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SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY

About The Production
SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY marks the long awaited return to the big screen of Peter Bogdanovich, one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of his generation. After a fifteen year absence, during which he directed films for television, the documentary "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream," acted, and wrote about the movies, Bogdanovich also returns to the comedy genre, which he was so adept at with his early classics, the critically acclaimed, box office hits "What's Up, Doc?" and "Paper Moon," as well as the cult favorite, "They All Laughed."

Like "They All Laughed," SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY was filmed entirely in New York and, again, Bogdanovich shows off the city at its glistening, romantic best. And known for his work with actors, from his award-winning breakout film "The Last Picture Show" to his last feature "The Cat's Meow," for SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY, Bogdanovich has assembled a stellar ensemble cast, headed by Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots, Kathryn Hahn, Will Forte, Rhys Ifans, and Jennifer Aniston all working together at the top of their form.

SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY is a classic style romantic comedy, with touches of the equally classic screwball comedy, in the best sense of those words. Although completely modern in its characters, situations, and settings, it's a film that harkens back to the landmarks of the genre from Hollywood's heyday of the 30s and 40s, with sparkling wit, charm, and sophistication amidst the craziest and zaniest of premises and situations.

The film centers around Isabella "Izzy" Patterson (Imogen Poots), a Brooklyn-born call girl with aspirations to be an actress who, during a rendezvous at the Barclay Hotel in Manhattan with Arnold (Owen Wilson) - a successful Hollywood director about to direct a play on Broadway, is offered $30,000 to do something else with her life. As Arnold explains to her, there are those people who go to the park and feed nuts to the squirrels. But why not sometimes feed squirrels to the nuts? It turns out this isn't the first time Arnold has said that to a call girl. Izzy isn't his first squirrel and 'squirrels to the nuts' is a line that reverberates throughout the film to great comic effect.

Although Isabella is clearly stunned, she accepts the offer. But when she does, it starts a chain of events which also changes the lives of everyone she encounters: Arnold's wife and star of his play, Delta Simmons (Kathryn Hahn), Delta's co-star Seth Gilbert (Rhys Ifans), who is Arnold's rival for Delta's affections, the playwright Joshua Fleet (Will Forte) who falls in love with Izzy, her therapist, Jane (Jennifer Aniston), who turns out to be Joshua's girlfriend, and the distinguished and esteemed Judge Pendergast (Austin Pendleton), a former client of Izzy's, who is obsessed with her. Added to the mix are Izzy's parents (Cybill Shepherd and Richard Lewis) and a mysterious detective (George Morfogen), who turns out to be the playwright Joshua's father. And by the end of the film, through a series of comedic encounters, twists and turns, nothing is the same for any of them.

The story unfolds with a wraparound structure, as Isabella sits with a cynical interviewer (Illeana Douglas), down the block from Bergdorf's in New York, and relates how she, a girl from Brooklyn, working as a call girl, became a movie star. And through the course of the interview we see how all of that happened, how her love of the movies and her dreams of Hollywood, turned into a reality, just like some kind of fairy tale.

Peter Bogdanovich originally conceived the story for the film, which he wrote with his now ex-wife Louise Stratten. Stratten was going to play the Isabella Patterson role, now played by Imogen Poots, and John Ritter, the role of Arnold, now played by Owen Wilson. But after John Ritter's untimely death, Bogdanovich decided to put the script and project aside.

Years later, when Bogdanovich became friends with Owen Wilson, he discussed the role of Arnold and the script with Wilson while binge watching "Breaking Bad" at Wilson's Malibu home, and then decided to resurrect the project, with Wilson attached as Arnold. And so began SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY's journey to the big screen.

Two other friends of Bogdanovich, the acclaimed filmmakers Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach also read the resurrected script. "They read it, they liked it, and they said they'd like to help me get it made," recalls Bogdanovich. "They like my pictures. They're both fans and I'm a fan of theirs. We're all very friendly. They call me pop. And I call each of them son - Son Noah and Son Wes. We're very close and they were very helpful in getting the picture off the ground. By having them aboard, we were able to get Owen and Jennifer Aniston attached. Quentin Tarantino also loved the script. He read it a long time ago when it was going to star John Ritter. And Quentin loved it then. So when I called him during the filming and said, 'Can you do this cameo? - I told him what it was and he laughed - he said, 'Sure, I'll do that. It would be a kick to be in a Bogdanovich picture.' And I said 'Well, can you do it the day after tomorrow?'"

"I read the script and liked it a lot" says producer Holly Wiersma. "I'd always been a huge Peter Bogdanovich fan; I grew up watching his movies. And I'm also a big fan of Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, who were already attached.

"What I particularly liked about the screenplay," continues Wiersma, "is that it reminded me of the classic, old-time Hollywood movies that you don't see anymore. I think the closest any filmmaker today comes to making movies like that is Woody Allen. But otherwise, there just aren't movies like that anymore. They don't get made; I don't think they even get written. So the script for SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY, with Owen and Jennifer attached, was very exciting to me. And I decided to come on board the film as a producer, along with Logan Levy and his company Lagniappe to arrange the financing."

How did Bogdanovich originally conceive the project? "It started with two things," Bogdanovich explains: "the title at the time 'Squirrels to the Nuts,' which has now been changed, and the notion of someone giving money to a hooker in order to help her stop being a hooker. I did that a couple of times in Singapore when I was there directing 'Saint Jack.' There were some ladies of the evening that I saw there - one was from Bangkok and one was from Malaysia - Singapore is sort of the melting pot of all of Asia - and I just felt that both of these girls were not happy with what they were doing and I gave them some money to go home and stop being hookers. And they did actually."

"That was sort of the impetus for the script," continues Bogdanovich. "I liked the title 'Squirrels to the Nuts,' because I always liked the Lubitch film that it was based on, 'Cluny Brown.' The title came from some dialogue in 'Cluny Brown,' Lubitch's last film. He's one of my favorite directors."

"And that's where it started," recalls Bogdanovich. "My ex-wife, Louise Stratten and I were talking about writing a script together. And I said how about we write this thing - I have this idea and we set it in New York. Originally Louise was going to play the lead girl, Isabella, and John Ritter and Cybill Shepherd were going to play the director/husband, Arnold, and his actress wife. It was quite a bit more slapstick then."

"We subsequently changed the title," continues Bogdanovich, "because in the post-production work, the picture went from being more of a screwball comedy, with romantic comedy overtones, to being more of a romantic comedy, with screwball comedy overtones. And so 'Squirrels to the Nuts' didn't seem to go with this particular version of the film. SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY, from a 1930s song, seemed more appropriate. I'm partial to that song as well as songs from the 30s in general."

Owen Wilson for the part of the director Arnold was the first person cast in the film. As Bogdanovich relates, "I got to know Owen, we became friendly over the years and we hung out a bit. And he's one of the few actors today who's a movie star in the sense that he has a personality which comes across that is very appealing. And so a movie like Woody Allen's 'Midnight in Paris' just works so well because he holds it together. I mean it's a good script, but Owen just holds it together with his charisma. You just want to watch him. And I remember my mother-in-law said, 'Who's that guy? He's really good, he should get more money, he made it work.' Owen is one of the only stand in's for Woody Allen who didn't play it like Woody. He played it like himself and he's just great. I love talking to him, I love being his friend. We watched a lot of TV shows together - 'Breaking Bad' and 'Game of Thrones' - and we just got friendly. So I said, 'Would you like to do this comedy?' and he read it and he thought there was a bit too much slapstick for him. So I took most of that out because the slapstick had been written for John Ritter who was brilliant at that and, with Owen, it's not his long suit. But he comes up with great lines. He ad-libbed a number of lines in the picture and they're very funny. When he's asked, 'Where do I find you?' he says, 'I've been asking myself that for 40 years and I still haven't got the answer.' That's an ad-lib."

Both Bogdanovich and Wiersma believe that Owen Wilson was the perfect actor for the role of Arnold and few actors could have made the character come across so likeable or sympathetic. "I think Owen Wilson has three things about him that make Arnold work," explains Wiersma. "Owen is the everyman, there's that star quality that shines through, and he's likeable. There aren't that many actors who could play the role of Arnold where at the end of the day you'd still like him. When we tested the movie, Owen was one of the actors in the film who tested the highest. How many actors could pull that off? Arnold is a guy who's cheating on his wife and calling hookers on the phone while his children are on the other line. He's doing some things that most people would view as despicable. Yet at the same time you never hate this guy, it just never goes through your mind, which not many actors could have pulled off."


"I love Owen," adds Bogdanovich. "I love him personally and I love him as an actor. He's one of the few movie stars today that I was interested in working with - because he's like the old-fashioned kind of movie star, you know what you're getting."

When Jennifer Aniston was approached to do the film it was with the idea of her playing the role of Delta, Arnold's actress wife. But as Bogdanovich relates, "She just had no interest in playing the wife, but said she'd love to play Jane, the therapist. I tried to convince her that maybe the part of Delta was more central to the story, but she had her heart set on playing Jane. So finally I said, 'Okay, play Jane.'"

"And she's very good at it, she's excellent in the part," continues Bogdanovich. "She wears a wig which she insisted upon for the role and which I liked. And everything she did was fine with me. I think she did a great job. It was very much a stretch for her with the performance. She never played anything quite like that. She basically played a complete bitch. And audiences laughed when they saw her in the part because they know she's not like that. That's one of the reasons the dynamic works. So she's playing it like that whereas, if she actually was known to be a bitch it wouldn't be funny."

In addition, a lot of Aniston's dialogue has a sped up tempo like in classic Hollywood comedies of the 30s. "It's a comedy tempo to build a certain pace," explains Bogdanovich. "She's good at that and we worked at it. I kept saying 'faster.' Joanna Lumley, who was one of the cameos in this, did a picture with me called 'The Cat's Meow' and when they interviewed her and she was asked, 'How did Peter direct you?' she replied, 'Pedro? Mainly, he just said faster, darling.'"

"Frank Capra told me an interesting thing," relates Bogdanovich, referring to the legendary director: "He said he didn't know why, but 'films slow things down, so if you play something at a normal speed it'll seem slow, but if you play it at a somewhat faster than normal speed it'll seem normal. Then if you really want to go faster than that you've got to speed up.' And he's right, absolutely right. I don't know why but film seems to slow it down. If you play something at a normal speed it just seems interminable. That's maybe because film is bigger than life. I remember when we did 'What's Up, Doc?' Barbara Streisand said, 'Can we take a moment here?' And I said, 'There'll be no moments in the entire picture.'"

"I think the reason Jennifer Aniston works so well in the role of Jane is that it's so different from anything she's ever done," says Wiersma. "I think the closest would be 'Horrible Bosses.' But I feel even with that she played a sexier role, whereas in SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY, she really went for it, with the wig, as well as her whole demeanor. She said that 'What's Up, Doc?' was her favorite movie so when she got this script it was one of those things she really wanted to do. She wanted to work with Peter and she knew Owen. She was the second person cast in the film and she stayed with it and stuck with it for a year as the project was put together for filming. It's so different than anything that she's usually cast in and she just played the role so well. And she was great to work with."

"I'm really pleased with Imogen Poots as 'Isabella,'" says Bogdanovich. "She's an extraordinary actress. And I'd never seen her in anything before I met with her. There was a list of up and coming girls that was given to me. I saw four of them in L.A., then came to New York and Imogen heard that we wanted to see her. She was shooting a picture in Atlanta and she flew up to see me. We met at the Palm Court at the Plaza hotel, a kind of old-fashioned place to meet, and within five minutes I knew she was the girl. She didn't audition, we just talked. And the reason I knew it was that she was quirky, just quirky as a person, but not trying to be quirky. She wasn't pretentious or putting on airs or being cutesy pie - none of that. She was just being herself, but she was quirky. And I recognized that quickly. And after about 20 minutes I said, 'Look, I'm not supposed to do this, but when you leave here, just know you've got the part. I'll work out the details.' So that was it."

"And I wasn't wrong - she's fabulous in the role," enthuses Bogdanovich. "She's really good. She's very, very, very good. And she's very original. She's just herself, she's not like anybody. The Brooklyn accent was always in the script because the girl that the character is slightly based on is a girl from Brooklyn who had that accent. So I just told Imogen that she had to do a Brooklyn accent - and she worked hard at it. She had a vocal coach, she took it seriously and did it very well, particularly given that she's British! But the British are superb actors, generally speaking. They just are, they're just good. They're trained well, they have a culture and a tradition which we don't have and they're just dynamite. And she's one of them."

"I knew Imogen would bring a genuine quality to the role of Isabella, very real, not actory," says Bogdanovich, "and I was right. Her being quirky without trying to be quirky really works for the character. And she's enormously appealing and likeable. She's also attractive without being Ava Gardner. She's just really attractive and looks different every time you look at her. Every time you look at her she doesn't look the same. "And she does everything superbly. She's a great actress. And she dominates the screen. The camera likes her as they used to say."

"I think it's a tricky role to pull off," adds Bogdanovich, "but Imogen made it seem easy. She never gave me a hard time. At one point in the film when she auditions for the play, they were playing it sort of for comedy, and I said, 'No, we have to play this audition scene real.' I told her she had to cry because audiences equate good acting with crying. If you can cry, you must be a good actor. So I said, 'We haven't got a lot of time, so cry.' So she did it and was crying at the end of the scene and did it very well. Then I came over to her and whispered, 'It was very good, darling, but you screwed up your face. I want you to cry and still be attractive.' And she said, 'Jesus, Peter!' And I told her 'You can do it. Cry with your eyes, don't make faces.' And she did it."

"I think what's so interesting about Imogen is that there's a toughness to her, but also something about her that's very fragile," adds Wiersma. "She has both innocence and toughness. And to have that combined is something you don't see often. Most actresses could do one of the two parts of her character's story. But in the movie you have to believe Isabella as both a movie star and a call girl. And she is from Brooklyn. And Imogen is beautiful, but not in a classic way. She's so interesting to watch. And she always kind of looks a little bit different from scene to scene."

Obviously, one of the things Bogdanovich also had to consider was how Imogen would play opposite Owen Wilson. "They were great together," says Bogdanovich. "They really liked each other and worked very well together. And their chemistry shows on screen. But Imogen worked well with everybody in the cast. She's a pro. And everybody liked her and got along with her. There really wasn't any temperament on the picture in front of the camera."

As for the casting of Kathryn Hahn as Arnold's wife Delta and Will Forte as Joshua Fleet, the playwright, Bogdanovich couldn't be more pleased with selecting them for those roles. "I wasn't familiar with Kathryn Hahn's work, but she's a close friend of Jennifer's," explains Bogdanovich. "And when Jennifer said she wanted to play Jane she said, 'I know who should play Delta: Kathryn Hahn.' They both have the same agent and manager. So I met with Kathryn, I liked her, saw some stuff she was in and that was it."

"Kathryn was wonderful," says Bogdanovich. "And I don't think she's ever looked as good in a picture. She said it herself, she said, 'I look good.' And I said, 'Well, you should. You're playing a leading lady, so we made you look like a leading lady.' We shot her that way. She's very good. She has a natural flair for comedy and she's very real. And again, I didn't have to direct her much. She had it. She played it much more down to earth than like a prima donna. She played it like herself; she is very down to earth."

"And I thought she and Owen were really believable as a married couple and I was really torn as to whether or not to break them up at the end. But women objected to them getting back together, women thought she would never forgive him that quickly."

"They worked well together," says Bogdanovich. "I think Kathryn and he were very good together and were excellent playing off each other. Their relationship came across as very warm and that helps the story too. They seem to get along very well. You buy that they're married. And the cab scene in which they're talking over each other worked so well, it was really perfect. And that was all ad-libbed. That was great."

"All the ad-libbing over each other - that was all Owen and Kathryn. They just did it and wonderfully so. I didn't rehearse it either, they just did it. If you have really good actors you're way ahead of the game. I once said to Orson Welles, 'I thought it was a pretty good picture, but it wasn't very well acted.' And he said, 'How could it be a good picture if it's not well acted? What else is there? Who cares about the camerawork, it's the acting.' And he's right, really."

"We're so glad that Jennifer Aniston did a little bit of casting for us by recommending Kathryn Hahn for the character of Delta," says Wiersma. "We met with Kathryn and thought she was perfect for the role. And she really is fabulous in the movie. It's funny, but although Kathryn's done so many different roles in so many movies for years, you've never seen her in a role like this. I feel, in a weird way, this is probably the role she's most like in real life. She's so cool and she's so pretty. And she never gets to play pretty in movies. So it was fun to see her in this and she was a joy to have on set. Everyone's favorite."

What did Kathryn Hahn bring to the role of Delta? "I think what was great about Kathryn's performance is that she just played it very straight," says Holly Wiersma. "She didn't try to play it as an over the top, dramatic actress. She played it like everywoman. Lots of women you know have in some way been cheated on and she never played it as the victim and yet also never played it as the cad. And I thought that was really interesting."

"With Will Forte, we had a number of possibilities for that part," continues Bogdanovich, "and I liked him best. He's kind of a leading man, pretty straight, easy going - and looks like a playwright. He looks intelligent. Orson Welles used to say, 'It's very hard to believe that an American actor is a writer or an intellectual. That's why we often cast English people to play those kind of parts.' Orson, himself, looks like a man who thinks and reads. But there aren't that many. Cary Grant did so he could play professors and things. But it was not common with American actors. I remember when Bob Redford made 'Quiz Show' he had to get two Englishmen to play the Van Doren father and son."

"Will Forte looks like a playwright," says Bogdanovich. "And he's kind of a nice leading man. It's not a comedy part really; it's more of a straight part. And I thought he was very appealing. He has a gentleness about him and there's an intellectual part to him as well. You believe that he could write a play. And he was just easy to work with, a joy. None of the actors on this film were difficult to work with."

"Will Forte is another person whom Jennifer had recommended," adds Wiersma. "She and he had worked together on another independent film before us. She loved working with Will on that film, so she told us about him and suggested him for the part of Joshua Fleet. And when we met him, we thought he'd be perfect for the role and they would be the perfect combination for the playwright and his therapist girlfriend. He was just coming off 'Nebraska' and he was amazing. He's a writer, intelligent, a great straight man, the good guy."

Rhys Ifans, who plays Seth Gilbert, the actor who stars opposite Arnold's wife Delta in the play, was one of the last people we cast," recalls Bogdanovich. "I think we cast him the day before he appeared in the film. We had been thinking of using more of a romantic, matinee idol type. And we did decide to use Jack Huston. I liked him for the part as a matinee idol. But he was doing 'Boardwalk Empire' and they wouldn't let him go, even for a couple of days. So we had to move on. And I think George Drakoulias, one of our producers and the music supervisor (who was also a producer on my documentary about 'Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers'), had worked with Rhys on Noah Baumbach's picture 'Greenberg' and suggested him not as a matinee idol type, but more of a rock star type movie star. And when I met him I thought he'd be terrific. We met him and he worked the next day."

"He was superb in the role of Seth," says Bogdanovich. "And he was wonderful to work with. He loved the script, loved the part, and most importantly, understood it completely. I didn't have to direct him much, he just got it. The looks he gives to Owen are absolutely perfect. It was written for more of a matinee idol like Bradley Cooper or Jack Huston. But I think this worked out better because he's more of a rock star type of actor in the film. And he's funnier, wittier. He's very witty in the part."

"Austin Pendleton I've wanted to work with again since we did 'What's Up, Doc?' enthuses Bogdanovich. "We wrote the Judge for him and the detective for George Morfogen. When we wrote it they were a bit younger, 15 years younger, but we wrote it for them and I didn't want to cast anybody else. George has been a friend of mine since I was 18. We met at Shakespeare in the Park, Joe Papp's production of 'Othello.' We were both in it. I was a spear carrier and George was the understudy for Lago. We worked together numerous times and he's also worked behind the camera with me. He was co-producer with me of 'Saint Jack,' 'At Long Last Love,' 'They All Laughed.' He worked with me behind the scenes on those. 'Saint Jack' he wasn't in, but he was in 'They All Laughed,' as well as being one of the producers."

Rounding out the cast in smaller roles are Cybill Shepherd and Richard Lewis as Izzy's parents, Nettie and Al Finkelstein. Shepherd and Bogdanovich, of course, have known each other for many years and worked on various films together, beginning with Shepherd's film debut in "The Last Picture Show." Comedian/actor Lewis and Bogdanovich are longtime friends, although this is the first time they've worked together. Both Shepherd and Lewis really liked the script and eagerly joined the cast to work with Bogdanovich and help get the film made.

And when Bogdanovich and the producers decided to shoot a wrap around for the movie, they cast Illeana Douglas as Judy, the journalist interviewing Izzy. "I've worked with Illeana on three films, including 'Factory Girl,'" explains Wiersma, "so it was easy to call her at the last minute and I knew she'd be perfect for the role."

"The story of SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY is a bit complicated for me to explain," says Bogdanovich. "But basically, it's about a girl who's an escort and how she evolves into being a movie star through a series of odd circumstances. That's what it's about. And all the people in the movie are sort of involved in getting her to that place, inadvertently or not. And it's about the accidental nature of things. Things just happen to her through a bunch of strange coincidences. Robert Graves, who's my favorite writer said, 'There were so many chains of coincidence in his life that he's come to think of it as a habit.'"

Producer Holly Wiersma describes the film as "a throwback to old Hollywood movies which pays homage to the classic romantic comedies. The story is told through the point of view of Imogen Poots' character, Izzy, and throughout it she references various older movies - the kind I grew up watching - like 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' as well as movie stars of yesteryear such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And there are some screwball comedy elements in the film as well."

"And the story is about a girl who is sitting with an interviewer and telling her about incidents that occurred in New York a couple of years before and how she got to where she is today," explains Wiersma. "It's kind of a classic rags to riches story. As people say, it's a small world. And in this movie, Izzy and all the people she meets through unlikely encounters find their lives changed in the process. Is it coincidence or is it fate?"

The use of music has always been integral to Bogdanovich's films. "We did a bunch of different scores on this picture," explains Bogdanovich, "but none of them were quite right. I liked the idea of Louis Armstrong in the score, but every score that we did with records - because I've done that through most of my career - was done in counterpoint. So there were blues, but they weren't bluesy, but rather kind of sarcastic. I think I did about four different scores with records. Then, we finally decided to use a composer. We chose Ed Shearmur, and he did a superb job. And it's the first picture of mine that's been scored, that has a real score all the way through. I never did that before. And I really think Ed did great work. He understood the picture. He saw the picture, he liked the picture, he got what it needed, and he did a very good job. We only used a couple of songs, for the beginning and end of the film."

There are also numerous cameos sprinkled throughout SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY, including actors who have had significant roles in previous Bogdanovich films, such as Tatum O'Neal, Colleen Camp and Joanna Lumley. Actor Michael Shannon and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, both of whom Bogdanovich knows, also make appearances.

"The cameos in the film are really terrific," says Wiersma. "We were in New York and we wanted SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY to really be a New York movie, so it was great to call people the day of or the day before and say, 'Hey, come be in our movie. Help us sell New York. This is a movie about Broadway and famous people. Let's use that to our advantage and put fun people into the cameos, even if they don't say anything on screen. So we started with Graydon Carter, as Owen Wilson's limo driver, who's one of the first people you see when we flashback from Isabella's interview to New York a few years earlier. With Graydon, it doesn't get any more New York than that. And then Owen Wilson walks into the hotel and there's a friend of mine, an actor who lives in California and New York - Jake Hoffman, Dustin Hoffman's son. We'd run into him in the Bowery and said, 'Come, be in the movie.' And then Owen Wilson walks to the hotel desk and there's the amazing artist and designer, Scott Campbell, who's walking by. And the one who is walking with him is Erin Heatherton, the Victoria Secret supermodel. We wanted to open the first New York scene with famous New York faces."

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