Happythankyoumoreplease, written, directed by and starring How I Met Your Mother’s Josh Radnor, is a new comedy about a group of 20-somethings who are learning to navigate life and love in New York. On his way to a meeting with a publisher, aspiring novelist Sam Wexler (Radnor) meets Rasheen (Michael Algieri), a young boy separated from his family on the subway. When he realizes that Rasheen has already been in several previous foster homes before this one, he lets the boy stay with him for a few days. During that time, the boy meets Sam’s friends, including Annie (Malin Akerman), who has the auto-immune disorder alopecia, Mary-Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and Charlie (Pablo Schreiber), whose possible move to Los Angeles threatens their relationship, and Mississippi (Kate Mara), a waitress who also happens to be an aspiring singer that catches Sam’s eye, but also tests his fear of commitment when she wants him to open up to her.
At the film’s press day, Josh Radnor did this exclusive interview with Collider and talked about how the film came about for him, how excited he is for audiences to finally get to see it, what he learned from the experience of writing and directing that will help him in the future, and the scenes he cut that he plans to put on the DVD/Blu-ray. He also talked about being happy with where things are at with Season 6 of the hit comedy series How I Met Your Mother and how far he sees the show continuing. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
JOSH RADNOR: I wanted to write a movie that I could act in. I wanted to write a great part for myself, so that was the genesis of it. But, I knew I wanted to make an ensemble film. I wanted lots of different characters, and I wanted it to be authentic and real. I didn’t want to make a cynical movie. I wanted to make a sincere, open, honest movie about people having real problems and working through them.
I knew I wanted to open the movie with this guy who was late for a meeting, and who was a charming, irresponsible guy that sees a kid get separated from his family on the subway and ends up taking the kid in. And then, I knew I want to end the movie with this Candor & Ebb song, called “Sing Happy.” And, I knew I wanted to base a character on my dear friend Rachel, who has alopecia. I had these tent pole ideas that were these bookends, and then I just found my way towards this story and filled in the blanks.
I distinguish sentiment from sentimentality. Sentimentality makes your skin crawl. It’s like too much sugar. But, sentiment is a great feeling. As a filmmaker and a writer, how can you get the audience to go along with those things without rejecting it as something that smells phoney and feels manipulative? How can you earn those moments? That’s really interesting to me.
What’s it been like, waiting for this to come out since it premiered at Sundance in 2010? Are you excited that wider audiences will finally get to see it?
RADNOR: I’m excited for people to see it. There’s obviously the nail-biting fear that no one will go. It’s almost like being a salesman, but I trust the product. I trust that these knives are sturdy. I’m not selling you something that I don’t believe in. A lot of times, we’re just sold these movies that are really cynically conceived and marketed, and they just want you there opening weekend, before everybody finds out it’s not so good. I’m very proud of this movie and I hope a lot of people find their way to it. In some ways, the delay of coming out is almost like your kid not going to school for another year. You get another year at home with your kid and you get to watch them grow and they’re yours, before they get turned out into the world. I also feel like there’s no mistakes with all this stuff. It’s coming out exactly when it should.
Having written and directed this, what did you learn from this experience that you can carry over to the next film that you do?
RADNOR: I think I surrounded myself with really great people, all of whom I intend to bring back for my next movie. If I did anything right, I think I picked the right people to be in front of the camera and behind the camera to make me look really good. Picking the right people is a skill. Knowing when to say something and when not to say something is important. I learned to choose my battles. Sometimes I let my producer deal with something that I didn’t want to deal with. I just really focused on the best use of me, to make sure that what gets put on film is the truest version or vision of what I had in the script and in my imagination.
RADNOR: The balance among the stories was a big deal, and also finding what we didn’t need. In writing scripts now, having made a film, I’m much more conscious of what it means to shoot and edit a movie, and that affects the writing. The scene where he brings the kid to the publishing meeting was a little more madcap. He chased him through the hall and took him to the bathroom and then popped his head back into the meeting. I got a great note from one of the producers who said, “Just have him come in and put the kid down, right away.” He panics and just brings the kid into the meeting. That solved a logistical problem that I was having. The tone just didn’t feel right. There were different things like that. We also lost a few scenes that I thought were the most pivotal scenes in the movie. I was like, “No, this is where the theme of the movie comes out,” and it was like, “No, that’s not what the movie needs to be.” We cut about 45 or 50 minutes off the movie, from the first assembly to the final cut.
Will you be including those scenes on the DVD/Blu-ray?
RADNOR: Yeah, there will be deleted scenes on the DVD.
Do you have other plans for the DVD/Blu-ray release as well?
RADNOR: Yeah, Anchor Bay, who’s releasing it, did this amazing documentary about the music. It’s this six or seven minute thing about Jaymay and what her music meant to the movie. It’s going to be a really cool feature on the DVD.
RADNOR: Well, I’ve always been attracted to ensembles. When I started doing plays in high school and in college, I always loved the community aspect of it. I loved these little families that would develop. I went to grad school with 17 people for three years, and now I’ve been working for six years with five people. There are a lot more people that work on that show, but the cast is five. And our director, Pam Fryman, is just this amazing spirit and perfect captain of the ship, and taught me that it all trickles down from the director. The attitude of the director is really important, in terms of setting tone. I took that away, certainly.
With six seasons, are you happy with where things are at with the show?
RADNOR: I’m certainly happy with where the show is. I like that we always have this very rabid fan base. Now, it just seems like more and more people are finding the show, but in a very organic way. It feels like we’re not this global phenomenon that puts too much pressure on us to be something we’re not. It’s actually a very strange, idiosyncratic, funny, interesting show. If we had too much pressure on us, in those early years, to be something else, it could have been destroyed. But, I think it’s still true to what it is, with its strange and interesting roots.
With only two seasons left on your contracts, have you thought about what you want to do, or have you had conversations with your other cast members about how long you see things going?
RADNOR: Right now, I think everyone is on the same page, including the writers, to finish out the next two seasons, after this.