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Hitch - Andy Tennant



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. You must be delighted with the film's success?
A.
It's nuts. It's good for me. Will's probably used to it but me, as you well know, I've had moderate success and a fantastically good failure, so this is great.

Q. Why has this clicked so instantly with audiences?
A.
I think that guys can go. They're not going to be dragged to a romantic comedy, or indulge it for their girlfriends' sake. I think it's a buddy comedy masquerading as a romantic comedy. Frankly, when I was cutting the movie, it was so great to be able to cut from good fun stuff with Eva and Will and then jump to scenes with Kevin and Will.
The other thing, another strength, is that the middle of the film is the strongest part of it, because normally you have a great opening 30 minutes and then kind of sit through that hour of plot machinations that suck and then you get to the end.
But with this movie, reel four is the strongest reel in the movie. And then the ending, the thing at the wedding, I think you forgive whatever shortcomings the movie has - and it has plenty - because when they're dancing and being goofy, why would you hate this? Nobody's saying it's anything great, it's just fun!

Q. How did that come about? Was it improv?
A.
When we did the dancing the first time, with Will and Kevin, that was a really fun day. And we realised that Will and I had had a whole conversation about every time the movie goes soft, or romantic, we've got to go funny - soft/romantic, kick her in the head; soft/romantic blow up his face. And so that became a mantra and we realised at the end of the movie we didn't want the kiss and it's over. We had to kick it so that there was an energy to the end of the movie. And the studio was great - bless them - because they agreed to pay for another day and whatever we came up with. We didn't have a scene, but we wanted Will to be able to dance as stupidly as Kevin had, and then the day of I wrote the thing with the old woman, which said that Will was back as a date doctor.

Q. Was it a gentle dig making Eva a muck-raking hack?
A.
When I came on board that's who she was. They had tried on another draft where she was a veterinarian, but there was no way their worlds were going to collide with her putting a thermometer up a dog's arse! So we went back to the muck-raking journalist because nobody cares, let's be honest. There's no nutrition in this film, so nobody's pretending to have anything more than a very light-hearted and lightweight plot. So who cares about a date doctor except maybe a gossip columnist?

Q. Doesn't the film give fat guys hope that they can get the girl?
A.
I think it gives all of us hope! I don't see any of the guys in this room looking like Brad Pitt. We're all out there having a good time. I think it's just vulnerability, guys, people who don't have all the tools necessary...

Q. One of the many reasons it works is the fact there's two relationships?
A.
And also Will's appeal as a movie star. He's not afraid to take the piss out of himself. He's the one who said, 'ok, so when we blow up my face, I already have big ears, let's make them bigger'! You don't get a movie star saying that. You get them saying 'ok but we're not going to do the ear thing'.
So to have him saying 'let me kick her in the head', 'let my face blow up', that to me was really great. So I would think that with both Kevin and Will you never quite know who's the straight man because they both play different kinds of comics.

Q. Did you ever have to reign Will in?
A.
What do you think? I tend to have to be the stern parent on the set. And part of the problem is that Will and I - we didn't clash - but we fought every day. He's very stubborn and I'm very stubborn and for a director, I think, you become a director when you're a control freak about the project, the script and everything, but we threw out the script every morning. I mean we never shot a scene that was written. We re-wrote it, we kind of broke it down and de-constructed it in the rehearsal process.
In the morning, when we started blocking the scene, it would then go horribly wrong and as a director you'd be like 'holy shit'! He'd say 'I like this line' out of a five-page scene and then we'd have to start writing.
What happened was, it was so frustrating for me, but I could never at the end of the day disagree that the scene we shot was better than the scene we planned to shoot. It became kind of this runaway train.

Q. Is that normal?
A.
No! For $60-70 million you know exactly what you're doing every day! And like Sweet Home Alabama and Ever After, we shot the scenes, we shot the script. People spent years developing it and getting all the nuance right and that's the way a movie's supposed to work because in the heat of battle, with the pressure from the studio and all the money, you can't make those decisions with any kind of confidence. So in this movie we just had to surrender to it. I felt like a salmon swimming up-stream, it was like, I'm trying to make the movie that's up here and if I get there I'm going to die, so I might as well just turn around and go with the flow this way. I didn't even know what we had until... so when I first saw the movie it was like 'oh, this doesn't suck'.

Q. Did the studio let you get on with it then?
A.
They were great. The whole process seemed upside down to me. Normally the studio would yell at me and scream. But on this, for instance, you know the scene on the step where they kiss? There was no scene when we started that day. We didn't start shooting that day until 4.30pm. So all day long, I had an entire film crew, at $250,000 per day, playing stick ball in the street, doing nothing, except waiting for a scene to be written, because Will and I and one of our producers were in the room writing a scene. But then it comes out and it's a great scene!

Q. You must have had a more than slightly bemused screenwriter?
A.
Which one? There was lots of contributing.

Q. How did you break it to Kevin, then, that he was going to have to kiss Will Smith?
A.
What happened was there was a dinner. The way the day worked was we'd talk about the scene, we'd re-write the scene, we'd shoot the scene and at lunch, if we hadn't finished writing the whole scene, we'd write it at lunch and we'd wrap, we'd talk about the next day's scene, we'd go home and we'd write. So at one of those dinners, Will told us the story of a buddy of his who had this 90/10 theory and I just knew we had to put that in the movie, and so we kind of talked about it.
But Kevin's game for anything, and so's Will and Eva.

Q. Will this sort of chaos-theory of filmmaking transfer to your next project?
A.
If Will's not in it, then it should be fine [laughs]. But I did surrender to the chaos-theory of film-making. There was no other way to do it.

Q. In the edit suite, were there many other permutations to the way it turned out?
A.
No, the movie that you see, I swear to God, is the first cut, with maybe seven shots. The scenes never change. In fact, the studio said 'don't touch it, we're done'. That was September 28. But what I did know, even in my chaos and terror, the editors, every day, would say 'you're fine, you're fine, you're fine; Kevin is brilliant'.

Q. They must have been four of the most giving actors you've ever had?
A.
Well to begin with, Eva and Amber, when they had their script, they each had acting coaches, that's their own kind of process. Well after the first week, there's no acting coach, because there's literally no scene. She was calling us at 2am asking for pages. It was freaky at first and very intimidating. We were all salmon swimming this way and then we all went that way. But it somehow pushed us to just trust our instincts somehow. We had no architecture to the process.

Q. You shot on location in New York and did a lot downtown, what was the reason behind that?
A.
Well I met my wife in New York, I fell in love in New York and got married in New York, and I live downtown, so for me it was a little bit of a trip down memory lane. All the neighbourhoods, pretty much downtown, that were destroyed with 9/11, all their economies were coming back, so I've got a lot of friends who still live in New York and live downtown, so when it was a New York romantic comedy, we had a conversation with the studio about whether we could justify the expense of shooting in New York as opposed to Toronto. So it was like let's shoot parts of the city that you don't see in Sex and the City, or every other movie. You can do all those icons in a week and then move to Toronto, so we thought let's shoot Will outside of a building, let's do this scene over here.

Q. Did it help those businesses?
A.
Absolutely. When you shoot at a restaurant in Soho, you have to buy out the whole street; you have to buy out every other restaurant that's there. You have 150 people going to lunch every day in the community. So it's a lot of money.

Q. For all the chaos you describe, would you jump at the chance of working with Mr Smith again?
A.
I wouldn't have, but I have a memo that I wrote to myself that is about the next time you work with Will let's just remember... it's like being pregnant actually. The baby comes out and it's a beautiful $170 million baby and you go 'that's great, let's do that again'. You forget the pain of the pregnancy depending on the baby that's born. So I wrote a memo about all the zany, crazy shit that went down.
But I would do it again because what happened was, it was the month of learning the process and him not trusting me and me not trusting him that caused some of the chaos. But once I turned around and swam down-stream with the flow, it was exhilarating. It was fun and it was scary but that was part of the kind of beauty of it. I did know at the end of every difficult day that we had beat the dragon and the dragon hadn't beat us. I did not end the day thinking 'wow, you really fucked that one up'.

Q. Before you went downstream did you have any particularly memorable arguments?
A.
I had an argument with Will Smith which I don't know if this is being indiscreet, but I did have an argument with him.... I mean Will Smith, you've seen him, he's never disingenuous and he is never unkind. He has a very strong will and he's very stubborn. But one time he was upset with me because I'd had it. And I was exhausted. And we were in Madison Square Garden for a scene which is no longer in the film, but it had somehow got re-written, and I'd really liked the way it was written because I had written it all night long, and we got on set and I had no patience anymore for anything. And I made some comment and he took me aside, as much as a producer as well as a guy because the whole crew was there and it's not a good thing for me to have done, to express an emotion in front of the crew. And he rapped at me. He was so pissed, he rapped at me for about ten minutes and as he said it I don't even remember what he said, because I was so stunned that he was right in my face and rapping at me in verse. He was yelling at me in verse.
I thought 'this is great'. I literally leapt out of my body and took a psychic snapshot. I mean, I'd never seen rap like that, I didn't understand that's what it really is, that you take one line and then it just went off. And it was like, 'you win'.

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