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Igby Goes Down - It's about rebelling against people who are trying to force you to conform

Feature by: Jack Foley

THE character of Igby Slocumb is one of the most memorable of the year, in cinema terms, so it's hard to believe that he almost never made it to the Big Screen.

Writer/director, Burr Steers, originally envisaged Igby as a character in a book, before realising that his life would be better communicated visually, as the characters and situations began to take shape.

He then spent two years working it into script form.

In creating Igby's story - that of a 17-year-old at war with the stifling world of 'old money' privilege into which he was born - Steers blended his own experiences growing up among the wealthy elite with themes from the novels and films that made an impact on his life.

"Igby Goes Down is influenced by the books I grew up reading," he explained.

"Like A Confederacy of Dunces, and The Catcher in the Rye, and films from the early '70s, such as Five Easy Pieces and Mike Nichols and Hal Ashby's earlier movies.

"Visceral films about being young and having all these huge things inside you and no way to express them, and how that turns to destruction, if not violence."

The other influence he confesses to having was his brother's death.

"Salinger wrote The Catcher in the Rye after he'd come back from the war and he'd been surrounded by death.

"I've gone through that, with my brother dying of AIDs. Maybe going back to a teenage self was something I did naturally and instinctually.

"It was the first script I wrote that felt like I found my voice. I wasn't faking it."

It is clear that Igby was a very personal script for the talented writer/director, but he is keen to maintain that the story is not his own, and that Igby and he are clearly different people.

"It's not autobiographical," he states. "There are parts of me in it and Igby has my voice, but it's only a facet of me. I'm from Igby's world.

"That's why it rings true. But it's a fictional story, heightened in the way you need fiction to be heightened.

"Igby Goes Down is a movie about things seeming very attractive, pretty and affluent on the surface...

"Then, underneath the surface, you have turmoil. It's about being young and trying to find yourself, and feeling like an anomaly in the cloistered, suffocating world you've been brought into.

"It's about rebelling against people who are trying to force you to conform."

Little wonder, then, that Kieran Culkin considers the role to be so great. He identified with Igby immediately and was thrilled when given the opportunity to portray him.

"Igby has such a great voice," he observes. "I also feel like he's like me in some ways.

"I never went through a lot of his life experiences, but often the way he speaks, or the smartass remarks he makes, are on a par with the things I'm thinking."

Burr concurs, stating that the search for the perfect Igby took seven months, before Culkin fit the bill perfectly.

"We couldn't find anybody with the vulnerability and fragility of Igby, who also had that acerbic, wry sense of humour and timing.

"Kieran gets it. He gets the intelligence of the dialogue without playing the joke."

We suggest that audiences rush along to find out what he means...

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