The 130-minute film, which received its premiere screening at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, was originally scheduled to hit theatres Christmas Day 2013. It was rescheduled for a limited release in New York and Los Angeles Dec. 27, 2013, and opened in additional markets Jan. 3.
Directed by John Wells, the darkly comic drama is a large ensemble piece (with three sisters at its core) set in a rambling house in Oklahoma. Two-time Tony Award winner Letts (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) also penned the screenplay.
"The play is about a little over three hours of material — about three-and-a-half hours with the intermissions — and the movie is a little over two hours of material," Letts explained to Playbill.com. "You know, we didn't talk about it at first, in terms of things that we needed to lose or page count or [run] time or timing — at least [director] John [Wells] and I weren't. John and I were trying to take a slightly, I don't know, gentler approach, perhaps — I think a more thoughtful approach — in that we were trying to figure out a different way to tell the story [and find] places where we could use images to tell the story…"
Read the full Playbill.com Brief Encounter with Letts here. Oscar winner Julia Roberts ("The Normal Heart," "Erin Brockovich") plays Barbara Fordham, the oldest Weston daughter, with Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis ("Cape Fear") as Karen Weston and Julianne Nicholson ("Kinsey") as Ivy.
"We spent a lot of time together in getting to know each other," said Julia Roberts at a press conference for the film. "We didn't know each other at all when it started, and by the time we began filming, I felt very familiar and entangled with these girls in a way that seemed correct for sisters. [I] had made just enough happy experiences with them, and [we] had a couple of appropriate, sisterly 'Really? That's what you're wearing?'-kind of moments where I felt like it was all going to fall into place."
Streep ("The Devil Wears Prada," "The Iron Lady") stars as cancer-stricken drug addict Violet Weston.
"As an actor," she said, "you're supposed to want to go into the House of Pain over and over and over again, but really, it's not something that's 'fun.' I resisted doing this initially — the part — because of that. I just thought, 'Ugh!' because on so many levels — physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally — Violet is enraged or in pain or drugged at any given time."
The cast also features Sam Shepard (Heartless) as Beverly Weston, Ewan McGregor (West End's Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs, "Moulin Rouge") as Bill Fordham, Olivier Award winner Benedict Cumberbatch (Frankenstein, "Sherlock") as Little Charles Aiken, Tony nominee Margo Martindale (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) as Mattie Fae Aiken, Oscar winner Chris Cooper ("Adaptation") as Charlie Aiken, Dermot Mulroney ("My Best Friend's Wedding") as Steve Huberbrecht and Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin (The Miracle Worker, "Little Miss Sunshine") as Jean Fordham.
Here's how the film is billed: "'August: Osage County' tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. Letts' play made its Broadway debut in December 2007 after premiering at Chicago's legendary Steppenwolf Theatre earlier that year. It continued with a successful international run."
The Weinstein Company film is a Jean Doumanian/Smokehouse production produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, Jean Doumanian and Steve Traxler. Claire Rudnick Polstein is the executive producer.