Above: First poster for Leaves of Grass (click to enlarge), which begins shooting on September 22.

Tim Blake Nelson and Edward Norton were on-hand in Toronto on Sunday to discuss their upcoming film, Leaves of Grass. Nelson wrote the script and will act in and direct the film, while Norton will play the dual lead roles of identical twin brothers.

Here's what we were told of the storyline: Bill Kincaid is a buttoned-up Ivy League philosophy professor; his pot-growing twin brother lures him back to his hometown in rural Oklahoma for an ill-conceived deal to bilk a local drug-lord (Richard Dreyfuss), described by Nelson as being like "a Jewish T. Boone Pickens in the Tulsa Jewish community". Bill gets entangled in his brother's schemes and implicated in a murder, and his ordered philosophical life starts to fall apart. Also starring in the film are Susan Sarandon as Bill's estranged mother and Keri Russell as a love interest for one of the brothers. Nelson will play the friend of one of the brothers.



Nelson wrote the role of the twin brothers specifically for Norton, although he said Norton didn't know it until after it was written. Norton said he's not involved in the screenplay at all on this film; Nelson gave the script to Norton early last year, and Norton, swamped with projects at the time, reluctantly read his friend's script. As soon as he read it, he said, "I knew I was going to be spending time on this one."

The film, financed by Nu Image/Millenium, starts shooting September 22 on a budget of about $14 million in Shreveport, Louisiana. I asked Nelson, who, like me, is an Oklahoma native, why he's not filming near Tulsa instead, since the film is set in Oklahoma; Louisiana apparently still has better tax incentives than Oklahoma, and looks close enough geographically to pass, so that's where they're shooting.

Asked how he foresees marketing the film in a time when independent studios are struggling and ticket sales sagging, Nelson said he doesn't think about the how to market the film while he's making it, and that he just wants to make a great movie, adding "I don't get involved with people who are going to fight the vision."