After earning an MFA in film at Columbia University, he began his career as the writer & director of the independent film The Daytrippers, which would earn him a Golden Camera nomination at the Cannes Film Festival for best first feature film. He then went on to direct the Judd Apatow-produced hit comedy Superbad, and then followed it up with critically praised Adventureland, which he also wrote and received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Screenplay. The film starred an ensemble cast who would go on to become some of today’s most sought-after actors, including Kristen Stewart, Jess Eisenberg, Bill Hader, Ryan Reynolds, and Kristen Wiig.
Other film projects include Paul, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Clear History, starring Larry David, and Keeping Up With The Joneses, starring Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, and Isla Fisher.
For television, Mottola directed the pilot of FX’s DAVE and is an executive producer on the show. He also directed the pilot of HBO’s The Newsroom, which earned him a DGA Award nomination. His other TV directorial credits include episodes of the The Comeback, Arrested Development, Undeclared, and The Dangerous Book For Boys.
His new film is Confess, Fletch.
In this delightful comedy romp, Jon Hamm stars as the roguishly charming and endlessly troublesome Fletch, who becomes the prime suspect in a murder case while searching for a stolen art collection. The only way to prove his innocence? Find out which of the long list of suspects is the culprit – from the eccentric art dealer and a missing playboy to a crazy neighbor and Fletch’s Italian girlfriend. Crime, in fact, has never been this disorganized.
Starring: Jon Hamm, Roy Wood Jr., Annie Mumolo, Ayden Mayeri, Lorenzo Izzo, Kyle MacLachlan, Marcia Gay Harden, John Slattery
Please enjoy my conversation with Greg Mottola.
Greg Mottola 0:00
It can take a really long time to make a movie if that allows you to get all the coverage you want. You just have to have people in the movie who love you enough.
Alex Ferrari 0:07
This episode is brought to you by the Best Selling Book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Greg Mottola. How you doin Greg?
Greg Mottola 0:22
I'm very good. Nice to meet you, Alex.
Alex Ferrari 0:24
A pleasure to meet you as well, my friend. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Man. I like I was telling you earlier I've been a big fan of yours for quite some time. Back from the days of day trippers all the way through Superbad and keeping up with the Joneses and Paul, which was a genius, electric lovely, fun, fun film and your new film, confess Fletch, which I had the the pleasure of seeing early and fantastic. And we'll talk all about that. But my very first question to you, sir, why in God's green earth did you want to get into this business? And how did you get into this business?
Greg Mottola 0:56
You know, like, like, all of us grew up loving movies. I had a pretty sheltered childhood on Long Island, you know, middle class, not my parents weren't like foreign film goers. But I would discover things my dad loved older movies. So he pointed me in the direction of things to watch Saturday afternoon, black and white films, on channel 11, and stuff like that. And so I already started to get a love of old films and, and would see everything that came out and had some teachers in high school turned me on to like, you know, one teacher showed us Citizen Kane and, and that kind of blew my mind. And, and then I went to art school, I drew a lot. I, you know, like many kids read comic books I taught, I drew pretty well. And I did a lot of other kind of art stuff in high school. And I thought, you know, this skill, let's see if it'll take me somewhere. I got to art school and realized I don't want to be an artist. This is way too hard. There's no money in it. Fine Art is is I have respect for it. But I don't, I don't, I don't see myself as a great painter. But I was a painting major at Carnegie Mellon University. And at the same time going to every single movie they showed on campus, like the first time I saw Clockwork Orange was on campus at Carnegie Mellon. And, you know, I'd go to once again go to everything, so a lot of foreign films for the first time. So my first Fellini film, my first Bergman film, first Corolla, and and I was like, this is the best possible thing a human being can make as a movie. And I really wanted to do at the end, and I really wanted to learn to be a writer. school didn't have any film classes, they had a video class that was that was a conceptual art class, I once made the mistake of showing my teacher a short film I had made and he gave me a C for the semester, because Because narrative movies were the devil to him. You know, just wanted it all to be non nonlinear art. So I found a space called Pittsburgh filmmakers, which is a little was a little group of basically, documentary filmmakers and experimental filmmakers. And they would teach you how to film a stick of bollocks in your hand and say, Go shoot it, cut it on this little thing that you just your hand rolled the reels, not even a Steenbeck not even a machine. And then you're going to you're going to cut the negative and get it printed in a lab in Pittsburgh. And I made I started making short films, which were not great, but exciting to me, because because, you know, I was seeing how lenses worked. And I was loading cameras, and I was cutting negative and one of my teachers, Tony Booba, great documentary filmmaker, kind of in the style of the Maysles brothers, he he would make these kind of personality movies about funny people, weirdos who lived in his town, which is called Braddock, which was a big steel mill town where that was very economically depressed because the mills were all closing and he would make these sort of social commentary, short documentaries, focusing on on big, big personalities in his area, and they were great. And Tony's brother was George Romero's editor. Tony got me a job working for two weeks in the art department of Day of the Dead. The third Romero zombie film, I was making zombie vomit out of glue, Elmers glue, paint and Rice Krispies and whipping it against a wall with a rag as one does to simulate. And I don't know if you've ever seen Day of the Dead.
Alex Ferrari 4:58
Oh, it's yeah, it's a fantastic film.
Greg Mottola 5:00
It's great. It's great. And so yeah, but we were as I was putting out a vomited, Bubs like little cell. And then I was helping with the r&d of the there's the shock moment where all the zombie hands come through a cinderblock wall. Yeah, I was there when they were trying to figure out how do you score Styrofoam, make it look like cinderblock. Like you know, all the little experiments and so they'd say, Okay, go over there and score 400 pieces of Styrofoam that was you know, because I was unpaid intern.
Alex Ferrari 5:27
So what was that? Let me ask you, though. What was it like working on the set with George Romero? I mean, at that point in your career, he must have essentially been almost godlike to you as a hero.
Greg Mottola 5:37
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I, he. This was probably the year after creep show. Certainly, it seemed on I mean, night, living dead Dawn of the Dead bunch of times. I loved his movie, Martin. I tracked that down and we saw it at a theater. Somehow in Pittsburgh, maybe there was a great rep theatre near my college. I remember seeing doing that. And when it opened, it was very exciting. Even though people kind of trashed it. I was like, I don't know, this is sort of awesome and terrible, same time. And, and so so yeah, I you know, I was too shy to talk to him. I didn't, I wasn't a precocious. And still I'm not a terribly precocious person. So I just watched him and I watched him and Tom Savini talk a lot. And, and was just excited to see how they were going around making decisions. I was my work, my work there, whatever it was, was done before they started shooting. So I just got to see them prepping. It was there shooting in this cave, deep in a cave, we'd have to take golf carts and their bats flying all over the place. It was, I was so happy. To me. It was like I was missing all my classes and getting more C's and I was on a movie set. And you know, and I have a great affection for independent filmmakers. Here's a guy who worked and lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, making movies his whole life. Not exactly. Beverly Hills or, or Universal Studios. And the only other time I was on a movie set, I got a day as an extra and gung ho, the Ron Howard the Ron Howard.
Alex Ferrari 7:21
Yeah, I love that movie back in the day is great.
Greg Mottola 7:25
Yeah, I watched it not that long ago. It holds up really well. It's it's, I thought like it's this I kind of like it is yeah, it's great. And so, so you know, I and then I was making, I was taking the video equipment from a video class and shooting short films and they just wised up and stopped showing them to my teacher. I just made them for my own learning purposes. But the minute I finished film, school, I mean, art school, I I went straight to Columbia University for film school, I thought okay, now I need to, there's a lot of skills they need to learn. Now, during straight to grad school,
Alex Ferrari 8:04
Now so during that time, if I'm not mistaken, you were starting to come up in the 90s where it's, you know, I look at it as the kind of golden age of independent film as we know it. The Sundance movement is many have coined it because from basically from 89 to early 2000s. I mean, Sundance was just popping out. Amazing film after amazing filmmaker after amazing filmmaker, as a filmmaker, what did that impact that because I know daytrippers came out in 96. So you were kind of like in the middle of that Renaissance, you know, but you know, Robert had already come out. I think you came out at around the same time as Ed Burns did with Brothers McMullen. Yeah, that around that time as well. So this was just like, I anytime I haven't any, any of you guys on the show that we came up in the 90s. I always say it didn't feel like that every month. There was a new Kevin Smith's story, or Robert Rodriguez story or Spike Lee's story or Rick Linkletter story isn't wasn't at a crazy time for filmmakers.
Greg Mottola 9:01
Yeah, it was kind of amazing. I mean, I graduated from film school I had no I had no real connections to the business. I wrote a script. I thought it was pretty good. Campbell Scott read it. I had a mutual friend and he wanted to do it, but we couldn't raise the money. It was a little too expensive as a first movie. So I sat down and wrote daytrippers in about a month because I just wrote it thinking okay, I could set a scene in an apartment and get someone's apartment for free. I can set the scene on the streets and get permits and like anything that could be free. We shot on my parents house, we shot you know, everything was a favor. And during that time, I'd also met Steven Soderbergh. I met Steven right before sex lives came out. I made a student film that was kind of making like the student film rounds. Someone showed it to Steven. We met I went on one of my first trips to LA I went to meet Steve and he was prepping or starting, I think to prep Kafka. But sex lives had been like a Sundance. This phenomenon and there was a big article about him in Rolling Stone but it hadn't opened yet. And so, you know, we got along really great and Steven and I stayed friends and a couple years later when I wrote daytrippers, I showed it to him and he said, let me help you make this he put in some money he got some friends to put in some money, you know, we shot it, we got it in the can for like $60,000 but it you know, Steven called in favors he got Kodak to give us a huge discount on film stock and, and and, you know, I the same time was meeting people like HAL Hartley, one of my best friends from Colombia, she was dating Rick Linklater, I was hanging out with him. So I was meeting all these people I met. I met no Abom back. Yeah, it was it was, it was a great time. I mean, they're like, people were just saying, fuck it, we're gonna go around the system and make our ship for very little money. And yeah, well, like when daytrippers came out. It played in our houses, there were a handful of prints that would travel around the country, and it took, you know, months for it to get to every city. But to me, that was a dream come true, because it got to every little art house theater in America. And we were able to sell at some other countries and pay back everyone who worked on it. And it's my first paycheck ever as a filmmaker. And yeah, it really felt like a time like I remember, you know, going to a bar with some of those people and like, no, or how and just like, complaining about Hollywood and saying fuck those people, and they're slick movies and, and they don't have any soul. And we can pretend to be rebels and yeah, artists, they don't get it. And you know, and Soderbergh and I have stayed friends this whole time. In fact, I just worked on he did a bunch of short, humorous black comedy shorts that I was like quasi producer, you know, essentially just a friend helping out on that were shot like you would shoot a student film, even Steven, you know, has wounds. He's, he's, he can do every job. And he was shooting these on iPhones and, and he certainly didn't need my help. It was really fun to be there and watch him work and, and I helped, you know, bring some actors into it. I like got Michael Cera to be in it. And Liev Schreiber and you know, it felt very, very full circle. That, you know, we're still here and we're still there. We're still doing it. But the 90s were, it was it was it was it was a unique, Kathy, I kind of feel like I knew everyone because there's so many of them were in New York, Mary Heron was a friend, Nicole Harlow center I went to film school with she and I are still friends. It was it was cool. It was I mean, it's, you know, because of technology. It's become easier to make movies on a low budget and have them look good. Look professional because of digital technology in both shooting and post production. But and there's a lot of great stuff. And you know, it was very heartwarming to me to hear from sort of the next generation of indie filmmakers the what were they called? The mobile mumblecore Yeah, they do philosophy. Yeah, like Mark Duplass told me so like daytrippers was a was a big inspiration to him, because he's like, Oh, you can make a film for nothing. And it's okay, if it looks like it was made for nothing. I think that's a compliment. But it was true. It was absolutely true. And, you know, I
I, at that point had absorbed many different genres of film and whether it's low budget American films from the Corman years or in like films from Europe that were made on a shoestring and and I still believe and I still, I still feel half indie and everything I do. Maybe that's because I have a really hard time getting enough of a budget for anything, but I've been very lucky. I've been very, very lucky. I I've no complaints.
Alex Ferrari 14:31
No, it's really interesting. When you brought up Steven because I knew that Stephen worked on day trippers, and he's been quietly behind the scenes, helping filmmakers make their movies open doors. It wasn't at him that help Nolan get on inside. Yeah, without without without Soderbergh like going. I always call it the Donnie Brasco effect. He's a good fellow and he's alright. And it's kind of someone shouting about you. And he, he does that a lot. Very quiet. Yeah. Spielberg does it too and he does it as Well, I've heard so many filmmakers and screenwriters who've come on the show who just like, yes, even opened this door for me. And so it's really fascinating to see these kind of guys do that.
Greg Mottola 15:10
He's very, it's very unselfish. And it's, it's, I mean, it's totally authentic. He just, he, if he thinks, you know, your hearts in the right place, and you could do something interesting, he wants to help you, and He will, and now he's the greatest guy. I also had an interesting, this is a daytripper story, which, which is sort of another corner of the filmmaking business, which is that two days before we're gonna start shooting the film, I got a call in my shitty little tenement apartment on Thompson street. So from James L. Brooks, who I'd never met, and don't have, we had my number. It turns out, I had given us a copy of my script to a friend who had a friend at the New Yorker who was good friends with James L. Brooks. And James likes to you know, he likes he told his friend at The New Yorker, have you ever read a script you think is interesting, you hear about a young filmmaker, I want to, you know, I want to know who's out there. I want to try and help people. So somehow, my script for daytrippers got into got onto James Brooks, his desk and, and, and months had passed. And unbeknownst to him, I was about to make it on a shoestring. And he called me up and said, I really love the script. What's going on with it? I'd like to help you make it and I said, Well, we're shooting in two days. And he said, what's the budget? And I say, Well, we have $60,000 It was like a long silence who's like, No, I said, What's the budget?
Alex Ferrari 16:40
Craft services for the first week.
Greg Mottola 16:42
Yeah, exactly. And so and so I told him how we were making in who was in and he said, Well, you know, obviously, I don't want to stop you. If I were to get involved, I do have some notes. And I would do it on a different scale and and it would be a different kind of cast and I don't want to screw you up, just know that I like this enough that I would help you make it if you wanted to make it a bigger budget. And, and I was credibly flattered. I think that guy is great. And, and I slept on it the next day I called the bank. So I just, you know, I feel like I have to follow through. You know, all these people are ready to go. And as tempting as it is, I'm gonna go ahead and make it and and being a huge man. She said, Well, you know, $60,000 is a little ridiculous. I'm just gonna send you a check for $10,000 Just make me a silent partner, whatever other investors are getting, give me you know, the same proportionate amount. And the day we started shooting, I got a DHL package that had a check for $10,000 from James L. Brooks. I mean, not knowing me whatsoever. Just never done anything before except for a student film. Just based on the script, that guy sent me your 10,000 bucks. Which, which, when, when you're working on $60,000, that's huge. That's a huge addition to your budget. And yeah, it was 95, the end of 94 when we were starting shooting, and you know, that's, that was a big deal. And I'm forever grateful. And I've, you know, since hung out with him a bit, and we tried to make a movie together. It didn't all come together. But you know, I will, I will always love that man. And, you know, it's like people say to me, young people say how do you get started? And I say, get really lucky, and hope that people like Steve. James Brooks, take pity on you. I don't know what to tell you. I got super fucking lucky.
Alex Ferrari 18:46
It's my favorite. I asked that question all the time on the show. And I heard Quinton once, say, at a panel somewhere, I think at ComiCon. I heard him years ago, years ago for like 15 years ago. And some kids like how do you make it into the film business? He's like, right, Reservoir Dogs. He goes, I don't know any other way to break into the business. Right? Reservoir Dogs, direct Reservoir Dogs. That's how I did it.
Greg Mottola 19:13
Yeah, I mean, you know, daytrippers got my foot in the door. And almost, I almost got a second film made that was set up at Sony. That was real labor of love. And unfortunately, even we were in greenlit, we were in pre production, and the studio got cold feet and thought it was a little too indie a little too depressing. And I was like, yeah, it's depressing. That's what I did. They put it in turnaround, so that one didn't get made. And then eventually, I said, Well, let's go to LA and direct a lot of TV and then once again, I was super lucky. But yeah, I mean, what I tell the one thing I try to tell other, like when I go to Columbia film or something and speak with students there is there are different ways to skin a cat. The way I chose was get a real The great cast of actors who are working professional actors who are taking, we're taking, you know, shity shity, sag special low budget salary. And don't use that much of their time, shoot it as fast as possible. That was that was how I did it. I shot daytrippers in about 15 days, and, and was thus able to get people like Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott and Parker Posey, and, and, and Mira, and, and, you know, I couldn't ask them to do that for, you know, meet me every weekend for the next seven months, and we'll make this film. But you can't ask your friends to meet you every weekend for the next seven months. And if you've got some really charismatic, interesting people, you know, who are patient, and who will say, okay, when you call me and say the lights really good. Let's go shoot the scene. Now it's gonna look really pretty. Or, you know, I got this location for the next two hours, come meet me. You know, that is a way to do it. I mean, you can take a really long time to make a movie, if that allows you to get all the coverage you want. You just have to have people in the movie who love you enough to put up with your bullshit.
Alex Ferrari 21:14
Which, which, yeah, I mean, look, it's an insanity. What we do is a general statement, and the independent filmmaker as a creature is one of the most insane of the bunch, without question because, I mean, unlike you, at this point in your career, you have success in your career, you've built a career for yourself. And when you're starting a project, there's, you know, there's risk and things like that. But when you're starting out, you're doing the work without ever knowing if it's gonna pay off, and so many filmmakers in today's world, because there's so many. I mean, when you were coming up in the 90s, it costs still cost money to make a movie, even $60,000. If there still needed to be a technical amount of knowledge to make it look presentable, you shooting film, you needed a real DP. Now everybody in their mother can make a feature film look good. But now who can know how you're going to get seen?
Greg Mottola 22:06
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. I mean, there's, you know, as we all know, there, it's hard to get on a screen and in great indie films do get on screens. Even more, so we can get to this later then sort of mid tier entertainments, like confess flash, actually, I have a very hard time getting on screen, because because Hollywood puts most of those kinds of movies straight to streaming. But even for an indie film to get on streaming, you know, it's, it's you have to you kind of have to hit that home run and make something like Coda or, or everything everywhere, all at once, something that's going to, that's really going to land with an audience, but someone will get behind it in some way. And there are there are, thank God still art house theaters, places that will show that are dedicated to showing new new foreign films and new American Indies. But yeah, because a lot of people can make a film. There are a lot of films.
Alex Ferrari 23:19
It's a gluttony in the marketplace. Without question, there's just so many. I mean, I think Sundance got 40 or 50,080 1000s of submissions last year or something. Oh, my God, like something insane. And there's like 125 films, including shorts, picked. So like the, the level of you even, you know, that wasn't the case when you guys were in the 90s. There were there were still a lot, but it wasn't the competition wasn't as fierce. And I always I always love asking this question of, you know, guys, and filmmakers of that time, because like, Do you like it? When I had burns on the show? I go, Ed, do you think brothers with Mala would make it today? And he's like, Absolutely not. would have would have been lost in I had no stars in and nobody you know, so I'll ask you the same question. Do you think day trippers if it showed up today, I mean, with this cast, obviously, because now there are big stars but generally speaking, what do you think the chances of it actually finding an audience's today?
Greg Mottola 24:15
Hey, look, we got rejected from Sundance back then. So we wouldn't even Yeah, that was I took some pride in that. That was the year they rejected us and swingers so it's like, okay, well, you're in good company rejected by another with another good movie. Yeah, no, I think absolutely not. It would be it you know, it was so modest. The, you know, it's comedic. Comedy is less serious.
Alex Ferrari 24:44
It's not real filmmaking. Comedy. Yeah. Right.
Greg Mottola 24:47
Yeah. Even though like in the history of American film, if you if you went through the list of what people actually remember so many of them are comedies, or silent movies. You remember, like 90% of them are comedies?
Alex Ferrari 25:03
Because it was easy to translate back then. Yeah, Chaplin, and Keaton and all those guys. Yeah.
Greg Mottola 25:08
But still not to get on the comedy versus drama. Thanks to them both. It's yeah, I think it would be I don't, I have no idea how I could one could break through. I mean, I mean, there's a lot of movies with political conscience consciousness that, I think is great. But I'm sure now there's tons of them too. I mean, you know, it's, it's, it's, it's gonna be, it's gonna be really hard for people coming up to figure out how to get their foot in the door. I, you know, I was very stubborn at the beginning, I thought I was just going to write and direct my own stuff. I'm going to be an auteur. And then, and then I started after my second film didn't get made, I started to try and write a third one and had writer's block. And I've ever, you know, slight propensity towards depression and writing became basically napping. And I was in New York, and running out of money quickly and thinking shit, I'm gonna have to go back to the job I hated that paid my way through film school. And then I got a call from Judd Apatow, who said, Do you want to come to LA and do undeclared? And I think before I hung up the phone, I was in his office. He's like, I didn't, I didn't offer you the job yet. I just saw
Alex Ferrari 26:32
Like a smoke outline of you was in the front like a cartoon. Like yeah, exactly. So you saw it. So is that how you got involved in Superbad?
Greg Mottola 26:42
Yes, I went doing undeclared. Which was a weird process only in that it was only in one season, but it was done in three different groupings. Because they'd say, okay, you can we'll let you do seven. And then they start to air and it's like, okay, people seem to like it enough. We'll let you do a couple more. And then they let's do a couple more, and then they canceled it. So I was back and forth. But I did like five or six of those. So I was around Judd, and you know, it was a great writing staff. It was Rodney Rothman, Nick Stoller, Jenny Connor, all these people. Jake Kasdan was one of the directors, I became friends with all these people. It was like a really fun group. And of course, Rogen and and so, one day toward the end of the final batch of undeclared. I was told there's gonna be a reading of Seth's script that he wrote with his buddy Evan, of Superbad that they were trying to get made with Seth and Jason steagle is the needs. And it was pretty much the funniest script I've ever heard. And it had a great authenticity to it. Because, you know, Seth and Evan Goldberg were writing about their lives. They started a version of this when they were kids. They wrote The only joke that survived the kid version was the name Nick lovin, which only I think a 13 year old could think of. I mean, nothing, you could never top it. And so So and but it was amazing. And it at the end of it just said, Would you consider directing it if we can get it set up? And I was like, Fuck, yeah. I you know, even even I was still a bit of a recovering snob, and I thought, well, teen movies. I was like, Fuck, yeah. What am I an idiot?
Alex Ferrari 28:33
I mean, Orson Welles never did a teen movie, how?
Greg Mottola 28:38
Exactly. I remembered, you know, Bergman, and Fellini did teen movie, so that's okay.
Alex Ferrari 28:46
You know what's interesting? When I was moving to LA from Florida, I was 2007 2008. And I remember the marketing blitz for that movie, which was arguably at the time one of the most brilliant marketing pushes for a small film. It wasn't a massive tentpole stretch. It became a tentpole film afterwards, but it was just I mean, I was I was I was taking meetings, I was doing the water bottle tour on some of my projects around town. And we were like, people were like, Yeah, we need something like super bad before it even came out before it even came out. They were like, Yeah, we need something like a super bad thing. Like that's lightning in a bottle. I was like, What the hell is like when it's super bad. I saw the trailer like that looks freaking hilarious. And then it came out and it exploded. I mean, in a massive way even culturally in the zeitgeist MC Levin is still MC Levin like I know
Greg Mottola 29:41
I still see kids with the McClellan ID T shirt.
Alex Ferrari 29:46
It's it's, it's it was insane. So I have to ask you, like you were the kind of thrust into you know, being the belle of the ball in Hollywood for a moment. There's always that moment that if you're lucky, you have a big hit, and then everybody wants to work with you. What was that kind of hurricane? That MC lovin super bad hurricane like being in the center of it?
Greg Mottola 30:06
Well, you know, I, the first time we screened it, we did a test screening. And it went incredibly well. And I was sitting with Bill Hader and build nudged me and sort of look at the girls behind us. And they were like holding each other and crying at the end of the film. I was like, Wait, I didn't expect that. But, but I didn't like when I first heard it, I thought the way in to this movie is that is the ending, which is that hovering behind everything is the fact that they're gonna get separated soon. And that's going to be the first big test of them. The first big loss in their lives like this, this is the scariest thing that's ever happened to them is losing this, this best friend who helps you go through adolescence not knowing anything really about women and how to get how to score. Talk to a girl. And the fact that they're both really scared that underneath it all they're really scared that like even though Jonah Hill's character says the most horrible things, Jonah intuitively got it, he's the only actor who came in and play that character, as you could tell under the bluster was terror. And that made it acceptable that he said such terrible things because he's, he's not toxic masculinity. He's living in a world of toxic masculinity. And he's trying to survive it. And he's trying to, he's trying it on because that's what he thinks you're supposed to do. And what he learns over the course of the movie is that's not him. And that's not how it works. If you want any if we want a woman to respect you, and get to actually know her, and then that's okay, that's what everything's leading up to. So we have to just keep that simmering underneath the movie. So anyway, I thought, you know, that'll give it a humanity. That'll make it feel real. Plus, we get this great luck of that nobody was making our rated teen movies anymore. Right? Yeah, it was, like PG 13. Kind of glossy, you know, fine movies, but they they they didn't have that. That chaotic, irreverent, but it was really on your nose and adults thing.
Alex Ferrari 32:23
Yeah, it was it was the it was, I think that was the overcorrection of the 80s of the revenge of the nerds and the poor keys. And, you know, and all of those kinds of, you know, classic teen movies that were all hard ours, I mean, hard, hard hours in the 80s. But then it was they overcorrected. And then like, hey, it's been a while. And then America American Pie was probably one of the I think it wasn't that that wasn't 90s. Wasn't that the American Pie? Yeah. Yeah. But had been a while since American Pie when Superbad showed up. Yeah, exactly.
Greg Mottola 32:52
And in fact, when I went to that reading, it took three years for Judd to get the film greenlit. I mean, everyone was saying, we don't want to do an R rated comedy. Yeah, the script is good, but R rated comedies. Like why would we make a movie with the people with the audience? It's for can't come see it? And it's like, of course, they're gonna come see it, they're gonna find a way into the theater. I mean, I wasn't 17 When I saw Animal House, but I thought so so anyway, so the film, you know, we knew that people liked it. We showed it at Comic Con, which was like a rock concert, vibe. It was amazing. And so it's like, I can't believe like how well, but still, no one knows these actors really, will this translate in a bigger way, but Sony was selling the hell out of it, they were doing a great job. And the first day when I got a call, saying, we these are the projected numbers for the weekend, and it was like late August, mid, late August, and it was a time when like, it was like a dumping ground for moving. There's not considered a time you're going to open a movie that's going to open it millions of dollars, whatever, whatever was considered good back in that year, I forget. But anyway, we opened at a number that was considered very good. That times, especially for an August movie, and and it was so bizarre. I mean, I'd go on the street, and I'd hear people talking about it. I hear people talking about on the subway. And and it was, it was crazy. I mean, it was it. I you know, I have to be honest, it was super fun to be attached to something like that. And I loved everyone involved. I loved, you know, all the people who made it with me. And it was great to share that with this group of people that I had such affection for some of whom I know, you know, Judd and Sapphira, already known for quite a while, and I'd work with Michael Cera on Arrested Development. And yeah, it was a thrill. I have to say it's a thrill. At the time, I thought I may never experienced this thrill again and that All, that's remains true. But that's fine. That's fine.
Alex Ferrari 35:06
It was literally lightning in a bottle. I mean, look, I mean, those are skis hit the matrix, you know, you know, they'd never really hit the matrix again. You know, it's like, it's okay. You know, and you still, you still have a fantastic career. But you're right. There are those moments in time that you're, I've, again, when I've spoken to some other directors have had these kinds of kind of just rocket launchers. A lot of them said, Man, I wish I would have enjoyed it more. I didn't know that this was not this, this situation was really Right Place Right Time. Right, right film. And it will never be like this again, even if it may be I have another hit later on. It's never going to be the first one. It's never going to be this again.
Greg Mottola 35:51
I think I think I had some sense of telling myself you better appreciate this. I mean, this may may be the stupidest person alive. But shortly after Superbad came out, Judd asked me if I wanted to possibly direct bridesmaids, and I was trying to get Adventure Land set up. And because I am an indie at heart, I decided to pursue Adventure Land and pursue one of the other most loved successful comedies of all time.
Alex Ferrari 36:26
I've never heard of that, sir what movies that I've never heard.
Greg Mottola 36:29
And and, you know, on paper, everything about bridesmaid sounded fantastic and and, and I loved Kristen Wiig, and I ended up begging her to be an Adventure Land and you know, so I I may be frittered away a chance to build on a kind of more mainstream success. But I am I am a half indie guy. I really am. I mean, I don't Yeah, I don't regret making Adventure Land, you know, wasn't big box office movie, but I have to say like, it's for certain people. Like, I have more people come up to me and talk to me about that movie than Superbad, possibly because they think Judd Apatow Patrick Superbad. Now. Although I do remember one review of adventure that was really cruel, it said, Well, this proves that it was Judd Apatow was hand that needs Superbad as fun oh, oh, dude, it's a different movie.
Alex Ferrari 37:27
A movie? Oh, come on. And you still remember it? And you still remember it?
Greg Mottola 37:33
Oh, yeah. I don't remember any of the good reviews.
Alex Ferrari 37:35
I was gonna say there must have been 10s of 1000s of good reviews.
Greg Mottola 37:39
Very well reviewed. Yes.
Alex Ferrari 37:40
There's the one that you like, son of a bitch. That dude.
Greg Mottola 37:44
The thing of thing about indie filmmaking and making something personal that you know, some people are, it's just not going to be for them is that it's that feeling of like seeing a movie and saying, I know this is for me. And it's not for everyone, but it is really speaks to me. Right? And that's, you know, that's another kind of very satisfying thing to pursue. There are certain Fellini films that I love, and I know like, a lot of people are gonna get bored and a Fellini movie, but a movie like nights of Cabiria moves me in a way that I will never get from a certain kind of mainstream movie. It's just, it's a different experience. And I want to, I always want to try to be able to do both. And I thought, that'd be cool to get to do both. So So you know, yeah. So I, I've gone back and forth. Now, of course, I'm one of those people out there clamoring to get an indie filmmaker. So I wrote a script that I've been working on for years in between projects that I love, and I feel it's the best thing I've ever written. I've only shown it to a few possible financiers. And the basic line is like, well, this is more drama than comedy. And unless you come back with some really huge stars, I don't I don't see you getting as financed.
Alex Ferrari 38:56
You know it I want and I want to just hold on that for a second because so many people listening to this show think that, Oh, it's great Matala. You know, he's had he made these big hits, and he's had a great career and he's worked so much. He can get anything done. The more I talk to people on the show, the more I understood long time ago, that it doesn't matter who you are. Even Spielberg couldn't get Lincoln financed. Yeah, I mean, it's a struggle all the time. Almost all
Greg Mottola 39:29
Yeah, I mean, I'm basically like, I do want to do another indie soonish. And I'm thinking if I can't do this one the way I see it, because I don't want to do it the wrong way. It's a movie that does require it would be like an eight to $12 million film. I don't see a version of it. That's $3 million. But I could write something that I could do for $3 million dollars. I mean, the call Hall of center, wonderful filmmaker, wonderful writer and she designs her movies that that could be made for a number that that's that works in the marketplace and people's minds and she That's very true that way. And she keeps making really great movies. And so maybe I need to think about that, as I'm trying to attach the right cast to the one that's a little more expensive, and see if somebody, you know, find the right or the right or maybe the right moment in my career where I can cash in, uh, you know, it helped me get eventually made because Superbad was about to come out. And there's enough buzz about it, that I eventually got set up before Superbad even came out. But it was, you know, I got a lot of passes. And and a lot of people telling me, yeah, well, we'd like the funny side characters, but who, you know, the central story is just kind of like a love story.
Alex Ferrari 40:42
How, this is another thing that so many filmmakers and screenwriters have to deal with on a daily basis. And I think people in general in the creative industry, is, how do you deal with the nose? Because this business is all about knows and no, and the doors closing on you? All the time? So especially when you're coming up? How do you keep going, what is that thing that keeps driving you to keep going, when everyone's just telling you no kid, you're not, it's not going to happen.
Greg Mottola 41:08
You just die inside, and then you're fine.
Alex Ferrari 41:12
I yours years.
Greg Mottola 41:17
You know, it's still it's still a struggle to this day, but you just take the attitude of, it's a real waste of time, too, to lick your wounds for too long, I feel sorry for yourself. And I made that mistake, when my second film almost got made, and didn't I spent years trying to set it up elsewhere. And, and it I couldn't, and it was just it was, you know, the writing was kind of on the wall that it wasn't the right time to try and get that movie made. Ironically, people have come to me and tried to make that script, but there is a legal problem with someone who I was in business with at the time that I've never been able to solve. And that person has never let me free. So ironically, I could have made that movie, but I can't. But you know, that attitude of like, put it in a drawer, maybe the day will come is actually not impossible. And, and just, you know, fuck it. If I'm doing a pass on this grip, because it's a New York City story, I was going to go out with it a little bit wider to try and finance it, then the pandemic hit New York City changed a lot. And I thought, it's not going to seem viable to people. The way New York City is now during the pandemic now that New York City's pandemic is never going to end it appears but it's more itself. I'm doing a rewrite kind of address New York City at this very moment. It's a real sort of, you know, Hannah and Her Sisters multi character in this case, it's three stories that are being told simultaneously that are all connected. But it's kind of like three main characters and you're following them and an inter cuts between their stories. And it's ambitious, and it's it's, it's, uh, you know, I'll, I'll do my Polish, I'll send it around. I'll try and attach a few more actors. And if and if it seems like it's not the right time, I'll put it down and do something else. I won't. I won't waste time in this
Alex Ferrari 43:25
Seems like a film that would have been financed easily in the 90s. Because those are the kinds of movies that were being made and
Greg Mottola 43:30
Yeah, yeah. Exactly. God dammit.
Alex Ferrari 43:35
It was a big super battle chi teen damn comedy. So I always always like to ask this about of directors because we all you know, when we're on set, there's a day that the entire world's coming crashing down around us. You've lost your camera, you lost your actor, you lost your location, the sun's going down. You can't make your day. What was that moment for you on any of your projects, including the new one, we're going to talk about to talk about fledge that you felt that the entire thing was coming crashing down around you, and how did you overcome it? And yes, I know every day is like that, but there's that one day that is just like, I don't know if I'm gonna make it.
Greg Mottola 44:15
Well, for me, luckily, it was the very first day of my very first movie, we loaded out all of our equipment in our production office on daytrippers in New York City. Took our super 16 camera we at one and our small package of lights in a truck to a location on Long Island where we're going to shoot the first set of scenes with hope Davison Stanley Tucci, and I get to the location, we start to rehearse and my ad who's one of my good friends from film schools named Brian Lindstrom. He's talking sort of nervously or worry has a word expression on his face and I'm I'm sensing this behind me and I'm thinking what the hell could be happening. And he's like, just just keep rehearsing, doing a deal. And so finally, we work out the first scene, now we're ready to set up the camera, he said, If here's the camera has been stolen, and we trace it back to the loading of the truck in New York the day before, it somehow got taken off the sidewalk or something, and nobody noticed. And that's, you know, low budget film, and a lot of people working on the film, were first timers. And, and, you know, mistakes happen. So, you know, we don't have the budget to really absorb this problem. To come back and pay for locate this is one of the few locations we're paying for. And we had all these things locked down for the next few days, which, you know, going to lose actors, because they had lives and careers. So they scrambled and found another camera in Manhattan by the time they got it to set we had about two hours. And I shot, like three scenes and two hours
Alex Ferrari 46:16
I'm assuming and a lot of oners,
Greg Mottola 46:18
A lot of oners or a lot of one one takes and and you know, like various you know, man, what's the you make plans and God laughs at them. Like a lot of my my shot was went out the window and and you know, we shot in and we got something and it works. Okay. And we put it in the movie. You know, I remember the next day we're shooting in my parents house on Long Island in this town called Dix hills. And a bunch of us slept on the floor of my parent's den. Because we didn't have hotel rooms. And people didn't feel like doing the drive back and forth all crashed and sleeping bags on the floor. And I remember waking up surrounded by other crew members, thinking this is it. I'm done. I'll never you know that whatever we got yesterday had to be terrible. I can't do this. I don't know what I'm doing. I've never been to film before. This, I just felt a complete crisis. And then people started to show up, we started to set up and I'm like, I'm is there Can I run? I know the neighborhood. Well, I grew up here. I know. I know hiding spots. And you know, and then yeah, then I add mirror looking and be like, Well, where do you want me to stand where you want me to do and I'm like, Buck and mirror will kill me if I try to run she's going to Tufts. So I was like, Okay, I have to pretend I know what I'm doing. And I don't I'm not freaking out. And and luckily because I'm I'm an introvert and pretty poker faced I could I most of my anxiety goes straight to ulcers so I I think my way through it, and and then watching them act started to get exciting. And the actors would have suggestions that were making the scene better and started to get more and more exciting. And, and I started you know, Okay, should I freak out and say like, my parents are here do they realize I have hired two actors to play them? That's, that's a little weird. But my mom made a big tray of baked ziti for us to eat. And obviously, and and I started to really enjoy it and I realized I like being on set it's terrifying. And it's you feel so alive and I love actors. And I am so grateful to anyone on the crew that they're willing to help me make something I got over it pretty quickly. I'm always I always get a little anxious right at the end of prep before shooting. It creeps back in this feeling of oh fuck What if I fuck this up? Or there's so much to think about there's so many variables can you control them so I'm gonna steal my goddamn camera again.
Alex Ferrari 49:07
You still wake up in a cold sweat over that even on the
Greg Mottola 49:10
I'm still trying to crack that case? I'm still investigating in my spare time. Who the hell in that camera call and the cold case?
Alex Ferrari 49:18
And that cameras worth what 15 $15 Now $20
Greg Mottola 49:21
Exactly. The bastard only got that on eBay.
Alex Ferrari 49:26
Listen, I tell you what I mean I have to had a full blown panic attack on my first shoot day. Like I had a full blown panic attack. Like I had to you should. I literally was the biggest thing was shooting an action sequence for the short film I was doing. And I go guys, can you give me five I gotta go to the restroom. I went to the bathroom and I literally had a full blown panic attack for 1015 minutes, had to like meditate. And I didn't even meditate at the time. I was just like, I just need to calm myself like water on the face and then just like okay, there's like 20 people out there and we've got an action sequence to shoot and I just No He went out and did it. But it's it's something that they don't teach you in film school. They don't talk about this in film school. But this is the reality of what it's like being a director on set at any level, whether it's on a $200 million movie or a $60,000 movie like daytrippers, like you know, shit happens to your camera getting stolen on day one is a pretty rough.
Greg Mottola 50:18
Yeah, and that's
Alex Ferrari 50:22
But, but I'm flush you didn't have that problem. No one stole a camera, Fletch?
Greg Mottola 50:25
No one stolen camera we yeah, we've managed to hold on to all of our equipment.
Alex Ferrari 50:32
Tell me, tell me about so let's go into this new film, confess flach which is, you know, for a for a certain demographic of my audience who is has a little gray in their beard like I do. will remember the original Fletch, which is a legendary movie series by the the great Chevy Chase. And when I was when I was pitched this for you to come on the show was like, Oh, they made a movie called Fletch. Did they know that there was like I couldn't. Because it was like it was Jon Hamm starring in it. And I was like, and I was watching that. I was watching Jerry Taylor. I was like, man, and then I saw the logo. I was like, Oh, it is flat. Okay, they're remaking it. Okay, fine. Okay, because it was just so different because it didn't feel like the original. It didn't have the kookiness of the original. It's a completely different approach to it, which is wonderful. And I did get to see and I loved it. So tell me how you got involved with Fletch and how you approached dealing with a movie that for a certain generation has a shadow over which is chevy chase this kind of shadow over it.
Greg Mottola 51:32
In fact that the second movie I was going to direct the got set up at Sony was gonna start with John CUSEC. Steve's on and Chevy Chase, and I met with Chevy a bunch of times, and he did table read. And I was so excited. I was I've always been a huge fan and I grew up you know, watching SNL from the first season, I was Braden, eight or nine years old. And, and that was when it fell apart. One of the things I was most sad about is not getting a chance to work with Chevy. So cut too many years later, Jon Hamm, who I'd worked with twice before, and has a friend now. We were hanging out, he said, What did you think of doing a Flash movie, Miramax owns all the books except the first one. And then he told me when he saw the first movie, he loved it and then discovered there were books and read them and saw that the books have a slightly different tone in the movie that Chevy brought his own style of comedy and really influenced the Flash movie. And that there was another way to go with it. And he loved it. He claims he was so broke. As a teenager, he stole the books from Rome, a Walden books store, the various fudge books that are published and thanks. So I think they're probably not I think they're out of business. So they're not going to come after him. We should be okay. Okay. So so I had always heard the books are great. And I love detective stories, but I'd never gotten around to them. So I went off. And I love the first movie, for sure. And really enjoyed the second one. So I went off and read a bunch of them. The one John was thinking would make the most sense, was confessed flach. That book starts with him already having retired from being an investigative reporter, but he can't keep out of the business of investigating mysteries. And it gets sucked into not one, but two. And I thought it was fantastic. And I also saw where you could go a different way with it. And I felt as much as I love Chevy. I felt like I'd seen a lot of sort of 80s Reboot nostalgia fest movies that some are great, some are less great. And I just thought that doesn't interest me as much as a filmmaker. It's you know, I did the movie, Paul, which has an enormous amount of paying homage to Spielberg and Lucas and 80s science fiction, fantasy movies, and I love doing it. And that was really fun. That was baked into it. And that was, to me, that made sense. But in this case, I thought, you know, there's a new generation, I think that might not know this character, and they're between TV and movies, there have been 15, Philip Marlowe's, the famous Raymond Chandler detective character was played by Humphrey Bogart and Elliott Gould, and James Garner, and a whole lot of people. And I thought, you know, people have tried to revive it, and I can understand why it's been hard and it's in the shadow of Chevy's performance, which is unique. He's a unique, brilliant comic of our time. I thought the only way to go really is to go a different way because trying to impersonate Chevy, I thought would be a disaster and John didn't want to do that either. So um,
Before I was involved, this ReadySet borrow was working on an adaptation and and I'd read some of his outlines and we consulted he was letting me read pages and My gut feeling was like this is very funny. It's really funny stuff. It feels a little too much like a Chevy version. But I wanted to let ZEV finish his script. And he turned it in and John first words were like this is a great movie for chevy chase but not for me. And so I said let me take a crack at it and I went back to the book Zedd hadn't used as much of the book as I ended up using I went took more characters from the book, we're translating it from 70s to 2020s. So I had to kind of find 2020 is equivalent to some of these characters. But I really I took more stuff from the book I underlined lines I really liked from the book and put them in the script and and thought this is a comedy of manners this is this is you know, this character flechas has a lot of bait in his DNA is baked in a lot of similarities to what Chevy does. But in the books he doesn't have disguises and funny names and isn't quite doesn't quite. And one things I love about the Chevy movies is he just comes into a room and just confuses everybody with this deadpan acting absurd like almost like the Marx Brothers just complete a completely absurd no one knows what's going on. Right? And in that movie, everyone's kind of a straight man to Chevy and I thought, well, there's funny interesting characters. Maybe if we cast this right, we can let them be funny too, and not just be reacting to John. Let him interact and something I felt in this series of flesh books is Fletcher's a character likes weirdos and loners and outsiders, people who are authentic and he hates phonies. So he any any talks with people will lie to anyone anytime, but he has sort of a good heart he does. He does wrong things to make the world a little more, right. He doesn't believe in the cops and the justice system getting there. He does it his own way. And I thought well, that's great. And I think John is being both a comedic and dramatic actor he could really kill this and I saw the style little maybe a little more old fashioned dialogue driven talky comedy, less slapstick, and broad more behavioral comedy with hopefully, you know, still a bunch of good lines and I stole a bunch of ZEVs really good lines in his script. And I took a lot from the book. And and this being a genre hadn't quite worked in there wasn't like a semi autobiographical thing. I did what I've watched people like Judd do which is get some of your really smart comedy friends to read it and pitch you some some ideas which really helped me unlock some things that I could write to. Bill Hader gave us great ideas. John's really good friends with Robert Carlock 30 Rock he gave us great ideas he gave the script to Neil Gaiman, who Shawn knows from Good Omens Neil Gaiman loves the flesh books and, and I was so thrilled because he liked the script. And he gave me he gave me a cup of like two notes that I absolutely did the made things much better. So, you know, I thought, Well, why not take advantage of all these great people? I know that's something take advantage of the great cast that I think we can get. And that's where we began
Alex Ferrari 58:21
I mean, look, if you've got to deal game and on top I mean, if you're gonna Yeah, I mean, I'll take advantage of that. You know, what kind of idiot we're not. Shit. That's, that's amazing. Like, yeah, Neil, do you what do you think so yeah, here's a couple notes. Like, sure. It's great if you could get that access. But that's me. That's, that's remarkable. No, it was a really fun movie. And the way you approached it was really an A John's performance is I've been a fan of John's. One of my favorite things John ever did was the SNL sketch with Michael Buble. A Hammond bubbly, one of the I mean, my wife and I watched that, like every every, like six months, like you remember it, let's, let's bring that back. It's just his performance. It's a John is such a great great, great comedic actor. And he has such great timing. Um, he's a fantastic dramatic actor, but in this movie gets to play both really, really, really well.
Greg Mottola 59:13
Well, that's what I was excited about for to get to put John in the middle of you know, these weirdos and let him do both and let him Yeah, and let him really lean into his timing and, and, you know, ya have a real sustained comedic performance with be a very specific guy who's unconventional who looks you know, like there's a lot of sending up rich people in the movie and he looks like he could walk into a yacht club or a really upscale art dealers gallery or rich person's apartment or whatever, and, and they all let him in and they'd all open up to him. They think he's one of them. And I really believe Fletch has a different value system and all these people, he just happens to look like, you know, handsome loss. And so and so he can, he can go around taking advantage of that to to get the information he wants and to trick people. And so I thought he's kind of perfect. If you go back to the character from Book Three, he is a character in the book is younger than than John is so but what kind of worked about confess Fletcher's? He's a retired investigative reporter. So that made some sense that he's, he's been away from this world, and he's kind of getting sucked back into a version of it. And you know, some people have reacted to like, you can't make Fletch with someone who wasn't like Chevy Chase. And I think I think I can see that. That's what that's what they want. They want, you know, they want more movies with Chevy doing the part
Alex Ferrari 1:00:51
98 Chevy from 1980 Something which he is now and I
Greg Mottola 1:00:55
And then I would have loved that too. I wish I wish they had I mean, maybe they made a mistake by making the second movie not based on one of the books, maybe they should have tried to stay a little more faithful to the books, who knows. It's not for me to decide. But But I would have loved to have seen Chevy do all the books. But at the same time, you know, the long goodbye by Raymond Chandler has been adapted probably three or four times.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:21
Stars but for God's sakes, yeah,
Greg Mottola 1:01:24
I thought I thought you know, for people some people say this is sacred, you cannot touch it was like now you know, it's it's an adaptation. You know, if it doesn't float your boat, you have to watch. Exactly.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:36
Like I was I was there at the premiere of Footloose when they made the remake with Craig Brewer, who made the remake of it. And you know, the remake was the remake was fine, but it's not the it's not the Kevin Bacon one. It's just, it's never gonna be the Kevin Bacon. It's a moment in time. Just like Fletch in the 80s was a moment in time that can never be reproduced no matter what you tried to do now?
Greg Mottola 1:01:57
Yeah, exactly. So that's why I thought we'll use a different book. And we'll have a different tone. And we'll you know, we never really talked much about making it a period piece, that's probably wouldn't have been too expensive. Anyway, we had to, you know, part of the way we broke the flesh curse was that we were willing to work really fast and work but within, you know, felt a little more like do daytrippers than I expected. But that's the kind of the way the world now is like, certain they give a billion dollars to Lord of the Rings, and then the rest of us have to have to work on the catering budget from Lord of the Rings.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:36
I mean, but if you were to put a John in a cape, I mean, you would have gotten at least another 50 million.
Greg Mottola 1:02:42
Yeah, yeah. If you can we make Fletch
Alex Ferrari 1:02:45
I can imagine in the studio, get flush superpowers, can we? Can he be like a mutant that dissolves Croc?
Greg Mottola 1:02:54
Yeah, just you know, people who love the books won't have a problem with that.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:00
Which is millions of people. Now when is it coming out? And when people can where can people see it?
Greg Mottola 1:03:05
It's what's getting kind of this hybrid really is because we live in a brave new world where where, you know, the pandemic screwed with movie distribution. And this kind of medium mesh comedy is adult skewing to a bit. I mean, it doesn't really, you know, it's not a lot of pop culture references and and, and dirty shit like and super bad. I apologize. They can't do it every time. And and so you know, it's not perceived as necessarily a big theatrical moneymaker, which I get, especially as moment time is everything all bets are off. People are scrambling trying to figure out what are movies now. Anyway. So we're getting this limited released in theaters starting this Friday the 16th It'll be in about 450 theaters around the country in the main major markets. You know, it's not getting a Top Gun level promotion. But I didn't expect it to I'm actually quite honestly, I always thought this will go straight to streaming in this moment in time, the kind of size of movie it is and the style of it being not super broad. And how many movies how many comedies have even been on screens lately? It's I feel a lot.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:27
I can't fit in the theater system right now.
Greg Mottola 1:04:31
Come from studios.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:34
No, no, not not in a big not big releases. No.
Greg Mottola 1:04:38
I mean, like you know, these big Yeah, all these you know, like, Kevin Hart. Movies go to netflix. I mean, he was he suffered any BS Yeah, yeah, definitely tons of movie. He's his movies made tons of money in the box office and now they're all going to Netflix and
Alex Ferrari 1:04:54
I mean, the rock is going to Netflix for God's sakes. I mean, yeah, black Adam coming out soon, but But yeah, I mean, when you got someone like one of the biggest movie stars in the world going straight to streaming whatnot going straight it started in streaming. But yeah, I mean, could read notice could read notice if it was released? Because that's an action comedy. Could that have made a couple 100 million dollars in the box office?
Greg Mottola 1:05:15
Yeah. You think, but you know, but the pandemic changed things and yeah, and and, and you know, people are strapped for money and I get it. But so I'm glad that it's getting kind of theatrical, I see it as kind of an indie release. It's sort of like getting the thing that's, that has changed. But it's interesting is that even maybe a year ago or two years ago, the major chains, AMC Regal, so forth, would not take a movie that's also opening on demand the same day, and we are opening on demand the same day. And they're, the major chains are willing to show Fletch, so so
Alex Ferrari 1:05:57
They don't have a choice. Now,
Greg Mottola 1:05:58
I mean, they're negotiating. Exactly the you know, the whole, like, we won't take anything with less than a 90 day window has all gone away. And, and which is good for me, because now some people can see it in a theater. And I think, I think you know, because a lot of the jokes are not pointed out, they're a little more dry, or just happened without, without elbowing the audience in the ribs. I think it I've seen it with, with an audience a few times. And it, it plays nicely. I think people actually laugh and focus in a slightly different way. But I'll be happy if you watch it on any form. If you watch it on your Apple Watch, I'll be grateful. And then I was just gonna say, at the end of October, it's going to be it's going to move to showtime.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:47
Okay, so perfect, perfect. I tell everybody, they have to go watch it. It's a really, really fun film, whether you like the Chevy one or not. It's just a good film stand alone. It's, it's a really nice approach to that material without question. Now, I do have to ask you one question, because you worked on one of my favorite shows of the last, you know, 1015 years. newsroom is it was a masterpiece of television. It's one of those it's up there for me up there with the sopranos and Breaking Bad. It's just such a well written show and such a well done show. And you were obviously a co executive producer on it. You worked with Aaron, I just have to ask you, what was it? What did you how did you approach working with Aaron Sorkin and how was that collaboration on the newsroom?
Greg Mottola 1:07:32
Well, it's I mean, yeah, Aaron's brilliant, there's no question of that. And I, you know, for better or worse, I thought, well, let's up approach the pilot slightly differently than his other shows, which are very sort of classical, beautifully directed often by Tommy Shlomi, who's a fantastic director. But I thought I don't want to ape his style. What if we give it a slightly edgier more? You know? All green grass handhelds? Yeah. So dirty or five? Or you know, and I actually ended up getting I've terrible memory the DP who shoots who shot like United?
Alex Ferrari 1:08:23
Oh, yeah. 93 93 Paul's Paul's DP?
Greg Mottola 1:08:27
Yeah, and I can't believe I'm forgetting space and just my terrible I'm getting old. Great guy, great DP who operates himself shoots off Ken loach's movies. And, and we shot everything with three cameras going at all times. I kind of wanted to shoot 35 HPSI Well, that'll, you know, get a little expensive and the cameras are heavy. What about 16? So we shot the pilot on 16 then moved over to digital. And, you know, 16 has its drawbacks, because it is it is Granier and maybe maybe a bit too grainy, but I feel like it was an interesting experiment for the pilot. And the cool thing about pilots is you can change a lot in episode two and people tend not to notice. Like all the offices we built this amazing set for for the pilot which was like the bullpen and the and the control room and the little stage where he does his broadcasts will roll McAvoy sets and it was all live and wired. You could have one camera in the control room with Emily Mortimer another camera with Jeff Daniels and me shooting live. And it was fantastic. It was so much fun and it was exciting. And I think it gave it a it gave it a very special feel. But they didn't want to spend all the money to then build all the offices so we shot on location for the offices and of course they all changed in the second episode. No one's ever no one's ever asked about it. And I'm sure I wouldn't have noticed if I was the fear. So so? Yeah, so we took that approach but with with Aaron's writing, actors need to be fully prepared. The way every scene would start was Aaron would come down to set. We just read it sitting in chairs, and the actors would read it. And Aaron would give notes on performance and and lions and sometimes on punctuation. Aaron's the kind of guy who says, like, No, that's a double dash. You need to clip it at the end, or you need to cut her off exactly at the beginning of this syllable. I mean, here's a musical imposes it in his head. And he wants to he wants it to be acted the way he heard it. Because it's not like he wrote it and said, this is perfect. No, he wrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it until the music sounded right to him. So there is there is a real mastery to how he's writing. And some of the actors are used to that some of the actors are in love theater, people are used to it. And so the actors like what the hell and then once they start to do it, they see why he wants it that way. And so often, we would start shooting the scene and slowly speed it up. As we go along. We get the beats down. So the psychology and the behavior all felt right. The moments all felt right. And then I'd say, Okay, now do it a little bit faster, and a little bit faster. So then it starts to feel like an Sorkin which is that incredibly bright people. Yeah, who with, with neurons firing way faster than mine do. And, and, and it's great. It's great. And he's also a lover of, you know, I watched, I watched His Girl Friday a bunch of times before starting because because I was saying this to someone the other day, those are Hollywood movies. The scripts are like 150 pages, because people talk so fucking fast. And that's the way that's the way Aaron writes. And it's so pleasurable when you've got great actors doing it. And that cast cast was amazing.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:10
Oh, my God. And Jeff, I mean, Jeff, well, that whole opening monologue on on about America. Oh, my God. I mean, I've seen that on YouTube. 1000 times of like, you know, how America is not great and all that stuff. But the way he did it was so loving, so beautiful, so truthful, so raw, and it's just like, the cadence of a Sorkin script. And it's like, you're right. There's people firing on all cylinders, like everybody is. So like, even the intern in the scene, is smart as a whip and had some amazing luck. That's just the case. So that's a simple that's a circuit with kind of like a Tarantino script. Like Tarantino has his own air vibe of that. And yeah, people don't talk like that. Human beings don't talk like that. But that's what's beautiful about watching. And listening to that.
Greg Mottola 1:12:56
Yeah, that's his. That's his. That's his style. That's his artistic choice. And it comes from theater. And he tends to write scenes that have movements in them. You know, some writers write for the visual medium that something happens and butts up against something else in another scene and butts up against something else and the story unfolds. Aaron writes, like a playwright, and he writes things that happen and unfold in front of the audience. And I think it's totally valid and quite exciting when it's done by a master. Because it is a different experience, watching things change, watching the actors, attitudes change, watching watching them affect each other, in real time in the scene, as opposed to seeing the change happening over a series of you know, over the course of an episode. You're seeing the drama happening in front of you, which sometimes I think people forget is a tool of storytelling. Because they you know, look, I'd love things being cinematic. But there there are a lot of ways to do it. And his way is a really interesting one. Endlessly watchable Thank you.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:11
Thank you for making helping make that show what it is, man. I like literally just love, love love. So sad. When that didn't come back. I wanted more and more
Greg Mottola 1:14:18
I was there's five seconds where they thought they really would revive it in the Trump age. And I think probably the end of the day, they were just like, what, how, how would you even take this on?
Alex Ferrari 1:14:28
Oh, like, I mean, how can you make it? Yeah, you can't like Yeah, I can't even go down that road. No, Greg, I just have a couple questions. Ask all my guests really kind of rapid fire questions. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?
Greg Mottola 1:14:43
Um, listen to me the longest learn was probably that I shouldn't have touched on this earlier. I insist that I have to be an auteur who writes and directs is on movies. I really thought it was still had cheating to direct other people's words. Uh, that it had to be personal because those are the films that affected me the most. And I realized I'm a slow writer, I'm sometimes a neurotic not terribly confident writer. You know, I have to I have to be doing it for a while to get back into it and believe I can do it. And I also like being on set I really love being on set and in Soderbergh is when the first people said to me, like, it's okay, if you direct someone else's screen screenplay. It's it's fine it's like those take really long time to write spend more time on a set and you'll get better and better at making movies and TV and and it was great advice and and I was so lucky that when I moved to LA I got to work on on declared Arrested Development the comeback? I mean, I worked on only fucking kick ass shows. So so like, you know it with great writing. And then and then later the newsroom and got to work with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who I absolutely adore. So, yeah, so but then I thought you know, I have done more writing in the last decade. Some things that haven't gotten made in addition to my little indie film, but you know, I take the attitude like I said earlier the lesson is, is it's okay I'm gonna I'm gonna direct everything that I write everything I drag that's okay. And and I'm much happier for it and it's okay to take time to write and and wait till it's ready and but not waste time feeling you know feeling sorry for myself if things fall apart.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:41
And last question, sir, three of your favorite films of all time.
Greg Mottola 1:16:48
This is fun. You know, it's hard not to pick movies that are giant classics. I know like if I were to be honest 2001 is one of my favorite films of all time. To me it it takes the spectacle movie and turns it into something completely different in our house. Yeah into it it takes a spectacle movie in terms of our house film and yet stills also like a cat and mouse thriller for the whole house section. And is brilliant and gives you so much to to think about and and wonder about, no matter how many times I see it. And when my parents took me to see it when I was nine they fell asleep. And it stuck in my head like a crazy dream for my entire life. So there's that the movie I'd probably if the world was exploding and I was told I can save one movie would probably be eight and a half. I love Fellini deeply. And I love everything about that movie. That movie to me is the most entertaining. Exploration of self that I've ever seen. And, and I love every detail in it. I love how it's shot. I love the music. I love the performances. I just it's another film I can watch a million times now picking a third. It's gonna be a little tricky. Um There was a time where I might have picked a Woody Allen movie, but I'm not going to touch that right now. I mean, to be honest, I can't I can't lie about my experience when I saw those movies. I know what I felt.
Alex Ferrari 1:18:42
Hey, look, all I gotta say is I had someone say the other day is like, can I say any Hall make any halls a great movie? I'm sorry. It's a great movie. It's you know, it's, it's really good. But I understand where you're coming from.
Greg Mottola 1:18:56
I would probably say I probably say Goodfellas. Goodfellas is, you know, being a New Yorker, being I'm half Italian American being a lifelong Scorsese, lover. Of course fascinated with that world, and just the explosion of cinema that movie is but everything is there for a reason. There's there's just it's not it's you know, endlessly inventive. cinematically, but it's not somehow it's not. It doesn't feel show offI it doesn't feel like hey, look at me I can do this. This looks this is cool. It's like it is cool. But it's better than just being cool. It's fucking telling the story and and in immersing you in the emotions, and expressing everything about that world. What's exciting and dangerous and compelling, and just horrifying and awful and vicious and inhuman about that world.
Alex Ferrari 1:20:06
You know that in so many filmmakers, especially when we're starting out, we all want to do the Scorsese shots. We don't want to do the Kubrick shots we don't want to. Yeah, we all want those like, you know, long crane shots, the whiners that this kind of stuff, right? Yeah, but even in Goodfellas, the wonder that everybody wants to try to do which is that bat that going through the kitchen, Steadicam shot, it's not there to show off, it's literally there to tell the story. And is truly don't under like, as a director looking at that scene. I'm like, how do you tell that story without the one? Or like, how do you tell that bit of information about Henry Hill without that one? And I wonder is so economical? In has all this so beautifully done?
Greg Mottola 1:20:47
Yeah, you could tell it in shots, you could break it up into shots, and you can you can show his walking through all those places. But it wouldn't have the emotion of the passing through the kitchen and all the other life going on and ending up at that table on the table being plopped down in front of them. And ending on fucking any young men.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:11
What do you do again, how it construction.
Greg Mottola 1:21:15
I mean, ya know, and it's, it's, and it is, it is incredible mastery of the form. But it isn't just there to show look on the master, it's there because that is the best way to tell that, that that part of the story, and it's yeah, it's amazing. And I can watch that movie. Again and again and again and again. And again, come away from a second boy on mediocre computer.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:40
And how and by the way, and this is the last thing I want to say how many of us growing up look at the masters the Kubrick's the Scorsese's The, the wells, the you know, all Spielberg's, and you look at their films, and you're like, I can't get out of bed because it's just an insane filmmaker. Like, I'll never be Kubrick. I can't get out of why should I even try? It's kind of like, I'll never paint I'll never be Picasso. Of course not. There's only a handful of those masters in the world. But you can do something. I hate to say look, Kubrick would have made an interesting super bad, but but probably not as good as your super bad in my opinion, though, would have been a very into Scorsese could have done an interesting, super bad, no question. But also in I think, as Denzel Washington says, like, you know what scores it's Spielberg could have been an interesting Goodfellas. And Marty could have made an interesting Schindler's List. No question. But those films were built for those filmmakers from their perspective. Yeah. Life. And, and, you know, everyone has that, that that path they walk and that everyone's going to be did actually there's going to be no one that's going to be a Nolan. There's no one that's going to be a Fincher or Soderbergh or Spielberg because they've already taken that mantle. Yeah.
Greg Mottola 1:22:53
Well, there's a great Albert Brooks story. He became friendly with Kubrick because Kubrick really liked comedy. He loved Woody Allen. He loved Albert. Yes. And he talked to strain he, yeah. And he wrote, he became like a kind of a phone friend with Albert Brooks. And at one point, he Albert Brooks was writing last in America. And Kubrick said, let me read it. I'll give you some notes. And so he's like, Oh, my God, Stanley Kubrick is going to read my fucking script. This is amazing. And then the notes came back. He's like, they were terrible. It was really cool. Still, it's like, but they weren't funny. It's like Stanley Kubrick's lost in America would be very, very different. And Albert Brooks, I think, is brilliant. And he's one of my favorite comedy filmmakers of all time. But yeah, it's like, yeah, to your point. Yeah, you just have to try to be the best version of yourself. I, I try to approach them and say like, Well, what do I think I could do here that the other guy wouldn't do? That might actually be good. So that's how I go in.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:51
Greg, man, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, my friend. Thank you so much for being here.
Greg Mottola 1:23:56
Alex. This was much fun, man.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:58
Thank you for all the years of amazing entertainment and and continue to do what you do and continue doing what you do, sir, even though you're mediocre, as you said, but no, seriously, my friend, thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate you, man.
Greg Mottola 1:24:12
Thank you. Thank you so much, Alex. I hope to do it again some day.
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