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The Lovely Bones is a 2009 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Alice Sebold. The film was directed by Peter Jackson and stars Saoirse Ronan as the protagonist Susie Salmon along with Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as her parents, Jack and Abigail Salmon respectively.

Jackson and his producer partners acquired the rights independently and developed a script on their own, later selling it to DreamWorksmarker. Production began in October 2007 in New Zealandmarker and Pennsylvaniamarker. Paramount became a sole distributor a year later when they split with DreamWorks. The film's trailer was released on August 4th 2009.


In 1973, Susie Salmon (Ronan) is murdered by a neighbor, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), a serial killer of young girls and women. She finds herself in 'the in-between' a Heaven-like place, observing her family as they grieve for her. She also watches her killer who, having covered his tracks successfully, is preparing to murder again. Susie struggles to balance her desire for vengeance on Harvey and her desire to have her family recover from their loss.


  • Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon. Ronan reminded Jackson of The Lord of the Rings stars Cate Blanchett–"a younger Cate, I can see her having the sort of career and making the types of films that Cate has been making"–and Elijah Wood, because they shared an eagerness to follow their director.
  • Mark Wahlberg as Jack Salmon, Susie's father.
  • Rachel Weisz as Abigail Salmon, Susie's mother.
  • Stanley Tucci as George Harvey, Susie's killer.
  • Susan Sarandon as Lynn, Susie's, Lindsey's and Buckley's grandmother and Abigail's mother.
  • Rose McIver as Lindsey Salmon, Susie's sister.
  • Christian Thomas Ashdale as Buckley Salmon, Susie's and Lindsey's little brother.
  • Michael Imperioli as Len Fenerman, a police detective in charge of investigating Susie's death.

The role of Jack Salmon had to be recast right before principal photography began. Ryan Gosling, who had gained 20 pounds and grown a beard for the role, had been cast. Gosling said "the age of the character versus my real age was always a concern of mine. Peter [Jackson] and I tried to make it work and ultimately it just didn't. I think the film is much better off with Mark Wahlberg in that role."


In May 2000, Film4 Productions acquired feature film rights to Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones, when it was a half-written manuscript. Producer Aimee Peyronnet had sought to attract studio interest to the manuscript, and an insider informed Film4's deputy head of production, Jim Wilson, of the project. The company attached Luc Besson and Peyronnet's production company Seaside to the project, two years before the novel's release. By February 2001, Lynne Ramsay was hired to direct and write the film adaptation of the novel. In July 2002, Channel 4 shut down Film4, causing Hollywoodmarker studios and producers to pursue acquisition of feature film rights to The Lovely Bones, which had spent multiple weeks at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list. The film adaptation, which had been estimated at a budget of $15 million, remained with Channel 4 under its newly developed inhouse film unit, with Ramsay still contracted to write and direct. By October 2002, Ramsay was writing the script with fellow screenwriter Liana Dognini, with filming planned for summer 2003. Author Alice Sebold was invited by the producers to provide input on the project.

In July 2003, the studio DreamWorksmarker negotiated a first look deal with producer Peyronnet, after DreamWorks founder Steven Spielberg had expressed interest in the project. DreamWorks did not acquire the rights to the novel, and Ramsay was eventually detached from the project. In April 2004, producers Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens entered negotiations to develop the project. Jackson described the book as "a wonderfully emotional and powerful story. Like all the best fantasy, it has a solid grounding in the real world." By January 2005, Jackson and Walsh planned to independently purchase film rights and to seek studio financing after a script had been developed. The producers sought to begin adapting a spec script for The Lovely Bones in January 2006, with the goal of script completion and budget estimation by the following May. Jackson explained he enjoyed the novel because he found "curiously optimistic" and uplifting because of the narrator's sense of humor, adding there was a difference between its tone and subject matter. He felt very few films dealt with the loss of a loved one. Jackson foresaw the most challenging element in the novel to adapt was the portrayal of Susie, the protagonist, in heaven, and making it "ethereal and emotional but not hokey". Saoirse Ronan explained Jackson chose to depict the afterlife as depending on Susie's emotions. "Whenever Susie feels happy, Heaven is sunny and there's birds and everything. Whenever it’s not so great, it's raining or she’s in the middle of an ocean." Jackson quoted the book's description of "heaven" as being an "In-Between" rather than a true heaven, and he was not trying to paint a definitive picture of Heaven itself.

A 120-page draft of the script was written by September 2006. In April 2007, with the script completed by Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens, and Jackson intending to direct, the group of producers began seeking a studio partner to finance the film adaptation. Besides the major studios, smaller companies including United Artists were also contacted. New Line Cinema was excluded from negotiations due to Jackson's legal dispute with the studio over royalties from his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson sought a beginning $65 million budget for The Lovely Bones, also requesting from studios what kind of promotional commitments and suggestions they would make for the film adaptation. By May, four studios remained interested in the project: DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Sony, and Universal. The Lovely Bones was sold to DreamWorks for $70 million. Paramount Pictures received the rights to distribute the film worldwide. Production began in October 2007 in Pennsylvaniamarker and New Zealandmarker. Shooting in parts of Delaware, Chester and Montgomery Counties, including Hatfieldmarker, Ridley Township, Phoenixvillemarker, Royersfordmarker, Malvernmarker and East Fallowfieldmarker lasted a few weeks, and most of the studio shooting was done in New Zealand.

In December 2008, Brian Eno signed on to compose the film's score. Fran Walsh, a big fan of his work, suggested him to Jackson. Jackson had called Eno to request using two of his early tracks to evoke atmosphere for the 1970s scenes in the film, when Eno asked if he could compose the whole score, which surprised Jackson since he had heard Eno did not like working on films. For the film's ending, Eno uncovered a demo he had done in 1973 and reunited with the vocalist to create a proper version for the film. "That song from 1973 was finally finished in 2008!", said Jackson.

In November 2009, Jackson admitted shooting new footage of Harvey's death scene after test audiences said it was not violent enough. They wanted to see more of Harvey in pain.


The Lovely Bones was originally scheduled for release on March 13, 2009, but was delayed to December 11, 2009 as the studio became interested in releasing the film for "awards season", which gave Jackson an opportunity to make some effects shots larger in scope. The film's trailer debuted on Entertainment Tonight on August 4, 2009, and was posted online shortly afterwards.


The film currently holds a 64% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 14 reviews.


  2. The Lovely Bones
  4. Peter Jackson: Lovely Bones test audience demanded more violence
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