Just in time for the presidential election, the hit romantic comedy Dave, from director Ivan Reitman and screenwriter Gary Ross, debuts on Blu-ray on September 25th, for the first time since its 1993 theatrical release. The film tells the story about what happens when the U.S. President goes into a coma and a mild-mannered office manager, named Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline), with an uncanny resemblance is hired to impersonate him and fool not only an entire country, but also an increasingly suspicious First Lady (Sigourney Weaver).
At a press day for the Blu-ray release, director Ivan Reitman and producer Lauren Shuler Donner talked about how Gary Ross came to write the film, how the script was developed, what made Kevin Kline the right actor to pull off the dual role, why Sigourney Weaver was the perfect First Lady, and how they think young audiences will react to the film today. Reitman also talked about the huge interest in sequels these days, the status of another Ghostbusters film and the Twins sequel, Triplets, and how he thinks audiences will be knocked out by the story they’re telling in Hitchcock (due out November 23rd and starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren), which he’s producing, and Shuler Donner talked about the importance of focusing on character when you’re making superhero movies, like she’s done with the X-Men films. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
LAUREN SHULER DONNER: It came from Gary Ross, who was our writer, and it started a very long time ago. Gary told me the idea and I immediately wanted to do it. We actually pitched it to another studio that wouldn’t believe that somebody could impersonate the President. And then, we went to Warner Bros. and they wanted to do it. Gary started writing the script and, during that time, Michael Dukakis was running for President and Gary was doing soundbites for him. It took awhile to get the script, and then eventually Ivan’s agents let it be known that he was available, which was great. We talked about it and had the exact same mind-set, and he took it and did it. He did a great job.
IVAN REITMAN: We worked on the script together and tried to find the right star for the film. We went through quite an adventure, doing that. Finally, we were able to convince Kevin Kline that he’d be great at it.
What did you consider a presidential look?
REITMAN: Somebody that you could believe. As you can see from the various speeches that we had, particularly when you look at the group of Republicans that were thrown together, that look seems to be everything over the map.
SHULER DONNER: Good hair and tall.
REITMAN: More importantly, in this movie, I needed an actor who could pull off playing both the President and Dave Kovic, and Dave Kovic pretending to be the President. It’s really three roles, but essentially two. Although it’s dealing with very serious subject matter, it’s ostensibly a comedy. So, we needed someone who was both dramatically strong and was light on his feet, and that’s Kevin [Kline].
REITMAN: Well, I had worked with Sigourney on Ghostbusters, and she’s just a fabulous actor and she had this regal presence. When I thought, “Who would be the ideal First Lady in the country?,” it had to be her. So, I just called her up and said, “You and Kevin,” and she said yes. It was very quick.
Lauren, had you known Gary Ross when you started working with him as a writer on this film?
SHULER DONNER: Gary is probably one of the people I met first, when I first came to Hollywood. I hate to say it, but I’ve known him since the late ‘70s. I met him at a Stella Adler course. I was taking it just to understanding screenwriting better from an actor’s point of view, which was why Gary was taking it. So, I’ve known him for a very long time.
REITMAN: I didn’t. I met him on this. I knew he wanted to become a director, so I said, “Just hang out. Just be with me all the time.” The editing room was open to him, and he was there on most days of shooting. We had a very nice development process, where we worked very comfortably together on finishing up the screenplay.
SHULER DONNER: And by the way, not all directors are that generous. Gary was lucky.
REITMAN: Prior to this, I used to work with comedians who were writers as well as performers, so it was great to have writers on the set. Not that we changed much on this. By the time we got to shooting, the screenplay was in really great shape. What I was really looking for was precision and not a lot of ad-libbing with this. I was lucky because we had a group of actors, from Ben Kingsley to Frank Langella to Kevin Dunn to Sigourney Weaver, who are very precise and who really stepped up their game.
REITMAN: I’m hoping they’ll be charmed by it, much the way audiences 20 years ago were. I’ve made some very successful movies, but it’s the movie that people keep coming up to me to say, “Oh, my god, that’s one of my favorites!,” not just that I made but on their all-time list.
Ivan, is it fun for you, as a filmmaker, to have so many films that are so enduring for people?
REITMAN: Yes, that’s nice!
Is it also strange now that people want to know when you’re going to do another Ghostbusters, and that now you’re doing the Twins sequel, Triplets?
REITMAN: Well, I’d like to go forward and make new things. I think Ghostbusters probably should be remade, if we can get it all right. We’re working on it, so we’ll see. With Triplets, I’m quite nervous about it. I think it’s somebody’s commercial idea, and usually that’s a scary thought. There’s no writer, and there’s no idea yet. I think that was more of a press release than anything else.
How do you feel about the huge interest in sequels now, when you weren’t thinking about that so much, at the time?
REITMAN: I was literally just having this conversation with the head of a studio for lunch today, and they were concerned that we’re killing the business by remaking the same thing. A third of the films that are being made are animated films for children or a mostly family audience, a third of the movies are comic book movies – not that there’s anything wrong with them – and that leaves 200 other movies, sharing this very narrow financial amount. That’s made them very nervous about doing anything original, and doing anything that isn’t down-the-center and seems to be commercial. The effect, particularly on a sophisticated audience like you have in Western Europe, America and Canada, is that it’s reducing the overall audience.
REITMAN: Well, we have a great movie, called Hitchcock, that’s going to come out in about two months, and you’re going to be knocked out.
What can you say about Anthony Hopkins performance as Alfred Hitchcock?
REITMAN: Fortunately, there’s actually a lot of archival footage of Hitchcock, in regular life and in his presentational life, on the television show that he was the host of. He was in the middle of most of the trailers, particularly in the latter half of his career. He was the marketing center of the film. There’s a very distinctive personality, voice and scale to him, and there was a way that he used comedy as a weapon, both as a director and in his human life. That’s one of the things that we focused on. This is really about his relationship with his wife, Alma, who’s played by Helen Mirren.
Lauren, as a producer of so many comic book movies, do you work really hard at making them character-based?
SHULER DONNER: Yes! That, to me, is what elevates them above some of the others. That’s what movies are about. You care about the characters. We learned a big lesson, at the end of X-Men 1, when our bad guy Magneto was going to kill all of these nameless, faceless New Yorkers. We looked at it, and it just didn’t add up. It just didn’t work. And we realized that it had to be personal. It had to be about this character Logan, who was rescuing Rogue. You have to have somebody to root for. I truly believe that’s how you ground a movie. You ground them in the characters. That’s what we want to see. And I had done a lot of little films in the ‘80s and the ‘90s.
REITMAN: But, now they don’t make little films.
SHULER DONNER: I think we can keep on making these films because we try to keep character in mind.
REITMAN: Lauren is a wonderful producer. I’ve worked with her a couple of times. She has a really strong sense of story and is always contributing. And most importantly, she’s just a great support for the director. We produced a film together, called Hotel for Dogs, and she was an island of common sense in this very difficult environment. I very much appreciate my partnership with her.
Dave is available on Blu-ray on September 25th.