Writer-director Jessie Nelson’s tale of a mentally challenged man (Sean Penn) fighting for custody of his young daughter is getting a reputation as a tearjerker — even from cast members. Richard Schiff (”The West Wing”), who plays the lawyer opposing Penn, reports that he broke down after one intense cross-examination: ”The director came running after me and said, You don’t have to do it again. And I said, I’m not doing it again.” Emotions — and improvisations — ran high throughout production; some actors were recruited from a group home in L.A., and the rest of the cast (which includes Michelle Pfeiffer as Penn’s attorney) learned to expect the unexpected. ”In certain scenes, Sean had [to deal with] kids, six dogs on a leash, actors with disabilities, and I thought, What more could I throw him?” recalls Nelson. ”But he loved that. The more spontaneous and unpredictable things get, the happier Sean is.”

I Am Sam
  • Movie
  • 132 minutes