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MR. WOODCOCK

About The Production
Mr. Woodcock co-screenwriter Josh Gilbert still winces when he recalls his years as an overweight, uncoordinated school kid and the ruthless P.E. teachers who made his life a living hell.

"When you're a fat kid who doesn't like sports, your world is filled with Mr. Woodcocks,” laughs Gilbert. "My parents didn't realize they had a chubby, not very active child, so I was mistakenly sent to several basketball camps as a kid. The coaches who run those aren't usually very sympathetic.”

"Every game I ever played, I always ended up on the ‘skins' team,” he continues. "Being yelled at by an older man in very tight polyester shorts while you're running down the court trying to dribble a basketball with one hand and cover your well developed boy-boobs with the other... that pain sticks with you for a while.”

Indeed it did – and Gilbert channeled that childhood humiliation into a screenplay together with writing partner Michael Carnes. The two mined their middle school memories and developed an outline for the character that would become Mr. Woodcock.

"Woodcock is the guy we all have stories about,” explains Gilbert. "I've come to learn that just about everybody had a gym teacher they hated. Or a coach. Or just somebody with a whistle and tube socks that forced you to take showers against your will.”

It takes a unique kind of person to be a gym teacher,” says screenwriter Michael Carnes. "Other than being able to blow a whistle, I'm not sure what qualifies you to be a gym teacher – are most of them even properly accredited? They're in a position of authority at a very awkward time in a kid's life. They wield an awful lot of power, and sometimes they enjoy and abuse their power maybe a bit too much. G ym teachers are like the bouncers of middle school.”

Gilbert and Carnes quickly sparked to the concept of a rigid, somewhat militaristic Midwestern physical education teacher. Once Woodcock was defined, the story possibilities seemed endless.

"Once we settled on the gym teacher character, we went through a lot of different scenarios with him,” says Gilbert. "What finally led to the first draft of the script was the simple idea of the ‘worst-case scenario:' what if the gym teacher you hated all your life was going to marry your mom? After we hit upon that, the rest of the story came pretty quickly…Mike and I are also naturally protective of our mothers,” he adds.

When producer Bob Cooper, who has also produced such comedies as Sleepover and John Tucker Must Die, read this first draft, his interest was immediately piqued. "The first 20 pages or so were spectacular,” he says. "And it was Michael and Josh's first script. It was amazing.”

The original draft was far darker than the shooting script, which led to a few adjustments being made during the development process.

"We took the great core idea that the writers came up with and lightened it up,” says Cooper. "What the writers were saying was to keep John Farley and Mr. Woodcock together constantly. Everyday life would create the comedy.”

In addition to a clear premise and an element of surprise, the script had themes that moved it beyond the basic wacky comedy, lending the story a depth that appealed to Cooper.

"I guess the screenplay asks the question, ‘can you go home again?'” he says. "It also says no matter how bad your childhood was, there comes a point where you have take responsibility for your life.”

Cooper also loved the accessibility of the character of John Farley. "He's all of us. When he meets Mr. Woodcock, it brings back everything from his past – all the weaknesses, the frailties, the fears, the nightmares,” he says. "We all have those triggers.”

But the themes never get in the way of the humor. "It's great to have a movie that has a theme, but is executed in a way that makes you laugh

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