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
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
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
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
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
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'.