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     The central love story in IMAGINE ME & YOU begins with Rachel, a young, beautifully vivacious, warm-hearted British bride -- a sort of anti-Bridget Jones filled with optimism and joy who appears to have her life incredibly together. On her wedding day, Rachel couldn't be any more sincere in her excitement at marrying her closest friend Heck. She's the last person on earth who could imagine she would suddenly fall in love with a person other than the husband-to-be she so admires, which is why she is sent into a complete, if giddy, tailspin by her unexpected encounter with undeniable passion. Now, caught between her promise to Heck and her heart's true desire, Rachel faces the most beguiling choice of her life.
     From the beginning, Ol Parker knew he would need a very strong personality to play Rachel in a naturalistic way that would be funny and spunky yet also believable and sympathetic. What he didn't expect is that he would wind up casting an American actress to play this ravishing British bride. Parker had enjoyed Piper Perabo's previous performances in films he'd seen, but when he heard she was interested in auditioning for the role, he considered it a long shot.
     "I knew Piper was smart and funny and beautiful - a rare combination and the one we wanted for Rachel - but I was adamant that I wasn't going to rewrite the role," recalls Parker. "Rachel had to be English, and she had to have a proper accent. We've had enough bad accents on the screen lately!"
     Meanwhile, Perabo was fervent in her belief she could play the part as Parker had written it. "I had to fight for the chance to play this role," says the actress. "But when I read the script, I fell in love with the writing. I felt that if it was that good on the page it would be even more special on screen. I have always loved British comedies- they're the films I most want to see when I go to the movies - and Ol seemed to have captured all the best parts of the genre. The story's very witty but at the same time, it's quite sincere and emotional and you really care about every single one of the characters. That combination felt very exciting and rare."
     When Parker finally met Perabo in New York all his trepidation disappeared. Though her accent wasn't yet perfected, it was clear that she was completely committed to bringing the part to life authentically. The director recalls: "I had talked to an accent coach before I went to meet Piper and she said 'find out if she reads. If she reads, you'll be fine.' So we met, and we talked about books, and I quickly discovered she'd read far more than I had. I was really knocked out by her, she's just so immensely charming and endearing, and I knew almost immediately she could do it."
      Adds producer Sophie Balhetchet: "Casting Piper was a great leap of faith for Ol, but she came through in an extraordinary way. On the set, no one even remembered that she is actually a New Jersey girl."
Perabo worked extensively with voice coach Barbara Berkery to pull off the London accent seamlessly. "I found it really interesting to get into a character vocally," Perabo says. "Barbara gave me lots of vocal exercises that I did each morning in my trailer. Lena and Matthew were also a great help to me in really getting the accent right."
      As she trained her vowels and consonants, Perabo also began probing the amusing but also heart-wrenching predicament in which Rachel finds herself. "What makes Rachel so interesting is that her whole view of life is unravelled in just a few moments," the actress says. "She has to try to navigate these feelings she's never had before, and somehow try to do it without ruining other people's lives. She and Heck are not a perfect match - she's very spontaneous and fun and he's very safe and sweet. But she does love him as a person, so it all becomes rather complicated."
     That Rachel falls head over heels for a woman made little difference to Perabo in how she approached the part. "To me, a great love story is a great love story, and it doesn't matter what gender is involved," she comments. "At heart, this story is really about two people who were meant to be together no matter the obstacles."
     Perabo was especially thrilled to reunite with actress Lena Headey with whom she starred in the action thriller THE CAVE. "I think the fact that we knew each other so well and were already friends made us very comfortable and open," she observes. "It really played in our favour in making this love story work."
With Perabo cast, Ol Parker found the endearing yet romantically doomed Heck in rising British star Matthew Goode, who recently appeared in CHASING LIBERTY with Mandy Moore and has a major role in Woody Allen's MATCH POINT. Parker was drawn to Goode's ability to appear highly sympathetic and likeable at the same time as being comically clueless as to what's happening around him. "Matt hammers the nails into his own coffin so charmingly that you laugh and cry and understand what he's going through all at the same time. He's an awesome talent," summarizes the director.
     Adds Sophie Balhetchet: "The thing that we held on to all the way through was Ol's intention that the character of Heck should be neither an obvious loser nor a cad. It was important that the audience see that Heck is a lovely guy who, as he says, couldn't believe his luck in getting Rachel. It's almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy for poor Heck. Matthew's skill as an actor is to convey both the character's innocence and his ultimate emotional maturity. You feel he'll be a lot wiser and happier in ten year's time."
     Goode saw Heck's predicament as one that's distinctly familiar to any man who has ever endured loving a woman who, in turn, loved somebody else far more. "I think a lot of male audiences will identify all too well with Heck and what he goes through," he observes. "Luckily, he's not a jerk - on the contrary, he's one of the really good guys out there. It's just that he's in the middle of this strange situation that's entirely beyond his control."
     For Goode, the role offered a greater emotional range than he had previously explored. "I thought it would be good to do something challenging and this really was. It's a very emotional role -- being the man who is left behind," he says.
     Summarizes Andro Steinborn: "The role of Heck is crucial to the story. He holds the film together in that what happens to him, from a male perspective, could be the ultimate nightmare - your wife falls in love with another woman on your wedding day. He had to be very lovable, sympathetic, handsome and charming and yet only to the point that you wouldn't completely fall for him. Matthew's performance was perfect in that sense. He also brings a real grace to the character when he realizes he is up against an unstoppable force and chooses to move on in spite of his feelings."
     Ol Parker also found that, together, Matthew Goode and Piper Perabo had a wonderful kind of coarse chemistry that suited the promising but not-quite-flawless marriage between Heck and Rachel. He was impressed with how fully Goode threw himself into the role of a man who ultimately has his heart stomped upon, albeit not intentionally. "Heck is quite a tough part," Parker notes. "There aren't very many men who want to play someone who's being abandoned in that way. But Matthew was fantastic and I was enormously thrilled with his performance. You truly like Heck but you also understand why Rachel has to leave him and that's a very fine line to walk."
     The chance to star alongside Piper Perabo was especially exciting for Goode. "She is particularly beautiful and very sweet…She was simply wonderful to work with."

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