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Stranger Than Fiction - Marc Forster/Zach Helm interviews

Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction

Compiled by Jack Foley

DIRECTOR Marc Forster and screenwriter Zach Helm discuss the challenges of making Stranger Than Fiction...


Q. Can you tell us a little about the story?
A. Stranger Than Fiction is about an IRS agent who one day wakes up and has a narrator in his head. He doesn’t know where the narrator’s coming from, but the narrator tells him he’s gonna die. And he’s trying to find the narrator before he believes his death is gonna find him. That’s pretty much the story – this IRS agent trying to stop his own death.

Q. Was Dustin Hoffman always a first choice for the role of the literary expert who helps Will Ferrell?
A. When I read the part, I thought: “Oh, that’s Dustin. That’s for Dustin, this character of Professor Hilbert.” I just love Dustin Hoffman. I think he’s one of the greatest screen actors ever and he’s just a wonderful collaborator – he has this incredible passion.

I think it’s amazing that actors who have done so much work and have achieved this sort of status, as an icon, like Dustin has, are still having this passion and this incredible commitment to their part and their character.

Q. And what was it about Will Ferrell that made you think of him for this role?
A. I just felt instant that he could do this. He had all the right qualities and he’s sensitive, so I thought I could work with him easily. I also feel that he’s an incredible actor because he has an incredible range of talent. He’s naturally so gifted and he has a natural gift that’s very deep. Ultimately, if you can do the kind of comedy he does, he can play any kind of drama.

The important thing is that the audience will be exposed to that and not typecast him just doing a certain kind of role, or a certain kind of part. I think it’s important that they see the range he can actually do and I feel Stranger Than Fiction is a good introduction to that kind of range, because it will show enough humour in a subtle way that they will sort of be introduced to his dramatic arc.

ZACH HELM (Screenwriter)

Q. Can you comment on some of the themes?
A. First of all, there’s the question raised by the movie which is what’s more important – a single life or a great piece of art or literature? I mean that becomes the fundamental question in the movie.

But beyond that, I think that part of the movie is really about saving lives. There’s a series of events that happen in which people are, in very small ways, saving other people – even from the wrist watch, to Harold, to Professor Hilbert, who’s helping him figure out the story, etc. All of these characters are doing little tiny things that wind up saving all these other people, so there’s this ongoing message of these little tiny things that we take for granted, and the people that we take for granted in our lives, turning out to be the very things that make our life worth living.

Q. What does it feel like to have your screenplay being turned into a movie?
A. This is my first screenplay being produced and it’s thrilling. I mean it’s so exciting and I’m absolutely so lucky to have not only great people to work sort of behind us, but also take care of us. The people who are financing the movie have been really supportive. But not only to be making a movie with my dear friend, Lindsay, but to be working with a director as good as Marc [Forster], who is being so gracious and who the collaboration with has been fantastic.

Read our review of the film