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House of Sand and Fog

Screenplay by Shawn Lawrence Otto, Vadim Perelman (Director)

Studio: (DreamWorks, released Dec. 19 in Los Angeles and New York)

Category: Adapted screenplay

Source material: “House of Sand and Fog,” novel by Andre Dubus III

Storyline: An alcoholic (Jennifer Connelly), who falls apart after her husband leaves, finds herself homeless when a clerical error leads to the foreclosure and sale of her family home. An exiled Iranian air force colonel (Ben Kingsley) buys the house in hopes of restoring his family’s stature and fortune. The struggle between the two over ownership leads to disaster for both.

Biggest challenge: “Finding a way to make it hopeful,” says Lawrence Otto. “The book was kind of bleak and that was a common criticism of it — the ending was very difficult. Vadim and I talked about this a lot. He felt we needed to be respectful of the novel and remain true to it, but to give the ending a little bit of hope.”

Breakthrough idea: “I wanted Kathy (Connelly) to learn something from this so I came up with the new ending. She comes back to the house and finds the tragedy she has helped cause, and that’s when it all comes to her — she created this terrible situation yet these are the only people in her life who have shown her compassion and love, all without using her.”

Favorite scene: “I love the ending sequence, because that’s where we stayed true to the book yet gave the ending some hope.”

Lines we love: “There’s a point in the story when Kathy’s in the house and a police officer asks her if this is her house. She looks around and tells him, ‘No, it’s not my house.’ ”

Writers’ bio: Lawrence Otto’s first screenplay, “Shining White,” won the Heathcote Award, the McKnight Fellowship and the Barry Morrow Fellowship. He lives in Minnesota. Perelman has prevously been active as a commercial director. This is his first screenplay.

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