Director Gary Fleder had serious doubts when it was suggested Kate Bosworth should play Cassie in Homefront.
He just couldn't see how the petite actress, best known for playing sweet roles like Sandra Dee in Beyond the Sea, could portray a meth-head mother whose drug use turned her into a vile and bitter woman.
The director ended up casting her and was happily surprised with the power Bosworth brought to the role. He calls her work "fearless".
Bosworth laughs when she hears how people are surprised that she's able to play a role that is 180 degrees from who she really is.
It shouldn't be a shock because as an actor, her job is to play all kinds of roles - even viciously angry drug users. She knew as soon as she saw the script that she wanted the role because it would be such a challenge.
"When I am sent scripts, I am always looking for the ones with characters that jump out at me. I have to know what the draw is to playing the role," Bosworth says.
"In this character, it was her balance of destruction and darkness and vulnerability and humanistic side. If you take the character at face value, she can be very unsympathetic.
"But, you also have to understand that she is a girl living in world of pain. Being able to connect those dots was the draw for me. I could use all of that to make her real."
The character she creates is the match that lights a powder keg in a small Louisiana city. What starts out as a schoolyard incident is fanned into a war when Cassie turns to her brother, Gator (James Franco), the local drug czar, to help restore some of the family pride she feels has been hurt by the mysterious new guy (Jason Statham) in town.
It wasn't hard for Bosworth to build a back story for the character. The actress spent her teen years living in the small town of Cohasset, Mass.
"I know what it's like to be alone, in your room, at 15 and trying to figure out a way to have your dreams fulfilled.
''All I have to do is look around and think what might have happened if I didn't get the life I have," Bosworth says.
It's been a good acting life so far. Since being cast in the 1998 film The Horse Whisperer, she's gone on to earn high praise for work in Blue Crush, Wonderland and Superman Returns.
Bosworth used a wardrobe trick she learned from costume designer Ann Roth while filming The Girl in the Park to build her Homefront character.
"Cassie is someone who has been abusing herself for a long time. I decided she would have only one or two changes of clothes. She would wear the same jeans she's probably been wearing for weeks and a shirt she picked up off the floor," Bosworth says.
"Ann Roth taught me how informative wardrobe can be. My character wore a leather coat and we turned it inside out and wrote telephone numbers and names all over it. She was always on the move and this was a way of painting her life with the wardrobe."
The rest of Bosworth's transformation to play Cassie included wearing no makeup and letting her hair get dirty. The look helped her show the honesty of the character. The main truth Bosworth saw about the role was this is a woman who has far bigger concerns than her looks.
Her transformation not only won over the director, but her fellow actors.
"I was blown away with what Kate did. I mean she is a mile away from this Cassie character she portrays," Statham says.
"She really embodied this part, she did her homework and she put together a stunning performance. We was all like, 'Wow, is that Kate?' You know, she blew everyone away."