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David Magee

'Finding Neverland'

Studio: Miramax (released Nov. 12)

Category: Adapted from the play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan” by Allan Knee.

Storyline: A fictionalized telling of the creation of “Peter Pan,” the classic children’s play. Set in 1904 London, the story joins Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) as one of his plays flops badly. Barrie goes searching for fresh inspiration, which he finds in the Llewelyn Davies family — four boys and their free-spirited, widowed mother, Sylvia (Kate Winslet). Able to unleash his imagination while playing with the boys, Barrie creates the magical world of Neverland and writes his best-known play, “Peter Pan.”

About the script: The screenplay telescopes a decade of Barrie’s life into a single year. Deft and gentle, it shows the playwright’s gradual acceptance of adulthood even as he helps the Llewelyn Davies boys find joy and magic in their childhood world. “Barrie was, in so many ways, just a boy himself,” Magee says. “He pretty much lived in a dream world. A lot of the incidents in the film, like going to the summer cottage to play pirates, actually happened.”

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Biggest challenge: “I had never written a screenplay before, so that was a definite challenge,” says Magee. “But since I had no idea that it would go as far as it did, I had no expectations and really didn’t feel any pressure except to enjoy myself.”

Breakthrough idea: “Knee had already eliminated the (Llewelyn Davies) father in his play, which was an important step. I took his lead and did the same,” says Magee. “I was most interested in telling a story about what it means to grow up. I was at the point in my own life where I was examining things. I was becoming a father for the first time and facing my own responsibilities, and my own father, who had cancer, was dying.”

Standout scene: “When Freddie Llewelyn Davies smashes up the playhouse. That was the most amazing moment for me because even though I had written it, I didn’t realize it could be as powerful as that.”

Choice lines: J.M. Barrie speaking to George Llewelyn Davies as the boy makes a difficult decision. “Look at that. How magnificent. The boy is gone. Somewhere during the last 30 seconds you’ve become a grown-up. Well, then … you’re the one who should talk to her, George.” Magee wrote a version of the line but Depp ad-libbed the take that appeared in the film. “It was much better than what I had written,” Magee says. “Johnny took it and turned it just a bit and we see Barrie’s own wistful pride at George growing up a little.”

Writer’s bio: Magee is a first-time screenwriter. He wrote “Finding Neverland” six years ago, when he was 36. He had previously worked as an actor, and at abridging audio books. “Finding Neverland” was named best film of 2004 by the National Board of Review.