Like mother, like daughter, Meyers-Shyer directs her rom-com
LOS ANGELES (AP) — In the world of the romantic comedy, writer, director and producer Nancy Meyers is unparalleled. Her six films, including “What Women Want,” ″It’s Complicated” and “Something’s Gotta Give” have grossed over $1.4 billion worldwide — and that’s not even counting those she co-wrote with her director ex-husband Charles Shyer (“Father of the Bride”).
So when their daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, 30, decided that she was ready to make her first film, “Home Again,” a romantic comedy starring Reese Witherspoon as a recently separated mother of two, there was only one opinion she knew she needed: Mom’s.
“I wanted help. I wanted her opinion. I like her opinion in every aspect of my life,” Meyers-Shyer says. “When I first decided to make the movie (my dad) said, ‘I know from experience there’s no better partner in making a movie.’”
Seated together in a restaurant booth in the Brentwood Country Mart, Meyers, 67, doesn’t remember offering to produce “Home Again,” but she liked her daughter’s idea to have three 20-something men move in with a single mom.
Meyers’ only stipulation was that they hold their meetings near her home in Brentwood. It’s is how the restaurant in the white-paneled, sun soaked “country mart,” which fittingly looks straight out of one of her movies, became their de facto headquarters throughout production.
There was also a little poetic symmetry in making it when they did. At 29, Meyers-Shyer was the same age her mother was when she made her first film, “Private Benjamin.”
Among Hollywood families, it’s not uncommon for the children of directors to pursue something in the business, but aside from Sofia Coppola, whose mother just made her first narrative film, generational female directors are as rare as they come.
It was just something Meyers-Shyer always wanted to do. She grew up on her parents’ film sets, which she liked, and even acted in a few, which she didn’t.
“I was not meant to be on screen, that’s for sure,” Meyers-Shyer laughs.
It wasn’t until she was an adult that she started to realize just how influential their work had been. She’d notice people quoting lines from “The Holiday” or “Father of the Bride” in conversation and think, “My mom wrote that!”
“Home Again” is very much informed by and an homage to her mother’s movies, which often center around divorced women, their picturesque homes and the men coming in and out of their lives — ex-husbands, playboys, or handsome young things who don’t blink at wooing an older woman. This also introduces a Hollywood element — taken from personal experience and a romanticizing of 1970s Los Angeles (something her mother just finds funny). Witherspoon’s character is the daughter of a John Cassavetes or Peter Bogdanovich-like director and a ’70s starlet played by Candice Bergen. The three lodgers are aspiring filmmakers thrilled to be in proximity to such Hollywood royalty, and, of course all fall for Witherspoon.
They made the film outside of the studio system. Meyers-Shyer didn’t even try to pitch it to the big shops knowing that an original rom-com from a first time filmmaker would be an impossible sell.
“They do not make these kinds of movies,” says Meyers, who even with her pedigree and successes, struggled to get “The Intern” made just a few years ago. “Some of my friends are studio people. They like these kinds of movies. They just can’t make them right now. It’s not what they’re there to do for their company...they need the franchise... It has to be a global win for them.”
Meyers wasn’t quite prepared for the limitations of the independent world, but took it in stride.
“Making an independent film for me was way more difficult than making a film with my daughter,” she says.
Meyers-Shyer knows she has an advantage to most first-time directors too.
“Being a daughter of people who made movies helps you know people, it helps you get some meets with some people who know your parents,” Meyers-Shyer says. “But nobody is going to give you money to make a movie or star in your movie for those reasons.”
That includes getting Witherspoon to agree to star, which Meyers says was a combination of the script, knowing that Meyers would be producing and the fact that she’d be helping a young female filmmaker start her career.
“She changed Hallie’s life,” Meyers says
“I can’t stop thanking her,” adds Meyers-Shyer.
As with any film, the pressure to succeed is high on a personal level, but recent headlines are also hoping for “Home Again” to “save” or “bring back” the romantic comedy which is a tall order for any film.
“When we started I never thought you were single handedly bringing back the genre. One of our early reviews is “the best romantic comedy in years” and as great as that is, we also might be the only one,” laughs Meyers.
She slyly adds: “I know ‘The Big Sick’ is a romantic comedy.”
Both believe there is an audience out there — whether it’s those who want a respite from superheroes and Star Wars and Transformers, or those just looking for a nice movie.
Reviews, which came out after this interview was conducted, have been harsh, but jabs at magazine quality interior decorating or perceived superficiality are both all-too familiar and also have yet to bring down a Meyers film. That, and, they prove eminently re-watchable.
“This is not my movie that’s just my way to show I can do this or that,” Meyers-Shyer says. “I made this movie, I would say, almost entirely for others to enjoy.”
Meyers looks at her daughter and says with a sarcastic seriousness: “Now that you’ve done this you can do a superhero movie. That’s where they get their directors.”
“That’s the oddest trajectory to me,” Meyers-Shyer responds. “I won’t be making any superhero movies.”
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr