The Inspiration for Palindromes: Well, I think it was a number of things. First of all, I think that it's probably always been a fantasy of mine to be able to cast multiple actors in a single part in the sense that you might be casting a movie and there might be three actors each with a particular quality that you really like, but you wish that it could all be one person. And in a sense I get to do that here. It's eight people, but it could've been 80. In a sense the movie says that any one of us watching the movie could play her in an episode of her life. There is a kind of universality here that we can connect to on some emotional level certainly, this poor girl's plight. There's an innocence here.
Certainly, for all of the shapes and sizes that we see, the metamorphic changes that take place, so to speak, of course, the character is a constant. She's an innocent, unchanging in some sense. She starts out that she wants to be a mom and her mother says to her, 'You'll always be you.' And then of course there she is at the end of the movie saying, 'I'm going to be a mom.' Now of course mom is a palindrome, but much more significantly while she may not become a biological mom, she might become a mom of some child. That need is still in her and is in some way defining of her identity.
As Mark Wiener says, It doesn't matter if you gain 50 or lose 50 pounds or you have sex change, what have you, all these shapes and sizes in the center is a part of ourselves that is palindromic by nature. That is to say that a palindrome is a word or pattern that instead of developing in different directions, folds in on itself so that the beginning and the end mirror each other. They are the same. So, loosely, metaphorically speaking, that part ourselves that resists change, that stays the same is that palindromic part of ourselves So this inability to change, while Mark Wiener might speak with a certain sense of doom perhaps, he's in a gloomy position personally at this point in his life being falsely accused and so forth, I would say that there can be in fact something freeing or liberating about this idea of an inability to change, if one can accept and embrace one's limitations. That can be a good thing.
As far as the casting thing goes, you have this kind of paradox that's always at work. It's unchanging and yet ever changing. Seeing all these different shapes and sizes each of which bring a certain kind of different nuance or color. Now there's almost a kind of story book in this, a fairy tale-like quality to this that's enhanced by the casting thing. And each one has a different reason. I knew that I needed to begin with a black child to set some things off. Maybe she's adopted because Ellen Barkin is the mom and then you say, 'No. She's Latino. She's a redhead. Wait.' At a certain point, or first your disoriented, but then it kicks in, the connection. It's like, 'Okay, it's the same character, but different actors playing this one character.'
I do think that an audience accepts all sorts of rules and conventions as long as you stick to them. Then when you get to a big black woman, and for me that was my Gulliver, so to speak, with the Lilliputians around her. Then Jennifer Jason Leigh, you look at her face as a woman of a certain age and you can see a certain kind of sorrow, emotional life lived etched in that face. It's as if this character has lived a whole life and yet, of course, she's still 13 years old. So I think that I've covered enough there to give you some sense.
The Dawn Welcome to the Dollhouse Wiener Connection: I wanted Dawn Wiener in this. I wanted her in 'Storytelling.' I begged her. I begged Heather Matarazzo to revise this role, but she refused me. She did not want to ever play this character again and I had to accept that reality. So I used this as a kind of reference as a kind of launching pad. That was then, and here I am going off in a very different direction. I did want to bring Mark back even if I couldn't bring Dawn back.
PAGE 2: Solondz on Casting Ellen Barkin