Glenn Ficarra and John Requa on Directing Crazy, Stupid, Love, the 'Antidote' to Summer Blockbusters
The warm months of summer aren't just a time when stars can break out in front of the camera; there are up and comers behind the camera looking to push through as well. Like directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who land their second feature film, the Steve Carell-led ensemble comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love, right smack dab in the middle of July.
Successful screenwriters (Bad Santa), Ficarra (above right) and Requa (above left) made their feature directing debut with I Love You Phillip Morris, which finally found its way to theaters last year after having five different release dates. Getting Crazy, Stupid, Love to the multiplex will prove to be a decidedly easier task for the duo, and not just because they have a cast of stars any director would give their right arm for: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei.
As part of our 2011 Summer Preview, Movieline caught up with Ficarra and Requa on the phone to discuss how directing Crazy, Stupid, Love came about, what makes their bit of summer fun stand out among the superheroes, and just which films they're looking forward to most this season.
You guys obviously had quite the tortured experience getting I Love You Phillip Morris into theaters. Were you champing at the bit to get behind the camera for Crazy, Stupid, Love?
John Requa: It depends on when you talk to us. Right after we finished I Love You Phillip Morris, we weren't that excited about [directing], but as time went by, we began to miss it.
Then how did Crazy, Stupid, Love come about?
Glenn Ficarra: We had done some work for Steve Carell's company as writers -- some punch-ups and stuff for scripts of his. We were actually at the Palm Springs Film Festival with I Love You Phillip Morris, and they sent us the script to consider for directing. We weren't even expecting it. Next thing you know, we fell in love with it right then and there. We didn't even have a release yet on Phillip Morris.
JR: Steve, his company and Warner Bros. sent it to us. They all got together and decided [we'd be a good fit].
You guys directed your own script for I Love You Phillip Morris, and you're successful screenwriters in your own right. Were you concerned about directing material that wasn't your own?
JR: It was great. We were a little nervous -- hopefully we were going to get along with the writer [Dan Fogelman], but he has turned out to be one of our best friends in the business. We talk to each other almost every day. It was really fortunate because we really got along, and we always wanted to be a good director to his script. Because it was a really smartly written script, and we really respected his ability. And that always helps. When the director respects the writer. [Laughs]
Have you encountered directors that don't respect the writer?
JR: None of the films we got made. We love all our directors.
GF: A lot of the less experienced directors [long pause] -- they just don't trust writers or they don't know how to talk to them. I don't know what it is.
Do you think you have an advantage as directors because of the writing background?
GF: I think it's really helpful.
JR: I think it's great when it's a character piece like this one. I think it's good to be a writer. Having the writer there, and us being able to speak to him in a shorthand as we kind of adjust to the story and the characters as we went along [was beneficial]. Actors come in, and they have their own take on things, and you have to adjust on the fly to make sure everything still works structurally and dramatically. It's nice to be able to speak to the writer in a shorthand where you can say, "We need to rewrite something." You don't have to have a long conversation. You're kind of already there.
You mention the actors, and you've assembled quite a roster of talent for Crazy, Stupid, Love. Was casting this one just a total bear?
GF: We had a pretty tight schedule because Steve had a break in filming of The Office. So we actually went out right away for all parts, and some of the family -- we wanted people to look alike, like the little kids we wanted to look like Steve. So it was important to find out who the mother was going to be.
JR: Julie came up in the conversation really early. Julianne Moore. She was just -- we all just thought, "Oh, wouldn't it be great if she said yes?" Boy, were we surprised when she did. [Laughs] We had to be really conscious of Steve, because Steve had to coordinate all these people, and we wanted to make sure he was happy with everything. So, a lot of it was us just talking to Steve and Steve's partners over at his company about who was exactly a good fit for Steve.
Which is why it's kind of surprising to see an actor like Ryan Gosling as Steve's co-star; he's not the first person you'd think of for a summer comedy. How did you decide to hire him?
GF: It's our sheer genius! [Laughs]
JR: It's actually a great story. The one person in the world that no one would expect who suggested Ryan was the president of the studio. "Do you guys like Ryan Gosling?" We said, "Well, of course we like Ryan Gosling." But we, like everybody else I think, just knew the persona that was out there. We were like, "Really?" Because we know he's a brilliant actor, but this doesn't seem like something he'd be interested in. And he's like, "You might be surprised." So we met with Ryan.
GF: There were no strings attached, they weren't going to force us on him or anything.
JR: We just met, and he was fiercely funny, and we had a great time. He is fiercely smart as well.
GF: He had me at hello. He walks into the room and within five seconds I'm like, "This is our guy." He oozes charm. And he's a very physically imposing guy, too. He's over six feet. He's smart. He's very smart. One of the smartest actors we've ever worked with.
JR: I think he really elevated the character from something that was a bit of an archetype to a real personalized, complex human being.
It's interesting to me because you have Steve known for comedy, but he's adept at drama; and Ryan known for drama, but here he is co-starring in a comedy.
GF: Yeah, there's something very inviting about them on the surface, and then you get so much more. It's not a typical romantic comedy. It's bigger than that, it's more complicated than that. Everyone delivers 200 percent on that -- filling out their characters and delivering powerhouse performances. Steve is a really incredible actor, and I'm pretty confident in saying that this is the best he's ever been. I think he's amazing.
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