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"Jack Frost" was brought to Warner Bros. by Irving Azoff as the first motion picture to be moved into production in his long-term agreement with the studio. Azoff's one-time executive, Matthew Baer, developed the project, basing the story on the lyrics -- "how he came to life one day" -- from the classic children's tune "Frosty the Snowman."

"That line was the inspiration for creating the movie; it brought about the idea of a father who's reborn in the body of a snowman," Baer remembers.


Mark Canton, who had recently established The Canton Company at Warner Bros., read a draft of the script and knew he had something special. "I loved the premise and thought that it could be a beautiful, emotional film," he says. Canton and Azoff agreed to join forces as producers on the project. This made the film also The Canton Company's first in production under its agreement with Warner Bros.

To bring the story to the screen, the filmmakers chose first-time feature director Troy Miller. "When I saw the short films he did with Billy Crystal for both the 1997 and 1998 Academy Awards, I was blown away. They were brilliant," Canton says. "Troy has a comic flair as well as strong technical expertise. I like to be involved with good stories that are well told, and Troy's vision of the story just leaped from the printed page."

Adds Azoff, "Troy Miller is a talented director who brings a unique approach and contemporary appeal to this story; it's a pleasure to have him involved."

"This film appealed to me because it wasn't your typical holiday fare," Miller explains. "Visually, I wanted to shoot it in an original way, to create a sense of heightened reality that was seamless, like turning the pages of a storybook. Ultimately, this world is real enough for the audience to believe that the characters are genuine, yet they can also accept the concept of a walking, talking snowman."


Casting

To portray Jack Frost in his human form, as well as to provide the voice of the snowman, the filmmakers needed an actor with unusual versatility. They wanted someone who could realistically play a musician; who is gifted in comedy as well as drama; who has the vocal ability to inject life into an animatronic snowman puppet. Their unanimous choice was Michael Keaton.


The film is the seventh that Mark Canton has been involved in with Michael Keaton starring; the others include the first two Batman films, "Beetlejuice," "Clean and Sober," "My Life" and "Multiplicity." "I'm thrilled to be working again with Michael on this picture," Canton says. "Michael is an extraordinary talent, and we've had terrific experiences working together in the past."

Says Miller, "Michael has an appealing sensibility that transcends all generations. He's got a great comic sense and is also very intelligent, with the tremendous talent to handle deep drama."

"I was really moved by the story," Keaton says. "I think everyone can relate to Jack in some way. He's a man who's trying to be a father, a husband, a breadwinner, and he's trying to do what he loves to do. Ultimately he realizes that if you don't pay attention to the people dearest in your life -- your family -- you could lose it all."

To complete the Frost family, the filmmakers cast Kelly Preston as Gabby Frost and 12-year old Joseph Cross as Charlie Frost, Jack's son.

"There is a unique bond between Michael and Kelly. They're a believable family unit, and Joseph looks like their son. Kelly has the same sense of humor as Michael. In this role she's funny, realistic and strong," Miller states.

Preston confesses, "Let's face it, I am obsessed with Christmas. I love that this story is something that just speaks from the heart, the spirituality of it. It's emotional and I had a real connection with it."

The focal character of the film is Charlie, a boy forced to deal with realistic issues as well as the incredible circumstances visited upon him. The part calls for someone who can mature and evolve by film's end. Miller says of Joseph Cross, "Joseph has that same passion that Michael and Kelly have. He totally gets the character and really made it his own. He's also extremely mature as an actor, but never loses his perspective on childhood."

Says Preston, "Joseph has become like another son to me. He's got such heart and depth for someone so young. He has a great sense of humor, yet he is able to pull off the intense emotions necessary for this film." Bring Up the Music

Fresh from his critically acclaimed role in "The Full Monty," Mark Addy was cast to portray Frost family friend "Mac" MacArthur. "I'm delighted to be a part of this film," he says. "I think it's a wonderful fairy tale that is quite touching. I especially enjoyed being a part of the Jack Frost Band."


Mark Addy is the only member of the Jack Frost backup band who is not a real-life musician. He recalls the night he mimicked playing the piano in front of a live crowd at L.A.'s famed Palace dance club, a scene that was filmed for the movie: "I was the only one on stage who hadn't actually played on the recording; that was pretty nerve-wracking. But once we got into it, it was such a laugh. We had about 500 extras in the place just going wild. It was like doing a real gig!"

Miller notes, "Michael had to become the lead singer of the Jack Frost Band and perform before a live audience. He wasn't even a singer or musician before taking on this role. Now he plays guitar and is a pretty good blues artist."

To prepare for the part, Keaton trained with internationally acclaimed musician and film composer Trevor Rabin, best known for his work with the renowned rock band Yes. Though he'd previously taught himself some guitar and harmonica, Keaton found studying to be a true musician an intense experience. "I wanted to look like a working musician, not just like a rock 'n' roll wannabe," he says. "Every type of music has its own culture, its own physical mannerisms, its own style, and it starts with really being able to play music. I never missed a rehearsal and I jammed with the band and with other musicians at my house until it felt real to me."

He even wrote two songs, with Rabin, to be included in the film: "Don't Lose Your Faith in Me" and "Going Home."

Asserts Irving Azoff, "We are thrilled to have Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston and the rest of our terrific cast, who give our story the ideal mixture of humor and heart. I'm jazzed about this movie."

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© 2000 Warner Bros.