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'Men, Women & Children' cast to perform live-read of 'American Beauty'

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Men Women Children American Beauty
Dale Robinette; Everett Collection

Jason Reitman’s L.A. Live-Read series is kicking off its new season with a cast swap.

Each year, The Young Adult and Up in the Air filmmaker hosts a series of one-night-only live performances of classic movie scripts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and a new round begins Oct. 17 with Alan Ball’s Oscar-winning screenplay for American Beauty. The readings are like artistic science experiments, following the recipe of a previous film but mixing in new ingredients, so the twist this time is that Reitman has filled the roles with actors from his latest film, Men, Women & Children.

“I had a such a great experience working with the cast that I was looking for any excuse to get them all together again,” Reitman says. “It occurred to me while I was trying to figure out who to put into the American Beauty read that the casts kind of lined up nicely.”

That will bring Adam Sandler to the role of the suburban father in meltdown mode that won Kevin Spacey an Oscar, while Rosemarie DeWitt will take on the part of his perfectionist wife, originally played by Annette Bening in the 1999 Sam Mendes-directed film.

Kaitlyn Dever, who co-stars in Men, Women & Children as a teenage girl whose mother obsessively monitors all her online activity, will play the Burnham’s disaffected daughter; while Dean Norris from Breaking Bad, who plays the single father of a football star who wants to quit, will play the stoic ex-military man who moves in next door.

“I thought Adam Sandler would be a fascinating Lester Burnham, unlike any I’d ever imagined, Rosemarie DeWitt is about as phenomenal an actress as you can find right now,” Reitman says. “Kaitlin Dever probably would be cast in the Thora Birch role if American Beauty were being made today, just as Dean Norris could have easily have been cast in the Chris Cooper part.”

For the Lolita-ish cheerleader played by Mena Suvari, Reitman chose Olivia Crocicchia (Rescue Me), who plays an aspiring model in Men, Women & Children whose mother nudges her underage daughter into posing for disturbingly provocative photos on the website they run; while the part of Ricky, the boy-next-door who obsesses on the beauty of windblown plastic bags, will be performed in the live-read by Travis Tope (Boardwalk Empire), who is Sandler and DeWitt’s son in Reitman’s film.

“For two years back in Plano, Texas, [Travis] would find a scene that he liked and would record himself doing it on video. He would watch his performance, make a judgment, and then re-videotape himself. And he would do that every day, again and again, until he felt ‘each scene had no more lies in it,” Reitman said. “He wanted to get to the point after a couple of years where he could go on camera and not lie. Only then did he go out on his first audition. … He was booking gigs within six months of moving to Los Angeles.”

Click here for full details on how to get tickets to the LACMA Live-Reads, which are hosted in partnership with Film Independent.

Reitman also teased some of the other titles they’ll be performing in coming months—including one that will be certain to cause a disturbance in the Force:

• NOVEMBER: Diner (1982), written and directed by Barry Levinson

• DECEMBER: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), written by Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan, and George Lucas; directed by Irvin Kershner

• JANUARY: Goodfellas (1990), written by Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese; directed by Scorsese

• FEBRUARY: Sideways (2004), written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, directed by Payne

• MARCH: Dazed and Confused (1993), written and directed by Richard Linklater

“We want to open up the genres this year, so we added our first science-fiction film, and we’ve opened up the size of the cast to something like Goodfellas, which has a huge cast,” Reitman says. “So we’re trying a bunch of new things.”

Here’s a look at the cast at work in Men, Women & Children, which is in theaters now.

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