality to be so strange,” says Scafaria. “I don’t know how people get so caught up in it and lose sight of the fact that they’re human beings and not animals. But if the world were ending, I do think some people would get violent.
“So, in the story, people are rioting but it’s like, for what? Against what? For what possible result? I wanted it to feel not only scary but also ridiculous.” Roybal sees the sequence as “crucial, because Dodge and Penny reach their decisions to trust each other.”
Image Courtesy of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World