INT: Marc Lawrence

The creator of such romantic comedies as TWO WEEKS NOTICE, MISS CONGENIALITY and FORCES OF NATURE is back with another hit comedy. Hailing from a musical family background the cool, laid-back, pleasant writer and director strikes some very funny chords while conceiving a beautiful melody of love with his upcoming release MUSIC AND LYRICS.

Lawrence teams with America 's sweetheart Drew Barrymore and reunites with the hilarious Hugh Grant to direct him as a talented 80's pop star has-been. The film inspires and entertains the notion of second chances when Grant's character is given the opportunity for a comeback after a young pop diva asks him to collaborate and write a song for her. It turns out that one of Lawrence 's many talents is also song-writing as one of his ballads makes a musical appearance in the film. Discernibly this good humored and debonair director appears as delightful to work with as most of his films conceptions. I had the great pleasure of interviewing Lawrence as he enlightened us about his inspiration for the film, the music, and its stars. Check out what he had to say about his latest nostalgic comedy, MUSIC AND LYRICS.

Marc Lawrence

What was the inspiration for the poster because it's quite different to see a poster where the star's eyes are not focused at the viewer?

I take full responsibility for the poster. This poster is actually based on a shot of Lennon and McCartney while they were working on the album Abbey Road and it was a shot of almost exactly this. It was McCartney with a pad on his lap with his lyrics down there and Lennon next to him and I think they were switched- McCartney on this side and Lennon on that side. Lennon sort of laughing at what McCartney was doing their eyes not meeting and when we did the photo shoot I gave the photographer that picture and I said I definitely want at least one of these.

What was it called?

It was while they were working on Abbey Road- it was the Beatles in 69’. What I really liked about it was two songwriters at work and there was nothing at least to me, schmaltzy or set up about the shot. I asked them to do one of those and then we went through several permutations of what the poster would be and this was one that I really [liked].

Did you get any resistance from the studio? Were they worried at all? Did they want them both smiling, laughing and looking at an audience?

I would say that there was that discussion. Yeah I think there was that discussion but I felt really strongly about this and I think you know people are smart. They are really clear on Hugh (Grant) and Drew (Barrymore) and I don’t think there are any chances that they would look at this poster and think they will be seeing a horror film. You know what's the poster to Annie Hall?

Is that really Hugh Grant singing?


How did that work out? Who knew?

He didn’t! I mean the only time I heard Hugh sing was when everyone heard him sing I guess in About A Boy. He told me "I don’t sing, I don’t play piano and I’m not musical." I don’t believe him when he says he can’t do things. That’s really what it is. I think it was terrifying for him on some level but I think he could probably speak for himself that he enjoyed aspects of this more than he would doing just a strait forward Romantic Comedy because it was such a challenge. When he decided to do it, the training was intense and he was really, really determined to do it right.

And his version of doing it right was that other musicians would watch him play and watch him sing and watch him perform and say I buy that. Because there were a lot of musicians involved in the making of this movie, the songwriters and the vocal coaches and the piano people, it was very important to him that they said to him 'yeah, that’s the way it looks.' He just worked- preproduction he was here way before taking dancing lessons, singing lessons and piano lessons and preproduction we would shoot Monday to Friday and Saturday and Sunday he would go record and work on Piano. I think it was torture for him and I think he really enjoyed it.

He holds the microphone correctly, which is really hard to do.

He does hold the microphone correctly and you’re absolutely right it’s unbelievable how much training it takes. Because your natural instinct if you’re not a performer is to sing and do this and have the microphone out here and we have a couple takes of that.

About the size of the film, the opening scene with the Pop video is hilarious and then you have the much more deep songs in the end? Were you involved in the writing of that or did you get song writers?

It was a really interesting process. I mean I wrote a little bit there is this song that Hugh plays in the piano store to Drew is something that I wrote. The rest of it, it was a long process.

The one about the Love Autopsy?

Yeah Love Autopsy was a song I wrote in college but I changed the words for this movie. I am a bad musician. I was aspiring musician and come from a family of musicians and if I was better at that I would be doing that. When I finished the script it was very clear to me that there was a ceiling on how enjoyable the movie could be if the songs weren’t going to work. And it was a big challenge to sort be making a musical to say you are going to have six original songs. I listened to hundreds of songs that the studio was nice enough to forward to me and they were from many professional songwriters, some you've heard of.

And then I said thanks now that I've heard those I want to go with the person I originally wanted to go with which is Adam Schlesinger. They weren’t against that they just said would you listen and I said sure. Adam is the songwriter or a co-songwriter for a band called Fountains of Wayne and Ivy - my favorite band. Then I went to Adam and one other guy named Andrew Wyatt who wrote Pop Goes My Heart, Buddha’s Delight, and all the Cora songs in the movie. He and Adam did the brunt of the song-writing and the only other songwriter did the song Dance With Me Tonight which Hugh sings at the amusement park and that was written by my son, who's 13 [years old].

Now Adam [Schlesinger] wrote That Thing You Do?

Adam wrote that thing you do.

How did your thirteen-year-old son get involved in this film?

Well he’s a freak, he is a musical freak he actually wrote the theme song for Miss Congeniality when he was 7 years old. He is also doing there is a montage piece were Hugh and Drew are separated towards the end of the movie, that’s him playing the piano there. No one would believe this but I wouldn’t have done this if he wasn’t really good and I was looking for songs for that spot and he'd written them so.

What is your son's name?

Clyde Lawrence.

Can you talk about Haley Bennett who plays Cora in the film? Although she was wonderful with her Britney Spears like impersonation, how did you go about casting this newcomer?

The most surprising aspect of the whole casting process for me was Haley because I would have thought going in Okay, I wrote it for Hugh and the first person we sent it to was Drew. That’s great, then Kristen and Brad and all those people who are terrific and make sense. I thought the easiest thing to cast is going to be this Britney Spears type girl because there must be thousands certainly in regards to L.A., thousands of girls who look like that and could sing a little bit but it was the hardest part in the movie to cast.

Basically, the problem was that I saw a lot of talented young women around that age but they have been schooled so that you had these nineteen or twenty year old divas and they were incredibly professional they could dance they could sing they looked great. But it felt like when you see child actors and you realize someone has gotten to them and it’s over, it’s gone.

I knew that wondering in the Cora character was you know that nineteen or twenty year old diva who’s very bossy and full of her self and I thought A- the more cliche way to go and B- I don’t think the movie would work as well because at the end you have to like Cora on some level. You can think she was daffy or out of it but you have to have some empathy for her and you would have to believe that she would care enough about Hugh and Drew’s characters to let him sing that song. And Haley walked in and I don’t know if she has done anything before. I’m sure she’s done something before this but I don’t know what other roles.

The Bio says nothing.

Nothing okay. So she walked in and it was the first time that the whole zen thing actually made me laugh and I just believed it and it was totally pure. We called her to come to New York and I think she was completely freaked out by the thing. We went then to the last round of casting and I’m sure she won’t get upset if I told you, but I brought her into the room and Hugh and Drew and she never met Hugh and Drew and she just walked in took a look at them kind of lost it and turned around and walked right back out. And she thought that she had lost the part because of that and I said it's exactly the opposite. It just the first time I'm seeing anything real happening, and she came in and she was great. You know there were other bigger names that have been forwarded to me but I said look I think she looks the way [I imagined the part].

Did you consider Britney Spears at all for this film?

No, no you know it had been brought up. I think if it was her or any of those women, if they would have done it I think it would have taken it way out of the film, which was my sense of it.

Which band did you have in mind for Pop after in the film?

It was Wham mostly.

Was Andrew Ridgley ever making a cameo in this movie.

It amazes me how many people know Andrew Ridgley. [When people read] the script , they were like 'it's the Andrew Ridgley story.' I never spoke to them, I never contacted them.

Because of legal reasons?

No. There was the party that happened at Cora’s place towards the end of the movie we filtered with the idea of bringing pop stars, Hugh knows Elton John and we tried to do all those things and it just was one of those things that never worked out.

Were they aware that you were writing this script?

I have no idea. Certainly I looked at the Wake Me Up Before You Go Go video a couple times as you can tell. That was the one I used as a model. I looked at a bunch of 80’s videos and they run that whole strange gamut from things that look like they were shot in somebody’s garage to the Talking Heads videos, which are just fantastic. It’s interesting 'cause it’s right on the edge when both things were happening simultaneously- no production value and no thought and these little perfect kind of minnie movies happening.

What’s your view on show business? Is this movie saying that there's a pathetic slide to near oblivion if you're doing Great Adventure?

You know I don’t think it is. It’s interesting Hugh and I had a lot of discussions about the character and about exactly that question. And it was interesting because when I sent the script to a couple of song writers, ones that I really, really like and admire they said their favorite thing in the script was the line in the record store scene where Hugh said something like "you know I was away for a long time but then I came back and the audience was a little bit older and so was I but we were very happy to see each other" and that resonated with... it's interesting a lot of song writers said they loved that line.

I loved the Monkeys. I have gone to see Monkey shows and people say "oh God this ridiculous, they're trotting out you know I'm a Believer Again." On the other hand there’s are a lot worse things to be doing in the world. You know your playing my songs and people love them and they're happy. It's what Drew says in Adventure Land at that moment to him is something that I actually believe 'cause not everybody is going to do it. Look at McCartney.

But doesn’t he sort of repudiate that at the end saying I wasn’t happy just doing this with my life. I should have been trying to do something?

Yeah this is the exact discussion Hugh and I had and go back and forth and I don’t think we ever completely agreed. Because I said my feeling's that if Drew’s character had never come into his life, if he could have kept going to Great Adventure he would have been fine. There is nothing wrong with that life. Then of course there is the other side of it that there was apart of him that when he was twenty or twenty five aspired to be Lennon or McCartney or aspired to be whoever you hold up in that pantheon and that when you stop reaching for that, you've lost an essential part of yourself.

If every time you sit down to write a movie, whatever movie you love if I think...I watched the Broadcast News and just think, 'God it's perfect and beautiful.' If each time you sit down to write and you're trying not to do that, not tell that story then I think you stop being the writer should. You may never get there but the pursuit is worthwhile so I think that's what does happen to him. But personally for me people doing those shows I think it’s great and wonderful.

What if twenty five years later you're directing dinner theater and think to yourself that once you upon a time you were doing A list movies with A list movie stars.

Yeah no longer doing Miss Congeniality (jokingly). You know I hope that doesn’t happen. I think for me personally if it got to that I probably just get a bunch of good books and read.

What are you working on now?

I’m going to spend a couple of weeks in Mnt. Sinai hospital after this is finished recuperating. We are actually still mixing the picture. After we are done here we go back and I am sorry you didn’t see it 'cause there's this fun thing we put on in the end where we repeat the video with pop-up video. We basically did that and I wrote a bunch of stuff sort of a tracking of what happened to the characters and I am sorry you couldn’t see it we just technically couldn’t finish it in time for the screening for you guys. There are three or four things that I have swirling around in my head and that I find at this point in post-production the only thing that keeps me sane is thinking of the next thing you're going to write.

Anything with Sandra Bullock again?

Yes, I would love to work with Sandra again. I have a couple of things and I told her about one. I just love her and she is great and I miss her.

Source: JoBlo.com



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