Best known for his male-driven comedies, The Animal and The Girl Next Door, Luke Greenfield may not seem like the most likely candidate to bring to the big screen Emily Giffin’s bestselling novel, Something Borrowed but, as he explains in this exclusive interview with ComingSoon.net, the film gave him the opportunity to move outside his comfort zone.
Hitting theaters this Friday, Something Borrowed tells the story of Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), a New York lawyer whose life is going perfectly except for one small problem: She’s hopelessly in love with her longtime friend, Dex (Colin Egglesfield) who just so happens to be engaged to her best friend since childhood, Darcy (Kate Hudson). When one night together reveals that Dex feels the same way about her, Rachel is forced to figure out what relationships matter most in her life and risks either losing her one true love or the person she’s closest to.
Greenfield also offers an update on his next project, a male-driven action comedy, a potential sequel to Something Borrowed, to be based on Giffin’s follow-up novel, Something Blue and shares the incredible story how a letter his mother wrote when he was a child brought him, sixteen years later, face to face with his idol, Steven Spielberg.
ComingSoon.net: How did this project come your way?
Luke Greenfield: Molly Smith. All the way. She’s the most persistent, don’t-take-no-for-an-answer producer in the world and she kept hounding my agent saying that I had to do this. I remember my agent saying, “Female driven romantic comedy? This is not what Luke does.” I was outside my wheelhouse on this one. But I sat down with Molly and she explained that she really wanted to make a realistic, grounded character piece about flawed characters and a flawed relationship. I was very intrigued and then I read the book. The book really hooked me in. I identified with the themes of overcoming your fears to get what you want and to not be afraid of being direct and find confrontation. I came in late to the process. They already had a number of drafts done and I came in with a lot of ideas on how to get closer to the book. We brought another writer on and I worked very closely with him and that was really the process, in a nutshell.
CS: When your film is actually about the flaws in people, how do you know when it may be too much and when the audience may stop identifying and actually start disliking the characters?
Greenfield: It’s interesting and that’s a great question because that’s the whole challenge of this movie. What is the balance of an American audience rooting for a woman to cheat with her best friend’s fiance. That balancing act happens in the rewriting of the script and it happens in the editing room. We had a very balanced script where the characters were very complex. At a certain point, you’re cheering for Ginni Goodwin and Colin [Egglesfield] and, at another point, you’re saying, “I really feel bad for Kate [Hudson] here. What they’re doing is not right.” That’s what we wanted to do. We wanted the audience to see-saw. When the actors get in there and do their performances, it’s about saying, “Okay, this take may be a little too much.” It’s always a balance. Especially with pivotal characters like Colin Egglesfield playing Dex. You have to make this guy likeable to a female, American audience. He’s a cheater, basically. When we were casting him, my fiancee was an incredible help to me. Because watching him on tape, she kept saying that him being a cheater — and my fiancee is a good old girl from a very small town in New Hampshire, so very strong morally and ethically — that type of guy needs that warmth that Colin has to him. He has a vulnerability, naturally, and you need that so that American women aren’t screaming at the movie screen, “F– that guy!”. The long-winded answer to your question is that that balancing acts happens on every aspect of the movie. Because, in France, they’d be like, “Who cares? Whatever.” But in the American audience you can blow people’s heads off and do all sorts of violent things but if you have a character cheating, it’s like, “Oh no!”
CS: It’s interesting that you get it out there from the onset of the film. The characters have already cheated and they have to find the way to deal with that rather than spend the film thinking about whether or not to make the move. The wrong is already done. Probably the classic example of a film about an affair is “Brief Encounter” and, in that, they don’t even kiss. They just deal with the desire to do so.
Greenfield: That or, even, if you go back and look at “Unfaithful” or these types of movies, they tell a different type of story. To your point, yeah. We even put the title right after that. As soon as Colin kisses Ginni in that taxicab, boom! That’s where the movie begins for me and where I wanted to put the title. Bang, here we go! It’s interesting because, in the test audiences, it was hard to find people who had not read the books. Luckily, we did and, in the test audiences, you would hear these audible gasps. “What’s going on here?! Minute ten and he’s cheating?!” It’s interesting.
CS: Kate Hudson gets to have a lot of fun with the role. She’s the character that really gets to play up the unlikeability.
Greenfield: That was my whole selling point to Kate. She was shooting a movie in New Orleans and I had to fly down on my birthday on a red eye to talk to her. I told her, “Look, this role is something I think you should do. This is something that I think audiences haven’t seen you play. You’re not going to be America’s sweetheart in this movie. You’re going to be predatorial and competitive and it’s going to come out of an organic insecurity and a competitiveness with your best friend, who is always jealous of you. It’s a really fun, balanced female friendship.”
CS: Was it for you, too, a chance to do something specifically because you’d never done it before?
Greenfield: Yeah. It was really interesting because I was playing with the idea and all my friends in the industry were like, “You? You’re going to direct a female-driven dramedy? I don’t see that.” It was interesting to play with. My next movie is very male-driven, adrenaline-heavy action comedy. But I don’t really see it as a chick-flick. I love “Broadcast News.” I love “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” I just saw it as a piece about real people and very messed up situations. What would you do? You’re truly in love with someone and it’s your best friend’s fiance. How do you maneuver that?
CS: And you were making this while you were engaged?
Greenfield: (laughs) No, it’s funny. I got engaged right after shooting. We had been dating for three years and she was with me in New York and, luckily, none of the drama of this movie ever occurred in my life. But yeah, I’m getting married in three weeks.
CS: Congratulations! So what is the next film project from you?
Greenfield: I teamed up with Simon Kinberg and my writing partner, Nick Thomas and we’re doing this very male-driven action comedy about two guys who didn’t become the guys they wanted to be by age 30. They get into an enormous amount of danger and trouble. It’s the polar opposite of “Something Borrowed,” to be honest. It’s back to more “The Girl Next Door” kind of storylines.
CS: What’s that one called?
Greenfield: We have a tentative title and, unfortunately, while I’d like to tell you all about it, it’s at Fox and they’ve already warned me not to talk about it at all at this press junket.
CS: You’ve said before that your career was motivated by Steven Spielberg as a kid and I’m curious if this is sort of an equivalent to something like “The Color Purple” for you in that it’s a sort of unlikely pairing between you and the source material.
Greenfield: I don’t know what Steven’s process in that was. To me, he’s always been one of the greatest filmmakers ever. When I was 16, my mom actually wrote him a letter. We were from Connecticut and didn’t know anyone in the industry. I had wanted to be a movie director since I was ten. She wanted to make sure this was the right thing, so she wrote my idol. My mom is a great writer and wrote a very passionate letter to Steven and enclosed some of my films from junior high school. A miracle happened and he wrote me back saying, “Go to film school.” It’s interesting because it happened when I was 16 and 16 years later, I was doing final mix on “The Girl Next Door” and had a meeting at DreamWorks or Amblin and someone said, “Steven has already seen your film twice and wants to meet with you.” So I met with Steven Spielberg for the first time and he walked into the room with a Xeroxed copy of the letter he had written to me 16 years ago. He said, “If I had only known this 16-year-old was going to make this movie.” It all came full-circle and he called my mom. I didn’t tell her I was meeting with him because I didn’t want to jinx it and he said, “Let’s get her on the phone!” It’s so funny because mom was busy and I said, “There’s someone here who wants to talk to you.” She said, “Lukey, I’m busy. I’ve got things to do.” Then I put him on and she immediately recognized his voice. She just started sobbing. All I kept seeing was Steven going, “No! No! It’s okay!”
CS: That’s brilliant. Well, outside of genre, it’s new for you to be adapting someone else’s material, isn’t it?
Greenfield: Yeah, I’ve never really adapted anything. I always write or co-write my own stuff. This was, of course, a book and the book is so textured and there’s so much nuance to it and life to it. Emily Giffin and I are a month apart in age. A lot of the things she wrote in the book were generational to me. I just fell in love with it. As soon as I finished the book, I called Emily and we became very close in getting the script processed. She’s fantastic. It was an exercise in bringing the book to life. It was an exercise in understanding female complexity and female friendships. There were a lot of different muscles flexed here. It was a very interesting movie.
CS: It’s also interesting to have a wedding movie that doesn’t really focus much on the wedding itself. The ticking clock isn’t that the wedding is about to happen.
Greenfield: I never really think of the movie — even though it’s called “Something Borrowed” and Darcy is getting married — I never really think of it as a wedding movie. I’ve always thought of it as a story about an unrequited love that should have happened seven years ago and now, because they waited so long, things are really messed up. He’s engaged and the wedding is coming up. I’ve always thought of it as Rachel’s journey and about her having the courage to finally go for what you want. About having the courage to go and try and find happiness. That’s what struck me in the book. It’s a great theme. There’s so many people — and I am one myself — who are afraid to go after something, whether it’s a person or a career or something you want to do. You always think about the consequences. There’s another project I’m working on that’s about marriage and being the last bachelor. I’ve been studying marriages and researching why people get married. Some people actually get married out of fear or because they feel they have to and that the timing is right. It’s not because they’ve found the one yet. I tend to go towards things that are fear-based. Whether it’s this or “The Girl Next Door” or the movie I’m about to make, it’s always about conquering your fears.
CS: Without spoiling the ending, there’s a scene after the end credits that really changes the ending of the film. Can you talk about the decision to reveal it like that?
Greenfield: Yes! We have this little secret-surprise in the middle of the end credits, which is sort of a teaser for the sequel. There are two books. There’s “Something Borrowed” and “Something Blue.” “Something Blue” is all about Darcy and I like to say that it’s “Jerry Maguire” for Kate Hudson. For her character. Ethan is heavily involved in that story. When you read these two books, “Something Blue” is really dynamic and you really get into the Darcy character and see what makes her tick. If you felt mixed about Darcy as a character or disliked her, you fall in love with her in “Something Blue.” They’re starting. They’re getting that script together. “Something Blue” is going to happen. It’s like, when I first saw “Iron Man,” I didn’t know the comics but remember at the ending of the credits, they showed a teaser for “Iron Man 2” and the whole audience in Westwood was shouting and so excited. I’m not sure it’ll be exactly like that when people see ours, but there are going to be some fans who get that excited and shout, “Yeah! ‘Something Blue’! Let’s go!”
CS: Would you come back for that one?
Greenfield: Yeah! I mean, it’s all in the timing and the script. I think what I need to do now is go back and do something else, but we’ll see if the timing works out.