‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ Michael Arndt

Original screenplay contender

DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: Fox Searchlight/July 26

STORYLINE: A squabbling family regains its heart on a cross-country trek.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: Arndt says: “It’s been described in shorthand as being about a dysfunctional family, but I’d say they’re six dysfunctional individuals who come together as a family. These self-absorbed, myopic individuals see their dreams crumble, but through this experience they learn to be more selfless and forgiving of each other in a very functional way.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Honestly, preventing the script from being changed. I worked hard to write a script that felt polished and ready to shoot, but when it was picked up by Focus, even though it got better there, it seemed like we spent an enormous amount of time fighting off making changes for change’s sake.”

BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: “I’d been looking for an unbelievably great ending, one that would make the audience berserk with happiness. I saw a few clips on TV of little skinny girls in beauty pageants, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if a little fat girl just got up onstage and you thought it was going to be a disaster, but instead she just rocked the house and blew everybody away?’ ”

CHOICE LINES: Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) paraphrases Proust to Duane (Paul Dano): ‘The happy years are the wasted years, and the years that make you suffer are the years that make you who you are.” Duane replies, “Fuck beauty pageants. Life is one fucking beauty pageant after another.”

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