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WHY HIM?

About The Production
Filmed in Los Angeles over nine weeks, WHY HIM? required the production team to create two very different aesthetics-the cozy sweater appeal of Ned's Michigan home and the minimalist majesty of Laird's sprawling hipster estate in Palo Alto. To stand in for Grand Rapids during the holidays, the Universal back lot was transformed into a picturesque snowy suburban neighborhood. Truckloads of ice were brought in to blanket the streets with snow and large hoses blasted trees with snowy foam to create the illusion of a winter wonderland.

By contrast, Laird's home exemplifies the sleek, streamlined world of tech. Surrounded by vast lawns where he keeps an array of animals (lawn to table!), the expansive "smart house" is completely paperless, bathrooms included. The home also features an omnipresent operating system named Justine, a virtual concierge voiced by Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco, who can field questions, give feedback and track activity and conversations from room to room. The center of the home is an enormous great room that houses the pride of Laird's extensive art collection-an installation of a giant moose submerged in a tank of its own urine. The majority of the paintings on display are James Franco originals, however.

"A lot of the artwork in the movie is painted by James, almost every piece," Hamburg says. "It seemed appropriate for the movie. I mean, Barb and Ned sleep under a big painting that says, 'Humping Capybaras,' above an image of two animals, well, humping each other. It's very James and very appropriate for the movie."

Laird's home is also where Gustav tutors him in evasive Parkour as a means of self-defense. The intensive training involves random sneak attacks (an homage to The Pink Panther and Kato)-the goal is to create an innate skill set that is instinctual, primal and can be appropriately triggered when necessary. "Because Laird is a valuable asset he needs to know how to protect himself in case there was a kidnapping or something of that nature," says Key.

Gustav's training methods are put to the test, however, on an unfortunate recipient…his desired father-in-law. Convinced that Laird is a fraud, Ned enlists his trusty I.T. guy back home (Zach Pearlman) to hack Laird's computer and do some digging into his financial records. Armed with information he believes will finally expose Laird's intricate web of lies, Ned confronts Laird in front of the family, and that's when tempers finally bubble over. Accusations fly, and things quickly turn physical. Trying to evade Ned's attacks, Laird's Parkour training kicks in, and he effortlessly climbs to the top of the moose tank installation.

With a nod to the growing pressures of the trip, the pressure of Laird's body weight against the glass causes the tank to explode, sending Laird flying across the room in a giant wave. "The explosion is perfect because it's all the different threads that we've been developing throughout the movie that come to a head in such a great way there," Franco says. "The scene wasn't originally that way and to John's credit he is really good at developing ideas and allowing each scene to reach its max potential."

The notion of Laird bursting out of his giant art installation provided an opportunity for the filmmakers to wink to Franco's public image in a subtle way. "James has this reputation as an artist and we thought it would be kind of funny to have James Franco explode out of this fantastic piece of art as a weird little meta-idea and it grew from there," Helfer says.

The stunt was undoubtedly the most complicated sequence to film. Why Him? SFX coordinator Jeremy Hays brought in several engineers to work through the logistics of the sequence involving an eight-foot tank filled with 2,900 gallons of water. "It's funny because you first read the script and then go to meetings and try to convey what an engineering feat the sequence requires as well as the risk and danger while giving everyone the confidence it can be done," Hays says. "I've done similar things with aquariums that are around three or four feet, but when you're talking about something eight feet, that's something completely different."

The first challenge was to build a structure on the set that would support the weight of the 5,000 lb. tank plus 3,000 gallons of water-the total weight was a staggering 17,000 lbs. The team then had to determine how tempered glass ¾'' thick could safely hold back the water inside the tank while the cast and crew shot around the installation for the several weeks leading up to the stunt.

Because a stunt performer would be submerged in the tank at the time of explosion, blowing out the glass using pyrotechnic devices was not an option. Instead, Hayes and his team used a high-pressure pneumatic cylinder that transferred roughly 8,000 lbs. of force onto a small point on the top corner of the glass to shatter the tank and flood the set with water. "We had an idea of how far the water would go, and it went much farther and it demolished the set in a way we intended it to," Levine says. "It was a pretty complex stunt for this size of movie and it was absolutely stunning."

Hamburg says the sequence caused plenty of nervous moments, but he was thrilled with the final result. "It was my most stressful day on a movie set ever," Hamburg says. "Thankfully we did one take. It went off without a hitch. The stunt man did get a little scrape on his nose, but he went through a plate glass tank and survived and we had, I think, 11 cameras filming it. It's a really fun and exciting moment in the story."

But it's not just the film's outrageous stunts or wild physical comedy that's likely to stick with moviegoers. Cranston, for one believes the truly relatable story of a devoted father finding a way to embrace the unconventional tech billionaire his daughter loves that's at the center of WHY HIM? will resonate with viewers this holiday season. It's a funny family comedy about acceptance and connection.

"A lot of comedy is derived from the differences between us and is best when born in a sense of reality," Cranston says. "If an audience leaves a theater and had a lot of laughs, that is a value in itself. If an audience laughed and actually felt something, that's the rich experience we hope to achieve."

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