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Director, writer talk about 'The Good Girl'

'Chuck and Buck' creators back at Sundance

White and Arteta
Mike White and Miguel Arteta are the people behind "The Good Girl."  

By Anne Hubbell
Special to CNN

PARK CITY, Utah (CNN) -- Director Miguel Arteta and writer/actor Mike White gained note and notoriety for "Chuck and Buck" -- their critically acclaimed low-budget feature film -- at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival.

The two return to Sundance this year with "The Good Girl," starring Jennifer Aniston. The movie is about a woman who has an ill-fated affair with a younger co-worker in an effort to escape her mundane marriage.

Arteta's film "Star Maps" premiered at Sundance in 1997. He has directed episodes of "Homicide: Life on the Street," "Freaks and Geeks," and "Six Feet Under."

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White was an original writer on the television series "Dawson's Creek." He went on to write and produce "Freaks and Geeks" and is working on the new series "Pasadena." He also wrote the manuscript for the current release "Orange County," and is writing scripts for Tim Burton's "House of Usher" and Adam Sandler's "American Neurotic."

CNN: How did you decide to work together again on "The Good Girl"?

WHITE: I was planning to direct the film myself. It was a little bit difficult to let go of it. But it was a time when I had a lot of other outstanding obligations. "Chuck and Buck" had turned out well, and I was happy with what Miguel brought to it. I just felt like he was the right person. I don't have any regrets. The movie turned out exactly how I had hoped.

I'd like to direct. It's in the back of my head as something to do at some point. Though, being on a TV show -- where you can control the cuts and hire the director -- is preferable to me over actually going out into the world to get the shot and bringing it back.

Scenes from 'The Good Girl'

ARTETA: I loved the characters and I love what the screenplay gets at. And it's never obvious. Mike's writing is like that. There is a completely unexpected aspect to all of the characters.

CNN: Did you have any difficulty getting the film made?

ARTETA: Everybody that read the script said, "This is the best script I've read in years, but we are not going to make it." Some clever people said, "We'll make it if Cameron Diaz is attached, or Nicole Kidman." I know some actors approached Mike and said, "I'll jump on board if you change the ending." Finally we found a company that would make it if we could get a big enough name. Mike suggested Jennifer Aniston.

WHITE: I knew Jennifer's work, but I didn't know her personally. The character of Justine is kind of cold and opaque. She is a bit of a mystery.

With Jennifer, I think it's interesting that she had never done anything like this, and she is so warm and accessible. Her presence, matched with this morally ambiguous, cold character, brought a rich combination to the film.

It worked out better than we hoped, which is a credit to Jennifer.

CNN: Why is the film set in Texas? Has either of you ever lived there?

WHITE: My father lived there and I used to visit him. I spent time there, but the real reason I set the film in Texas was to have a little fun with the language. Southern-speak is a little bit more colorful than L.A.-speak."

ARTETA: You get to have people say things like "the little doohickeys are turning blue."

CNN: Miguel, you've directed episodes of television series. Any interest in taking a full-time TV job?

ARTETA: I think it would be fun to go back to the characters over and over and try different things.

WHITE: It's fun to get paid.

This year was great. I had a studio movie ["Orange County"], an independent movie [The Good Girl"] and a TV show ["Pasadena"] all in production simultaneously. It was like, "The dream is coming true."

That was exciting, but now I feel a little spit out. Everything is coming to an end. As a writer, you need to ingest stuff. You can't just always be expelling it. I'm at the point now where I need to think and read and be alone.

CNN: Is this trip to Sundance any different from your last?

ARTETA: The cell phone reception is better.

WHITE: With "Chuck and Buck" I was more nervous than [I am] this year. That subject matter was challenging, and we were kind of a wild card.

ARTETA: I wasn't so nervous with "Chuck and Buck," probably because you were. I am more nervous this time than the last two times. I really like this film.

WHITE: This time the pressure that Miguel is feeling is probably that there is more expectation. Bigger stars, people have heard the movie is good. Everyone's looking at us.




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