"Big Love" is an HBO series created by Mark V. Olsen and gay screenwriter Will Scheffer. The series premiere was directed by Rodrigo Garcia ("Six Feet Under", "Boomtown", "Nine Lives"). When production on "Big Love" was announced it generated considerable news coverage, partially because the series was to be produced by superstar Tom Hanks' production company, with Hanks as executive producer.
The "Big Love" series is about a business owner in Salt Lake City (played by Bill Paxton) and his three wives. Paxton's character is a polygamist, whose unorthodox lifestyle is based on his background as what is sometimes known by the misnomer "fundamentalist Mormon."
HBO originally ordered 11 episodes of "Big Love" produced. Amanda Seyfried was cast as "Sarah Henrickson," a teenage daughter of Bill Paxton's character. Some of the audition sides for this part are shown below. Cast as Paxton's three wives (all major roles in the series) were Chloe Sevigny, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ginnifer Goodwin. Other actors cast for "Big Love" were Harry Dean Stanton, Daveigh Chase, Garrett Gray, Mitchell Gray, Spencer Gray and Douglas Smith.
The series was originally set to premiere in August 2005.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rarely comments on specific media productions, but it did issue a press release on 17 October 2005 after new magazine articles began appearing in anticipation of the debut of "Big Love." From: "'HBO's "Big Love', posted in the "Comments on the News" section on the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (http://lds.org/newsroom/mistakes/0,15331,3885-1-22339,00.html; viewed 20 October 2005):
HBO's "Big Love"
[A response to articles published in] Various media outlets, 17 October 2005
The Public Affairs Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement in response to media inquiries regarding the upcoming HBO show "Big Love":
"Polygamy was officially discontinued in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1890. Any Church member adopting the practice today is excommunicated. Those groups which continue the practice in Utah and elsewhere have no association whatever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and most of their practitioners have never been among our members.
"The Church has long been concerned about the continued illegal practice of polygamy, and in particular about reports of child and wife abuse emanating from polygamous communities today. It will be regrettable if this program, by making polygamy the subject of entertainment, minimizes the seriousness of that problem.
"Through its Los Angeles Public Affairs office, Church representatives have asked the producers at HBO to consider a disclaimer at the beginning of the program, dissociating the practice of polygamy today from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The producers have said they are willing to consider that request."
[direct link to the article] "Three's Company", [published in] Time, 16 October 2005 [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1118360,00.html]
"Big Love" executive producer Tom Hanks was himself a Mormon for less than two years when he was a child, but he was part of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and was not a "fundamentalist Mormon" or part of polygamist culture. Hanks' frequently-disrupted family life put him in a number of different denominations while growing up. In high school, Tom Hanks joined a Fundamentalist Christian (Protestant) denomination, but did not remain active in it into his twenties. When Hanks married Rita Wilson, he joined her denomination: the Greek Orthodox Church. It is not known whether Hanks' background provided any impetus for his deciding to produce "Big Love."
Although "Big Love" is ostensibly about polygamy, much of its subject matter and themes are actually a veneer for presenting the non-LDS writers' GLBT themes and gay apologia.
The Biblical practice of polygamy was banned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the late 1800s, and anybody who attempts to practice polgamy is not allowed to be part of the Church. Wary of stirring up negative controversy, and wishing to avoid accusations of anachronistic or dishonest storytelling, HBO publicists issued statements early in the series' production cycle that "Big Love" was not about Latter-day Saints and would not be filmed in Utah.
However, excerpts from the teleplay for the pilot episode of the series make it clear that at least some of the characters in "Big Love" are written as mainstream Latter-day Saints. Series star Chloe Sevigny told reporters that the show's producers intended to film in Utah. In the excerpt below, some characters are members of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They discuss Church-related topics with a daughter of the central polygamist character. This girl has clearly spent time in the mainstream Church, although her family is apparently now separated from the Church.
The teleplay excerpts contain two cheers or chants spoken by a teenage Latter-day Saint girl named "Jordan." (Jordan is not from a polygammist group; she is a member of mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) Jordan's chants would strike most Latter-day Saints as strange, and might even seem like yet another indicator that the script writers were out of touch and were inaccurate in their portrayal of Latter-day Saints.
Yet these chants were actually copied directly from a fireside outline written by a regular Latter-day Saint Young Women's leader. The fireside outline was not published by the official Church, but it was posted on an independent website dedicated to providing supplemental materials for Young Women leaders. (The "Young Women" organization in the Church is for female Church members ages 12 through 18.)
On the "YW Connection" website (http://ywconnection.com/), there is a Young Women Camp section (http://ywconnection.com/Camp/pageCampindex.html). On the index page for the Young Women Camp section there is section with the heading "Camp Themes." Some of the themes in this section include: Everyway Heroes; Heroes of the Heart; Hold Your Torch High; Field of Dream; Like A Lighthouse; Millennial Bugs; Mission Possible; Olympics; On Safari, Searching For Heaven; We Three Queen; Quest for the Best; Shoot For the Stars; To Know Ewe is to Love Ewe; Unity in the Hive; United We Stand.
One of the Young Women Camp themes is "Major Leagues." It is a baseball theme, and the page describing it (http://ywconnection.com/Camp/pageCmajorleague.html) features a detailed outline of a fireside, complete with some camp cheers.
One of the cheers from this Young Women camp fireside touches on the Word of Wisdom:
Drugs are an abomination.Note how this cheer is repeated in the "Big Love" script:
We're the Mormon congregation.
That should be an indication,
Heaven is our destination!
JORDAN (deadpan, understated) "We're the Mormon Congregation. That should be an indication. Heaven is our destination. Yeah."Another cheer used during the "Major Leagues" camp fireside is about the law of chastity (moral purity):
We can wait! We can wait! We can wait to procreateThis cheer was also repeated in the "Big Love" script:
'Til aaaaaaaaaaafter marriage!
JORDAN (the same throwaway irony) We can wait. We can wait. We can wait to procreate. Till aaaaffffffter marriage. Yeah.
[Page 37] INT. BURGER HEAVEN - DAY ON Sarah, orange and brown work uniform, in the back of the downtown SLC fast food joint she works in. She holds a burger wrapped in foil in one hand, punches her time card with the other, then proceeds out a back door into an alley. EXT. BACK ALLEY / BURGER HEAVEN - CONTINUOUS She joins three other fair-haired Mormon teens, coworkers on break, seated at a table, DONNA, JORDAN and HEATHER, all in orange and brown uniforms. She slides in next to Jordan: [Page 38] SARAH Mr. Woodcock says you guys have two more minutes. JORDAN Man, that name. HEATHER Who's closing tonight? SARAH I am. (pointing to Donna's soda) Diet or regular? DONNA Regular. SARAH Sip? Donna indicates yes: Sarah sips. Jordan, eating fries applies ketchup from packets on each fry individually, then pokes them into her mouth. She eyes a clean-cut blonde family, Mother, Father, Four Children, proceeding into the drive in: JORDAN (deadpan, understated) "We're the Mormon Congregation. That should be an indication. Heaven is our destination. Yeah." She pops a fry into her mouth. DONNA (rattling ice in her cup) I was out with my boyfriend last night. We were at like first base heading to second and he goes-- "What's that smell? (halfbeat) It was me. Like a big vat of fries. SARAH Don't you hate it? DONNA Hello? JORDAN So did you do second? (off Donna's nod) Third? (off Donna's nod) How third? [Page 39] DONNA I let him finger me. SARAH (eating her burger) Donna, gross! Heather gives Donna a reproachful look: DONNA What? JORDAN (the same throwaway irony) We can wait. We can wait. We can wait to procreate. Till aaaaffffffter marriage. Yeah. HEATHER Do you have a boyfriend, Sarah? SARAH Uh-uh. HEATHER What's your position on chastity? SARAH Who wants to get pregnant or an STD or something? I don't think it's such a bad idea to get past your hormones and not screw every penis that will allow you to mount it. The girls break into surprised LAUGHTER. Mr. Woodcock, the Manager, inside, RAPS on the window and points to his watch. DONNA Back to the grease pit. Heather, Jordan and Donna file back inside. As Sarah eats she glances up and sees Heather, now inside, staring out at her with interest. [END SCENE] [Page 47] INT. FOOD COURT / GATEWAY MALL - FRIDAY AFTERNOON Sarah and "new friend" Heather with Diet Cokes at the Cashier HEATHER Together. (to Sarah) I'll get it. SARAH Thanks. The Cashier smiles at Heather as she pays; Heather looks at her name tag: "Katie": HEATHER Thank you, Katie. INT. TOWER RECORDS / GATEWAY MALL - MOMENTS LATER PAN STORE WINDOW: CD displays for SEAL, OUTKAST, THE MORMON TABERNACLE CHOIR HEATHER (O.C.) What kind of music are you into? ON Sarah and Heather gazing at the window. SARAH Lots of stuff. I like Jazz. I like Linkin Park. Heather smiles and shrugs, then: HEATHER I like Bobby McFerrin. Heather catches her reflection in the glass and tugs her short skirt up higher. They start walking THE BUSY MALL. HEATHER When I'm 21, I want to do a Mission. I've decided I want to go to an Islamic country. My Dad's against it, but I think post 9/11 that part of the world needs our help the most, don't you? SARAH I think the whole world needs help. [Page 48] HEATHER See. That's what I like about you, Sarah. You're so thoughtful. You're not boy-crazy or all screwed up. (half-beat) You don't talk about family much. SARAH Not much to talk about. They're just average. HEATHER Are they involved in Church activities? SARAH They used to be. They're pretty busy now. My Dad's a businessman and my Mom's a teacher. Substitute. She's taking classes to be full time accredited. HEATHER What about you? Are you in Young Women's? Mia Maids or Laurels? (Sarah shakes her head) What ward are you in? SARAH Fourteenth. But I'm not really into the Church. I mean, I think they're right -- their take on morals and honesty. But I think they spend too much time trying to convince everyone else they're the one true religion -- like underneath they kinda doubt it themselves. An awkward beat. HEATHER No, I know what you mean. (then) Hey, you know what? Why don't you give me your phone number? I can call you next week. We can hang out some more. SARAH Okay. (half-beat) So, what do your parents do? [Page 49] HEATHER Mother's a homemaker. She served as YW counselor in our old ward. She's pretty active in Relief Society. She's great. (sips her Diet Coke) Dad's a State Trooper. OFF Sarah's nod: In her eyes, a tiny hint of trepidation.