“Descendants” kids call Payne’s shoot “vacation with George Clooney” – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Alexander Payne’s moving, heartfelt “The Descendants” figures to be a substantial crowd-pleaser as well as a major player on the awards circuit, with talk swirling around Payne’s script, his manicured direction, and George Clooney’s multi-faceted turn as a grieving father trying to button up one last issue of business before confronting a difficult life choice.

So it’s kind of funny to hear Amara Miller, who plays Clooney’s youngest daughter, Scottie, in the film, refer to the shoot as “vacation with George Clooney.”

I had a chance to sit down with Miller and Nick Krause, who brings comic relief to Payne’s drama by playing Sid, the omnipresent boyfriend of Clooney’s older daughter, Alexandra (played with a calculated defiance by “Descendants” standout Shailene Woodley). As you’d expect, the film isn’t a dreary slog through mourning of melodrama. Payne injects moments of humor throughout, which Krause says was very important to the finished product.

“The film isn’t about the melodramatics of [the death bed] situation,” Krause said. “It’s really just about catching people being human. And the death of a family member is a situation where those moments really can bring out every aspect of everyone around you. So it’s a great opportunity to explore that, in a way. … It’s very much about the characters working with each other and growing with each other, and the script really details every step of their journey together.”

Miller, meanwhile, faced the hurdle of “Descendants” being her very first major Hollywood feature.

“I had never done anything like this before. None of my friends had ever done anything like this before,” she said. “I’d never seen a script!”

“But once you familiarize with a script, and how it plays it, it begins to read like a piece of music,” Krause added, who added that the table read with the cast helped him find natural moments between the actors, which helped them once they were in Hawaii.

The islands, themselves, provided these young actors with a natural escape during the film’s three-month shoot. They’d take long hikes on weekends, spend downtime on the beach, relax and decompress in the natural beauty.

“You can see, in the Hawaiian culture, everyone is just so laid back,” he said. The Austin, Texas native admits that he even catches himself slipping back into Sid’s Hawaiian accent every now and then.

Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” screened as part of the Toronto International Film Festival. It opens in theaters on Nov. 18.

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