Little Miss Sunshine


1h 41m 2006

Brief Synopsis

No one among the Hoovers quite has it together, but it's not for lack of trying. Father Richard, a hopelessly optimistic motivational speaker, is desperately attempting to sell his 9-step program for success--without much success. Meanwhile, the Hoovers' "pro-honesty" mother Sheryl is constantly har

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jul 26, 2006
Premiere Information
Sundance Film Festival screening: 20 Jan 2006; Los Angeles Film Festival screening: 2 Jul 2006
Production Company
Big Beach/Bona Fide Productions; Fox Searchlight Pictures
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Country
United States
Location
Arizona, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Culver City, California, United States; Palmdale, California, United States; Arizona, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m

Synopsis

In her suburban home in Albuquerque, NM, seven-year-old Olive Hoover watches videotapes of the Miss America pageant with rapt fascination. Olive, who is bright and sweet-natured but not conventionally pretty, studies and imitates the winner's ecstatic reaction. Meanwhile, in a classroom, her father Richard, an aspiring motivational speaker, presents his nine-step "Refuse to Lose" program to a tiny audience. Elsewhere in the Hoover home, Olive's teenage half-brother Dwayne exercises in his room beneath a hand-painted poster of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, while Grandpa Edwin snorts heroin in the bathroom. Sheryl, Olive's mother, goes to the hospital where her brother Frank is recovering from a recent suicide attempt. The depressed Frank is released into Sheryl's care, and she takes him home and installs him in Dwayne's room. As the family sits down to a fast-food dinner, Frank learns that the sullen Dwayne has not uttered a word for the past nine months and plans to maintain his vow of silence until he achieves his goal of entering the Air Force Academy to become a test pilot. Olive, who has been practicing her beauty pageant routine with Grandpa, notices the bandages on Frank's wrists and asks him what happened. Despite Richard's disapproval and Grandpa's homophobia, Frank, a college professor and the most highly regarded Proust scholar in the country, reluctantly reveals that he fell in love with one of his male graduate students, who did not return his affection. To make matters worse, the young man instead fell in love with Frank's academic rival, Larry Sugarman, leading Frank to behave irrationally and lose his job. The final blow came two days earlier, when Sugarman was awarded the MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant; upon hearing the news, Frank tried to kill himself. In the uncomfortable silence that ensues, Olive tells Frank that she entered a beauty pageant while visiting her Aunt Cindy in California over spring break and came in second. A phone message from Cindy reveals that the girl who had come in first was disqualified for using diet pills, meaning that Olive is eligible to enter the Little Miss Sunshine contest, which will be held in Redondo Beach, CA, that Sunday. The Hoovers, who are on a tight budget while Richard tries to launch his self-help career, cannot afford to fly to California. Because their two cars are too small to transport the entire family, they set out the next morning in Richard's old, bright-yellow Volkswagen bus. Between Richard's uneasy relationship with his father, Sheryl's fear about the family finances and Dwayne's brooding, only Olive is excited about the trip. After several hours on the road, Sheryl insists on doing some of the driving, but her attempt to learn how to drive a stick shift destroys the clutch. The bus cannot be fixed in time, but a roadside mechanic points out that the clutch is only needed to go from first to second gear, so the bus should be fine for freeway driving if they can start it in third gear. The family develops a system of pushing the bus until Richard can put it in gear, then running alongside and jumping into the moving vehicle. During this process, Frank begins to feel cheerful for the first time in months. Later, at a gas station, Richard calls promoter Stan Grossman, who is trying to get Richard a book deal for his self-help program. Grandpa gives Frank money to buy him some dirty magazines from the convenience store. While Frank is waiting for a slushie, he is mortified to run into Josh, the object of his unrequited love, who is on a vacation with Sugarman. Richard's call to Stan ends with the financially devastating news that the book deal has failed to materialize, and he and Sheryl bicker furiously. With genuine sympathy, Grandpa tells Richard he is proud of him for taking a chance, and the men awkwardly share a tender moment. The family stops for the night at a motel in Arizona. In the room she shares with her grandfather, Olive tearfully admits she is afraid of losing the contest because her father hates losers. Grandpa, who despite his coarse manner is devoted to Olive, reassures the little girl that she is beautiful inside and out. After a terrible fight with Sheryl, Richard pays a teenage boy to borrow his scooter and drives to Scottsdale, where Stan is attending a convention. Richard confronts Stan, who says there was no interest in Richard's program and never will be because Richard is unknown. Early the next morning, Olive goes into her parents' motel room and tells them that Grandpa will not wake up. At the hospital, the family is told that Grandpa died in his sleep. The hospital will not allow Richard to put off the burial until after the pageant, so Richard devises a desperate scheme to get Olive to the contest on time. Wrapping Grandpa's body in a sheet, Richard and Sheryl lower the corpse out the window to Dwayne and Frank, who put it in the trunk of the bus. On the freeway, Richard honks at a car that cuts them off, and the horn gets stuck. They are soon pulled over by a policeman, and Frank's nervous behavior causes the policeman to open the trunk. When Grandpa's dirty magazines fall out, the policeman is so favorably impressed that he does not even notice the body and lets the family go. As they approach Redondo Beach, with the horn bleating constantly, Olive entertains herself by giving Dwayne the eye test she picked up at the hospital. Dwayne fails the test for color-blindness, and when Frank tells him this means he cannot be a pilot, he flies into a rage. Richard pulls the van over and Dwayne runs out, screaming in frustration, and refuses to get back on the bus until Olive goes to her brother and silently puts her arm around him. The family finally reaches the hotel where the contest is being held, but Ms. Jenkins, the pageant official, turns them away because they are five minutes late. Richard drops to his knees and pleads with her, and a sympathetic associate registers Olive himself. Sheryl takes Olive backstage, where many of the other young contestants are undergoing elaborate beauty rituals, and Richard calls a funeral parlor to pick up Grandpa's body. Sitting in the lobby with Dwayne, Frank looks through a newspaper and comes across a full-page ad for Sugarman's best-selling book on Proust. Later, Frank and Dwayne walk to a pier and converse about the meaning of life, after which Dwayne declares that he does not need the Military Academy to teach him how to fly and that nothing can stop him from doing what he loves. The contest begins, and Richard watches the heavily made-up little girls perform their polished routines with some discomfort. At the end of the talent competition, Olive takes the stage, and after dedicating her performance to her grandfather, proceeds to do a racy dance routine to the song "Super Freak." Many in the audience are offended and walk out, but when the pageant emcee tries to pull Olive off stage, Richard runs up and stops him. Oblivious to the mayhem around her, Olive continues to dance with innocent abandon, and Richard and the rest of the family start to dance with her. Afterwards, the family is detained while Ms. Jenkins confers with the police. The policeman tells them they are free to go as long as they agree never to enter another beauty pageant in California. The family happily push-starts the honking bus and begins the trip back home.

Crew

Christie Abercrombie

Stunt player

Leroy Alaman

Pageant Coordinator

Rita Alaman

Pageant consultant

Heather Anderson

Addl 2d 2d Assistant Director

Kenny Anderson

Assistant stunt Coordinator

Bryan Arenas

Dolby Sound consultant

Eric Armao

Craft service Assistant

Michael Arndt

Writer

Mike Artino

Medic

Rick Ash

Re-rec mixer

Adam Avitabile

Visual Effects Supervisor

Justine Baddeley

Casting

Ellis Barbacoff

Assistant Props master

Greg Barbanell

Foley artist

Matthew Bardocz

Best boy Electrician

Jenn Baum

Addl Props

Ron Bedrosian

ADR mixer

Albert Berger

Producer

Michael Beugg

Unit Production Manager

Michael Beugg

Executive Producer

Tony Bonaventura

Props Master

Clint J. Borden

Grip

Kacie Borrowman

Stunt player

Clay Boss

Stunt player

Erik Bright

Unit Publicist

Jeb Brody

Executive Producer

Andrea Cantrell

Addl Props

Brian Cantrell

Electrician

Cecilia M. Cardwell

Studio teacher

Kerry Ann Carmean

Foley Editor

Susan Carol-schwary

Key hair stylist

Ed Casares

Video assist

Janis Clark

Department head hair

Richard Cody

Key craft service

George M. Cohan

Composer

Josh Comen

Visual Effects prod

Molly Cooper

Assistant to prods

Peter C. Cullen

Stunt player

Russell Curtis

Electrician

Patrick Cusack

Addl Sound Editor

Mychael Danna

Music Composition

Mychael Danna

Addl Music: Piano

Kim Davis-wagner

Casting

Andrew Decristofaro

Supervisor Sound Editor

Jill Deibler

Set dressing buyer

Gregory H. Dellerson

2d Assistant Camera

Josh Denering

Grip

Marguerite Derricks

Choreography

Angel Desanti

Transportation co-capt

Bob Deschaine

ADR mixer

Devotchka

Composer

Devotchka

Score rec by

Marc Dodd

Composer

Bob Dohrmann

Prod Supervisor

Craig Dollinger

Boom Operator

Jamie Dunlap

Composer

John Ehrlich

Composer

Cate Engel

Casting Associate

Thomas Farr

Payroll accountant

Joe Fineman

Post prod consulting by EPC

Jennifer Freed

Big Beach finance Executive

David T. Friendly

Producer

Carlos M. Gallardo

Dolly grip

Joe Garcia

Set Dresser

Weba Garretson

Composer

Terel Gibson

Assistant Editor

Faride Gonzalez

Pageant Coordinator

Paul H. Goodstein

Key grip

Jeffrey P. Greeley

A Camera op

Kate Greenberg

2d 2d Assistant Director

Theresa Greene

Art Department Coordinator

Rick Gunderson

Stunt player

Francis Hadinoto

Office prod Assistant

Brad Haehnel

Music rec and mixed by

Thomas Hagerman

Violin, accordion, piano

Jennifer Hamilton

Assistant choreographer

Riley Thomas Harper

Stunt player

Tom Robinson Harper

Stunt Coordinator

Barbara Harris

Voice casting

Tracie Richelle Harrison

"Olive" stand in

Geno Hart

Transportation Coordinator

Keith Hascher

Electrician

Xocoyotzin Herrera

Composer

Troy Hope

Lead scenic artist

Kelly Hunt

Extras casting

Lisa Hyde

Costumes

Kalina Ivanov

Production Design

Susan Jacobs

Music Supervisor

Rick James

Composer

Johnny Johnson

Stunt player

Darvin Jordan

Composer

James Kaplan

Assistant to Mr. Dayton & Ms. Faris

Larry "doc" Karman

Steadicam op/B Camera op

Rich King

Extras casting

Shawn King

Drums, percussion, trumpet, glockenspiel

"dugg" Kirkpatrick

Key hair stylist

Michael Klingerman

Lead person

Ashley Kravitz

Clearance Coordinator

John Krovoza

Addl Music: Cello

Rick Lawrence

Grip

Heather Lea

1st Assistant Camera

Eric Lee

Still Photographer

Melissa Levander

Set Decoration

Joe Lewis

Assistant to Mr. Dayton & Ms. Faris

Christopher Licata

Set prod Assistant

Felipe Linz

Assistant to prods

Bart Lipton

Associate Producer

Anne Litt

Music Supervisor

Kevin Maier

"Frank" stand in

Jason Mandel

Office prod Assistant

Joshua Mandel

Office prod Assistant

Laurent Marchand

Chef

David Marple

Set Dresser

Diane Marshall

Foley artist

Judith Martin

Composer

Pamela Martin

Editing

Lyn Matsuda-norton

Script Supervisor

Joe May

Addl 2d 2d Assistant Director

Paul W. Mcilvaine

Gaffer

Charissa Deann Mclain

Assistant prod Coordinator

Andrea Mclaws

Pageant Coordinator

Emily Mcmaster

Assistant to prods

Robin Mcmullan

Costume Supervisor

Joe Everett Michaels

"Richard" stand in

Alonzo Miller

Composer

Chris Miller

Loc Manager

Christine Miller

Studio teacher

Alan "monk" Morier

Electrician

Steven A. Morrow

Sound Mixer

Sebastian Arocha Morton

Composer

Alan E. Muraoka

Art Director

Dan Murbarger

24 frame playback

Steven F. Nelson

Sound Effects Editor

Scott Nickoley

Composer

Nancy Kyong Nugent

ADR Editor

Jessica Otto

Assistant to Ms. Collette

Chris Pappas

On-set dresser

Adam Pinkstaff

Transportation capt

Michelle Pizanis

Film loader

Gordon Pogoda

Composer

Sara Pollack

Big Beach prod Executive

Michyl-shannon Quilty

Prod Coordinator

Angel Radefeld

Key makeup

Yasmin Redoblado

Casting Assistant

Liron Reiter

Set prod Assistant

Bob Remstein

Composer

Mike Revell

Prod accountant

Stephen P. Robinson

Supervisor Sound Editor

Terry Rodman

Re-rec mixer

Steve Rollins

Electrician

Chris Rossi

Best boy grip

Rigney Sackley

2d Assistant Camera

Negar Saddigh

Set prod Assistant

Rocsana Saddigh

Set prod Assistant

Jesse Salka

Unit Publicist

Peter Saraf

Producer

Jeanie Schroder

Double bass, tuba

Robert Sharman

Cable person

Chris Sidor

Mix tech

Gregory Smith

2d Assistant Director

Raymond A. Smith

Composer

Thomas Patrick Smith

1st Assistant Director

Nicole Sortillion

Makeup Assistant

David Sparkman

Composer

Jennifer Starzyk

Key Costume

Greg Steele

ADR mixer

Nancy Steiner

Costume Design

Sufjan Stevens

Composer

Marcy Stoehr

Pageant Coordinator

Theda Streetman

1st Assistant Camera

John C. Stuver

Dial Editor

Tim Suhrstedt

Director of Photography

Lucy Sustar

Foley mixer

Suzanne C. Swindle

Script Supervisor

Katherine A. Taylor

Set prod Assistant

Matt Taylor

Stunt player

Nate Taylor

Assistant loc Manager

Tony Tisdale

Addl performance Music

Michael Toji

Post prod Supervisor

Tim Trella

Stunt player

Alex Turtletaub

Editor intern

Marc Turtletaub

Producer

Cori Uchida

Assistant to prods

Barry Upton

Composer

Nick Urata

Composer

Nick Urata

Guitars, whistles, piano, organ

Aaron Vyvial

Grip

Rion Waller

Set Dresser

Mark Wheaton

Composer

Lee Wimer

Col timer

Josh Winget

Music Editor

Torsten Witte

Department head makeup

Jenny Worman

"Sheryl" stand in

Bryan Yaconelli

1st Assistant accountant

Teresea Yee

Pageant Coordinator

Ron Yerxa

Producer

Paul Young

Set prod Assistant

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jul 26, 2006
Premiere Information
Sundance Film Festival screening: 20 Jan 2006; Los Angeles Film Festival screening: 2 Jul 2006
Production Company
Big Beach/Bona Fide Productions; Fox Searchlight Pictures
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Country
United States
Location
Arizona, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Culver City, California, United States; Palmdale, California, United States; Arizona, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m

Award Wins

Best Original Screenplay

2007
Michael Arndt

Best Supporting Actor

2007
Alan Arkin

Best Original Screenplay

2006

Best Supporting Actor

2006
Alan Arkin

Award Nominations

Best Picture

2006

Best Supporting Actress

2006
Abigail Breslin

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Only the title appears at the beginning of the film; all other credits are at the end. The credits include the following dedication: "In loving memory of Rebecca Annitto, a true beauty inside and out." Annitto, the niece of co-producer Peter Saraf, was a 14-year-old competitive rower who was killed in a car accident in Princeton, NJ.
       Various articles in Los Angeles Times and an August 11, 2006 Entertainment Weekly provide the following information about the film's five-year development process: First-time screenwriter Michael Arndt, a former personal assistant, sold the screenplay for $150,000 to producers David T. Friendly and Marc Turtletaub in 2001. In a November 17, 2006 Hollywood Reporter interview, Arndt stated that his twin brother is "a depressed academic who teaches Proust" and that his family had a VW bus when he was growing up. "Everything that happened with the car [in the film] happened to my family."
       Both Dean Parisot and Goldie Hawn expressed interest in directing the film before the assignment went to Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Dayton and Faris, who are married, were known for their work on commercials and music videos, but had never directed a feature film. The project was sold to Focus Features, which argued that the film needed a major star and commissioned a rewrite from screenwriter Steve Conrad. Conrad is not credited onscreen and his contribution, if any, to the final film has not been determined. Jim Carrey, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Ben Stiller, Kevin Kline and Robin Williams were considered for one or both of the male roles; Bill Murray was sought for the role of "Frank"; and Laura Linney, Jennifer Aniston and Diane Lane were considered for the role of "Sheryl." A November 1, 2006 Los Angeles Times article adds that David Duchovny was considered for role of "Richard" and Donald Sutherland was considered for the role of "Grandpa."
       Dayton and Faris objected when Focus proposed shooting the film in Canada to save money, in part because Canada lacks America's fascination with beauty pageants for young girls, which would have made it difficult to cast the roles of the other Little Miss Sunshine contestants. After two years of development, Focus dropped the project, and Turtletaub decided to buy the script back and finance the production himself. Big Beach, which is jointly owned by Arndt and Turtletraub, eventually co-financed the picture with Bona Fide Productions, a company co-owned by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa. Little Miss Sunshine was shot in less than a month, for an $8 million budget.
       According to a June 25, 2006 Los Angeles Times news item, the beauty pageant was shot at the Radisson Hotel in Culver City, and many of the scenes in the VW bus were filmed near Palmdale, CA. Entertainment Weekly adds that portions of the film were shot in the Arizona desert. In their DVD commentary, the directors noted that the extras in the scenes at the hotel were actual contestants and parents from the beauty pageant circuit.
       The DVD included, as added content, footage shot but not used for the film's ending. In one version, the family stops for picnic after leaving the contest and reminisces about Grandpa. In their DVD commentary, the directors noted that the scene was "too sappy" and did not fit the tone of the rest of the movie. In another version, the adult members of the family are handcuffed together while "Ms. Jenkins" confers with the policeman after the contest. Additional footage shows the family stealing a giant trophy from the hotel before leaving.
       Little Miss Sunshine had its premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, where it was optioned for a record $10.5 million, the biggest deal for a single film in the festival's history, surpassing the previous high of $10.25 million for Happy, Texas in 1999. Little Miss Sunshine was screened at the inaugural Sundance Institute at the Brooklyn Academy of Music film series in mid-May 2006 and was shown as part of Film Independent's Los Angeles Film Festival on 2 July 2006.
       Little Miss Sunshine was a critical and popular success. The Los Angeles Times review praised the film's performances and stated, "Little Miss Sunshine hilariously punctures the grotesque bubble of the competitive American spirit in which `winners' are recognized by their rigorous ability to conform to the standards imposed by the market, and `losers' include anyone who won't bow to its mighty will." Variety reported on September 11, 2006 that the film had earned $36.7 million, which put it in the top tier of independent films. According to Internet financial database Box Office Mojo, the film's worldwide grosses exceeded $86 million as of January 2007.
       In addition to being selected as one of AFI's Movies of the Year for 2006, Little Miss Sunshine received the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award (Marc Turtletaub, David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf, Albert Berger & Ron Yerxa) from the Producers Guild of America. Alan Arkin received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Michael Arndt received the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film was also nominated by the Academy in the categories of Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Breslin). The picture earned two Golden Globe nominations, one for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy, and another for Best Actress in a Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy (Toni Collette). The film received the Screen Actors Guild ensemble award for Outstanding Acting by a Cast, and received SAG nominations for Arkin for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role and Breslin for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor. The film also received the following Independent Spirit Awards: Best Feature, Best Director, Best First Screenplay and Best Supporting Male (Arkin). Paul Dano was also nominated in the Best Supporting Male category. Dayton and Faris were nominated for Directorial Achievement in Film by the Directors Guild of America, and Arndt received the Writers Guild of America award for Best Original Screenplay.

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted one of the 10 best films of 2006 by the American Film Institute (AFI).

Winner of the 2006 award for Best Ensemble Cast by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

Winner of the 2006 award for Best Original Screenplay by the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

Winner of the 2006 Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures by the Producers Guild of America (PGA).

Winner of the 2006 New Generation Award by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA).

Winner of the Audience Award at the 2006 San Sebastian Film Festival.

Winner of the Grand Prize award at the 2006 Deauville Festival of American Cinema.

Winner of two 2006 awards including Best Original Screenplay and Best Ensemble by the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA).

Winner of two 2006 awards including Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin) by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).

Limited Release in United States July 26, 2006

Released in United States Summer July 26, 2006

Released in United States on Video December 19, 2006

Released in United States 2006

Released in United States January 2006

Released in United States August 2006

Released in United States September 2006

Released in United States January 2007

Shown at the Los Angeles Film Festival (Closing Night) June 22-July 2, 2006.

Shown at Edinburgh International Film Festival (Gala) August 14-27, 2006.

Shown at Locarno International Film Festival (Closing Night/Piazza Grande) August 2-12, 2006.

Shown at San Sebastian Film Festival (Zabaltegi/Pearls) September 21-30, 2006.

Shown at Deauville Festival of American Cinema (Competition) September 1-10, 2006.

Shown at Palm Springs International Film Festival (Talking Pictures) January 4-15, 2007.

Deep River purchased the spec by Michael Arndt.

Literary Sale Date: 07/12/2002.

Project was included on the 2005 Black List.

Feature film directing debut for husband-and-wife team, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Fox Searchlight acquired worldwide distribution rights at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival for a reported sum of $10 million.

Limited Release in United States July 26, 2006

Released in United States Summer July 26, 2006

Released in United States on Video December 19, 2006

Released in United States 2006 (Shown at the Los Angeles Film Festival (Closing Night) June 22-July 2, 2006.)

Released in United States January 2006 (Shown at Sundance Film Festival (Premiere) January 19-29, 2006.)

Released in United States August 2006 (Shown at Edinburgh International Film Festival (Gala) August 14-27, 2006.)

Released in United States August 2006 (Shown at Locarno International Film Festival (Closing Night/Piazza Grande) August 2-12, 2006.)

Released in United States September 2006 (Shown at San Sebastian Film Festival (Zabaltegi/Pearls) September 21-30, 2006.)

Released in United States September 2006 (Shown at Deauville Festival of American Cinema (Competition) September 1-10, 2006.)

Released in United States January 2007 (Shown at Palm Springs International Film Festival (Talking Pictures) January 4-15, 2007. )

Winner of the John Schlesinger Award, 2007 Palm Springs International Film Festival.