By Michael E. Miller
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Landsberg followed Miles for a year and a half. During that time span, he tried the Atkins diet, created a "fat jar" to hold the lard he collected from his Popeil rotisserie, attempted to join a boxing club only to get his ass kicked by a girl and ultimately lost 50 pounds the old-fashioned way: diet, exercise, and therapy. Being the overweight only child in a wealthy family usually requires the last. And even though his family's history is only briefly mentioned in the film, earning their trust in order to do Fatboy in the first place, says Landsberg, took time.
"When you're someone of Miles's dad's stature, you don't want your family's dirt out in the open," Landsberg says about any hesitation the Forman family members of which ended up donating money to make Fatboy had about the film. "In the beginning they were like, 'Who is this guy? Why is he allowed in?' But I think Miles convinced them of how important this was. They're a very interesting family. They're all very different people." And though they may have their differences most members of Miles's family are practicing Protestants, while he and his father are spiritual but don't participate in organized religion what they all seem to have in common, besides being Democrats, is a very unpretentious, inconsequential approach to their wealth. Miles's father's office, for example, isn't particularly flashy. It's located on a non-penthouse floor of a neutral-toned stucco building in downtown Fort Lauderdale, and the only noticeably high-ticket item in it is an original portrait of Albert Einstein by Andy Warhol. Other than that, simply a wall unit with books and pictures one of which is of Miles at about age ten, for which he has been superimposed on a mock cover of Forbes magazine a cluttered Thomasville-style desk with gold fixtures, and two business office-issue burgundy leather couches.
And then there are the spears. His father is somewhat of an adventurer, Miles says, and adds that they recently returned from a family trip to Africa. They've been there three times, he says, and this time they went to Rwanda to see silverback gorillas. "We had to hike three miles into a rain forest; one day we had to hike down a volcanic crater on a 60-degree incline. It was unbelievable. It gives you a whole other perspective. Makes you appreciate what you do have. People in this country are always concerned with what they don't have, which is really sad. These kids in Rwanda, they make their own soccer balls out of trash bags and rubber bands, they speak three languages. I can't speak three languages, I can't make a soccer ball, and this is an eight-year-old kid. They're very thankful for what they do have; they don't get discouraged. It's amazing."
Miles also says he brought along a copy of Fatboy which he was able to watch under the stars on his portable DVD player and that while in Botswana, he got to meet Don Hewitt. "He's the creator of 60 Minutes," Miles says excitedly. "I'm going to send him a copy of Fatboy today."
Trips to Africa, a meeting with a media mogul, a family with clout: One of Landsberg's concerns was convincing the audience to sympathize with the fat rich kid. "We did a lot of test groups, and at one point people were like, 'Why are people rooting for him?' When you get so close to a project, you don't see the void, but when you look at a kid who comes from a wealthy family, why are you going to feel bad for this kid? What hardships has he lived through and whatever else?" explains Landsberg. "But you know what, being raised by your nanny and not having your parents right there to show them your report card when you get home from school, that can be just as bad as any other person's situation. My parents were absent parents. I don't hate them for it, but I definitely spent a lot of my childhood trying to get their attention, which I have a firm belief that Miles did as well. Hiding food, keeping that kind of control, that's a big part of it."
That and the man-breasts. "You live this contrived social life," he says of the impositions of his bosom. "I'd see a girl across the room for instance, and I might have everything she wants and all these cool things to say to her, but before I even put one foot forward, everything is destroyed because I'm so conscious of my weight. If I was invited to a pool party, I'd go in the pool with my shirt on, and when it was time to get out and you know wet shirts cling to you I would look around and time it so that no one was looking at me and jump out real quick, fluff my shirt out. It's ridiculous to explain this, but it's honest. Even in the car if I pick a girl up for a date, the seatbelt defining the man-breasts, I'm just so very conscious of that. I was not exaggerating a bit about how devastating it was, and just to say that in front of you right now curdles my blood."