Adapting a beloved book for the bigscreen is never an easy task. At the Variety screening of “The Secret Life of Bees,” producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Joe Pichirallo, director Gina Prince-Bythewood and star Dakota Fanning were on hand to chat about the opportunity to bring a favorite tome to theaters.
“William Morris gave me the manuscript and it moved me totally. I needed to make this movie,” said Donner. “I optioned it with my own money to take it off the market.”
“This isn’t your usual Hollywood movie,” said Pichirallo. “What happens with a film like this is that it’s not considered commercial, so we had to deal with budget restrictions. The film cost under $12 million to make, which is like an appetizer in the industry. Everyone worked on this movie because they loved the material. Everyone took a cut in their pay to get it made.”
“It was a long journey to get this made. When this first came to me, I turned it down… I turned it down without even reading it,” said Prince-Bythewood. “Queen Latifah and Dakota were key to getting the movie made. The fact they both wanted to do it for so little of their fee helped the film.”
But the A-listers aren’t the only stars of the pic. In addition to Latifah and Fanning, “Bees” also stars Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Paul Bettany, as well as a “buzzworthy” supporting cast.
“I loved the bee parts of the movie,” said Fanning. “The fact that we actually went into a hive just added to the film.”
To help develop the characters, Prince-Bythewood created care packages for each of the actors which included music and movies of and about the time.
“In my package I got the movie ‘Ordinary People’ to help with Lily’s family relationship,” said Fanning. “But just being on set helped. Some of the best research you can do is just be in the moment.”
The part of Lily is another challenging role in a long line of strong characters for the young actress. Now 14, Fanning has been acting for the better part of a decade.
“It is important to me to do different roles. I try to go for different genres. I always do what is right for that time. I do what moves me, what I feel and what I can identify with,” said the teen star. “And of course, my mom reads the scripts as well.”