Admission

Character: Portia Nathan
Directed by: Paul Weitz
Written by: Karen Croner (screenplay by), Jean Hanff Korelitz (based on the novel by)
Release date: March 22, 2013
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Running time: 1h 47min

Tina Fey and Paul Rudd are paired for the first time on-screen in Admission, the new comedy/drama directed by Academy Award nominee Paul Weitz (About a Boy, In Good Company), about the surprising detours we encounter on the road to happiness.

Every spring, high school seniors anxiously await letters of college admission that will affirm and encourage their potential. At Princeton University, admissions officer Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is a gatekeeper evaluating thousands of applicants. Year in and year out, Portia has lived her life by the book, at work as well as at the home she shares with Princeton professor Mark (Michael Sheen). When Clarence (Wallace Shawn), the Dean of Admissions, announces his impending retirement, the likeliest candidates to succeed him are Portia and her office rival Corinne (Gloria Reuben). For Portia, however, it’s business as usual as she hits the road on her annual recruiting trip.

On the road, Portia reconnects with her iconoclastic mother, Susannah (Lily Tomlin). On her visit to New Quest, an alternative high school, she then reconnects with her former college classmate, idealistic teacher John Pressman (Paul Rudd) – who has recently surmised that Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), a gifted yet very unconventional New Quest student, might well be the son that Portia secretly gave up for adoption years ago while at school. Jeremiah is about to apply to Princeton.

Now Portia must re-evaluate her personal and professional existences, as she finds herself bending the admissions rules for Jeremiah, putting at risk the future she thought she always wanted – and in the process finding her way to a surprising and exhilarating life and romance she never dreamed of having.

Cast & Characters

Tina Fey (Portia Nathan), Paul Rudd (John Pressman), Michael Sheen (Mark), Wallace Shawn (Clarence), Nat Wolff (Jeremiah), Gloria Reuben (Corinne), Travaris Spears (Nelson), Lily Tomlin (Susannah)

Production Photos

Trailer

Production Notes

Kohansky-Roberts notes, “We had heard Tina Fey was interested in doing a comedy/drama, and we thought the combination of her wry humor with the more serious undertones in the story would make for a movie that was substantive and also entertaining. Once we thought of Tina in the role, there really wasn’t a second choice for us.”

Weitz’s longtime Depth of Field production partner Andrew Miano adds, “In addition to her comic timing, Tina conveys heart and depth; we all felt that she could access the dramatic and emotional places Portia would progress to.”

The multi-award-winning actress and writer sparked to the pitch, and first read the novel and then a screenplay draft. She conferred extensively with Weitz and Croner, also met with Korelitz, and committed to the project in the fall of 2010.

Fey reflects, “When I told friends, especially those with children, about the film, there would be an instantaneous reaction and I would get peppered with questions. There’s a sense of panic in every parent who is about to go through that process. I found the story compelling, and I wanted to take on the challenge of playing this character at the center of that process.

“Portia is a woman who is living in a judgmental and strict world, and she comes unraveled — but she also loosens up. When she takes a maternal interest in Jeremiah, she is trying to give something to him and help him realize his potential. Her story is so beautifully told in Jean’s book, and Karen did such a great job translating it into the screenplay.”

With Fey in mind to incarnate Portia, Croner continued working on the script. The filmmakers all felt that the strength of the adaptation would lie not only in the vivid characters but also in the detailed backdrop of academia and the machinations-laden admissions process.

Executive producer Caroline Baron comments, “Paul loves actors as much as he loves the storytelling process. I think audiences will see some of themselves in each of the characters.”

Fey adds, “Paul has really thought through both the story and the characters; when we are shooting, he will identify little things for you to focus on, which I found to be truly helpful. He is also open to hearing about what an actor thinks is going on within their character.”

Since either Portia or Corinne could succeed Clarence as Dean of Admissions, and each has their eye on the prize, “their friendly rivalry slowly transforms into an out-and-out rivalry,” notes Fey.

Fey says, “Portia is drawn to Jeremiah, although at first she can’t handle being around him; she doesn’t feel she can deal with it. But when John, being the aggressive do-gooder that he is, brings Jeremiah to visit Princeton, she senses an opportunity to find out more about this child — even if it’s clear that she doesn’t know much about mothering, she’s going to attempt it.”

Fey reveals, “I did apply to Princeton, because it was a dream of my mother’s that one day I would try to go there. I was a good student, but I wasn’t ‘Princeton material,’ as Wallace Shawn’s character would say. I remember thinking at my Alumni Interview that they were not interested in me at all, that it was completely perfunctory.

“So I did not get into Princeton, but I went to a great school — the University of Virginia.”