Natural Selection

Natural Selection

Matt O'Leary and Rachel Harris in NATURAL SELECTION. Picture courtesy of Cinema Guild. All rights reserved.

Natural Selection

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* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

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Natural Selection (2011/2012)

Opened: 03/16/2012 Limited

Angelika/NYC03/16/2012 - 03/29/201214 days
Village East03/30/2012 - 04/05/20127 days
The Nuart05/18/2012 - 05/24/20127 days
Music Box Thea...06/22/2012 - 06/28/20127 days
Kendall Square...07/06/2012 - 07/12/20127 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook

Genre: Comedy/Drama

Rated: R for for sexual content, language, brief graphic nudity, a beating and some drug material.


Linda White, a devoted Christian housewife, leads a sheltered and childless existence in suburban Texas. Her world is turned upside-down when Linda discovers that her husband has a 23-year old illegitimate son, Raymond, living in Florida. Linda sets out on a quixotic journey to find him and reunite him with his father; along the way she develops a tender and surprising relationship with Raymond that forces her to come to terms with her past and rethink her future.


Linda White (40's) leads the sheltered life of a conservative Christian housewife in suburban Texas. Her world is irrevocably altered when her husband Abe (50s) suffers a tragic stroke at a sperm clinic. Abe had been making 'donations' for the duration of their marriage and has produced numerous offspring, unknown to Linda who has never been able to conceive. When Abe asks to see one of his children before he dies, she steals the clinic files and finds the address of Abe's eldest biological son -- Raymond Mansfield (20's).

Linda tracks down Raymond in a shack on the outskirts of Tampa, Florida. Raymond's in a little jam -- he's being hunted by the police. So after some hesitation, he agrees to fly the coop with Linda. They set off back to Texas together. After a few road mishaps that culminate in Raymond getting pummeled by two drifters at a derelict country gas station, Linda's maternal instincts surface as she lovingly tends to his wounds. However, he takes advantage of her and steals her car and money - only to have the loot purloined from him when he gets drunk at a rowdy local bar. Raymond is wracked with guilt and makes his way back to Linda with his tail between his legs. But Linda decides to head back home alone. Raymond decides to exchange his coveted duffel bag of drugs for a dirt bike in hopes of getting Linda back.

Back in Houston, Linda's brother-in-law Peter has grown concerned for her welfare., Peter sets out on the road to find Linda and protect her from Raymond -- who he has come to view as a threat to her safety. His intentions are not entirely noble; we discover that he has always lusted after his sister-in-law.

After much begging from Raymond, Linda finally forgives him and agrees to continue their trip on the back of Raymond's recently procured dirt bike. The two grow closer and Raymond actually begins to shares his painful past with Linda. Linda reveals her secrets as well and Raymond learns that her inability to conceive was the result of a botched abortion when she was a minor. After driving through the night in a cold rainstorm, Linda and Raymond seek shelter in a roadside motel. The next morning, Linda wakes in Raymond's arms. In the heat of the moment, the two desperate travelers make love. However, Peter finds them and breaks the motel door down when they are in the height of their passion. Believing that Linda is being raped, Peter awkwardly fires a pistol at Raymond. He misses his target and a naked Raymond escapes.

On the way back to Texas with Peter, an ashamed Linda learns that Abe has recovered. She also discovers that Raymond wasn't even the real Raymond Mansfield, but rather a small-time thug named Clyde Brisby, who was wanted by the police and hiding out in the real Raymond's shack. Linda is devastated and now feels more alone and betrayed than ever.

Back home, Linda and Abe resume the familiar routine of their marriage, but as the months pass, Linda discovers she is pregnant - with Raymond's (Clyde's) child. Raymond (Clyde) comes back to make amends. He is cleaning up his life, thanks to Linda, and he wants her to run away with him.

The next morning, she loads up her car while Abe stoically sits inside the house. Raymond anxiously waits for Linda to show up at a bus stop. Instead, it is Abe who appears. As the two men talk, Raymond slowly realizes that Linda has chosen to leave both of them.

Linda sets out on the road by herself, headed for a new life with her unborn child.

Director's Statement

To me, NATURAL SELECTION is about death. Or rather the feelings that accompany any death -- the death of a relationship, the death of a stranger, the death of a loved one, or the death of a way of life. I started writing the film six years ago when I received a barely-intelligible-through-the-sobs call from my Mother telling me that her husband, my stepfather Bill, had terminal cancer. I took the news hard. Very soon, my Mom would be alone for the first time in her life. It was almost impossible for me to conceive of the depth of isolation and solitude she would be feeling. I realize now that through my concern for her welfare, I was also dealing with my own fear of death for the first time. Writing NATURAL SELECTION was a way of coping. I didn't want to write about those emotions in a didactic or literal way. Rather, I tried to capture the essence and form of what I was feeling and funneled it into a story that bears little resemblance to the literal situation my mother or I was living through. In that way, the screenplay was less of a true-to-life story than a kind of strange ekphrastic ode to oblivion.

The picture is also about the people that I knew growing up in a very religious community in east Texas. When I was a child, I think that I saw all of these people as exaggerations of their best or worst qualities (mostly their worst). Years later, when I wrote the script, I tried to stay true to my childhood exaggerations for humor's sake -- but also to imbue each character with a sense of humanity and depth.

Of course, nobody would know the literal story of my stepfather's death by just watching the film, and I think that's the way it should be. But I hope that audiences will relate to the undercurrents of grief, loneliness, discovery, humor and eventually rebirth that drove me to write it and devote so much of myself to its inception. The last thing Bill told me before he died was to take care of my Mom. This is the best way I could think of doing just that.

-- Robbie Pickering

About the Production

NATURAL SELECTION really started to come together about a week before production. That's when my producers and I decided to take a chance and Facebook message Rachael Harris. Let me explain...

We were down in Smithville, Texas with our crew, gearing up for the shoot. The only problem was, we had no lead actress. I'd met with Rachael about two months before, and after an exhaustive casting search, I had decided on her for the lead role. Only problem was, she was already committed to another project -- a TV pilot -- so even though she loved the film, she couldn't commit to it. I subsequently went to my second choice for the role, a wonderful actress, but I could never get Rachael out of my head. When the second choice actress fell through after about a month of negotiation, I immediately wanted to go back to Rachael. But everyone 'in the know' told us that was an impossibility. And by no means were we to contact her personally. So we waited for a few tense days, and it wore on the whole crew -- me, the producers, the cinematographer, even the production designer. We all knew that Rachael was right for the part.

So finally we took a risk and decided to Facebook message her. We spent about four hours deliberating and strategizing, trying to craft the perfect email. Finally, we sent it. And within an hour, she messaged us back, saying that her pilot hadn't gotten picked up. She had actually been wondering for a week now if we were still interested in her for the role. To make a long story short, Rachael flew down to Smithville, Texas a few days later. And the next day, we were in production. As soon as she had her first scene with the inimitable Matt O'Leary, I knew that we had a movie. From that day forward, every one of us cast and crew stuck down in Smithville (incidentally, not a bad place to be stuck) became a family. We got along, we fought tooth-and-nail, we loved each other, and we loathed each other.

One time, back at NYU, I heard Oliver Stone tell an audience of eager young film students that they better enjoy making their student films, because it would be the last time they would get the freedom to do whatever they wanted. While I'm sure that he had a point, my experience on my first feature-length film couldn't be more to the contrary. Since production, I've consistently been amazed at how much the text I first wrote six years ago has been transformed in ways that I never could have imagined. The best thing that I can say about what's onscreen now is that it's full of mistakes, surprises and unplanned moments/emotions. In short, it's alive. And it got that way because everyone who worked on it devoted their full talent and capabilities into bringing it to life in ways I never could have on my own. From the actors to the producers, the cinematographer, the editors, the production sound mixer, the hair and make-up people and the assistant camera -- everyone devoting their artistry to this film cared deeply about it. NATURAL SELECTION belongs to them just as much as it does me. I hope they are as proud of the result as I am.

About the Cast

Rachael Harris (Linda)

Rachael Harris stole her scenes as the pitch-perfect, irritating girlfriend of Ed Helms in the number one R-rated comedy of all time, The Hangover. She had previously co-starred with Helms as a correspondent on The Daily Show. Harris may be seen starring opposite Steve Zahn in Diary of a Wimpy Kid directed by Thor Freudenthal for Fox; and the sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, coming out March 2011. She just wrapped on the sequel. Other film credits include: Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration, Starsky & Hutch, Kicking & Screaming and Daddy Day Care.

On the small screen, she may be seen on CBS' Gary Unmarried guest starring on Starz's Party Down, and playing Gary Cole's wife on The Good Guys. Previously, Harris appeared on ABC's Cougar Town and Showtime's Fat Actress.

Harris also recently appeared in the Hollywood Bowl production of RENT in Los Angeles.

Harris was born in Worthington, Ohio and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

Matt O'Leary (Raymond)

Matt O'Leary began his rise to fame as a child actor, proving himself a versatile talent. From his debut in Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire and his work in Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams as Gary Giggles, O'Leary went on to explore much darker roles. In Bill Paxton's Frailty, he played the son of a serial killer, and as The Brain, he helped Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character in the hard-boiled indie thriller Brick. Other film credits include: Havoc, Live Free and Die Hard, American Son, Anytown, Death Sentence, Sorority Row and the upcoming horror film, Mother's Day.

On the small screen, he has appeared on Law and Order: Criminal Intent, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Eleventh Hour.

O'Leary was born in Chicago, Illinois and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

Jon Gries (Peter)

A native of Glendale, California, veteran actor Jon Gries has appeared in a number of feature films including Real Genius, Running Scared, Get Shorty, Jackpot, and The Astronaut Farmer. Gries is perhaps most recently best known for his role of "Uncle Rico" in Napoleon Dynamite, in which he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. In television, he played "Broots" in NBC's The Pretender for four seasons. He recurred on ABC's Lost, playing "Roger Linus." In addition to starring in NATURAL SELECTION, Jon recently directed the independent feature Pickin' & Grinnin'.

John Diehl (Abe)

John Diehl is an adroit and dependable character actor, known especially for his roles as Charles Kawalsky in Stargate, and Detective Larry Zito on TV's Miami Vice.

His 25-year career is laden with contrasts, moving effortlessly between more traditional Hollywood thugs, crazies, and ne'er-do-wells to more mature characters. He has appeared in over 70 movies, including Oliver Stone's Nixon, (as G. Gordon Liddy) Falling Down, A Time to Kill, and Gettysburg.

Diehl's small screen work is no less prolific. In addition to Miami Vice, he has appeared on Friday Night Lights, The West Wing, The Shield, and Point Pleasant.

Diehl also had a short stint as a professional boxer, with a record of 3-1.

Diehl was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently resides in Ojai, California with his wife and son.