Somewhere in the midst of a long casting process that preceded filming the romantic comedy, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! director Robert Luketic had coffee with the young Blue Crush actress Kate Bosworth.
Luketic had had his eye on Bosworth anyway for Rosalee Futch, Tad Hamilton's ingenue role. But the meeting made Bosworth's stock rise.
"She grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye and said, `You don't understand, Robert, I have to do this.'" recalls Luketic, whose last film was the hit Legally Blonde. "I said, `Why?' She said, 'You don't understand. I am Rosalee Futch.' I was very amused by that."
The remark, Bosworth says, requires some clarification.
She'd certainly like to be as sweet, good-hearted and trusting as the Piggly Wiggly checkout clerk from Fraziers Bottom, W.Va. Tad Hamilton sees 21-year-old Rosalee torn between a Hollywood hunk (Josh Duhamel), with whom she wins a dream date, and Pete Monash (Topher Grace), the Piggly Wiggly manager who has been secretly in love with Rosalee his entire life. Complicating matters is the fact that onetime bad boy Tad becomes so smitten with Rosalee after but one date that he vows to reform - and moves out to Fraziers Bottom to be near her.
We won't tell you which suitor, if any, ultimately wins our heroine's heart, but the movie makes it clear she'd probably do just fine with either Pete or Tad. The Rosalee Futches of the world, the movie suggests, tend to improve the people around them.
"What I tried to do is take all of my best qualities and eliminate the bad ones," says Bosworth, "to take the qualities I admire in other people and roll it all up into one person. She sees the best in people, really wanting to see the good in situations. That's her sweet naivete and innocence. She's just kind of a kindhearted soul. It's fun to play somebody like that.
"I think everyone has those qualities," continues Bosworth. "My mom for one. My mom is amazing. She just left [the hotel suite]. She's a lot like that."
People filter in and out of the Beverly Hills hotel suite where Bosworth, 21, is doing her Tad Hamilton interviews. (The film opened last weekend to a Top 3 finish.)
The actress had recently arrived from Berlin, where she is shooting the Bobby Darin biography Beyond the Sea for star and director Kevin Spacey. Playing Darin's wife, the actress Sandra Dee, Bosworth gets to age from virginal 16-year-old to a washed-up and nearly alcoholic 27.
There is, if not a career trajectory, certain a craving for variety in Bosworth's choice of roles. As Bosworth tells it, the first two scripts she read on the way back from Hawaii after filming Blue Crush were for Tad Hamilton and James Cox's Wonderland, the account of porn star John Holmes and the Wonderland Avenue murders.
Rosalee Futch barely occupies the same planet as the role of Dawn Schiller, Holmes' strung-out teen-age girlfriend, who Bosworth plays in Wonderland. But having just played a tomboy surfer, Bosworth was anxious to tackle a role - or two - that audiences had never seen her try.
"I called my agent and said I'd really love to do [Wonderland and Tad Hamilton] back to back - in a perfect world," she says. "And it worked out that way.
"I absolutely detest the idea of anybody being pigeonholed or boxed," she adds. "I think it's ridiculous, actually, because everybody has layers. Really, what a character is is taking a certain aspect and magnifying it up on the screen. So I've been lucky, really lucky, that I've gotten the projects I have that are completely different from each other."
Wonderland co-writer/director James Cox also has a "first meeting with Kate Bosworth" story. And even though Bosworth didn't insist "I am Dawn Schiller," the director came away from the meeting thinking she could play the part and hold her own against such veteran performers as Val Kilmer and Lisa Kudrow.
"With a character that age, you're looking for an actress who's going to have less experience, so my thing is just the vibe," says Cox. "I got this feeling that Kate was a wise old soul, that the well ran really deep with her. And by the time I finished shooting, what I felt in that room proved absolutely to be the case."
Tad Hamilton is, Bosworth notes, her first comedy. Surrounded though she is by a sitcom star (That 70s Show's Grace), a sure-handed comedy director in Luketic and veteran character players Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes, Bosworth found her comedy initiation a little difficult at times.
"For me, it was scary because it was such unknown territory," says Bosworth, adding that now that she's been bitten by the romantic comedy bug, she's anxious to do another one.
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