"Freedom Writers" Movie Production Notes

ABOUT FREEDOM WRITERS  | THE PRODUCTION | THE CAST | THE FILMMAKERS

HILARY SWANK (Erin)
PATRICK DEMPSEY (Scott)
APRIL LEE HERNANDEZ (Eva)
SCOTT GLENN (Steve)
MARIO (Andre)
JASON FINN (Marcus)
HUNTER PARRISH (Ben)

Photo by: Jaimie Trueblood. Hilary Swank (pictured) as Erin Gruwell in “Freedom Writers.” Paramount Pictures Presents In Association with MTV Films, a Jersey Films/Double Feature Films Production, “Freedom Writers.” Directed by Richard LaGravenese from a screenplay from Richard LaGravenese, based on the book “The Freedom Writers Diary” by the Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell, the film is produced by Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, and Stacey Sher. Executive producers are Hilary Swank, Tracey Durning, Nan Morales, and Dan Levine. The film is rated PG-13 for violent content, some thematic material, and language. © 2006 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.

HILARY SWANK (Erin) is the third youngest woman in history to win two Academy Awards® for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

In addition to the Oscar for her performance as ‘Brandon Teena’ in “Boys Don’t Cry,” Hilary won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama and Best Actress prizes from The New York Film Critics, The Los Angeles Film Critics, The Chicago Film Critics and The Broadcast Film Critics Association. She also won the Breakthrough Performance prize from The National Board of Review.
Swank then appeared in supporting roles opposite Cate Blanchett and Keanu Reeves in Sam Raimi’s “The Gift,” and opposite Al Pacino and Robin Williams in Christopher Nolan’s “Insomnia.” She recently starred as Alice Paul in HBO’s “Iron Jawed Angels,” which told the story of the women’s suffragette movement, and she was honored with both SAG and Golden Globe nominations for her performance in this film.

Swank was most recently seen starring opposite Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman as the title character in Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby,” the story of a young woman’s quest to realize her dream of becoming a professional boxer. For this performance, she was honored with her second Academy Award® for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” and has garnered “Best Actress” prizes from the National Society of Film Critics, the Screen Actors Guild, The Broadcast Film Critics, and a Golden Globe for “Best Lead Actress in a Drama.”

She had a supporting role opposite Scarlett Johansson and Josh Hartnett in Brian De Palma’s “Black Dahlia,” and starred in “The Reaping.”.

PATRICK DEMPSEY (Scott) is currently the romantically inclined Dr. Derek Shepard on the popular ABC-TV show, “Grey’s Anatomy.” His portrayal of the dreamboat “Dr. McDreamy” has earned him both a 2006 Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama and a 2006 Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series.

In a year that is proving to be very busy and exciting, Dempsey has signed onto two feature film projects. Having recently wrapped “Freedom Writers,”he will next star opposite Amy Adams in the Disney film “Enchanted.”

Dempsey became well known as the unlikely love object of such classic ’80s nostalgia films as, “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Loverboy.”

His other theatrical credits include, “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Scream 3,” “With Honors,” “Outbreak,” Hugo Pool,” “The Treat,” “The Palace,” “Thief,” “Heaven Help Us,” “Happy Together,” Some Girls,” Coupe De Ville,” and “In The Mood.”

In television, Dempsey garnered an Emmy nomination in 2001 for his portrayal of Aaron Brooks, Sela Ward’s psychologically unbalanced brother in the critically acclaimed television program, “Once & Again.” In 2003, Dempsey made a memorable guest appearance on NBC’s hit show, “Will & Grace,” as Will’s love interest. In 2004, Dempsey co-starred in the acclaimed HBO production, “Iron Jawed Angels,” opposite Hilary Swank and Anjelica Huston.

Dempsey also starred in the NBC movie based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” opposite Ben Kingsley. He also appeared in the television miniseries, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” with Michael Caine. He co-starred with Oliver Reed in the biblical epic, “Jeremiah.” Other television movies and miniseries include “JFK: Reckless Youth,” “A Season in Purgatory,” “Blood Knot,” “The Right to Remain Silent,” “Shallow Grave,” and “Blonde.”

Dempsey was born and raised in Lewiston, Maine. He first appeared onstage as David in the San Francisco production of “Torch Song Trilogy.” Other early stage work included “On Golden Pond” for the Maine Acting Company, the international touring production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs” which was directed by Gene Saks and “The Subject Was Roses” at the Roundabout Theatre in New York. He recently took the stage in The Pasadena Playhouse run of “The Importance of Being Earnest” as Algernon Moncrieff.

APRIL LEE HERNANDEZ (Eva) was born on January 31, 1980, in the busy streets of The Bronx, New York. With her father’s support, the avid athlete took up softball while attending Aquinas High School, and considered majoring in Nutrition upon graduation. During high school, however, the acting bug bit - April says she had a life-changing experience after attending John Leguizamo’s one-man comedy show “Mambo Mouth.” As Leguizamo went about playing his zany array of characters, April was blown away by the performance, which inspired her to pursue comedy.

As a freshman at Hunter College, April quickly became enthralled with the art of improvisation and immediately changed majors. She also began auditioning for various independent projects and eventually landed spots as a stand-up in New York Comedy Club and Stand-Up New York. Shortly thereafter, April landed her first major project in 2003 as the “Yo Girl” in Visa’s Super Bowl commercial next to NBA All-Star Yao Ming and Yankee legend Yogi Berra.

Other roles followed, including “Shayna Rosario” in the award-winning drama series “Law and Order,” and playing a bicycle messenger for the winning commercial in 2004’s Coca-Cola Filmmaker’s Contest.

Most recently, April appeared in the nascent ABC-TV series “6 Degrees.” She had a six-episode arc as Nurse Inez on the NBC stalwart “ER,” and she guest-starred as Sal, an urban juvenile aspiring to be a professional boxer in “Jonny Zero” on Fox TV. She also appeared on ABC’s “Blind Justice,” and as a guest host on Mundos’ popular variety show, “The Roof.”

For a kid from the streets of Pittsburgh, SCOTT GLENN (Steve) has a long list of indelible western characters. “Tall Tale,” “Silverado,” “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,” and his star-making turn as the convict cowboy of ”Urban Cowboy” have shown that he is as comfortable in the saddle as in his more urban and, occasionally, urbane roles.

Currently before the cameras in the film version of Puerto Vallarta Squeeze, the latest novel by Robert James Waller, Glenn tackles the role of a dangerous man on the run, with romance complicating the zigzagging escape. Shot on Mexican locations, the thriller pairs Glenn with Harvey Keitel.
Another gritty Glenn starrer, this time teamed with Joaquin Phoenix and Anna Paquin, is 2003’s “Buffalo Soldiers.” Other recent colorful Glenn characterizations of men of brutal strength include Martin Campbell’s “Vertical Limit” and Antoine Fuqua’s “Training Day.”

Glenn has been regarded as an actor of unique reality and power since director James Bridges’ "Urban Cowboy” first brought him to attention, and he has since been his highly regarded in such films as Philip Kaufman’s “The Right Stuff,” Lawrence Kasdan’s “Silverado,” Robert Towne's “Personal Best,” Ron Howard’s “Backdraft,” Francis Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” Jonathon Demme’s “Silence of the Lambs,” John Frankenheimer’s “The Challenge,” John McTiernan’s “The Hunt for Red October,” and Ed Zwick’s “Courage Under Fire.”

A very grounded man for whom values of family and relationship to nature precede considerations of career opportunity, Glenn celebrated the success of “Urban Cowboy” by locating both life and family in Ketchum, Idaho, far from the offers and the hum of the movie indutry. He had determined to turn down those roles that would take him away from his wife Carol and daughters Dakota Anne and Rio Elizabeth during the girls’ formative school years. With his daughters’ primary education complete, Scott Glenn has returned to full-time acting pursuits.

MARIO (Andre) goes by only one name, but that’s enough to keep his multitudes of music fans happy. The crooner-turned-actor got his big break when he performed at a talent show in Baltimore. Via his manager, Mario was introduced to Clive Davis, the legendary head of J Records. Mario finally gained attention with his hit song “Just a Friend 2002” at the tender age of fifteen. Mario has released his second CD, “Turning Point,” which has gleaned some serious chart- hits such as “Let Me Love You” and his latest single, “How Could You.”

Born and raised in Baltimore and now living in New Jersey, he was signed to the New York label 3rd Street/J Records, working with producer Davis. After contributing to the soundtrack of 2001’s “Dr. Dolittle 2,” Mario released his eponymous debut album in July, 2002.

After touring America with other young artists, Mario returned with the “Turning Point” album in December, 2004. The first single, "Let Me Love You", became Mario’s first US number one and an international hit, and the album’s fresh sounds and often surprising lyrics introduced him to a wider audience.

With a range of creative music videos, plans of attending college and a part in the coming-of-age drama “Destination Fame,” Mario is an already well-established star even before the end of his teens.

JASON FINN (Marcus) began his journey with acting back in the summer of 2004. Having dropped out of high school and surveying the meager prospects of a life on the street, he decided to return to school. What initially seemed like a tragedy to Jason turned serendipitously into a career path. Late one night two unknown assailants made an attempt on his life but he managed to leave the situation with only one gun shot wound.

After staying in the house for what seemed like an eternity he decided to vent his anger in an interview for a video production class. It was this interview that intrigued a student filmmaker to invite Jason to audition for the independent film “Mercy Street.” Finn was cast in the lead role. He helped with the script by adding insight and personal real-life situations, and even writing out scenes for the script. This new found environment inspired a profound shift in Jason’s outlook, informed with the belief that he still had a chance to make it without selling drugs or living the street life.

HUNTER PARRISH (Ben) has had a substantial career in film and television since his first appearance on the TV show “The Guardian” in 2003. More recently, he played Earl Gornicke, the surfer-dude son of wayfarer Travis Gornicke (Jeff Daniels) in Barry Sonnenfeld’s peripatetic comedy, “RV,” with Robin Williams. On television, he has a starring role as Silas Botwin on the herbal comedy “Weeds.” He has also appeared on episodes of “Skater Boys,” “Close to Home,” “In Justice,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” and “Summerland.

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2006 Film Entertainment Magazine / EMOL.org. All rights reserved.

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The Freedom Writers Diary : How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them (Paperback)
by Freedom Writers, Zlata Filipovic