Sean Anders knows how to make a family comedy an absolute success. With films like We’re the Millers, Daddy’s Home, and Daddy’s Home 2 under his belt, he understands that in order to make movies like these memorable, a perfect balance of sharp, original writing and creative humor needs to be present in order to keep the audience engaged.
Anders nails that in his sweet, touching new movie Instant Family, which follows Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) and their struggles adapting to their three adopted children. Among other topics, Anders explores the ins and outs of raising various different ages of children without the self-proclaimed troubles of the dreaded infant and toddler years throughout the film.
What makes the film even more special is the fact it’s based almost entirely on Anders and his wife’s experience with their own adopted children. But how does a mildly bawdy comedy writer transition from a film like Sex Drive into crafting this love letter to his kids? And what other kinds of projects is he taking on that revolves around this central theme of family?
We discuss all that and more in our discussion with Anders, which picks up below:
How did the dynamic of creating a movie inspired by your own life work?
Well, it’s not only inspired by my family and my experience but also the experiences of a lot of other families that I’ve met along the way, so I never felt like Mark Wahlberg was playing me and I never felt like this was my life on the screen and that made it easier. We’re telling a fictional story that was inspired by my life.
But, on the other hand, virtually every emotion that they go through along the way, as well as several specific situations, were taken directly from my life. It was very emotional and kind of embarrassing because I would be behind the monitors just completely in tears.
Could you talk a little about the scene near the beginning of the film when we see the faces and the ages of the kids up for adoption on the screen?
That’s a very real moment because my story started the exact same way the family’s does in the movie. I made the joke that Mark Wahlberg makes in the movie and my wife thought it was kind of interesting and then we wound up looking at a website and you see the real faces of real kids. In that scene, when you see those pictures, those are pictures of real kids that were adopted from foster care, including my own.
How much of Pete and Ellie’s struggles relate to you and your wife’s experiences as a couple going through the process of adopting?
Almost all of it! It was tricky. Like I said before, there’s that transitional time that’s really hard and it can turn you against each other and it can just wear your patience thin and it makes you really question the choices that you’ve made. But then, once it starts to change and once the family starts to really fall in love with one another, it all becomes worth it. That stuff is all very real.
What is it about family that interests you so much as a filmmaker?
It’s just the most basic thing in the world. My writing partner John Morris and I both have families—he has two kids, I have three kids—and being dads is just such a huge part of our lives. I also think my own family that I come from has always influenced me, even going back to the Adam Sandler movie That’s My Boy that I did. When we got involved with that, the thing that appealed to me was the father-son story, which is something I really wanted to do. There’s some element of family in almost everything that we do and there probably always will be.
Do you plan on tackling any other genres of film in the near future?
We’re producing a horror movie right now that we’re hoping is going to start production soon. We’ve also been working on a thriller that is almost like one of those 90s thrillers and it’s something that we’ve been talking about for a while and I’ve been wanting to do a big adventure movie for a long time. We’re looking to branch out into a lot of different areas.
How do you think your experiences as a comedic filmmaker will influence your work on something like a thriller?
I think that there will be an element of humor to everything that I will ever probably do. There’s an element of humor in every aspect of my life. It’s interesting because we’ve done a lot of big, physical comedy—a lot of broad, crazy things—and I think a lot of people tend to write that stuff off as just silliness or whatever. But it’s actually really fun to construct a big, physical comedic set piece and I think of it as kind of like a fight scene from a kung-fu movie because it has to have a premise and it has to build from a place and it has to lead to some kind of a punchline and it usually has a twist in it and you’re incorporating visual effects and special effects. Putting all of that stuff together is really fun. I believe that doing some more serious action or adventure movies would incorporate a lot of the same building blocks.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Warner Bros.’ live-action ‘Barbie’ movie taps Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach as writers
As Greta Gerwig prepares to debut her sophomore effort Little Women on the fall festival circuit in the coming months, the Oscar-nominee has been tapped to co-write and possibly direct Warner Bros.’ live-action Barbie movie.
Gerwig will pen the script for Barbie along with Noah Baumbach, while Gerwig is also likely to helm the high-profile project, though negotiations are still underway and no deals have been finalized as of yet.
Margot Robbie, who is on board to star as the iconic Mattel toy, will also serve as a producer on the film along with Tom Ackerly for LuckyChap Entertainment and Robbie Brenner of Mattel Films. Josey McNamara and Ynon Kreiz are also producing.
Gerwig is currently in post-production on her star-studded Little Women adaptation for Columbia. The film, which is expected to be a strong contender in the forthcoming awards season race, stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep.
Baumbach, who last directed The Meyerowitz Stories, is also in post-production on his untitled dramedy for Netflix starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple who are getting divorced. The cast also includes Dern, Merritt Wever, Ray Liotta, Alan Alda, and Azhy Robertson.
Damien Chazelle shops new project ‘Babylon’ to studios as Emma Stone circles lead role
Damien Chazelle, the Oscar-winning writer-director of the 2016 musical La La Land, has begun shopping around the script for his next project titled Babylon, which is yet another story set in Los Angeles that will this time focus on the film industry in the 1920s.
While multiple studios have shown interest in the project — including Paramount and Netflix — Chazelle is most likely to bring Babylon to Lionsgate, the same studio that distributed La La Land and ran its extensive awards season campaign that earned the film a whopping 14 Oscar nominations.
Although specific plot details are being kept tightly under wraps for the time being, the film is said to be a drama set during the Roaring Twenties that examines Hollywood’s transition from silent films to talkies and will feature characters both fictional and not.
Emma Stone, who an Oscar for performance opposite Ryan Gosling in La La Land, is circling the lead role in the film — which is rumored to be iconic Hollywood “It” girl Clara Bow — though talks are still preliminary and any type of formal negotiations have yet to get underway.
Despite the attention that Babylon has caught, though, studios are hesitant to move on the project given its rather lengthy 180-page-long script and estimated $80 million to $100 million production budget, which some execs feel might be too big of a risky investment for their studios.
Chazelle, who last directed the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man starring Gosling, is currently working on two other projects in addition to Babylon, including the musical drama series The Eddy for Netflix and an untitled drama series for Apple’s forthcoming service service.
Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic casts rising star Austin Butler as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll
After testing a number of high-profile actors last month — including Ansel Elgort, Harry Styles, Miles Teller, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson — Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic has found its King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Austin Butler, Warner Bros. announced Monday.
The film, which will begin shooting early next year, was written by Luhrmann along with Craig Pearce and explores the life and music of Presley through the lens of his complicated relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, who is set to be played by Tom Hanks.
“I knew I couldn’t make this film if the casting wasn’t absolutely right, and we searched thoroughly for an actor with the ability to evoke the singular natural movement and vocal qualities of this peerless star, but also the inner vulnerability of the artist. Throughout the casting process, it was an honor for me to encounter such a vast array of talent,” Luhrmann said in a statement.
He added, “I had heard about Austin Butler from his stand-out role opposite Denzel Washington in The Iceman Cometh on Broadway, and through a journey of extensive screen testing and music and performance workshops, I knew unequivocally that I had found someone who could embody the spirit of one of the world’s most iconic musical figures.”
Butler was recently on screen alongside Bill Murray and Adam Driver in Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die and can be seen next opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie in Quentin Tarantino’s thriller Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is due out later this month.