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The Romantic Comedy Hitch
Though Will Smith is one of Hollywood's most popular and well-established superstars, a romantic heartthrob since his early days as a popular rapper and a proven comedic talent since his long-running TV series "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” he has never starred in a big-screen romantic comedy before. It's not for lack of trying. "We'd been searching for the right romantic comedy project for Will for years,” admits James Lassiter, the producer of Hitch and Smith's partner in the production company Overbrook Entertainment. "It's not as easy at it looks. There aren't many out there and even fewer that are any good.”

Finally, Lassiter and Overbrook's Teddy Zee found a romantic comedy screenplay by Kevin Bisch that seemed to be tailored to Smith's considerable talents. The story involved a "date doctor,” a cool, self-assured man who, for a fee, helps shy and socially inept men approach and win over the women of their dreams. "It's the perfect urban legend,” says Lassiter, "about a guy who is very charismatic and confident around women, so much so that he is able to teach other men how to approach the women they've fallen for.”

"In Hitch's philosophy,” he continues, "it only takes three dates to illuminate the right you and appeal to the woman of your dreams.”

Zee also sensed that the story had potential. "It had an unmistakable New York feel to it — hip and contemporary,” says Zee. "And it was told from the man's point of view, which is extremely rare in romantic comedies.”

The germ of the idea came from screenwriter Kevin Bisch's experiences in college when, after a series of dates with different women, he realized he usually wound up sitting on the edge of their beds going through photo albums. In trying to discover why these women were fixated on showing him their photo albums, Bisch says he had a revelation. "How could I be so dense? They were just killing time waiting for me to kiss them. After that I became obsessed with the minutiae of dating.”

From the first page of the script, says Smith, he knew he wanted to play Hitch. "He's a kind of an alchemist,” says the actor. "He takes what is and transforms it into what could be. All he needs is love. When he first meets the guys, he asks them if they're truly in love with the woman they're trying to win, because without that, Hitch can't help them.”

Ironically, while Hitch himself has luck with women, he has no special relationship in his own life, because he's still wounded from a heartbreak he suffered back in college and has vowed to never open himself up to love (and hurt) again.

That sentiment struck a chord with Smith as well. "Every guy has that one girl he remembers from high school that he was in love with and she did something that tore his heart out,” Smith says. "What makes Hitch so special is that he's made it his life's work to make sure other men are spared that fate.”

"I think that's what makes the character of Hitch so appealing,” says Bisch. "He's not jaded or cynical about romance. He really believes that every guy — except himself — can meet and woo the girl of his dreams. What he's doing is really noble and altruistic. He wants these guys to succeed and spare them the pain he endured.”

An obvious choice to direct Hitch was director Andy Tennant, who had ably displayed his romantic comedy chops in such major hits as Sweet Home Alabama and Ever After. "Andy owns this genre,” says Zee, who previously worked with Tennant on Fools Rush In. "He's not only funny, but he brings a refreshing humanity to romantic comedies as well.”

Tennant's films are informed by his attitude toward romance. "Basically, love is a wonderful problem we never solve,” he says. "It's this great merry-go-round of emotions that I find endlessly fascinating.”

Hitch's "date doctor” rules are p

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