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In the interim, Payne took two monthlong trips to the islands to soak up the culture, explore locations and pick the brain of the novel's author, who had grown up in the Oahu town of Kailua and moved back there four years ago, after grad school.
"I make narrative films, but I very much have the mentality of a documentarian as well, so what you see in my fiction films has great resemblance to real life," says Payne, who has adapted the novels is the book I've been most faithful to and most inclusive of the writer because it's her world.
But when Payne, script in hand, met with Clooney again at the Toronto International Film Festival in fall 2009, the actor enthusiastically came on to play what he calls a "schlub," an emotionally detached man who can't even win an argument with his teenage daughter.
Shailene Woodley, 19, and Amara Miller, 11, who play King's daughters, flew to Oahu 10 days before the 10-week shoot to develop a believable family dynamic with Clooney.
But, to me, casting is the most important component after the screenplay.
To cast this person over that simply because Person A is more famous during the six-month to one-year period you are trying to make the film appals me.
We got to know who he was as a person, and he suddenly became just a George and not George Clooney." Authenticity was the main goal throughout.
The producers had wanted to shoot the entire million project on Oahu -- even the Kauai scenes -- but Payne felt that would undercut the film's realism.
Clooney's Matt King is a successful lawyer and heir to a gorgeous piece of Hawaiian property who must cope with a quartet of sudden challenges: His wife drops into a coma after a boat accident; her absence forces him to navigate a new authority role with his two unruly daughters; his extended family wants him to sell their prized landholding; and he discovers that his injured wife had been having an affair.
‘I am happy to cast famous people, if they are right for the part,’ Payne explains.