Fatherhood Director Paul Weitz Discusses Blending Comedy & Heartbreak

Netflix’s Fatherhood is out later this week on Friday, June 18. Directed by Paul Weitz the film follows an emotional true story about a widower who has to take on single parenthood unexpectedly after his wife dies the day after giving birth. It’s based on Matthew Logelin’s memoir Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love. The film stars comedy superstar Kevin Hart in the lead role, Melody Hurd (Them), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), DeWanda Wise (She’s Gotta Have It), Anthony Carrigan (Barry), and Paul Reiser (Mad About You).

Ahead of its streaming release, ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Paul Weitz about the film’s unique blend of comedy and drama, Kevin Hart’s performance, and more. Check out the video below or read the full transcript.

Tyler Treese: Paul, Fatherhood is a really interesting film because it deals with some really heartbreaking subject matter, but it’s still constantly funny. Was it difficult to find that right balance?

Paul Weitz: Well, do I just say it’s funny because for me that balance was what made me want to do the movie. Because I think that in the moments that are the most challenging to us, usually what you need is a pressure release of laughing. Yeah, it was something that I had in mind. Certainly it was from the get-go having a moment early on in the film, like right in the first minute where you know it’s okay to laugh, you know? It’s based on this memoir as a true story by this guy Matthew Logelin, who had this sort of dream come true, which is he is having a baby with his wife, the first kid, and then tragically, his wife died the day after the baby was born.

Matt had to take care of this baby and then bring up his daughter on his own. Matt was involved sort of throughout the filming actually. It was great to be given license by him to have this be as funny as I could make it. Here’s the balance, you don’t want to laugh to spoil the reality of the emotion. If you’re going for a cheap laugh, I think you can ruin the whole tone. Hopefully, I was able to keep it within those parameters.

We get to see a more serious side from Kevin Hart in this film, and he does a great job of showing emotion. Can you just speak to his versatility as an actor?

Some people have a gift and then some people get to take advantage of that gift by directing. He is really in touch with his emotions. He’s been through a lot in life. He’s a parent, and what you hope when you’re directing somebody is that they’ll be able to bring something from their life into each moment in the film. So obviously one knows that he’s going to be able to make things funny. I actually thought he was really wonderful in The Upside. I thought he did a great job in that and was able to do some really dramatic material without overacting. I knew that if I created an atmosphere where he felt relaxed that he was going to be able to do it,

Melody knocks her performance out of the park. How did you find her and when did you know during the casting process that she had to be Maddy?

Really early on, we auditioned a lot of kids and a lot of them were really wonderful. That’s the worst part about the auditioning process because you see so many people [and] you go, “Oh, that’d be great.” But the thing with Melody is when I audition a handful of actors with Kevin, and she was the one who, when they were improvising and coming up with stuff, felt the most like she would be able to match him blow for blow. Which is actually how the scenes in the movie, like where he’s doing her hair, that they just improvised or where they’re playing hot hands. She’s able to give them a hard time, and she’s not intimidated by Kevin or by [it] seems anything. On the last day of filming, she told me that she wanted to be a doctor. So I don’t know if she’ll stick with that or not, but I thought that was a good time too.

You touched on it here, but how much was improvised as far as the comedy goes?

A fair amount. I mean, everybody thinks of improvisation as comedy, but actually emotional things can be improvised as well. One thing I like is there can be a scene where I’ve written a character cries and the character doesn’t want to do that there. It’s kind of forced. Or there might be some scene where I didn’t think there’s going to be any emotion in it and the character starts to feel emotional. So there’s actually emotional improvisation here too on Kevin’s part. I like to let people go with whatever’s happening in the scene.

In terms of the company, usually what one would do is do the script and then get off the script. But there was some stuff with him and a Lil Rel [Howery], I mean, they’re friends in real life and they have such a relationship with each other that that’s another area where I knew it’d be better if they just improvise certain things.

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