by Edwin L. Carpenter, Editor – The Dove Foundation
Recently visitors to our website at www.dove.org voted for their favorite Dove “Family-Approved” Seal winning films of 2008. Our readers selected All Roads Lead Home as the Best Limited Release Film for 2008. The Dove Foundation was fortunate enough to chat with the director and producer of the film, Dennis Fallon, not long before his film was chosen as a Crystal Dove Seal Award winning recipient.
“How did you become involved as director of the film?” we asked.
“Our production company, Waldo West Productions has made several films which I produced, and our first film was a family film. We made a couple other types of films and they have been seen all over the world, they’ve all been in distribution. Our small little family film ended up selling hundreds of thousands of copies in Wal-Mart. So our distributor said, ‘Hey, we wish you guys would make another family film’ I said if we do we want to make a real quality family film.
“When we set out to start developing this project, I was sort of forced by everybody around who were saying, ‘You’re the one who has to direct this picture. You’re the one who’s going to put all the heart and soul into it.’ As the producer of the project I had to ask was I hiring the right guy for the job. So that was a tough decision. “
Dennis ultimately decided that with all he had done, editing and location scouting and art directing and working in the various departments, that he was diverse enough in his background to pull it off.
“Speaking of making the movie, how did you end up casting Vivien Cardone as the pivotal twelve-year-old character Belle?” we inquired.
“That’s a very interesting story,” replied Dennis. “I’m glad you asked that question because as you have seen the movie you know the role of Belle is a strong role for a young girl. It took quite a kid to pull that off and we couldn’t afford Dakota Fanning! When you get to that level of acting how do you bring in a young girl who can carry a whole movie that has this many dramatic elements to it? I had seen her as a little girl in A Beautiful Mind. In my opinion she basically store her scenes away from Russell Crowe. Then she was on the TV show Everwood for five years. On Everwood she played a girl who lost her mom. In the first episode they lose their mom and then they move to Everwood.
“She was on the show and the show was cancelled when we were shooting. It was when UPN and the WB combined to become the CW channel. They kept Seventh Heaven instead of Everwood. Anyway, here’s how it all worked out. I called my casting director because the first role I had to cast was Belle. Everyone else would fill in around that. I called and I said, ‘I want Vivien Cardone’. ’Ok,’ they said, ‘but we’ve got about 350 kids to look at’ and I said, ‘Fine, I’ll look at everybody. ‘We looked at some major actresses that you see on TV all of the time and actresses that wanted this role because it was such a strong role for a kid that age. I said, ‘I’ll look at everybody but I know who Belle is’. And I said, ‘Get me Vivien Cardone’ and they said, ‘Fine.’
“It wasn’t a week later that Vivien’s office called us before we called her. Isn’t that kind of how destiny sort of works?” he asked rhetorically. “She’s a beautiful kid and she’s a great little actress,” he added. “She’s one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. The movie has so many animals in it and Vivien has a tremendous love for animals. They have four horses, three dogs; cats. She came on the set and saw the puppies and she just melted. When she was with those animals she wasn’t acting. It’s like the beginning of the movie when she opens up the bag with the puppies. That’s how she really feels about animals.”
The rest of the cast members also stand out in this film and Dennis said he spent four and a half months casting the movie. The cast includes Jason London as Belle’s father Cody, Vanessa Branch as his romantic interest and the local veterinarian, Lillian Cole, Peter Coyote as Belle’s grandfather Hock Banyon, and Peter Boyle in his last film, playing the part of Poovey. He died shortly after completing the role.
Dennis said that some people who were interested in the film fell out for one reason or another and then just the right person popped up at the right time. Dennis met Jason London for lunch and really liked him, and had always admired him as an actor and believed he was underrated. Interestingly enough, Jason had a daughter at about the same age as the character of Belle, and Dennis knew Jason would be able to relate to the role of Cody, the father to twelve-year-old Belle.
“Peter Coyote is always great–I love Peter” Dennis said. Peter wanted to be in a film he could take his grandchildren to see. Dennis stated Peter said as soon as he read the script he knew he could take his grandchildren to see it.
“Having Peter Boyle was just a treat for me,” said Dennis. “It was really hard because Peter was not doing very well. We didn’t know that he had blood cancer. We just knew he was just off a stroke and that he had some heart problems. He loved this character (Poovey). We had a really long day and Peter was having a tough day and it was really hot outside. My goodness, the guy had cancer. I said, ‘Hey, why don’t we cut some of these lines and help you get through this’ and he said, ‘No way. I love these lines. I want to do these, Dennis. I’m going to do what it takes. I don’t want to let anybody down.’ I said, ‘Peter, you’re not letting anybody down. You’re Peter Boyle. It’s an honor to have you on the set.’”
In addition, Vanessa Branch knew she wanted the role as Lillian Cole from her first exposure to the part. She did a bit of lobbying for it and Dennis realized in the end that she was indeed perfect for the role.
The actors helped bring this terrific family story to life. Dennis Fallon has heard a lot of glowing comments from the family audience who love his film. “We’ve had reviewers tell us how much they love this movie,” he said, “and how much it touched them. They say the emotion in Vivien Cardone was great, and all the actors were great.”
The film has something for everyone, including the subject of the death of a loved one, the loss of a pet, budding romance, letting go of the past, and even more. It is not surprising that Dennis Fallon’s film won our Crystal Dove Seal Award as the Best Limited Release Film of 2008. He put his passion and soul into making the movie. It is available on DVD and if you haven’t seen it yet, you should see it soon. You will see why it has become a family favorite.
Read Dove’s Review of “All Roads Lead Home“
Visit the Official Website: http://www.allroadsleadhomethemovie.com