Backstage Spotlight: Dan in Real Life Bonus Features (2007)

Bonus features, special features, extras–whatever you want to call them–are usually on most movies you end up renting or owning. I find them particularly fun to watch, if I have the time. What’s crazy is that I’ve seen Dan in Real Life a handful of times over the past 4 years, yet I never took the time to check out the bonus features until last night.

Let’s break it down.

Behind the Scenes

Writer-director Peter Hedges’s ultimate goal, it seems, is to make films that are different. That’s one of his big points in the “behind the scenes” featurette on the DVD. Dan in Real Life  supports his idea of being different by really being its own movie. Hedge has written a few films across the board throughout his career, from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) to About a Boy (2002). Hedge acts as director and co-writer for Dan, bringing to life Pierce Gardner’s writing. That cast had only great things to say about Hedges (of course!), but many of them noted that he was much different than the typical director in that he was very down to earth and was always bringing something different to the table.

One really interesting thing I caught from the featurette was that the entire cast, spare Steve Carell, came onto set a week before shooting to rehearse and hang out in the house where the majority of the movie was filmed. As much as I’ve seen the movie, I really felt like the cast was a family. It’s now only evident that the week they spent getting to know one another paid off in the end product.

About the Score: Sondre Lerche

This segment of the Bonus Features was my favorite. Typically, there isn’t anything expressed in detail regarding the score of a film listed within the special features, especially with someone considered less known, like Sondre Lerche. Dan in Real Life introduced me to this impressive, one-of-a-kind singer-songwriter-composer. No doubt there are a million other Sondre Lerche singer-songwriters floating around, but Lerche separates himself from the rest with his added talent of film composition. Before Hedge contacted Lerche, he had never heard of him, much less could pronounce his name. Hedge’s goal was to bring the film and soundtrack together by finding music that represented the title character, Carell’s Dan. In a nutshell, Lerche fulfilled that goal for Hedge, and a fantastic collaboration was born.

The rest of Lerche’s band flew in from Norway to sing and play in the background of the end scene in the film. Sondre Lerche might not be everyone’s cup of tea (such as Roger Ebert, who specifically called the film out on it!), but in my opinion, his music fit Dan in Real Life nicely, and didn’t come across too literal.

Deleted Scenes

Dan in Real Life might hold the record for the largest number of deleted scenes. Perhaps I’m exaggerating, but viewing 11 new or extended versions of scenes got exhausting and boring fast. There was only one deleted scene I might have even appreciated in the film, and it wasn’t even memorable. Each of these scenes–and probably a few more from the final cut–deserved to be on the cutting board.

Do you ever watch the Bonus Features on your favorite films? What did you think of Sondre Lerche’s score? Did you notice that Office alum Amy Ryan costarred in the film with Steve Carell?

8 thoughts on “Backstage Spotlight: Dan in Real Life Bonus Features (2007)

  1. The LOTR special features are about the most exhaustive I have ever watched. Extremely enjoyable, and a great way for someone new to film to learn about the process.

    I recently just bought a blu-ray specifically for its special features. It happens to be a favorite film of mine (Zodiac) by one of my favorite directors (Fincher). The man is brilliant and I needed to know the approach he took to his movies.

    The special features on Zodiac are definitely worth watching.


    • Haha – I’ve watched a lot of the LOTR behind the scenes features. Certainly not all of them, but a lot. I’ll have to get back into those! Besides, it’s been a while since I have.

      I remember seeing Zodiac in theaters. I’m a big fan of Mark Ruffalo. Haha, Fincher has definitely created some great work. I really enjoyed The Social Network and Se7en a lot out of all his films the most, although I did enjoy Zodiac, Fight Club, and even Panic Room. I’ve seen just about all his films. Something you might find interesting – he’s directing the first Netflix original series called “House of Cards.” I’m definitely curious.


      • The attention to detail in his films is incredible. For Zodiac, the costume designers opened up the evidence boxes and studied the victims’ bloody clothes so they could make made exact copies of what the victims were wearing when they were killed.

        I think that’s awesome.


  2. I love to watch bonus features and always look for them after I finish a good/great movie. It’s too bad studios are cutting them out from rental DVDs (Netflix) though. I wouldn’t buy a DVD/Blu Ray just to see the bonus features anyway.


    • I agree! I was almost as excited for the bonus features on Inception as I was to just have the film. The DVD had next to no extras on it. I finally went out and got the Blu-ray, and I was still disappointed. I love gobbling up the goods on movies, but you’re right – it seems studios are really nit-picky when it comes to releasing behind the scenes footage. I’ve gotten movies from Redbox or Blockbuster even that only let you watch the film – all the special features are blocked. I really have to love a film to buy it and watch the extras.


  3. I’ve not seen this but I do love the special features sometimes. Team America has a great set of featurettes that show just how much effort and talent went into the production and the Fight Club and Panic Room DVD’s have some brilliant special features that document Fincher’s meticulous production process.


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