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Cholodenko mines humor from real life

'Kids' director uses real-life experiences for inspiration

Lisa Cholodenko, who plumbed the depths of L.A.’s burned-out rock ‘n’ roll milieu in “Laurel Canyon,” returns to the City of Angels’ bohemian enclaves for “The Kids Are All Right,” about lesbian parents, their teenage kids and the sperm-donor dad who complicates their lives.

Inspiration: “The kernel of the idea came from my partner and I exploring different ways to have a kid, and in the end, we decided to use a sperm donor. I started looking for a sperm donor and thinking about these guys and their profiles. I ran into (‘Kids’ co-writer) Stuart Blumberg, and it turned out he was a sperm donor in college — it was too kismet to ignore, and I just impulsively asked if he’d be interested in trying to write this with me.”

Casting: “Early on we went to Julianne (Moore); she was someone I had met several times and always admired. I just tirelessly went through the inventory of every leading actress over the age of 40 and mixed and matched and tortured friends and loved ones and put up pictures on my wall and finally stumbled on the idea of Annette (Bening.) Once I got her in my head, I couldn’t get her out. I reached out to the actresses and said, ‘This is ensemble playing and it’s intimate, and what do you think of these five guys?’ They were both thrilled by the idea of Mark (Ruffalo).”

Humor:“The sexuality is treated in a really funny way. I think Annette Bening played it beautifully — that whole thing of not being in the mood, the sloppiness of sexuality that people just don’t show. The kind of psychological sloppiness of it — people found it refreshing. And with Julianne, that thing of having an affair, I didn’t want it to read as them falling in love and a passionate consummation with romantic feelings and possibility attached. We wanted it to be a sloppy affair.”

Audience expectations vs. director’s vision: “We didn’t want to make it the gay underdog film. We just wanted to put it out there as normal. I did want to show that whether you’re gay or straight, if you’re raising a family there is that division of that labor: It’s rare that both parents will be on equal footing — that you’re both working and parenting the same. I think that’s fairly typical — that somebody is more the breadwinner and somebody is more the caregiver, doing the PTA and the carpooling.”

More articles from Eye on the Oscars: The Director Preview:
Auds entertained by pics’ royal pains | The ‘Inception’ phenomenon | A live-action approach to animation
First Person: Six helmers behind some of the year’s most buzzed-about pics talk about their inspiration
Darren Aronofsky | Danny Boyle | Lisa Cholodenko | Debra Granik | Mike Leigh | John Cameron Mitchell