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How Arnold Schwarzenegger inspired 'Little Miss Sunshine'

Little Miss Sunshine is a deceptively structured road trip film that lures the audience in under the premise of presenting a tragicomedy but ends up coming across as a profound meditation on modern society and human existence. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine was critically acclaimed at the time of its release for its metamodern sincerity and aesthetic vision.

Steve Carell stars as the second-most prominent scholar of French modernism, Marcel Proust, in the country who recently survived a suicide attempt. He joins his sister’s family on a road trip to a beauty pageant, accompanied by his brother-in-law, who is a failed motivational speaker and a nephew who is a worshipper of Nietzsche. Along the way, he gains a deeper understanding of the machinations of life.

Although prestigious actors like Bill Murray and Robin Williams were initially attached to the project, it was Carell who ultimately impressed the filmmakers. “We were so lucky to get Steve at the right time in his career,” Jonathan Dayton said. “The cool thing about Steve is he’s just a guy who wants to challenge himself, and it’s exciting for us to be the first film that will show a different side of him.”

Screenwriter Michael Arndt won the coveted Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his fantastic and intimate script. The inspiration for the tender writing came from a highly unlikely source, as Arndt revealed at a 2007 bookstore appearance. He was moved by a speech that Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered to school students.

The Terminator declared: “If there’s one thing in this world that I hate, it’s losers, I despise them”. Arndt had a visceral reaction to these harsh words as he explained to the audience in the bookstore, “I thought there’s something just wrong with that attitude. There’s something so demeaning and insulting about referring to any other person as a loser, and I wanted to…attack that idea that in life you’re either going up or you’re going down.”

He further challenged Schwarzenegger’s crude classifications in another interview, emphasising the importance of patience: “I wrote ten screenplays before I sold Little Miss Sunshine. I thought, ‘no, I’m smarter than everyone!’ But again, there is sort of no substitute for putting the time in. In my case, it’s 100 per cent the truth. From the time I seriously decided to be a writer till I sold my first screenplay was ten years. My one thing: be persistent but also be patient.”