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Flash of Genius / Interview with Greg Kinnear

Speaking by phone from his home -- where he just nabbed the last Milano cookie from his kid -- Kinnear says that current events are providing a good back drop for the film.

We tried to make an entertaining film about a guy taking on a force bigger than himself but we have heard that the movie does resonate in an environment where we are waking up and finding all these corporations who have let their stock holders down, let their employees down, let individuals down that are suddenly waking up leaving people to wonder who's holding the bag. It's unbelievably clear that this is a guy that was marginalized by a corporation and decided to fight back and I think everyone has some sense right now that they are mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more so I think the timing of it is good in that sense.

This David and Goliath scenario plays out like an old Frank Capra film, a kind of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington where you have this somewhat idealistic person taking on a corrupt establishment entity. It also reminded me of the film Tucker about another man taking on the auto industry over his novel ideas. But Flash of Genius tries to be a little more realistic. It shows how this battle hurts Kearns' family life and that Ford did try to offer Kearns financial compensation.

Greg Kinnear and Laura Graham in Flash of Genius (Universal)

But Kearns is not interested in money and that baffles Frod. Kearns feels slighted and he mainly wants to be acknowledged for his invention. Alan Alda plays a lawyer who takes on the case because he smells a big settlement but he's unprepared for the fact that Kearns is not interested in money. Here's what Kinnear had to say:

Ford is not painted with black hats and twirly moustaches they tried to offer this guy a way out of this. T hey offer him money. Alan Alda, playing an attorney who smells a large settlement, points out to Kearnes that that's how we disperse justice in this country; you don't get the key to the city or a ticker tape parade, you get a check. And unfortunately they came up against the wrong guy because this guy wanted more he wanted them to acknowledge what they had done was wrong. When you look around today you wonder who's going to stand up and acknowledge what they did was wrong it's going to be very interesting.

Greg Kinnear plays Dr. Robert Kearns in Flash of Genius (Universal)

But Kearns battle with Ford would drag on for years. The strain of the lengthy process provokes Kearns wife (played by Gilmore Girl Laura Graham) to leave him. But Kearns would not give up or give in, says Kinnear:

What I was most inspired by when I read the script was that he was not painted in these ultruistic heroic colors. He was a tough guy, he was stubborn, prickly, abrasive, he could be a little distrustful. He's a flawed human being and we set out to represent him as that. But when I read the script I still had this sense that there was this underlying decency to this guy and I wanted him to succeed and receive some satisfaction in this story and in this battle against Ford.

Flash of Genius (rated PG-13 for brief strong language)serves up a satisfying underdog film but producer turned director Marc Abraham doesn't invest it with real fire or passion the way Coppola did with Tucker . This is a formula film but Kearns' story is one worth knowing about.

Compnaion viewing: Tucker, Auto Focus , Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

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