Scarlett Johansson as Purslane “Pursy” Hominy Will
Directed by Shainee Gabel
Written by Ronald Everett Capps (novel), Shainee Gabel (screenplay)
Release Date December 29, 2004
MPAA Rating R
Upon hearing of her mother’s death, jaded teenage loner Pursy Will (Scarlett Johansson) returns to New Orleans for the first time in years, ready to reclaim her childhood home. Expecting to find her late mother’s house abandoned, Pursy is shocked to discover that it is inhabited by two of her mother’s friends: Bobby Long (John Travolta), a former literature professor, and his young protégé, Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht). These broken men, whose lives took a wrong turn years before, have been firmly rooted in the dilapidated house for years, encouraged only by Lawson’s faltering ambitions to write a novel about Bobby Long’s life. Having no intention of leaving, Pursy, Bobby Long and Lawson are all forced to live together. Yet as time passes, their tenuous, makeshift arrangement unearths a series of buried personal secrets that challenges their bonds, and reveals just how inextricably their lives are intertwined.
Scarlett Johansson’s Role
Scarlett Johansson is Pursy Will in one of her strongest performances to date. Pursy is a character unlike any other Scarlett has played so far. In the beginning of the film she is stuck in her life and has no direction. Her mother’s death leads her to a different path and really challenges her. Pursy truly grows by the end of the film and becomes a woman. It is wonderful to see such a mature performance by such a young actress.
… John Travolta
… Gabriel Macht
… Deborah Kara Unger
… Dane Rhodes
Trivia & Facts
• From the production notes: Two years after The Horse Whisperer (that would have been in 2000), Johansson read Gabel’s script and had the first of several meetings with the director. Despite the several years it took to secure financing for the film, Johansson and her manager/mother, Melanie Johansson, a co-producer, never wavered in their commitment to bring the project to fruition.
• The production ran into budgetary problems halfway through. Several background extras were brought to a New Orleans location, fitted for costumes, fed dinner, and then sent home without pay because their scene had been cut. Some New Orleans retailers complained that thousands of dollars worth of clothes were returned unused because the scenes they were bought for were never filmed.
Quotes: Scarlett Johansson
• “I don’t think she feels sorry for herself. That’s what’s so great about the character. Pursy has made something of herself with her parents being completely absent. She doesn’t dwell on the past or how things could have been. She’s very realistic. Pursy quite literally comes in and the shades fly up and the light comes in. She’s putting a mirror up to them and saying, ‘I might be young and I might be uneducated, but this is what I see. You guys are a mess.'”
(on her character)
• “I’m just so grateful that our cast is so giving. We got so lucky. As an actor, it’s just been a wonderful.”
• “New Orleans is a character itself in the film. And its such a sexy, dirty hot place to be, that I think it influenced all of us pretty much. It’s such a spiritual place that the eclipse the characters make in the film couldn’t really happen anywhere else, I think.”
• “The two of us are so excited to be in a film together. We just work well together. We gel. We bring good stuff out of each other. We make each other feel like it’s a big shindig.”
(on John Travolta)
• “We worked so great together. John is just so gifted and giving, and he’s such an amazing, caring human being. And after all this time, he still has the ability to surprise an audience. Have you seen him in the last couple of months? Well, I won’t spoil the surprise, but wait until you see what he’s done physically to play this part. It’s unbelievable, and he’s brilliant.”
(on John Travolta)
• “Shainee doesn’t fill the voids with words. The silent moments that our characters have and the words that our characters use are filled with so much. She’s a brilliant writer. The script is so beautiful. As an actor, you’re never fishing for something that isn’t there.”
(on Shainee Gabel)
• John Travolta on Scarlett:
“Scarlett is a stunning young actor. She’s impressive. And she knows what she’s doing way beyond her years.”
• Shainee Gabel (director) on Scarlett:
“She was amazing. And it struck me that, even as a little kid, there was this incredible old soul wisdom. She just really understood what she was doing and what she was feeling at such a young age. If there’s such a thing as a natural, it’s Scarlett. She’s a joy. She’ll try it five different ways and each one of the five will be the perfect version of what you’re looking for.”
• R. Paul Miller (producer) on Scarlett:
“Scarlett is the perfect Pursy. She has an edge and naturalness about her. She seems to inhabit the role.”
• Nathan Larson (composer) on Scarlett:
“I’ve completed work on a lovely movie called A Love Song For Bobby Long, starring John Travolta and the ravishing Scarlett Johansson, who has to be one of the most beautiful humans in the world, next to my wife, naturally. Travolta and Scarlett rip it up. Did somebody say…. Oscar? You know Travolta’s overdue for it.”
Quotes: Her Character
• “I have to go to a funeral, Lee. Unless I missed it because you forgot to tell me that my mother is dead!”
• “I wish you’d all just shut up. Cause if it’s gonna be like this, I ain’t learning nothing.”
• “Everyone knows that books are better than life! That’s why they’re books!”
• “Is it? Is it romantic”
• “Lawson! Bobby’s trying to get me to tell him where the vodka is again”
• “Purslane’s really a weed, you know.”
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