First, there was the play, “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” written by David Mamet. Then, there was the 1986 feature film, About Last Night, starring Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, James Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins. Now, a modern re-imagining of the classic romantic comedy, which follows new love for two couples as they journey from the bar to the bedroom and are eventually put to the test in the real world, is hitting theaters on February 14, 2014. And back on October 25, 2012, Collider was invited, along with a handful of other press, to the set on the second-to-last day of shooting.
At the Broadway Bar in Downtown Los Angeles, a Halloween party was in full swing, with Kevin Hart as Channing Tatum’s character in Magic Mike, Michael Ealy as Ike Turner, Joy Bryant as Tina Turner and Regina Hall as Nicki Minaj. Find out more about the film, what the actors were doing and why after the jump.
Out for a night on the town, Danny (Ealy) and Debbie (Bryant) were joined by Bernie (Hart) and Joan (Hall). While we were on set, we got to see various snippets of a longer scene set in the bar, but it easily illustrated the balance of comedy and drama that they’re clearly going for in the film. Both Kevin Hart and Regina Hall were throwing out hilarious improvised lines, exchanging quips and barbs with and at each other, while Hart and Michael Ealy were sharing a bit of a heart-to-heart moment.
While on a break from shooting, funnyman Kevin Hart – who was dressed in a bow-tie, wrist cuffs and Speedo-style briefs, and nothing else – took some time out to talk to us about how this film is edgier than your typical romantic comedy, why he likes working with producer Will Packer, just how far this film pushes the envelope, the balance between comedy and drama, how much he’s gotten to bring his own sensibilities to the character, working with this cast, how much improvising they’ve gotten to do, and how he wants to be a mogul, in control of all aspects of his career.
KEVIN HART: There’s a big difference in the two. Think Like a Man was more, for lack of a better word, mainstream. The reason I say that is that we dealt with topics and subjects within relationships that are easy to relate to. I feel like About Last Night is a little more edgy and vulgar. We’re pressing buttons and pushing the envelope. You’re dealing with two different couples. One couple is about that potential of love and being in bliss, where the other couple is just unorthodox. It’s all over the place, but I feel that couple exists. I’ve been a part of that relationship. It’s violent, but you keep going back because the sex is good. It’s something that seems like it’s not right, but then, eventually, you realize that it’s right. I think you get the best of both worlds in this movie, and that’s why I was excited to play Bernie. It’s different for me. I’m cussing up a storm. I’m having a bunch of sex. I’m a mess. I fall in love, but I don’t know that I’m in love, and I admit it to the man who I give the most shit to about being in love. There are great levels for me to play in this movie.
This is your second film with Will Packer. What is it that keeps bringing you to his projects?
HART: Well, when you do something right the first time, you don’t have a reason not to go back. Teaming up with Will Packer and [Clint] Culpepper and [Tim] Story on Think Like a Man was a great experience for me. When I was approached to do this film, I could only imagine that we would be going down the same path because the material spoke for itself. It was such a solid script. Will is hands-on. He’s a guy who makes sure he’s around for his project, with the actors that he gets and he builds his relationships with. It’s important to him that they’re comfortable. I’ve been nothing but comfortable, and I commend him and Clint for that.
There have been a lot of remakes of movies with all-white casts that are now being done with all-black casts. Why do you think this was a good movie to do that with?
HART: First of all, we’re dealing with a great original piece. The original About Last Night was phenomenal. I feel that what we’re doing is making it a little bit more modern, by incorporating black people. I don’t think it’s just about us being black, it’s just a different take on the relationship feel. Our rants are a little different than a white rant. Our way of arguing is different from a Caucasian couple’s fights. It’s a little more violent. It gets a little more vulgar. Things are said that you don’t expect to be said. I think there’s one scene where Regina’s character tells me that she hopes my fucking balls drop in my ass. It’s the most weird, angry rant that I’ve ever heard, but it’s funny because I can relate to it. I’ve been in those conversations with women where I’ve been called things and have said things back, but afterwards, you go back to a loving space. That’s something that we, as a culture, have embraced. Not that it’s a good thing, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Some people love so hard that they can’t control those emotions when they’re at their deepest point.
HART: The envelope is pushed a lot. It’s definitely pushed a lot. I’ll say mainly on my side, but I do a good job of toeing the line, where I can get away with it. We’re pushing the envelope, but it’s not offensive. We’re not offending anybody. All of the stuff we’re doing is coming as a personality trait. These are things that are my own demons, and that I’m dealing with and I need to get better at. Joan, as well. She’s a female who’s been through so much with men, that she just doesn’t believe in the word “relationship” or “love.” For us both to have found each other and to have gone through what we go through, it takes pushing the envelope to get us to a place where we feel like we’ve fallen in love. It’s from getting drunk and belligerent and having sex in public places, to embarrassing friends and loved ones, and messing up family events and private functions. We literally do it all. But within us pushing the envelope, you relate to our characters that much more.
How much of a balance is there between the drama and the comedy?
HART: I think there’s a good balance, and I think they did such a good job of casting this film. Michael and Joy’s characters give you that sense of drama, whereas me and Regina are the comic relief, in the beginning. Michael and Joy eventually turn into, not comic relief, but a story that you follow that starts to trail off from that hopeless romantic feel of love to, “Damn, they’re not gonna make it.” Whereas the couple that didn’t give a shit about each other, you slowly see them climb that ladder to falling in love. It’s a very nice role reversal, and it’s done tastefully. I really don’t think you see it coming, either. Of course, I’m telling you now, but you don’t see it coming. It’s done in a very, very tasteful manner. The writers did a very good job of evolving the story at a nice pace, through all the acts of it.
They cast Kevin Hart in a movie because they like what Kevin Hart does. How much do you get to interject into the character?
HART: That comes along with dealing with the same producers that you have a relationship with. On Think Like a Man, they got the best out of me because they allowed me to bring my own cadences and opinions to the character that I was playing. I think we got the best of that particular character. It’s the same thing in this film. Me being Bernie, there’s a lot of different levels that Bernie can have. The best way to get those levels is to let me bring that comedic sense of humor, as well as a sense of dramatic humor to it. Everything doesn’t have to be funny. Some sarcasm is best told simply. Some humor is best told big and some is best told small, but they allow me to find those levels. I think the director, Steve Pink, was a big help, as well, letting me play and find different things to do. Literally, this character has a lot of depth, from his emotional side to his crazy side to his opinion on life, and his outlook on religion and relationships. There’s so much that he has to say, but he just doesn’t know how to say it, at times. I think that’s what makes it the most interesting to me.
HART: I’ll start off with Regina, because my scenes are with Regina more than they were with Joy. I consider myself funny and I’m good when it comes to improv, off the top of my head, and Regina is amazing at keeping up. I’ve never seen a woman who is so fast. She never falls off. There’s never been a moment where we’ve had to wait and then pick up. She just is fast. This movie is going to show a lot of people how serious she is in this comedic game. And Joy shines on camera. She’s a beautiful woman, not that Regina isn’t because she is. She’s coming from a different background. She’s done movies before, but she went to television and now she’s coming back to film. I think it’s a great opportunity for her because she comes back and is working with Michael Ealy, who brings whatever he needs to bring out of you, but she’s also giving him something in return. You believe their relationship and what they’re doing to get to where they want to be. You believe their fall. I think they did a great job of making that change of emotion in the film. It takes a lot to get that chemistry, when you’re supposed to be telling a love story and you’re responsible for that story. Then, when that breaks off, it takes a lot to make sure you’re channeling the same energy you had early on, at the end of the movie. Thus far, they’ve done a great job of it.
Does Steve Pink allow for much improv?
HART: Steve likes it, man. Steve likes the fact that he has a cast that he can work with that listens to him and is passionate enough about the project to where they come with ideas. Some people come to work and that’s exactly what it is – work. It’s, “My line, my line, my line. I’m done. I’ll see you tomorrow.” But, we all have opinions and we want to know what makes the story better or what keeps it going or what drives the story and is going to keep the viewers attention. Steve is really good at listening to our opinions. Some of them work and some of them don’t, but at least he doesn’t shoot us down. That’s one thing that you want from your director.
You’ve done stage, TV and the big screen, and you’re accomplishing all of them easily. What is it that you like the most, and what are you getting from each medium?
HART: I like the fact that now my understanding for entertainment and the entertainment business is completely different from what it was when I first came in. I get the business side of it. Of course, with the financial gain that you get in your career, the more you develop within the business. For me, it’s about becoming a mogul, owning my own projects, and establishing myself as a funding producer. That’s what’s big to me. The movies and all that stuff are great, but the fact that I’m in a position to do what I want to do, however I want to do it and when I want to do it is bigger. If I choose not to work, I can fund my definition of work, whether it’s me doing a studio film, whether it’s me producing a television show, or whatever it is. I now am in control of my career, and that’s what so many actors don’t take advantage of. You get to these successful points, and you continue to just work for other people. But, when you’re your own brand and you’re your own boss, the whole line of work changes. That’s my biggest turn on.
HART: Of course! Every relationship should eventually become a long-term relationship. Any director that I meet now isn’t just a director. He’s potentially a friend, and someone I can call to do a project that I want or that I have. That’s what I mean when I say branding and developing yourself, as a business. That’s the part of entertainment that I understand now. When you’re in these movie deals and the studios are talking, they’re putting business deals and packages together, but they’re making calls based on previous relationships. They go, “Oh, let’s call this actor because we did this with him, and he might like him. Does he like him? Let’s piece them together.” There’s a brain behind that puzzle, and I want to be the brain. I don’t want to be the pieces to the puzzle forever. I’m 33.
About Last Night opens in theaters on February 14, 2014.