Our man Mitch also spoke to the directors and had a drink as well. have a read and then check out his review for Crazy Stupid Love here
It was a beautiful Friday, the perfect summers day, ironically, on one of the last remaining days of winter. High atop the Intercontinental hotel in Sydney in the rooftop bar, I joined 2 highly acclaimed writers and now directors, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa for some midday bourbons and spoke with them about their current project, the fantastic romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. After the topic of bourbon was brought up (and consumed) we picked the interview up from there…
John: "Wild Turkey is very common here and that's a good bourbon."
Me: Have you tried the Wild Turkey: American Honey?
Glenn: "I haven't…"
Me: It's beautiful. You could drink that straight out of the bottle, it's ridiculous.
Glenn: "I don't need any help drinking (laughing), I think I have enough of a problem.
John: "I don't need bourbon to me more delicious."
Me: Then consider this a danger to us all then.
John: "We're making some bourbon…"
Me: You're making some?
John: "Yeah, we bought some moonshine and we put it in a little barrel and we're making bourbon…"
Glenn: "… in our office…"
Me: So you're not mixing it in your hotel bath tub or anything?
Glenn: "It's nice to have in the office, you just stare at it and wonder, one day it'll be good enough to drink."
John: "It's coming along…"
Me: It's not exactly a bad side project to have, are you going to sell it?
John: "It's only 5 bottles worth, so…"
Me: A limited edition then… collectors item.
Glenn: "I had an Australian bourbon yesterday in Melbourne which was very good."
Me: I haven't tried an Australian brand bourbon that I'm aware of. Then again, the only fine print I read on bottle is the percentage of alcohol in it.
Glenn: (Laughs) "I can't remember the name of the distillery but they make a lot of different stuff but they did 3 years in oak, I think so it tasted good.
Me: Awesome. Well a toast to your success and the acclaim that you will no doubt receive from Crazy, Stupid, Love, it is an amazing film. It draws you in as a classic romantic comedy but once you're involved in the story, it becomes clear that it's a hell of a lot more layered than other rom-coms, it's kind of in a league of it's own. What approach did you guys take to making the film so that it wasn't a full on drama but it also wasn't a standard, fluffy romantic slap stick comedy?
Glenn: "A lot of it's in the script but Steve, I think that's one of the reasons he brought us on, he had the same concern. He didn't want it to be a standard romantic comedy so I think that's why we got the job and he went to bat for us because I don't think we'd have an interest in making one of "those" kinds of rom-coms… not to say that this is the future of cinema (chuckles). It was a conscious decision to kind of explore the characters more and the real life implications."
John: "The script was interesting to us because we liked the idea of romantic comedy tropes that are suddenly forced into the real world and things become very real. I can't say too much without revealing it but I like that idea, "oh it's just a romantic comedy" and then "no wait, these are real people with real emotions" and they have to deal with them and process them and it causes schisms and it's interesting and complex and we thought it reflected love because that's my experience with love, is that it's a mess and it makes you crazy…"
Mitch: Well I'm not going to argue with you there.
John: (Laughs) "… yeah but it's also the best part of your life. I mean, I always say, everybody who's been in love, knows what it's like to be crazy, to have that loss of control."
Me: You mentioned downstairs before, with your previous movie I Love You, Phillips Morris (2009), that this film was much easier… compared to Phillip Morris, how much easier has this journey been?
Glenn: "It's easier in a sense that we just had more time with the scenes, more days to shoot and more money to get equipment and crew and we were moving around a lot and didn't have a moment to think when we were in Louisiana [where I Love You, Phillip Morris was filmed] in 100 degree heat [that's 38 degrees celsius] where as in Los Angeles it was closer to the studio, we had all the equipment, we had everything we need so it was just nice…"
John: "Also, at the end of the day, you're going home so there's your wife and kids and you're having a regular life as opposed to being in New Orleans for Phillip Morris."
Me: Well still on different experiences, you wrote the screenplay for Phillip Morris and prior to that, focussed solely on writing. This time, you've focussed solely on directing, is their a substantial difference in directing your own words as opposed to directing those written by someone other than yourselves?
Glenn: "There's a definite difference, yeah. We used to say that we would never direct something that we didn't write because how else can understand the script and the intention better than the writer, so what we did was we kept the writer around and we really included him a lot just to make sure we weren't missing anything or if he had ideas or if we had departures, he would catch us if it didn't line up with the script. It was a really good relationship."
Me: I often wonder how often that actually happens because a lot of the time it seems like the writers just surrender the script over to the directors and that's it.
Glenn: "It never happened to us as writers…"
John: "No, we were never kept around. We were never consulted like we did with our writer. I mean, this felt like a very personal screenplay and we're writers and we just knew that having him around was vital and nobody will ever understand a script like the writer. It's just the way it is and you've got to have them around to protect yourself."
Glenn: "One of the problems with that is, I think sometimes writers, and we're guilty of this too, is that you become so protective of it, especially when you're young, that they don't want you around because you're not willing to explore change and Dan Fogelman [writer of Crazy, Stupid, Love] was incredible with that, he was really collaborative and he knew it was kind of a living document."
John: "It's a big credit to Dan, he comes from animation and animation is highly collaborative so he was fine with it and it was great because some of the scenes in the movie ended up being improvised but Dan was there, his writers voice was still there. He was throwing lines at the actors to improvise."
It was at this point that we called the waitress over and ordered another bourbon. This took a little longer because the guys really know there bourbon and ordered a drink the waitress didn't even know they had. They did and to their credit, it was probably the 2nd smoothest bourbon I've ever drank, 2nd only to the aforementioned Wild Turkey: American Honey. It was brought to my attention that Village Roadshow was paying for everything so John and Glenn insisted I order another refreshment.
Me: What initially made you put your hands up for this movie? Were you asked to do it? Or did you read a copy of it and go after it?
John: "We just loved the script. It was so clever and it was playing with cliche and it was doing a lot of the stuff that we liked to do and we were actually surprised that we liked it so much. It got to the point where we were getting offered stuff and we were like "no, no, no" but on this, we both said "yes" so it was really surprising."
Me: I did notice at one point that Steve's character Cal, when it began to rain in one scene, mentions out loud what a cliche the rain was.
John: "Yeah, Steve improved that. We love to lure the audience in, like "you know this scene, you know where this is going" and then take it some place else, you know, take it off in a different direction. Play with peoples sense of what's going to happen next."
Me: Well, I've never been the kind of person who does, or at least admits to, getting choked up in a movie before. Especially one that toyed with my emotions as this film but I can't deny that that little ball that emerges in the back of my throat did make its presence known in a couple of scenes…
John and Glenn laugh.
Glenn: "It does get heavy sometimes."
Me: It does.
Glenn: "It gets men and women in different places too, which is interesting. Some parts the men are howling laughing and the women are crying and vice versa."
Me: Well yeah, I'd never really seen a movie like that before where, one way or the other my eyes were full of tears, whether it was from laughing hysterically or whether it was from me just sitting there through gritted teeth saying "don't be a little bitch…"
John and Glenn laugh.
Glenn: "Aw… let it go… cry."
John: "I think there's a thing that really gets the men that we've talked to and it does for me, is this father/son thing. He does this thing at the end because he loves his son and it's like a very beautiful thing. Things get so screwed up, it just feels like it's irrevocable but ultimately, when it comes to your kids, you do whatever you have to, to try and preserve their innocence and make them happy and give them what they want. You do whatever it takes and that's what I think gets men because… everybody has an unresolved relationship with their father."
Me: Was it at all tricky to cast the part of Robbie? [played by Jonah Bobo]
John/Glenn: (in unison) "Yeah!"
Glenn: "It was our biggest concern because we've seen what child actors can be and we were really concerned that he was going to be that precocious, annoying, wise beyond his years kid… not to say that he's not wise beyond his years but he's got to do it in a way that is kid like…"
Me: He pulled it off well.
Glenn: "Yeah. Well we went crazy looking in city after city and we found him."
John: "We saw every 15 year old actor in America and Canada, we turned over every rock."
Me: When the story plays out in the movie, the eventuality of it really, completely caught me off guard.
Glenn: "It got me too. It was a real surprise."
Me: Did it have the same effect on you when you read the script for the first time?
Glenn: "It did in this case and I see this stuff coming always because it's our job, you know, we write so we know when they're laying ground work for stuff like that in the story but it totally got us and you just don't get that in romantic comedies. You don't get big plot twists or anything like that and this movie gets 2 of them which is another thing going for it."
Me: Where to next? What's next on the horizon for J. Requa and G. Ficarra?
John: "Well we're writers again, we're trying to write something to direct and it's very ambitious so we're very excited about it. It's another love story…"
Me: With another twist?
John: "Oh there's a twist. We're actually developing a couple of things on the side with other writers which is really exciting because working with Dan on this really opened up this idea of working on other stories with other writers as being a really interesting way to go so we're doing that now."
At this point, the waitress excuses herself as more bourbons are brought over, this time, the bourbon is in the glass but the coke is separate in what looks like a shrunken down glass milk jug. All 3 of us instantly stare at the little coke jugs oddly.
Me: Well these are cute.
John and Glenn laugh.
Glenn: "I was expecting the bottle."
Me: They look like they should be filled with gravy or some sort of condiment.
John and Glenn laugh.
Glenn: "Yeah, I feel bad, they're totally upstaging the soy sauce."
After some small talk with the Last Question girl who just enters our seating area, offering her a glass of bourbon and soy sauce etc… I continue on for the last few questions of the interview.
Me: Is there anybody, any actor, writer or director that you'd like to collaborate with in the future?
John: "There's so many, it all depends on the project. We'd love to work with Steve again, we'd love to work with Ryan again and Emma too, I mean, we really had a great time with these guys and Analeigh Tipton too, Analeigh is an up and comer…"
Glenn: "She played the babysitter."
Me: Her role started innocent but ended up pretty risque by the end of it.
John: "Her and Emma are the exact same age, their birthdays are 2 weeks apart but Emma's playing 4 years older…"
Glenn: "4 days apart."
John: "4 days?"
Glenn: "4 days!"
John: "Well Emma is playing 4 years older and she's playing 4 years younger."
Me: Wow, you buy it too.
Glenn: "Yeah, we have various ideas for all those actors again."
John: "Analeigh is, I don't know if it's online, but she was just at the Venice Film Festival with a new movie and she was wearing a Dior dress and she's just got this supermodel body. She's got these broad shoulders and she just looks a million bucks and she's playing our little mousey babysitter. It really is a testament to her, she was constantly standing like a supermodel, she stood like a line backer…"
Glenn: "… and I was constantly telling her to slouch and telling Emma to stand up straight because she has to looked professional and poised."
Me: That's right, you cast Josh Groban as her boyfriend which was such a WTF moment but I'll be damned if he didn't pull it off, he was awesome.
Glenn: "Yeah Josh was a real surprise. He kind of like self-motivated on that, he was trained as an actor and was in an improv comedy troupe when he was in college and just accidentally got discovered for the voice thing. Accidentally became a multi-millionaire."
Me: As you do.
All 3 of us laugh.
John: "But he always wanted to be a comic actor and he loves Steve and he'd always wanted to work with Steve so he made the tape, his agent got him the script and the tape landed in our office and we watched it thinking, "this guy's hysterical".
Me: He didn't have a lot of screen time but in the time that he did have, I thought he nailed the comedic timing. He was brilliant.
John: "Yeah, we got some out takes where he's just hysterical. It was too broad because you almost like the guy and you're not supposed to but he was so funny, a joy to work with too. I mean, everybody was like that. No scenes, no tantrums, nobody unwilling to leave their trailers, it was a nice-fest…"
Glenn: "Not a good tabloid movie."
John: "Really had a lot of fun."
Me: Yeah it did seem like that. Not that I was on the set, unless I was… which I was.
John: "I thought I saw you."
Me: The shady bearded guy humping the lighting rig.
John: "Yeah being weird in the bushes."
Me: Yeah it did seem like the kind of movie that everybody would've had a ball on.
Glenn: "It was good because not all of the actors were on set everyday, it was a little bit here and there."
John: "There were a few scenes where we were all together where it was really fun for everyone because there weren't a lot of scenes where we were all together but when we were all together, it was just kind of like this family picnic atmosphere, it was really great. I mean, for them. It's stressful being a director but part of your job of being director is to have this illusion of a calm, fun set and then internally, you're panicking, dealing with hyperventilation."
Me: I can imagine you guys have that act down to a T.
John: "You have to be. I remember once, Ryan came up to me and asked what was going on and said "oh this happened and that happened" and he said "my God, that's really stressful" and he asked if I was stressed out and I said "yeah" and he said "you don't look it" and I said "it's inside." Having an environment where your actors can give you the best… some directors actually believe that stressing out their actors is good for their performance but we just don't believe it."
Me: Yeah, you hear stories of James Cameron firing a gun into the air to get someone scared or nailing phones to walls etc… The temptation was never there for you to break out the nail gun?
Glenn: "Maybe sometimes you have to push a little but I don't know, not like that, I don't see the point."
John: "The way you create tension if you need an actor and you feel like there's a lack of reality is you just don't call cut. I go, "do it again," don't call cut and reset and back to the opening marks and let's just go again and let's go again and keep rolling and rolling and rolling and that builds the energy up. You don't have to fire a gun off, it's so ridiculous."
Me: Well whatever you guys did seemed to work because the movie is fantastic.
Glenn: "Yeah I guess. (laughs) I'll take it."
John: "The performances were, we couldn't be happier, the performances were just thrilling. Everybody just really brought the cheese as they say."
Me: They did indeed, very nice work boys and thank you very much for chatting with me. Enjoy the premiere tonight and congrats again on Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Glenn: "Thank you man, nice to meet you."
John: "Yeah, thank you, nice talking."
THANKS TO MITCH AND THE DIRECTORS FOR THIS INTERVIEW. FOR THE REVIEW AND TRAILER GO HERE.