(updated 8/14/03)
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US release on April 4, 2003

Amanda Bynes ............... Daphne Reynolds Jonathan Pryce ........... Alistair Payne
Colin Firth .................... Lord Henry Dashwood Eileen Atkins ............... Lady Jocelyn Dashwood
  Kelly Preston .................. Libby Reynolds Christina Cole .............. Clarissa Payne
Anna Chancellor .............. Glynnis Payne Oliver James ................ Ian Wallace


Daphne (Amanda Bynes), a spirited young American girl, yearns to meet the father she's never known—a man her bohemian mother (Kelly Preston) considers to be the great love of her life.

Determined to find her absentee dad and prove that love can conquer all, Daphne impulsively journeys to London, where she discovers that her father is none other than Lord Henry Dashwood (COLIN FIRTH), an influential aristocratic politician. Henry's patrician lifestyle and stuffy attitude clash with Daphne's freewheeling American upbringing—as do his social-climbing fiancée (Anna Chancellor) and her territorial debutante daughter (Christina Cole).

When Daphne's unique style and effervescent personality create an uproar in high society that threatens to undermine Henry's political career and his budding relationship with Daphne, she immerses herself in a whirlwind of upper-crust British social and political events to please her father and fit in with her new family.

As she stifles her personality in an effort to meet her new familial obligations, Daphne discovers that her dream life is not as picture perfect as she had hoped. Is her fantasy falling apart, or will her fairytale come true?

    • US video/DVD release: Aug 5, 2003
    • Release dates: Australia/NZ (4/3); UK (8/8); Portugal (8/22).  For others, check here
    • All galleries reorganized, with new pics and captures
    • Fascinating, behind-the-scenes interview with director Dennie Gordon about the marketing of the film and Colin's appeal here
Colin let's rip (from icCoventry.co.uk)
There's a scene in the teen comedy What A Girl Wants which actor Colin Firth is hardly likely to forget. And it's a safe bet that the audience will find it rather memorable too.

Colin plays Lord Henry Dashwood, a man who has become weighed down by the responsibilities of an aristocratic family tradition and the expectations of a blossoming political career. He's forgotten how to have fun, but the sudden arrival of the teenage daughter he never knew he had turns his world upside down.

Recalling his days as a motorbike rider, back-packing musician and his romance with the liberated Libby, he dons leather trousers and performs air guitar in front of a mirror.

Mention it and a huge smile breaks out on this 43 year old actor's instantly recognisable face.

"Yes, all the dancing with leather trousers, I did wonder if there's a good chance it could kill my career," he laughs. "I very rarely get asked to do the self mockery thing on a big scale, I very rarely get asked to do it in front of a mirror! And I spent most of my youth doing exactly that, I mean that was me. That was far more me than the guy in the suit that I'm sort of known for playing. I mean, it was a bit physically painful at my age but it was fun to let rip and I'd do it more often if I was allowed to."

Q Dennie Gordon, director of What A Girl Wants, said that she came over to England before filming to convince you to take the part. What happened?

She did say that it was to the exclusion to anyone else, which is quite a seductive thing to hear I must say, it really is, you can't ignore it. I didn't take an interest in this initially. I didn't have any negative feelings about it. I just had my eyes scanning the horizon for something and it didn't strike me as the one initially.

Q How did you find playing Lord Henry Dashwood?

Well, it's fairy tale stuff and for me I was always slightly split about the whole issue of fantasy, fairytale escapism versus keeping a foot in reality just for that to work. I think fairy tales don't have to be untruthful things but I think if they get too saccharine I get worried. And I actually found Henry strangely believable and despite the trappings of this character and the trappings of this film, it didn't feel like some of the characters I've played before. He's not Mark Darcy. To me he absolutely isn't.

Q It is a modern day fairy tale. And presumably you saw a lot in the messagebe yourselfthat you liked?

Yes, I did. It is told in a fairytale kind of way, almost to the point of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or something. But I think what I really liked about this film, more than I thought I would, is how much it owns up to being a fairytale. It's not a fairytale disguised as a heart rending drama at all, it practically starts with Once Upon A Time...It gives you a very mythological view of London and absolutely makes no bones about that. You walk out of a vast mansion and there you are on the King's Road or something or Oxford Street. This guy goes to work in a 1962 Rolls Royce every day, despite having forfeited his title, and that's makes a different statement to us in Britain than it does with Americans with a fairytale view and in a way you don't want to tread on that. If this really was an earnest pretence that England is really like that I think it would be dishonest. But I don't think it is.   (full interview)

Comingsoon.net interview with Amanda Bynes
"I thought it was cute but I didn't know if I wanted to do a movie. Then I heard Colin Firth was interested and I was like 'What? He's interested? Let me look at that again.'...When I found out Colin was doing it I was shocked that he would be near me, let alone do a movie with me. He was amazing. Even better than I thought he would be. He's down to earth and has such a good sense of humor and is so charming and such a lovely guy."

Sharing the screen with Firth taught Bynes about the craft of acting. "There's no exact 'how to' but he's so natural that when he does it, I don't ever see him studying lines but he always brings something to it. He's hard on himself and will do the take 50 times and make sure it's right. Having that type of commitment and stamina is really impressive and is really a good role model and something good to see."  (full interview)

What a director wants: kids and adults
Amanda Bynes will surely bring a teen audience to What a Girl Wants, a coming of age story set in England. But director Dennie Gordon is counting on "hunka chunka" Colin Firth to draw grownups into the theater too.

There she was—her majesty Queen Elizabeth II—in all her regal finery, puffing away on a cigarette on the grounds of London's venerable St. James Palace and chatting with member of the film crew.

Or so it looked to the scandalized security personnel. "Oh my God!" one of them exclaimed. "The queen's hanging out with those ruffians." Actually, what they were seeing was a British actress who's a dead 
ringer for her majesty. She was taking a break from a shooting—a scene from the new Warner Bros. comedy in which Amanda Bynes—in the role of an uninhibited U.S. teenager on the loose in London high 
society—makes a splash at a royal ball.

"We had the greatest queen look-alike on the Earth in that movie," director Dennie Gordon said. But the trouble was that it was happening in a venue where the presence if British royalty is an everyday occurrence and security is high. "You cannot get in and out of that building without showing your passport and massive ID," Gordon noted. She said that's understandable given the frequent appearances on the premises of people like Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles. But no one had alerted security about the queen's look-alike.

Gordon won't even give the real name of the actress concerned. "It's Elizabeth R," she said coyly. She loves telling the story as an illustration of how much fun everyone had making the film. She also wants audiences to have fun watching it. The one thing she doesn't want is for What a Girl Wants to be perceived as just another teenage flick when it rolls into theatres next Friday. This, she declares, is a teenage movie that adults will want to see too. The key component in her strategy is the presence of Colin Firth in the cast.

Gordon knew the film risked being pigeonholed when she first took on the project. After all, the central character is a teenager, and 16-year-old Bynes would portray her. Bynes is something of a teenage superstar thanks to her various Nickelodeon TV programs and last year's feature comedy Big Far Liar, in which she co-starred with Frankie Munez.

"My 14 year-old thinks she's hot," Gordon said. Which is why Bynes was at the top of everybody's list for the role of Daphne Reynolds, a high-spirited U.S. teenager who lives with her bohemian mother (Kelly Preston) but yearns to be united with the British dad she has never met.

After Big Fat Liar was released, Bynes said she was still "a Nickelodeon goofy Lucille Ball girl." But in What a Girl Wants, she must make an emotional transition as the story infolds. In an effort to fulfill her dream of a storybook relationship with her absent father, she takes off to London, where she discovers he's very much of the upper class—a high profile politician named Lord Henry Dashwood. Her arrival on the Dashwood doorstep causes chaos; her astonished father takes her in and tries to introduce her to high society, where her uninhibited behaviour creates an uproar.

"When I met Amanda, she was so clearly this girl," Gordon recalled. "She's worldly, yet still in awe of the world. We captured her just at the moment she's becoming a woman, and of course she has this amazingly huge following, so once we knew she as interested, it was a slam-dunk. This is the movie where she gets to show that she's a big, grown-up young lady who can both wear ball gowns (yet) look fabulous in T-shirt and jeans."

It's a given that Bynes will bring the kids into the theatres. But Gordon wants the adults as well, and that's why she cast Britain's Colin Firth in the role of Dashwood. Firth's performances in the TV version of Pride and Prejudice and the film version of Bridget Jones's have spawned a huge international fan following.

Ever since she saw Firth in Pride and Prejudice, Gordon knew he was "hunka chunka" and that he "smoulders like nobody else. I had to have him."

She flew over to England and met Firth at a posh hotel in central London, where he started a mini riot as he entered the hotel, she recalled.

During the meeting, Gordon chickened out when telling Firth what he would have to do: squeeze into a pair of leather pants from his youth and start swivelling about to a throbbing rock beat. But, screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler said: "He really got into it."

What a Girl Wants is loosely based on two plays by British dramatist William Douglas Home, The Reluctant Debutante and The Reluctant Peer, neither of which screenwriter Chandler read before she took on the final script duties.

Much of the humour stems from Daphne's floundering attempts to adapt to the English way of doing things and the horrified response of the English upper crust. Chandler makes no apology for hauling out the timeworn clichés and stereotypes about culture clash and the stuffiness of English society, but she insists the important thing is to have a sense of humour about it.

"They do have these assumptions about us and we have assumptions about them, and what's really fun is poking holes in that and letting the air out." (Jamie Portman, Montreal Gazette, 3/26/03)

'Girl' filming causes a royal fuss
Who stirred up more attention during the London filming of What a Girl Wants: Queen Elizabeth or British actor Colin Firth? Tough call. Firth may have emerged the winner, but only because Her Majesty was a pretender, played by an impersonator known as Elizabeth R. [...]

Gordon says the married Firth works in the role, in part, because he has "that thing that adult women love. After Bridget Jones, Colin Firth makes us all weak in the knees." 

Some of Firth's fervid fans showed up unannounced during filming. "We had stalkers on the set," Gordon says. "One woman shows up everywhere he goes. She's very proper in her little red suit. He sees her and says, 'My stalker's here,' and goes over and says, 'Hello, how are you?' " (Claudia Puig, USA Today, 3/28/03)

Cling film with Firth
A rock band from Camden Town has been getting a taste of the life of movie stars after making a film with Colin Firth and Mrs John Travolta, Kelly Preston. The Cling, a five-piece band which has been compared to the likes of the Cure and The Jam, recently finished a stint on location for American Girl (due for release next summer) in glamorous High Wycombe. They all won parts after lead singer Charlie Beall auditioned for a role in the film and was cast as a “really unpleasant young aristocrat”. After chatting to the film’s producers about the band, the rest of the lads—Tom Goodfellow, James Bell, Mick Toller and Tom Penn— also landed parts.

Charlie told Heathman: “I went for the audition and just went on about the band. They had a look at the website and thought everybody looked great and cast them as the band. The one thing that annoys me slightly is that in the film Kelly Preston is the lead singer.”

Not only did The Cling have to ditch their vocalist for filming but they also had to change their style and learn to play cheesy ’80s numbers to fit into the role of a tacky wedding band. The band collectively agreed it was a “fantastic experience” and described Colin Firth as “smouldering” and Kelly Preston as “a beautiful lady”.

The Cling will be back gigging around Camden Town with their original sound and reinstated lead singer. Charlie said: “When we first played after filming a lot of people from the set turned up, so we’ll send Colin Firth a flyer and see if he can make it.” (Visit The Cling's website.) (Hampstead & Highgate Express 8/16/02)

On Location
(Hello! July 30, 2002)

Posing for a photo with some admirers gave him a chance to show his softer side.

The actor was on location in Greenwich to film his latest movie, American Girl.

Firth, who plays a hotshot British politician whose comfortable life is changed dramatically when his unknown daughter tracks him down. Anna Chancellor plays his [fiancee], Amanda Bynes plays the title character, and Christina Cole [Anna Chancellor's daughter]. Director Dennie Gordon has been shooting the film in London and the Home Counties. Eileen Atkins, Sylvia Sims and Jonathan Pryce also star. (Baz Bamigboye, Daily Mail 6/21/02)

Kelly Preston will put her singing voice to the test playing a professional thrush opposite Amanda Bynes and Colin Firth in the Dennie Gordon-directed "American Girl," the working title of a pic just getting started for Warner Bros., Gaylord and producer Denise DiNovi. Preston, who last starred in "A View From the Top," is said to be a capable songstress.  (Michael Fleming, Variety 6/13/02)

Preston has been cast in Warner Bros.' untitled debutante project (aka "American Girl") for director [Dennie Gordon]. The film stars Amanda Bynes, who has been raised in New York by her mom (Preston). She decides to search out her long-lost father (Colin Firth) in London, but once there, her American ways disrupt his lifestyle. Anna Chancellor, Jonathan Pryce, Dame Eileen Atkins, Oliver James and Christina Cole round out the cast. Preston is repped by ICM and manager Joel Stevens. ...  (Zorianna Kitt, The Hollywood Reporter 6/13/02)

Amanda Bynes goes to London for film
Amanda Bynes of Thousand Oaks is starring in her first lead movie role in "American Girl," now filming in London.

"I play Daphne—a 17-year-old from New York who travels to London in search of the father she never knew (played by Colin Firth)," Bynes wrote in an e-mail message from the British capital.

"My mother was married to him briefly when they were in the Peace Corps in Morocco. He comes from a very aristocratic family who didn't approve of my mother. Unbeknownst to him, she leaves London pregnant with me and moves back to the States.

"Daphne is somewhat of a free-spirit, Bohemian type of character. It's really exciting to be able to work with all these British actors. It's whole different experience than what I'm used to."  (Ventura County Star, 6/9/02)

During the Q&A session following a screening of The Importance of Being Earnest in Los Angeles on May 6, Colin announced that his next project will be American Girl. According to information as of April 18, this Warner Bros. film will star Amanda Bynes and will be directed by Dennie Gordon, with shooting commencing in June.

Bynes grows into 'American Girl'
Witness the example of Amanda Bynes, who is in final negotiations to topline Warner Bros.' coming-of-age feature "American Girl," scheduled to begin shooting in June with director Dennie Gordon at the helm. The 16-year-old Bynes, who appeared on Nickelodeon's "All That" from 1996-2000 and earned her own eponymous Nickelodeon series "The Amanda Show" in 1999, established her movie star credentials this year in Universal Pictures' "Big Fat Liar," which grossed a tidy $48 million domestically on a budget of just $15 million....

In "American Girl," inspired by Vincente Minnelli's 1958 film "The Reluctant Debutante," Bynes will play a hip 19-year-old who has been raised in New York by her mom. She decides to search out her long-lost father in London, but once there, her American ways disrupt his lifestyle. While working to reunite her parents and making the transition into adulthood, she discovers romance.

Jessica Bendinger ("Bring It On") wrote the most recent draft of the script. The project is being co-financed by Gaylord Films. Denise Di Novi and Billy Gerber are producing the project with Gaylord's Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala. Di Novi Pictures' Alison Greenspan is executive producing.  (Zorianna Kitt,  The Hollywood Reporter 4/18/02)

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