Get to Girl Crushing on No Strings Attached Scribe Elizabeth Meriwether
First-time screenwriter Elizabeth Meriwether had already earned fans among the New York art-kid scene with plays like Heddatron (Hedda Gabler meets - what else? - robots), but it was a television pilot entitled Sluts that got her on the fast track to a Hollywood screenwriting career. Sluts didn't get picked up, but it did bring her to the attention of filmmaker Ivan Reitman, who threw out an idea for her to expand into a script. The resulting F*ckbuddies hit the Black List and turned into last weekend's box office topper No Strings Attached -- not a bad way to make your Hollywood screenwriting debut.
Naturally, our girl crush on Liz Meriwether was pretty much instantaneous. A member of the so-called "Fempire," the slim bespectacled blonde has a soft, self-deprecating charm and wit that comes through in her writing -- often in tales about women who seem not too un-Liz Meriwetheresque themselves. Read on as Movieline talks crappy rom-coms, Natalie Portman, and more with the up-and-coming writer.
Purple Drank, sexting, friends with benefits -- did you find yourself having to explain certain zeitgeisty twenty-something phenomena to Ivan as you worked on the film together?
No, he's actually -- he' s producing movies, and his kids are around my age, so he's aware of what's happening. He's pretty plugged in.
Well, Ivan may be plugged in, but he's not of the generation of your characters. Therefore we project the story upon you, the screenwriter: How much of your own life experiences went into the script?
Obviously it moved on a lot of different kinds of experiences, but it's not like there's one person. I think the main point was to really make something that felt like it was something that my friends and I could watch and be like, "That's a movie about our lives!" I've definitely been out dating in the world and there's a lot of experiences that happen that you're like, "Wow, I wish I could write about that!" And so I did. [Laughs]
What were some of the scenarios in the film that actually happened to you?
Someone brought me a balloon. No, just kidding! The movie is about a women who learns how to be in a relationship, and I think that was my experience, sort of learning how to be with somebody and have a mature relationship. I think that's kind of what your twenties are about.
Ivan Reitman said he came to you with an idea and you went off and wrote the script with No Strings Attached. How did it all come about?
Yes, they suggested the title to me which was originally F*ckbuddies, and then off of that title I went off and wrote the script. I had written this pilot for Fox called Sluts, which never made it on the air, surprisingly, and they had read that pilot. We had a meeting with the people at Montecito Pictures, and I loved talking with them so much. It was exactly the movie that I wanted to write, a modern romantic comedy, because I'm a huge romantic comedy fan and sometimes I feel they get a bad rap. I wanted to write one that felt cool and different. And they seemed to want to do that too.
I'm also a fan of the rom-com genre, but why are so many modern romantic comedies so terrible?
Yeah, I think people sometimes get stuck making things the same way they've always been. There's definitely a little bit of fear about putting some sex into a rom-com - I think there's some assumption that women only want to see movies about weddings, you know? And I think they want to see movies about weddings and sex.
It is such a delight to see Natalie Portman cut loose for maybe the first time in a long time in No Strings Attached. She came onboard as producer early on, and you two became good friends. How did getting to know Natalie help shape the character?
Her faith in the screenplay really gave me confidence, because it was my first screenplay and it was, hopefully, putting out a female character who doesn't want to be in a relationship and that's sometimes beyond what's plausible [in the genre]. But Natalie had faith in the character and really wanted to do a different kind of romantic comedy. And she's such a fun person to be around. All the stuff in the movie, she just really has a great laugh, a great sense of humor, is really, really fun. It wasn't really far off from the feeling of hanging out with her.
There's a great moment in which Natalie gets drunk, gets a little jealous, and yells at two girls who are trying to hook up with Ashton Kutcher. Where did "You look like a pumpkin, bitch!" come from?
I don't know, I think I was just writing the scene really late at night, and I didn't want Natalie to just call her a bitch because that was just too normal, so I decided that the one thing worse than a bitch was a pumpkin. [Laughs] But the night that we were shooting Natalie was just riffing off of that, some of the things she said were so funny, improv-ing stuff about pumpkins. That was a really fun night.
I get the feeling that you are way past being over the whole "Fempire" thing, but is your relationship with Diablo Cody, Dana Fox, and Lorene Scafaria still as much of a force in your life?
I mean, the name "Fempire" was sort of taken the wrong way, like we were a super secret club or something that no one could get into. But it really, honestly, was that it's hard being a screenwriter in L.A. and it's hard being a female screenwriter in L.A., and it's great to have people that support you and friends that are there to talk about anything you want to talk about. I'm still really good friends with all of them and they're really supportive to me. And we do not have a super secret club where we meet in, like, a cave.
So I guess that means there's no secret handshake?
No secret handshake.
Did you all still go to the No Strings Attached premiere together?
Yes we did! It was really fun. I'm not married, but it felt like my wedding. I kept saying, "Oh my God, I'm getting married to my movie!" Buying shoes at the last minute and stuff like that. It was amazing to go to the premiere because it was so glamorous and there's so much to moviemaking that is not glamorous.
You've had a number of plays performed in New York, but this is your first film. Where do you want to go from here in your screenwriting career?
This has just been a kind of unbelievable process. I just want to keep writing characters who are interesting and complicated people and interesting roles for women, in TV or film or in theater. I think that's like my Blues Brothers mission.
And a noble one at that. How many different upcoming projects are you working on?
I'm writing a project for Fox and then I'm writing a movie for Paramount and a movie for Universal. The pilot for Fox is about a girl who has a bad breakup and moves in with three guys she meets who teach her how to get back on her feet.
**Ah yes, Chicks and Dicks! Another great title.**
Yeah! I didn't know if it was funnier to call it Chicks and Dicks or Chicks with Dicks. That was the other option.
**One of your plays would make a movie I'd want to see on the big screen just based on the description alone, and that is Heddatron. Hedda Gabler plus robots? Two great tastes that taste great together.**
That's actually getting produced again in Steppenwolf in Chicago I think next month, which I'm really exciting about and I'm going to fly to Chicago to see because I never thought it would be produced again. Because you need 12 working robots, so I've given up on ever seeing it again. I'm really excited. But I don't think you should hold your breath for a movie adaptation. [Laughs] They usually try to make movies out of comic book characters, not esoteric Ibsen characters.
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