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Dakota Johnson Says ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’s Cooper Raiff Created Something “Really Special. It’s Timely. It’s Inclusive”

Cha Cha Real Smooth

“I thought it was really funny having a 22-year-old who is not at all a man, helping little 13-year-olds become men at these bar mitzvahs,” writer, director and producer Cooper Raiff said of his film Cha Cha Real Smooth, which is screening at Sundance. It’s also “a coming of age story for a 12-year-old, a 22- year-old and a 32-year-old, those different stages,” he added.

The story follows Andrew (Raiff) as he finds himself entertaining teenagers, and falls for one of the kids’ mom, Domino, played by Dakota Johnson. Domino’s daughter Lola, who is autistic, (played by Vanessa Burghardt) bonds with Andrew when he becomes her babysitter.

For Johnson, who also produces with Ro Donnelly through their company TeaTime Pictures, the project was instantly appealing. Speaking at Deadline’s Sundance Studio, she said:

“When Ro and I met with Cooper, we just really loved his idea and we wanted to make it with him. We worked really closely developing the script, and we really jumped at the opportunity to make the women in this story very real, and to allow Domino to be quite complicated and to not have to explain herself. And it was like a real gift I think. Meeting Cooper was just wonderful, we want to make all his movies… Cooper’s incredibly talented. The story’s really special, it’s timely, it’s inclusive.”

To play Andrew’s mom, Leslie Mann leaned on her own life experience.

“I have two young daughters who’ve recently moved out,” she said. “So this is all happening in my life, my real life, what’s happening in the movie. And that struggle that parents have letting go of their children and how hard that is. And how hard that is when you think your kids aren’t ready to make that step. It’s just such a tricky moment… At this stage of my life it’s a really fun area of my life to mine.”

To play Andrew’s awkward step-father Greg, Brad Garrett dug into his childhood, he said. He recalled his own step-father struggling to connect with him and his brothers, just as Greg struggles with Andrew and his younger brother.

“My step-dad went head on into this family with really not a great tool set,” Garrett said. “He really had trouble connecting emotionally. He felt like he didn’t belong, we were kind of rough on him… When I read the Greg part, I knew who this guy was. His intentions were good.”

For Vanessa Burghardt, as an autistic actor being offered a part playing a “fully-formed person” who is also autistic felt unusual, she said.

“Lola’s a lot like me. She’s kind of like me if I were younger, if I hadn’t gone to public school at a young age. She’s not very socially informed, but is like a fully-formed person, and I really like that about her, because that’s really rare from what I’ve auditioned for and what I’ve seen. So I kind of connected with her right away.”

Watch the full conversation in the video above.



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