Life or Something Like It : Production Notes

What would you do if you thought you only had one week left to live? Would you radically change what was left of your life? Re-evaluate your values and priorities?

Those are the last questions in the world that Lanie Kerrigan (Angelina Jolie) thought she’d ever have to face. A feature reporter at a Seattle television station, Lanie thinks her life is perfect. Perfect job. Perfect apartment. Perfect wardrobe. Perfect boyfriend.

But her “perfect” world starts unraveling after a homeless street seer (Tony Shalhoub) tells Lanie that she leads a meaningless existence, and will die the following week. When the savant’s other predictions come true, Lanie begins to re-examine her life and priorities, all in a whirlwind one-week period. As if things weren’t crazy enough for Lanie, romantic sparks fly as she reluctantly teams with a cameraman (Edward Burns) with whom she has long been at odds.

From Regency Enterprises, Life or Something Like It (2002) is directed by Stephen Herek. The film stars Angelina Jolie (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)), Edward Burns (director, writer and star of Sidewalks of New York (2001)), Tony Shalhoub (The Man Who Wasn’t There), and Stockard Channing (Business of Strangers, The (2001)).

Co-starring are Christian Kane (Summer Catch (2001)) and Melissa Errico (Frequency (2000)). The screenplay is by John Scott Shepherd (Joe Somebody (2001)) and Dana Stevens (City of Angels, For Love of the Game), from a story by John Scott Shepherd. The film is produced by Arnon Milchan, John Davis (Behind Enemy Lines (2001)), Chi-Li Wong (Joe Somebody (2001)), and Toby Jaffe (Rock Star, Blue Streak).

What’s the most important thing in life? Is it love or is it your career? Is it work or is it your family? Lanie Kerrigan must ponder these questions after a street savant tells her that she will die in seven days.

Ambitious, glamorous and a top reporter at the That’s Seattle Life morning show, Lanie has risen from her blue-collar roots and is on her way to capturing a dream job with one of the major networks. She has carefully planned her career path to be a major television celebrity and has redesigned her life for a certain public image. Lanie finds happiness in trivial and material things right down to her engagement to Cal, a superstar batting champion with the Seattle Mariners. That is until she learns her fate from Prophet Jack.

When Life or Something Like It (2002) producer John Davis first read the script he responded to its comedic and inspirational elements. “I believed that Lanie was a strong woman who ultimately finds herself, and I was captivated by the story’s humor and warmth, as well as the emotional journey Lanie takes in the story,” Davis comments.

Lanie’s strength and complexities called for an actress who could bring those special qualities, plus the expected star wattage, to the character. Davis and Regency Enterprises executives had their sights set on Angelina Jolie. However, Jolie had planned on taking a break from acting after the rigors of shooting Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). “I didn’t want to do another film,” she recalls. “I wanted to stay at home and work and focus on family and other important things in life. Then I got this script and somebody said to me it’s about everything you’ve been talking about. So when I read it, I realized it meant so much to me, and I thought it had a beautiful message in it.”

“Lanie is very ambitious and takes herself very seriously, but because she’s so serious about perfection she’s slightly funny,” Jolie elaborates. “When she realizes she’s going to die she kind of flips out and through that somehow is forced to be broken down to be human, much like a very pretty princess falling in the mud.”

The film also offered Jolie her first opportunity to star in a comedic role. “I’ve never done a comedy and when I read it I thought it was a challenge because I was thinking there’s no way I could possibly play a woman like this because I’m far too serious,” Jolie laughs. “Then I started to play with the ideas of how she’d look, or things she’d do, and I couldn’t get the story out of my head.”

John Davis, delighted to have Jolie aboard the project, takes special note of what became the perfect convergence of “reel” and real life for the actress. “I think the way Angelina embraced the script and attached herself to the movie is very interesting. She found a piece of material that helped her complete the transition she was going through in life and that’s one of the reasons why she is so good as the character.”

Director Stephen Herek worked to seamlessly mix and expand upon the story’s humor and pathos. “The story is about redemption and saving one’s soul,” Herek notes. “What we think is important in our lives a lot of times is very superficial and what we find is truly important is finding peace within your inner self.”

Herek re-teamed with his Hudson Bay production company partner, producer Toby Jaffe, with whom he had recently worked on the comedy Rock Star. Jaffe offers, “When Steve and I read the Life or Something Like It (2002) script we both immediately fell in love with it and thought it was a very funny cautionary tale about the American Dream. When Lanie is told that she will die in a week, it causes her to turn her whole life upside down and re-evaluate everything, in a comedic way, and get back in touch with who she really is and where she really came from.”

Screenwriter John Scott Shepherd drew inspiration for the screenplay from career-driven professionals – including newscasters and attorneys from mid-sized cities – whom he perceived as craving the limelight as much as advancement. “I found myself looking around at celebrity-driven professionals in mid-sized towns who seemed to have decided their life was perfect,” says Shepherd, a Kansas City resident. “I pondered what is it they require and decide to declare their life perfect? And then how far beneath the surface did you have to look to find where the heartbreak was? Because it always seemed to be there.”

The goal of both Shepherd and co-screenwriter Dana Stevens was to move away from the common situational romantic comedy. Unlike many modern romantic comedies built on the notion that one of the two parties is actively looking for love, Life or Something Like It (2002) looks at Lanie, a woman in crisis, and the journey she must take. Love is the reward, not the journey itself.

Dana Stevens comments: “Lanie and Pete, the cameraman played by Edward Burns, represent two sides of the argument about what’s the most important thing in life: love, career, work or family? I think that’s a more scintillating way to have a relationship than you often see in traditional romantic comedies.

“I think if you were told you were going to die in a week, number one you’d feel in a certain sense incredibly liberated,” Stevens adds. “Like you can do anything, because nothing matters anymore. But on the other hand you might also begin to want to make connections and have important moments that maybe you never got to have.”

Life or Something Like It (2002) also embraces some beloved aspects of classic romantic comedies. Under Herek’s direction, the film evolved to interweave unconventional elements with the look and feel of the classic romantic comedies of the forties and fifties, as well as a rollicking rendition, led by an inebriated Lanie at a union rally, of the Rolling Stones’ (“I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” “The script has a lot of quick flying banter, lots of insults that Lanie and Pete hurl at each other, and an old-fashioned romantic comedy relationship,” Herek explains. “And Lanie has a throwback look of the era.”

Davis admired how the director grasped the script and took it to a higher level. “It’s the director’s sensibility that’s going to guide the performance, more comedic, more dramatic and it’s his interpretation that is going to elevate the movie. And Steve came in and elevated the entire package. That’s what you want a director to do. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often and when it does it’s that magic that makes a movie work.”

Herek and Regency assembled an impressive cast and crew. For Pete, Lanie’s colleague with whom she has long been at odds following a less than successful one-night fling, Herek put himself in the position of matchmaker. He looked to an actor who would not only complement Lanie but someone who could play the understated romantic lead. He found just that in Edward Burns, an actor who projects the ease and comfort of an old fashioned movie star but also has a caustic, street-smart attitude that Herek knew would fit perfectly for the role of Lanie’s love-hate interest.

The two roles are clearly opposites. Lanie craves celebrity and success while Pete has shunned loftier ambitions and a successful New York network job as a cameraman, electing to relocate to Seattle to be near his ex-wife and young son. Burns explains, “Pete’s attitude toward life is different than Lanie’s in that he has given up the hardcore career aspirations. In the past, he probably focused on being the best in his field, now he’s got a different set of priorities such as trying to be a good dad to his son.”

Coincidentally, Burns had worked on the assignment desk at a news show in New York after graduating from college. A noted director, producer and screenplay writer himself, Burns offers, “I was first attracted to the script as I am somewhat familiar with the world of local television news. I’m also a big fan of old-style romantic comedies and Steve Herek is taking a genre that has lost a lot of fun in the last couple of years and he played with it in a fun way.”

For the pivotal role of street seer Prophet Jack, Herek looked to Tony Shalhoub. Prophet Jack may or may not be a homeless madman, con-man or a real prophet. But to Lanie, he is the voice of doom when he tells her that she only has a week to live.

Although Prophet Jack’s antics and predictions bring local color to the downtown streets of Seattle, he doesn’t necessarily love what he’s doing. “He’d rather be doing something different such as pick Lotto numbers and just get out of this whole thing, but he doesn’t really have any choice,” Shalhoub explains. “The messages just come to him at random.” He adds, “There’s something sort of spiritual about this guy and playing him kind of helped me to get back into a more meditative head and slow down a bit, so that’s been good.”

Prophet Jack’s portend of doom for Lanie sends her on a personal and professional whirlwind ride, taking her to a big opportunity in New York, as reporter for the national morning show A.M. USA. Her first assignment: interview one of the nation’s most influential, powerful television personalities, Deborah Connors. As Lanie’s professional role model, Connors plays an unexpected defining role in Lanie’s personal journey.

Stockard Channing, who takes on the role, was intrigued by the opportunity of working with Jolie and was flattered to play a legendary and charismatic character. She offers, “I like Angelina’s work and I think she’s a very interesting actress and since most of my work is with her I thought that would also be interesting.”

Working alongside Lanie is her friend and That’s Seattle Life anchor, Andrea, played by Melissa Errico. Lanie and Andrea’s friendship is shallow, extending no further than daily workouts together at the gym, counting calories, and dreaming about being a celebrity. Not as glamorous as Lanie, Andrea looks to her with admiration. “Andrea gets a little excited when she’s around Lanie,” notes Errico. “She sees Lanie as perfect, fabulous. At their daily gym get-togethers, they workout constantly on the treadmill. But they’re really on the treadmill of success, the treadmill of life. They are trying to get ahead. They want to be Miss American Fabulous.”

Lanie’s relationship with her boyfriend Cal, played by Christian Kane, runs no deeper. Cal prefers not to think about the complexities of the woman he will marry; instead, he sees only a beautiful, successful, thin partner to complement him, and he is uninterested in looking beyond their mutual superficial interests of celebrity status, teeth bleaching and looking good at hip restaurants.


In Life or Something Like It (2002), Angelina Jolie portrays a woman who sees the world and herself through rose-colored glasses. Her perfectionist personality is revealed through her extensive, expensive wardrobe and accessories. But as she embarks on her personal journey, her style reflects the dramatic changes she at first resists, but then embraces.

Working together closely with Jolie was Academy Award®-nominated costume designer Aggie Rodgers (The Color Purple), who previously collaborated with Herek on Rock Star, Mr. Holland’s Opus and Holy Man. Working with Jolie’s long-time hair stylist Colin Jamison and personal make-up artist Janeen Schreyer, Rodgers transformed Jolie from a brunette to a stunning platinum blond, complete with a wardrobe and hairstyle that evokes the look of a fifties-era movie star bombshell.

“Angelina was clear from the beginning, that’s how she wanted to look,” says Rodgers. I also think Angelina’s choice to wear the Dolce & Gabbana line was a really good one. They are beautiful suits, strong colors and great textures that fit her just perfectly.” The suit’s long arms, very narrow ribcage and pencil late-fifties skirt, complemented the actor’s enviable figure and the image Jolie envisioned for Lanie Kerrigan.

Filming on Life or Something Like It (2002) began in Seattle, with the production then moving on to locations in Vancouver and New York City. The filmmakers solved one of their biggest location challenges by setting up at Seattle’s KOMO-TV studios, which ensured the production’s That’s Seattle Life set looked authentic. Among the thirty-plus locations used in Vancouver, the Art Deco Marine Building served as the New York-based “A.M. USA” offices, where Lanie hopes to realize her dream and work as a major network reporter.

Lanie’s one-week journey of laughs, self-discovery and redemption are impressive. But they hardly compare to the real-life honor bestowed upon the actor who plays her, Angelina Jolie. After wrapping Life or Something Like It (2002), Jolie earned the title of goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. While filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) in Cambodia, Jolie met former refugees who told her about the UNHCR. When she called requesting information, the organization offered to make her an ambassador on the spot. Rather than immediately accept, Jolie paid her own way to visit Africa, Cambodia and Pakistan to meet relief workers and refugees, after which she accepted the title.


ANGELINA JOLIE (Lanie Kerrigan) first came to prominence for her poignant Golden Globe Award-winning role as supermodel Gia Carangi in the HBO film Gia. Having earned an Oscar® (Best Supporting Actress 1999), her third consecutive Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award® for her moving performance as Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted (1999), Jolie has become one of the most sought-after actresses in the entertainment industry. Most recently, Jolie starred as cult video game heroine Lara Croft in Simon West’s blockbuster adventure Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Michael Cristofer’s Original Sin (2001), starring alongside Antonio Banderas. She will next star in Martin Campbell’s Beyond Borders (2001) for Mandalay Pictures.

A member of the famed MET Theatre Ensemble Workshop, Jolie trained at the Lee Strasberg Institute and also studied with Jan Tarrant in New York and Silvana Gallardo in Los Angeles. Her early films include Hackers and Foxfire. Jolie was seen onscreen in two box-office hits; the dramatic thriller The Bone Collector, The (1999) opposite Denzel Washington for director Phillip Noyce, and Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) starring Nicolas Cage. Her other feature film credits include Pushing Tin (1999), Playing By Heart (1998), and Playing God (1997).

For her television work, in addition to garnering the Golden Globe for Gia, Jolie received a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Emmy® nomination. She won the Golden Globe and was nominated for Emmy and CableACE Awards for her role as Cornelia Wallace, the second wife of the controversial Alabama governor, in John Frankenheimer’s HBO film George Wallace, starring Gary Sinise. She also starred in the Hallmark Hall of Fame mini-series True Women (based on Janice Woods Windle’s best-selling historical novel) and in music videos for the Rolling Stones (“Has Anybody Seen My Baby”), Meat Loaf (“Rock ‘n Roll Dreams Come True”) and Lenny Kravitz (“Stand By My Woman”).

EDWARD BURNS’ (Pete) fourth feature as a writer, director, producer, and star, was the recent Sidewalks of New York (2001). A comedic look at relationships and romance through the eyes of six New Yorkers; Sidewalks co-stars Burns, Heather Graham, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, David Krumholz, Dennis Farina and Stanley Tucci.

As an actor, Burns was last seen in Fifteen Minutes co-starring Robert De Niro. Written, directed and produced by John Herzfeld, the action thriller follows an arson investigator (played by Burns) who teams with a famous homicide detective (De Niro) to track down a murderer. Burns also starred opposite Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (1998). The critically acclaimed World War II epic marked the first film in which Burns acted in a film he did not write and direct himself.

Burns was lauded by both critics and audiences for his first feature, The Brothers McMullen, which premiered in competition at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Grand Jury Prize. Burns wrote, directed and starred in the film, which was shot on a budget of only $25,000 and went on to gross over $10 million at the domestic box office, making it the most profitable film of 1995. The film also won "Best First Feature" at the 1996 Independent Spirit Awards.

Burns' second film that he wrote, directed, produced and starred in was the romantic comedy She's The One, with Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz. Produced by Fox Searchlight, the film also starred John Mahoney. Burns' most recent quadruple filmmaking effort was the intimate drama, No Looking Back. The Gramercy feature also starred Lauren Holly and Jon Bon Jovi.

In conjunction with the release of No Looking Back, Three Screenplays

by Edward Burns was published by Hyperion. The book includes an introduction by Burns with the screenplays from "The Brothers McMullen," "She's The One" and "No Looking Back." More recently, Three Stories From Long Island was released as a three DVD set through Twentieth Century Fox, and includes the DVDs of The Brothers McMullen, She's the One, and No Looking Back.

For television, Burns and his brother Brian created and executive produced the half-hour comedy The Fighting Fitzgeralds for NBC with Golden Globe-winner Brian Dennehy starring.

Burns was born in Woodside, Queens and raised on Long Island. Initially an English major, he decided to focus on filmmaking, which he studied at Hunter College in New York City before making The Brothers McMullen. After the film won the Grand Jury Prize at Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival, Redford was so impressed with Burns' talents that he served as executive producer on both She's The One and No Looking Back.

Burns recently completed Ash Wednesday, his latest effort as writer, director, producer and star. Set in 1983 New York, Ash Wednesday is a drama about two brothers trying to escape their past.

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