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“I know it may seem far fetched that anybody would eat worms. But Billy makes a bet and it takes a lot of courage just to follow through on what you said you were going to do and to stand up to people under scary circumstances. His first impulse is to run away, but his next impulse is to stay and face it.”

“Secondly, what emerged from the performances of the cast is something that I’m even more excited about, and that is the idea that laughter and joy and fun can overpower mean-spiritedness, crabbiness, and even cruelty,” adds Dolman. “I think the natural state of children is one of happiness, friendliness, love, getting along…and when it is oppressed, things go haywire. When it is allowed to be free and flourish, it runs it’s own wonderful course. And that’s what the story is about. It’s a very forgiving story.”


“The most important thing was getting the cast right,” says producer Mark Johnson. “This isn’t a movie with elaborate special effects or huge sets…it's really about the spirit of the book being in these kids. The most painstaking work we had to do was finding the right kids. We interviewed thousands before we came up with our core gang. What I'm particularly proud of is each kid is his or her own idiosyncratic self and, as charismatic as they are, they are not Hollywood kids. They are very real.”

“We weren't looking for performers,” agrees director Bob Dolman. “I was more interested in the natural spirit of the kids. Sometimes we selected kids with next to no acting experience because just they had that quality of being natural and real and funny and sincere.”

The search for young actors extended nationwide and the production opened casting offices in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. “They came from all over the United States. Videotapes were sent in from everywhere. We had a really limited time to cast; ten weeks to find all eleven main kids,” adds producer Philip Steuer. “It was a very truncated process.”

“The personalities of the kids needed to play off one another. We saw some kids who we liked very much and thought ‘this kid is a terrific actor, but he's not right for this role, let's


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