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Interview with King of California director

Sundance Online Dailies Editor Sandy Mandelberger sat down with director Mike Cahill to discuss KING OF CALIFORNIA: one of the more anticipated big-name films that has its world premiere later this week in Sundance, a comedy drama about the often flinty relationship between a father and a daughter. The film stars Michael Douglas in one of the quirkiest performances of his long career, and Evan Rachel Wood, a fast rising star who made her mark a few years ago with the Sundance sleeper THIREEN (directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who is serving as a juror this year).

KING OF CALIFORNIA will have its world premiere screening on Wednesday, January 24 at the Eccles Center. At the moment, the film does not have a distributor attached, but super-agent Cassian Elwes of the William Morris Agency is coordinating sales activities. A bidding war seems in the offing. Casting these two Hollywood names is quite the coup for debut director Mike Cahill, who also wrote the script. The film is the touching if often raucous story of two people: a slightly insane father played by Michael Douglas who involves his slackerish daughter in a search for hidden treasure. Is there really gold in them thar hills or is still just another pipedream of the seriously loony Dad?

Sundance Online Dailies Editor Sandy Mandelberger sat down with director Mike Cahill to discuss the origins of the story, his challenges in bringing it to the screen, and how a fledgling filmmaker was able to corral such top name talent for a first time directorial effort.

Sandy Mandelberger (SM): What inspired you to create this powerful relationship between a father and a daughter? Does it relate to a relationship in your own life?
Mike Cahill (MC): I wrote a draft of the script fifteen years ago and it was no good, so I put it away and wrote some books and other things. Ten years later I realized that the main characters were wrong, so I wrote a new draft with the current characters and it got written fast Of course, I'd thought about it for years. I can't say that I have ever experienced exactly the sort of relationship that Charlie and Miranda have, but it's something I've seen a lot around me; that is, the child who is parent to the parent.

SM: How did you get Michael Douglas interested in the project?
MC: We simply sent him the script.

SM: What were the qualities you were looking for in the young girl, and what was it about Evan Rachel Wood that stood out for you?
MC: The character of Miranda needed to be self-reliant, adaptable and strong. But she also needed to be able to show that all of her father's
craziness did not seem crazy to her, because that's all she's known.

SM: Describe how you got Michael London and Alexander Payne (of SIDEWAYS fame) involved in your directorial debut? Was there ever a question that you would direct the final version?
MC: Alexander Payne read the script, took it to Michael London, and the two of them said they'd like to produce it together. No one else ever offered to direct it, so I got stuck with the job.
More on Sundance 07 dailies blog

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