INT: Luke Greenfield
Luke Greenfield is a guy you can root for. Like all the other film geeks out there (c'mon, I know you're out there) he's been wanting to make films since 8th grade. And now all those years later he's getting to make those films he dreamed of back then. And I'm sure he never thought he'd get to direct a girl like Elisha Cuthbert getting naked. That would've blown his little 8th grade mind. Here's more from the director of THE GIRL NEXT DOOR:
You've been working on this movie for a while now. How many years has it been?
It started in 1999 and up until (laughs) today. So yeah, it was a long process. I actually did a movie in between the conceptual stages of this movie and directing it ["The Animal"].
Was there ever a real fear this movie wouldn't get made?
Oh yeah. Aaaaall the way. When we were writing the script it was constant fear. There was no guarantee it was gonna get made.
When did you know it was finally gonna go through?
They had a system for us, at New Regency and Fox, where we did a table read. And no one was cast. It was just a version of the script we had finished. We cast actors - that may not be in the movie - but we cast actors for a table read for heads of Fox and New Regency. I was willing to do anything for this movie. I was willing to die for it. I would do everything possible to get this movie made. Elisha was actually playing Danielle in the readthrough and I had rehearsed all these other actors. If there was gonna be a readthrough I wanted it to be a fucking play. I actually had my assistant with all the music you hear in the movie playing in a boombox, while Tom Rothman [Co-Chairman Fox Filmed Entertainment] is sitting there (laughs)! A normal readthrough is just actors sitting there and they read. I could have had them block out the scene. I knew all the blocking. It was really more of a stage performance and from that, they greenlit it.
Who else was in the readthrough?
It was a bunch of great actors who were very generous to help me with their time. They did everything for free. They rehearsed for free.
And they didn't get to make it into the movie?
A lot of them went on to do other stuff. A lot of them were also friends, or friends of friends, and just wanted to help, to get it made.
What is it about this project that made you feel so passionately about it?
I love the themes of it. There's a lot of Matthew Kidman [Emile Hirsch's character] in me. I was a kid who was living for a certain destination and not really enjoying the moment and seeing what was around me. The more you write the more personal it got. I just love the story of a kid who's 18 and we'll take him on a journey that most men don't go through, [with] such dangerous situations and risks. That's what I really loved about the movie - what this kid had to experience on a realistic level. Imagine being a senior in high school and dealing with Kelly [Timothy Olyphant's character]. How would you do it? I would hide in my room and cry. I wouldn't have the courage Matthew Kidman would have. That's what really drew me in and kept me going.
Was it sold as an R-rated movie and if not, was there pressure to cut it down to PG-13?
Definitely. This is where New Regency and Fox were great. Yes, that conversation [about ratings] came up a LOT when we were writing the script, before we were greenlit, even after we were greenlit. There was the whole theory about PG-13 movies make so much more money. They'd say, "This is crazy. You're making a movie for teenagers and teenagers can't go to see it..." [Producer] Chuck Gordon and I were so militant that it had to be rated R for content. Not for tawdriness, not for nudity but for realism. Realistic language, realistic content. Back to the days of the movies I grew up on, the John Hughes movies and of course RISKY BUSINESS and SOMETHING WILD. One of my favorite comedies is MIDNIGHT RUN. Well if you take that language out, how funny is that movie? There's a realism to their dialogue.
Were there any deliberate homages to the John Hughes films? One character looked a lot like John Cusack and then the Asian foreign exchange student...
Yeah, Chris Marquette [who plays Eli in the film] looks a lot like John Cusack so we got that a lot. I loved SIXTEEN CANDLES. That was one of John Hughes' quirkier movies. I like BREAKFAST CLUB and SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL. I'm sure there are similarities but it wasn't purposeful. The whole goal wasn't to copy anything, just to make a realistic movie. To really relate to Matthew and really understand his dilemma. That opening montage was very important to us cause we want to take people our age and make them go back to high school. If I just showed you a movie about a kid and he's trying to get into Georgetown on a scholarship, that'd be great though but... there are bigger problems in the world. I needed to get the mentality of the audience back to when they're 18, back to when you were in his shoes in high school and make you remember how huge things were back then.
John Hughes had an entire body of work with the teen genre. Do you want to explore this more in future films too?
I'm doing a couple of other things that aren't in the teenage-character world but I would love to if another great project came around. I wouldn't be opposed to it at all. I love movies like ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST and BROADCAST NEWS and THE GREAT SANTINI and COOL HAND LUKE and I'm always into the drama/comedies that move you. That you can't forget and give you chills. That's what I'm gonna try to to.
And you have a TV project coming up?
The TV project is a realistic look at people in their 20s in Los Angeles. Exploring the scene and looking at the pros and cons of being single. Does monogamy really work? I wrote it with a friend of mine, Chris Sheridan, and it's a drama/comedy about making people look at their relationships - marriages, girlfriends, soulmates. I wanted to explore that.
Is this a series?
A one-hour series.
Who are you waiting to hear from?
Did you go to the actual porn convention in Vegas to get ideas?
Definitely. I've been there twice (laughs). I actually just came back. We were shooting something for the DVD. There's actually a special feature where the Chris Marquette/Eli character is now this pompous, young adult film director and we posed as a paparazzi group and followed him around the convention and everyone thought he was a huge celebrity so everyone was lining up to take photos with him and get his autograph. Then we started doing auditions and auditioned actors to be in his next film. You'll see that on the DVD (laughs).
Does the DVD format change how you direct a movie?
Big time. I love DVDs and I love what they're doing as far as the special features and behind-the-scenes stuff. That's what I'm most interested in. Listening to my favorite directors talk about how they look at certain things and develop certain things. That's better than film school. To see the problems they confronted and how they got through it. Like "Project Greenlight." I'm addicted to that show.
When you were casting the actors, how did you know they were right for the part?
The casting was the most challenging part of the movie. We had written these characters that we knew so well and we had seen tons and tons of actors. Then I saw Emile in THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTER BOYS and I just knew it. When I met Elisha I just knew it. Emile was a challenge to get. Not reading the script and hearing about this movie, you'd think it'd fall into the category of this tawdry teen movie, which he had no interest in being in. He's a very, very sharp actor. So I wrote him a letter and asked him to meet me. Then I sat him down at Jerry's Deli in Westwood and we talked about our taste in movies and I explained to him what I wanted this movie to be. He was shocked. He had no idea what kind of movie this was gonna be. Right there we were locked.
What about with Elisha? She was involved much earlier right?
Elisha was awesome. There's a casting director named Joseph Middleton who cast our readthrough and he said, "I know who this is, it's Elisha Cuthbert!" I had been working on the script so long, I hadn't seen "24" and she came in and was a die hard. She was driven and she knew the part and just nailed it. She came in with polaroids of herself in different looks and the minute she opened her mouth about the character, Stuart Blumberg [the writer] and I knew it was her. She was so driven, working on "24" and then coming to my house and rehearsing for a movie that may not get made. She went through all these steps and hurdles and right from the beginning she was the one and she never gave up. Her passion for the character Danielle shines right through.
Do you know what you're next feature project is?
I do. There's a few things I've been working on. THE GIRL NEXT DOOR was great cause I really had a lot of freedom to do what I wanted to do. Now I'm journeying on to the movies I've been wanting to make since I was 14. I have a couple of films I've wanted to do since 8th grade that I'm now developing and which ever one is the right condition to go first, will go next.