Tina Fey and Paul Rudd Make The Grade
Securing ADMISSION’s Two Comic Leads
Strangely enough two of our finest comic talents – Tina Fey and Paul Rudd – had never starred in the same film, but ADMISSION’s unique blend of comedy and heart brought them together for the first time. And both go to the top of the class.
While producer Kerry Kohansky-Roberts and director Paul Weitz coordinated on the initial pitch with screenwriter Karen Croner, they simultaneously approached their top choice for the lead role in ADMISSION. Kohansky-Roberts notes, “We had heard Tina Fey was interested in doing a comedy/drama, and we thought the combination of her wry humor with the more serious undertones in the story would make for a movie that was substantive and also entertaining. Once we thought of Tina in the role, there really wasn’t a second choice for us.”
Weitz’s longtime Depth of Field production partner Andrew Miano adds, “In addition to her comic timing, Tina conveys heart and depth; we all felt that she could access the dramatic and emotional places Portia would progress to.”
The multi-award-winning actress and writer sparked to the pitch, and first read the novel and then a screenplay draft. She conferred extensively with Weitz and Croner, also met with ADMISSION novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz, and committed to the project in the fall of 2010.
Fey reflects, “When I told friends, especially those with children, about the film, there would be an instantaneous reaction and I would get peppered with questions. There’s a sense of panic in every parent who is about to go through that process. I found the story compelling, and I wanted to take on the challenge of playing this character at the center of that process.
“Portia is a woman who is living in a judgmental and strict world, and she comes unraveled – but she also loosens up. When she takes a maternal interest in Jeremiah, she is trying to give something to him and help him realize his potential. Her story is so beautifully told in Jean’s book, and Karen did such a great job translating it into the screenplay.”
With Fey in mind to incarnate Portia, Croner continued working on the script. The filmmakers all felt that the strength of the adaptation would lie not only in the vivid characters but also in the detailed backdrop of academia and the machinations-laden admissions process.
The screenwriter talked to admission officers at some of the country’s finest schools. Croner notes, “First and foremost, I wanted to know who the people were who were making these important decisions.”
Kohansky-Roberts notes, “There has been an escalating parental obsession with this process – whether for nursery schools or elite universities. Kids are being groomed and nurtured for a greatness that may well be unattainable, and they are trying so hard – and pushed so hard – to be all that they can be to secure entrance into a top Ivy League university.”
Croner elaborates, “To some parents, their children’s college acceptance becomes a referendum on their own parenting skills. In essence, the parents are applying. Competition is fierce. Kids can spend the last three years of high school being pressured by their parents to excel in school and in extracurricular activities: can you get published in The New Yorker, or develop an intense passion for cutting-edge molecular biology? By the time they do enter college, they may be burned-out and unsure of who they really are.”