For Richer or Poorer: About The Production

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"For Richer or Poorer is a romantic comedy about a couple who have lost their way and drifted apart when their lofty financial goals cause them to lose sight of each other," observes Tim Allen, who plays the upwardly mobile real estate magnate in search of the next big scheme that will make his fortune. "The film is exactly the kind of film I most enjoy. It's funny, romantic and really touching. It's also about real values that are inspiring," said producer Sid Sheinberg.

Handsome, charismatic and obsessed with conspicuous consumption, Brad Sexton is the quintessential New York player at the top of his game. "He starts out as a very materialistic guy who likes to buy expensive toys," explains director Bryan Spicer.

The role of Brad is a calculated departure for Allen, who was ready to tackle somewhat more sophisticated material after conquering the family comedy market with his phenomenally-successful television series, now in its seventh season on ABC, and three blockbuster films, including his memorable voice work for the smash hit Toy Story. "This is a romantic comedy with a more adult theme than the other films I've done so far," explains Allen.

It wasn't easy finding the perfect actress to play opposite Allen as Brad's chain-smoking, air-kissing wife Caroline. The complicated character required an actress capable of acting selfish and unsympathetic at times, while masking vulnerability and "little girlishness." At the same time, she had to be very, very funny. "The reason we chose Kirstie Alley was because she was able to comedically keep up with Tim, and because the onscreen chemistry between the two of them was so great," recalls Spicer.

Caroline Sexton is the embodiment of the arrogant Manhattan socialite wife who has found her place on the arm of a successful husband. Explains Spicer, "She's into high-maintenance beauty with all the dresses and hair and makeup that come with that lifestyle."

But underneath the pretentious veneer lies the heart of a frustrated fashion designer who has never had the courage to test her dreams. "Caroline is a self-centered socialite bitch who has always had artistic aspirations to be a clothing designer," says Kirstie Alley of her character.

On the verge of launching their latest moneymaking real estate gamble, "Holyland," a garish theme park based on the world of religion, Brad and Caroline are also on the verge of divorce. But when an IRS audit finds them owing the government millions in back taxes and their dishonest accountant (Seinfeld 's Wayne Knight) skips town, the estranged couple flee Manhattan together in a stolen taxi. Desperate to shake off two highly aggressive IRS agents (Larry Miller, Miguel Nunez Jr.), they wind up in the pastoral Amish community of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, where they pose as Jacob and Emma Yoder, the distant Missouri relatives of a local Amish family.

With no alternative but to live among these simple, upstanding people until their financial and legal problems can be worked out, Brad and Caroline are forced to become reacquainted with the most basic chores of life--and ultimately with each other. "When they are forced to adopt the unassuming, humble ways of the Amish, they learn what it really means to come back down to life in the real world as they begin to fall in love with each other again," notes Spicer.

Getting back to the simpler life proves a tougher journey than Brad and Caroline could have ever expected. Their pampered Manhattan lifestyle is a distant memory as they try to adapt to their new surroundings. Forced to till the soil, tend the fields and bond with a formidable plowhorse named Big John, Brad learns a greater appreciation for the land that he so hastily commercialized in his former profession. Meanwhile, baking schnitz pies, scrubbing floors, milking cows and feeding pigs, without benefit of cigarettes or even lipstick, is a harrowing and humbling experience for the domestically-challenged Caroline.

Says Allen, "Their money problems force them to look at their life through a simpler view, taking all the stuff out of their life that means nothing to them and coming to an understanding that what does mean something to them is each other, hard work and reverence for their friends."

While adapting to the rigors of the Amish lifestyle, Caroline discovers a purpose for her untested talent when she's given the opportunity to redesign the drab dress code of her adopted community. Brad soon realizes that he too has something to offer his new friends. His shrewd real estate acumen proves a valuable resource to the polite and respectful Amish forced to negotiate land-buys with the "English" (non-Amish).

"There is a little dose of reality in this story," Allen observes, "as this couple learns that the things most important in life are those that are probably right in front of them."

"Watching the Amish helps Brad and Caroline to get back to something that was real between them as they get an insightful view of what married life can be. I think that spiritual beliefs can turn you around to the enlightened side of life," offers Alley.

Says Allen, "At the beginning, we're not very likable people. It was a really tough arc for both characters through the course of the story. But as we begin to fall in love again, I think the audience will change its opinion of Brad and Caroline."

Allen concludes, "I'm not the most romantic guy in the world, but I loved the notion of this couple falling in love with each other again."

For Richer or Poorer is a study in contrasts, with the Sexton's glamorous lifestyle in New York and their humble surroundings in the rural Pennsylvania Amish country reflecting the two diametrically opposed ends of the spectrum. Director Bryan Spicer and his creative team set out to underscore the story's central conflict in distinctly visual and cinematic terms.

"In this film, New York feels more like cold steel and glass, gold and silver, very lavish in stark contrast to the Amish country, which is characterized by lush green rolling hills and colorful flowers," Spicer notes. "In Manhattan, everybody is dressed in flashy, extravagant gowns and expensive tailored suits. In the country, everything is very simple and very plain."

Principal photography began in April 1997 in Baltimore, Maryland--which effectively captured the look of Pennsylvania's Amish country with a wide variety of visually striking locations. A spacious farm in rural Westminster provided the film's central setting, with the company's art department (under the supervision of production designer Stephen Hendrickson) stripping the existing working farm of all visible connections to contemporary technology that would not be found in an authentic Amish home.

Other Baltimore-based locations included another farm nearby in historic Havre de Grace, Main Street in downtown Westminster (which served as the Amish community of Intercourse, Pennsylvania), and an authentic-but-ancient general store located in Muddy Creek Forks, Pennsylvania.

Early in the pre-production process, the filmmakers retained the services of John King as the project's Amish technical advisor. King lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and was born and raised Amish until he left the faith when he turned 18 years old. King interfaced with every department on the crew and consulted often with the actors in an effort to depict the Amish lifestyle as realistically as possible.

"Tim Allen was concerned about whether this story could really happen," says King. "I told him that it could. The Amish are traditionally very open to helping people--doing what they can for people in need."

"King was able to gain access to Amish homes that the normal outsider would never see," says Hendrickson. "We got a behind-the-scenes look at Amish life, which was very important to capturing the authenticity we needed."

Costume designer Abigail Murray agrees, "John King took me to a local historian who had Amish clothing from the 1920's. Clothes were made more purely then than what you get today, so I borrowed several items and had a draper take them apart to make patterns from them."

Production shifted to New York City for two final weeks of exterior sequences that bookend the film's pastoral setting.

"In New York, we picked locations that were not just big, but enormous, grand, spectacular--all of which reflect the world of money and society that Brad and Caroline Sexton move through," notes Hendrickson.

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