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Interview: “(500) Days of Summer” writers talk “The Spectacular Now”

Interview: “(500) Days of Summer” writers talk “The Spectacular Now”

Interview: “(500) Days of Summer” writers talk “The Spectacular Now”
August 16
16:12 2013

Preston Barta / Film Critic

Resident film critic Preston Barta had the chance to sit down and chat with screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who both wrote “(500) Days of Summer” (2009), about their new film “The Spectacular Now,” romance movies and relationships.

Growing up, I feel like I my definition of love came from movies. Are there any movies that you can think of that made you understand what love is?

Scott Neustadter: “Well, you saw ‘(500) Days of Summer,’ and that movie was kind of an autobiography. So I have to answer that question with ‘The Graduate.’ It sort of messed me up as child. It made me that relationships and romance were all histrionic— running around yelling, drama and all that craziness. And I always sort of took away from that movie that if you find the person then it will solve all your problems, which obviously when you get older it’s not even remotely true. And actually at the end of that movie there’s that brilliant bus scene were they start to realize that they have a long road ahead and that things get more real. So that movie for me is the be-all and end-all. I certainly think that watching it at such a tender age influenced me both positively and negatively.”

Michael H. Weber: “I really fell in love with John Hughes movies, early Cameron Crowe movies and Woody Allen movies. I learned a lot about love, life, relationships, friendships— those movies were so important to me growing up. And I still revisit them all now and they are just as important for my life and the stories that I want to tell now.”

One of the things that I really appreciated about “The Spectacular Now” is how genuine Aimee and Sutter’s relationship is. Often times in movies you kind of get a more cinematic version of a relationship. But based off of what you’ve seen in movies and in your own relationships, what’s the biggest difference between a movie relationship and a real-life relationship?

Weber: “That’s a good question.”

Neustadter: “Everything. The sheen is definitely off in ‘The Spectacular Now.’ The whole geneses of this movie was, ‘can we do an authentic version of this kind of thing?’ They used to make films that had this sort of thing. There were a lot of grey areas in teen movies when we were growing up. And they have all but stopped making them. So we were really excited about the opportunity of doing a realistic portrayal of that. And I think when James Ponsoldt came along, he was like, ‘I’m going to make it even more realistic than you guys were thinking.’ And everything is very natural and nobody is wearing any makeup. It was if we were documenting a real-life situation, and that was just amazing. It was really exciting to be a part of.”

Which was more challenging for you as writers, creating an original story or adapting a novel?

Neustadter: “I certainly think they both have their challenges. But recently we’ve had a nice run with these adaptations. We start shooting our adaptation of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ next month. We just adapted ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ by Maria Semple for Annapurna Picture and Armor Towles’ period novel ‘Rules of Civility’ for Lionsgate. It’s been great to fall in love with these books first and foremost, and work on those challenges. But if we have another original idea that we really love then we’d do it, too.”

Weber: “Most of them have their own challenges. It’s kind of a right lane versus left lane kind of experience when you’re writing. When you have an amazing book with terrific source material your job is to kind of like, you know— almost like Tom Cruise in ‘Minority Report.’ Where does this go? How do we get this line over here? What should be the next scene after this? How do we take this 500-page novel and make it 100-page novel? It’s a totally different thing to adapt. You’re kind of in the weeds because there are a million possibilities. Creating something from scratch for us is a timing thing. If we come up with a brilliant idea that we love then we’ll try to execute that. But if not, we’ll adapt. We just want to keep working.”

Lastly, if you could teach a class at UNT, what would you teach?

Neustadter: “The art of napping.”

I would certainly take that class.

Neustadter: “We would not have morning hours. [Laughs] But that’s a good question.”

Weber: “I hate napping by the way. So I would not take your class.”

Neustadter: “Oh, God. I am so good at it.” [Laughs]

“The Spectacular Now” is playing in limited release now.

*POSSIBLE SPOILER BONUS QUESTION*

My favorite scenes in the film are the moment that Sutter shares with his parents. There’s one where he learns about his dad at a diner and another with his mom at towards the end. I especially like that one with his mom. It made me want to go hug my mother. I’m an odd guy that likes tragedy in film because it what feels the most real to me. I haven’t read the book that this movie is based on, but one of the things that I read about it is that there is not much emphasis on Sutter’s parents. It’s more about his situation and they don’t play as big of a role as they do in the film. Is this accurate?

Neustadter: “You know, I’ll say that in the third act we wanted to have an ending that was a little more hopeful. Not to necessarily spell it all out, but have some hope that this character is taking some steps and having some accountability for his life and his choices. And maybe now he’ll make some better decisions. The ending of the book in all regards is very bleak, and we took some liberties there because that’s just not the kind of ending that we’re generally attracted to.”

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