Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

R | 99 or 103 mins | Comedy-drama | 26 July 2006

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HISTORY

Only the title appears at the beginning of the film; all other credits are at the end. The credits include the following dedication: “In loving memory of Rebecca Annitto, a true beauty inside and out.” Annitto, the niece of co-producer Peter Saraf, was a 14-year-old competitive rower who was killed in a car accident in Princeton, NJ.
       Various articles in LAT and an 11 Aug 2006 Entertainment Weekly provide the following information about the film’s five-year development process: First-time screenwriter Michael Arndt, a former personal assistant, sold the screenplay for $150,000 to producers David T. Friendly and Marc Turtletaub in 2001. In a 17 Nov 2006 HR interview, Arndt stated that his twin brother is "a depressed academic who teaches Proust" and that his family had a VW bus when he was growing up. "Everything that happened with the car [in the film] happened to my family."
       Both Dean Parisot and Goldie Hawn expressed interest in directing the film before the assignment went to Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Dayton and Faris, who are married, were known for their work on commercials and music videos, but had never directed a feature film. The project was sold to Focus Features, which argued that the film needed a major star and commissioned a rewrite from screenwriter Steve Conrad. Conrad is not credited onscreen and his contribution, if any, to the final film has not been determined. Jim Carrey, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Ben Stiller, Kevin Kline and Robin Williams were considered for one or both of the male roles; Bill Murray was sought for the role of “Frank”; and Laura Linney, Jennifer Aniston and ... More Less

Only the title appears at the beginning of the film; all other credits are at the end. The credits include the following dedication: “In loving memory of Rebecca Annitto, a true beauty inside and out.” Annitto, the niece of co-producer Peter Saraf, was a 14-year-old competitive rower who was killed in a car accident in Princeton, NJ.
       Various articles in LAT and an 11 Aug 2006 Entertainment Weekly provide the following information about the film’s five-year development process: First-time screenwriter Michael Arndt, a former personal assistant, sold the screenplay for $150,000 to producers David T. Friendly and Marc Turtletaub in 2001. In a 17 Nov 2006 HR interview, Arndt stated that his twin brother is "a depressed academic who teaches Proust" and that his family had a VW bus when he was growing up. "Everything that happened with the car [in the film] happened to my family."
       Both Dean Parisot and Goldie Hawn expressed interest in directing the film before the assignment went to Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Dayton and Faris, who are married, were known for their work on commercials and music videos, but had never directed a feature film. The project was sold to Focus Features, which argued that the film needed a major star and commissioned a rewrite from screenwriter Steve Conrad. Conrad is not credited onscreen and his contribution, if any, to the final film has not been determined. Jim Carrey, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Ben Stiller, Kevin Kline and Robin Williams were considered for one or both of the male roles; Bill Murray was sought for the role of “Frank”; and Laura Linney, Jennifer Aniston and Diane Lane were considered for the role of “Sheryl.” A 1 Nov 2006 LAT article adds that David Duchovny was considered for role of “Richard” and Donald Sutherland was considered for the role of “Grandpa."
       Dayton and Faris objected when Focus proposed shooting the film in Canada to save money, in part because Canada lacks America’s fascination with beauty pageants for young girls, which would have made it difficult to cast the roles of the other Little Miss Sunshine contestants. After two years of development, Focus dropped the project, and Turtletaub decided to buy the script back and finance the production himself. Big Beach, which is jointly owned by Arndt and Turtletraub, eventually co-financed the picture with Bona Fide Productions, a company co-owned by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa. Little Miss Sunshine was shot in less than a month, for an $8 million budget.
       According to a 25 Jun 2006 LAT news item, the beauty pageant was shot at the Radisson Hotel in Culver City, and many of the scenes in the VW bus were filmed near Palmdale, CA. Entertainment Weekly adds that portions of the film were shot in the Arizona desert. In their DVD commentary, the directors noted that the extras in the scenes at the hotel were actual contestants and parents from the beauty pageant circuit.
       The DVD included, as added content, footage shot but not used for the film’s ending. In one version, the family stops for picnic after leaving the contest and reminisces about Grandpa. In their DVD commentary, the directors noted that the scene was “too sappy” and did not fit the tone of the rest of the movie. In another version, the adult members of the family are handcuffed together while “Ms. Jenkins” confers with the policeman after the contest. Additional footage shows the family stealing a giant trophy from the hotel before leaving.
       Little Miss Sunshine had its premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, where it was optioned for a record $10.5 million, the biggest deal for a single film in the festival’s history, surpassing the previous high of $10.25 million for Happy, Texas in 1999. Little Miss Sunshine was screened at the inaugural Sundance Institute at the Brooklyn Academy of Music film series in mid-May 2006 and was shown as part of Film Independent’s Los Angeles Film Festival on 2 Jul 2006.
       Little Miss Sunshine was a critical and popular success. The LAT review praised the film’s performances and stated, “ Little Miss Sunshine hilariously punctures the grotesque bubble of the competitive American spirit in which ‘winners’ are recognized by their rigorous ability to conform to the standards imposed by the market, and ‘losers’ include anyone who won’t bow to its mighty will.” Var reported on 11 Sep 2006 that the film had earned $36.7 million, which put it in the top tier of independent films. According to Internet financial database Box Office Mojo, the film’s worldwide grosses exceeded $86 million as of Jan 2007.
       In addition to being selected as one of AFI's Movies of the Year for 2006, Little Miss Sunshine received the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award (Marc Turtletaub, David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf, Albert Berger & Ron Yerxa) from the Producers Guild of America. Alan Arkin received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Michael Arndt received the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film was also nominated by the Academy in the categories of Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Breslin). The picture earned two Golden Globe nominations, one for Best Motion Picture--Musical or Comedy, and another for Best Actress in a Motion Picture--Musical or Comedy (Toni Collette). The film received the Screen Actors Guild ensemble award for Outstanding Acting by a Cast, and received SAG nominations for Arkin for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role and Breslin for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor. The film also received the following Independent Spirit Awards: Best Feature, Best Director, Best First Screenplay and Best Supporting Male (Arkin). Paul Dano was also nominated in the Best Supporting Male category. Dayton and Faris were nominated for Directorial Achievement in Film by the Directors Guild of America, and Arndt received the Writers Guild of America award for Best Original Screenplay. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
23 Mar 2005.
---
Daily Variety
23 Jan 2006
p. 1, 22.
Daily Variety
13 Apr 2006.
---
Entertainment Weekly
11 Aug 2006
pp. 28-31.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 2006
p. 1, 8, 41.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Nov 2006.
---
LA Weekly
7 Jul 2006.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Jan 2006
p. 1, 5.
Los Angeles Times
25 Jun 2006.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Jul 2006
Section E, p. 1, 8.
Los Angeles Times
1 Nov 2006
The Envelope, p. 28.
New York Times
23 Jan 2006.
---
New York Times
26 Jul 2006.
---
Variety
30 Jan 2006
p. 53, 61.
Variety
11 Sep 2006.
---
Village Voice
31 Jan 2006.
---
Village Voice
10 May 2006.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Dayton/Faris film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Addl 2d 2d asst dir
Addl 2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Prod supv
Assoc prod
Big Beach prod exec
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Steadicam op/B cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Film loader
Best boy elec
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Cam dollies by
Still photog
Video assist
24 frame playback
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Ed intern
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst prop master
Addl prop
Addl prop
Lead scenic artist
Lead person
Set dressing buyer
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
On-set dresser
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Key cost
Cost
MUSIC
Mus comp
Featuring mus by
Mus supv
Mus supv
Mus ed
Mus rec and mixed by
Mus rec and mixed by
Addl performance mus
Score rec by
Guitars, whistles, piano, organ
Violin, accordion, piano
Double bass, tuba
Drums, percussion, trumpet, glockenspiel
Addl mus: Cello
Addl mus: Piano
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cable person
Sd editorial provided by
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Addl sd ed
Dial ed
Sd eff ed
ADR mixer
ADR mixer
ADR mixer
Foley mixer
Foley artist
Foley artist
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Mix tech
Dolby sd consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opticals
Main title des
Digital visual eff
Visual eff supv
Visual eff prod
DANCE
Asst choreographer
MAKEUP
Dept head makeup
Key makeup
Makeup asst
Dept head hair
Key hair stylist
Key hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting assoc
Casting asst
Extras casting
Extras casting
Voice casting
Unit prod mgr
Asst prod coord
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Loc scout
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Asst to Ms. Collette
Asst to Mr. Dayton & Ms. Faris
Asst to Mr. Dayton & Ms. Faris
Asst to prods
Asst to prods
Asst to prods
Asst to prods
Prod legal
Prod legal
Clearance coord
Prod insurance
Distribution advisory services
Unit pub
Unit pub
Unit pub
Post prod consulting by EPC
Post prod supv
Medic
Big Beach finance exec
Prod accountant
1st asst accountant
Payroll accountant
Post prod accountant
Payroll company
Studio teacher
Studio teacher
Pageant consultant
Pageant coord
Pageant coord
Pageant coord
Pageant coord
Pageant coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Cam car & process trailer
Cam car & process trailer
Cam car & process trailer
Key craft service
Craft service asst
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Asst stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
"Richard" stand in
"Frank" stand in
"Sheryl" stand in
"Olive" stand in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
“Chicago,” written by Sufjan Stevens, performed by Sufjan Stevens, courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty Records
“American the Beautiful,” traditional, arranged by Weba Garretson, Bob Remstein and Mark Wheaton, performed by Matt Winston
“Tu Abandono,” written by Xocoyotzin Herrera, performed by Francisco Javier Gonzalez and Jose Zuñiga, courtesy of LMS Records
+
SONGS
“Chicago,” written by Sufjan Stevens, performed by Sufjan Stevens, courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty Records
“American the Beautiful,” traditional, arranged by Weba Garretson, Bob Remstein and Mark Wheaton, performed by Matt Winston
“Tu Abandono,” written by Xocoyotzin Herrera, performed by Francisco Javier Gonzalez and Jose Zuñiga, courtesy of LMS Records
“Information Highway,” written by John Ehrlich, performed by John Ehrlich, courtesy of Jeco Music
“Enemy Guns,” written by DeVotchka, performed by DeVotchka, courtesy of Cicero Recordings, LTD.
“Give My Regards to Broadway,” written by George M. Cohan, arranged by Weba Garretson, Bob Remstein and Mark Wheaton, performed by Casandra Ashe
“Fifteen Years Ago,” written by Raymond A. Smith, performed by Conway Twitty, courtesy of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, L.L.C., dba Tree Productions
“You’ve Got Me Dancing,” written by Gordon Pogoda and Barry Upton, performed by Inspiration, courtesy of Kid Gloves Music
“La Llorona,” traditional, performed by DeVotchka, courtesy of Cicero Recordings, LTD.
“Rodeo Queen,” written by Darvin Jordan, performed by Lindsey Jordan
“Martini Lounge,” written by David Sparkman, Scott Nickoley, Jamie Dunlap, performed by David Sparkman, courtesy of Marc Ferrari/Master Source
“Give It Up,” written by Marc Dodd and Judith Martin, performed by Pulse, courtesy of Kid Gloves Music
“Change the World,” written by John Ehrlich, performed by John Ehrlich, courtesy of Jeco Music
“Let It Go,” written by Gordon Pogoda, performed by Julie Griffin, courtesy of Kid Gloves Music
“Super Freak,” written by Rick James and Alonzo Miller, performed by Rick James, courtesy of Motown Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises, remix and additional production by Sebastian Arocha Morton for Rocasound
“Til the End of Time,” written by Nick Urata and DeVotchka, performed by DeVotchka, produced by Mychael Danna
“No Man’s Land,” written by Sufjan Stevens, performed by Sufjan Stevens, courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty Records.
+
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 July 2006
Premiere Information:
Sundance Film Festival screening: 20 January 2006
Los Angeles Film Festival screening: 2 July 2006
Production Date:
began 6 June 2005
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
27 July 2006
Copyright Number:
PA0001322811
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Digital; SDDS Sony Dynamic Digital Sound; dts Digital Sound in selected theatres
Color
CFI
Lenses/Prints
Filmed with Panavision cameras and lenses; Kodak Motion Picture Film
Duration(in mins):
99 or 103
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
42333
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In her suburban home in Albuquerque, NM, seven-year-old Olive Hoover watches videotapes of the Miss America pageant with rapt fascination. Olive, who is bright and sweet-natured but not conventionally pretty, studies and imitates the winner’s ecstatic reaction. Meanwhile, in a classroom, her father Richard, an aspiring motivational speaker, presents his nine-step “Refuse to Lose” program to a tiny audience. Elsewhere in the Hoover home, Olive’s teenage half-brother Dwayne exercises in his room beneath a hand-painted poster of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, while Grandpa Edwin snorts heroin in the bathroom. Sheryl, Olive’s mother, goes to the hospital where her brother Frank is recovering from a recent suicide attempt. The depressed Frank is released into Sheryl’s care, and she takes him home and installs him in Dwayne’s room. As the family sits down to a fast-food dinner, Frank learns that the sullen Dwayne has not uttered a word for the past nine months and plans to maintain his vow of silence until he achieves his goal of entering the Air Force Academy to become a test pilot. Olive, who has been practicing her beauty pageant routine with Grandpa, notices the bandages on Frank’s wrists and asks him what happened. Despite Richard’s disapproval and Grandpa’s homophobia, Frank, a college professor and the most highly regarded Proust scholar in the country, reluctantly reveals that he fell in love with one of his male graduate students, who did not return his affection. To make matters worse, the young man instead fell in love with Frank’s academic rival, Larry Sugarman, leading Frank to behave irrationally and lose his job. The final blow came two days earlier, when Sugarman was awarded the MacArthur Foundation “genius” ... +


In her suburban home in Albuquerque, NM, seven-year-old Olive Hoover watches videotapes of the Miss America pageant with rapt fascination. Olive, who is bright and sweet-natured but not conventionally pretty, studies and imitates the winner’s ecstatic reaction. Meanwhile, in a classroom, her father Richard, an aspiring motivational speaker, presents his nine-step “Refuse to Lose” program to a tiny audience. Elsewhere in the Hoover home, Olive’s teenage half-brother Dwayne exercises in his room beneath a hand-painted poster of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, while Grandpa Edwin snorts heroin in the bathroom. Sheryl, Olive’s mother, goes to the hospital where her brother Frank is recovering from a recent suicide attempt. The depressed Frank is released into Sheryl’s care, and she takes him home and installs him in Dwayne’s room. As the family sits down to a fast-food dinner, Frank learns that the sullen Dwayne has not uttered a word for the past nine months and plans to maintain his vow of silence until he achieves his goal of entering the Air Force Academy to become a test pilot. Olive, who has been practicing her beauty pageant routine with Grandpa, notices the bandages on Frank’s wrists and asks him what happened. Despite Richard’s disapproval and Grandpa’s homophobia, Frank, a college professor and the most highly regarded Proust scholar in the country, reluctantly reveals that he fell in love with one of his male graduate students, who did not return his affection. To make matters worse, the young man instead fell in love with Frank’s academic rival, Larry Sugarman, leading Frank to behave irrationally and lose his job. The final blow came two days earlier, when Sugarman was awarded the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant; upon hearing the news, Frank tried to kill himself. In the uncomfortable silence that ensues, Olive tells Frank that she entered a beauty pageant while visiting her Aunt Cindy in California over spring break and came in second. A phone message from Cindy reveals that the girl who had come in first was disqualified for using diet pills, meaning that Olive is eligible to enter the Little Miss Sunshine contest, which will be held in Redondo Beach, CA, that Sunday. The Hoovers, who are on a tight budget while Richard tries to launch his self-help career, cannot afford to fly to California. Because their two cars are too small to transport the entire family, they set out the next morning in Richard’s old, bright-yellow Volkswagen bus. Between Richard’s uneasy relationship with his father, Sheryl’s fear about the family finances and Dwayne’s brooding, only Olive is excited about the trip. After several hours on the road, Sheryl insists on doing some of the driving, but her attempt to learn how to drive a stick shift destroys the clutch. The bus cannot be fixed in time, but a roadside mechanic points out that the clutch is only needed to go from first to second gear, so the bus should be fine for freeway driving if they can start it in third gear. The family develops a system of pushing the bus until Richard can put it in gear, then running alongside and jumping into the moving vehicle. During this process, Frank begins to feel cheerful for the first time in months. Later, at a gas station, Richard calls promoter Stan Grossman, who is trying to get Richard a book deal for his self-help program. Grandpa gives Frank money to buy him some dirty magazines from the convenience store. While Frank is waiting for a slushie, he is mortified to run into Josh, the object of his unrequited love, who is on a vacation with Sugarman. Richard’s call to Stan ends with the financially devastating news that the book deal has failed to materialize, and he and Sheryl bicker furiously. With genuine sympathy, Grandpa tells Richard he is proud of him for taking a chance, and the men awkwardly share a tender moment. The family stops for the night at a motel in Arizona. In the room she shares with her grandfather, Olive tearfully admits she is afraid of losing the contest because her father hates losers. Grandpa, who despite his coarse manner is devoted to Olive, reassures the little girl that she is beautiful inside and out. After a terrible fight with Sheryl, Richard pays a teenage boy to borrow his scooter and drives to Scottsdale, where Stan is attending a convention. Richard confronts Stan, who says there was no interest in Richard’s program and never will be because Richard is unknown. Early the next morning, Olive goes into her parents’ motel room and tells them that Grandpa will not wake up. At the hospital, the family is told that Grandpa died in his sleep. The hospital will not allow Richard to put off the burial until after the pageant, so Richard devises a desperate scheme to get Olive to the contest on time. Wrapping Grandpa’s body in a sheet, Richard and Sheryl lower the corpse out the window to Dwayne and Frank, who put it in the trunk of the bus. On the freeway, Richard honks at a car that cuts them off, and the horn gets stuck. They are soon pulled over by a policeman, and Frank’s nervous behavior causes the policeman to open the trunk. When Grandpa’s dirty magazines fall out, the policeman is so favorably impressed that he does not even notice the body and lets the family go. As they approach Redondo Beach, with the horn bleating constantly, Olive entertains herself by giving Dwayne the eye test she picked up at the hospital. Dwayne fails the test for color-blindness, and when Frank tells him this means he cannot be a pilot, he flies into a rage. Richard pulls the van over and Dwayne runs out, screaming in frustration, and refuses to get back on the bus until Olive goes to her brother and silently puts her arm around him. The family finally reaches the hotel where the contest is being held, but Ms. Jenkins, the pageant official, turns them away because they are five minutes late. Richard drops to his knees and pleads with her, and a sympathetic associate registers Olive himself. Sheryl takes Olive backstage, where many of the other young contestants are undergoing elaborate beauty rituals, and Richard calls a funeral parlor to pick up Grandpa’s body. Sitting in the lobby with Dwayne, Frank looks through a newspaper and comes across a full-page ad for Sugarman’s best-selling book on Proust. Later, Frank and Dwayne walk to a pier and converse about the meaning of life, after which Dwayne declares that he does not need the Military Academy to teach him how to fly and that nothing can stop him from doing what he loves. The contest begins, and Richard watches the heavily made-up little girls perform their polished routines with some discomfort. At the end of the talent competition, Olive takes the stage, and after dedicating her performance to her grandfather, proceeds to do a racy dance routine to the song “Super Freak.” Many in the audience are offended and walk out, but when the pageant emcee tries to pull Olive off stage, Richard runs up and stops him. Oblivious to the mayhem around her, Olive continues to dance with innocent abandon, and Richard and the rest of the family start to dance with her. Afterwards, the family is detained while Ms. Jenkins confers with the police. The policeman tells them they are free to go as long as they agree never to enter another beauty pageant in California. The family happily push-starts the honking bus and begins the trip back home. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.