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Lars and the Real Girl

Screenwriter: Nancy Oliver

Distrib/Release Date: MGM/Oct. 12

Storyline: A withdrawn data-entry specialist channels his insecurities into a chaste love affair with a life-size, mail-order doll, which his family and community accept as a way to conquer his madness.

About the script: Finding the right tone — a precise distance between saccharine and grim — was key to the script’s viability. “An inch in either direction would have been dreadful,” Oliver says.

Biggest challenge: “I got stuck on the character of Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson). She started out as two people, (but) that didn’t work at all structurally and in terms of what I was trying to do, which was making a fable. I ended up making the two characters as one, and the story started to move again.”

Breakthrough idea: “I’ve had a lot of experience working with, and close to, people with mental illness. I stumbled across a RealDoll website in the course of a job, and … it just kind of stayed with me.”

Choice lines: Asked if he has plans one evening, Lars replies, “School board meeting with Mr. Hofstedtler. (Proud) Bianca got elected.”

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