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On The Job
Comedy Superstars, Open-Minded Director Create Fun Set Producer Andrew Panay says Travolta and Williams exhibited two completely different styles of improvisation. "John has such a controlled improv, it's always coming from a real place. He's always finding the joke within the joke. Robin is a machine gun. He keeps on firing the funnies. So you have two different approaches, both incredibly funny,” he says.

Director Walt Becker's easygoing style was a good match for his creative cast. "I always feel like if you're not letting your actors contribute, you're not getting everything you can from them,” he says. "And, frankly, I don't care if an actor wants to do a scene standing on his head, because that's just the way I go. I get one take for the script, one for me, and the rest are for the actor.” Becker's method is one the actors truly appreciate. Says Travolta, "I never go outside the box of the character, because if I do, it'll end up on the cutting-room floor. I make sure all my improvisations are character-motivated.”

Preston says she enjoyed the environment filmmakers provided. "Walt is pretty much accepting of anything. We definitely stay on the page, but he'd suggest I do something else or come up with ideas. For example, in one scene, I'm dropping the kids off with Dan, and I really wanted to make it seem more personal, so I used scenarios that happen in my own life. "And of course, with Robin, he doesn't need any encouragement,” Preston continues. "He just takes it to wherever, and Walt won't cut for the longest time. That is such a blast.”

Rita Wilson says she, too, wanted to add another dimension to her character, who she describes as a bit eccentric. "I love the idea of being a hand model, because that's a job you see all the time but take for granted,” says Wilson. "But I gave Jenna a facial characteristic which wasn‘t originally written into the script, a lazy eye. I am so thankful that Walt is so open to new thoughts and ideas.”

The laid-back attitude amongst cast and crew brought about fun and levity on set, particularly between the two stars. "John is one of the funniest human beings on the planet, and he's always riffing and joking,” says Preston. "So between John and Robin, who's always on, it's almost too much. They've got their on-camera schtick and their off-camera schtick. It's hilarious either way you look at it.”

Daughter Ella says it became one of her biggest challenges. "It's hard, because when Robin or my dad are being so funny in a scene, we can't laugh. We want to laugh, but we can't. It's fun.”

Both Travolta and Williams were called on for physical comedy. "It's been exciting to be this physical at this age—flying 65 feet in the air in a superhero suit that looks like Liberace's stunt double on steroids,” says Williams. "If you want something funny, just run me into a wall.”

One of the most physical and enjoyable days on set was the Pioneer Scout Jamboree in the park. As part of his "Dad's to-do list,” Zack, a Pioneer scout, asks Dan and Charlie to take him and Emily camping. They find themselves attempting to pitch tents, playing extreme Frisbee and shooting skeet. They must also contend with troop leader Barry, played by Matt Dillon, a serious scout who comes from four generations of Pioneers.

During the extreme Frisbee match, Becker admits that he let his actors go wild. "We did a little ‘The Right Stuff' beat with John and Robin coming out in slow motion,” says Becker. "It was just fantastic seeing this game, which is supposed to be a non-contact sport, degrade into an all-out prison-rules game. We had a few casualties, too. Robin pulled a muscle, because he was going at it so hard—those guys did nearly all their own stunts. Robin and John were getting the cr

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