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DUE DATE

About The Production
"If you're going to travel with me to Los Angeles I have to give you a couple of guidelines. Number one: don't ask me a single question.” - Peter Highman

"It's a simple idea—two mismatched guys forced to go on a road trip together,” declares "Due Date” director and co-writer Todd Phillips. "Robert Downey Jr. is Peter Highman, an architect on his way back to L.A. from a business trip in Atlanta. He's on a tight schedule because his wife is expecting their first child and the date is all set. Everything is fine until he gets tangled up at the airport with a wannabe actor named Ethan Tremblay, who somehow gets the both of them booted off the plane and grounded for the foreseeable future.” At that point, "simple” flies right out the window.

Stranded without cash, credit, ID or time, Peter finds himself in the galling position of having to hitch a ride home with a guy he'd rather take a swing at—Ethan. The person he holds responsible for his predicament in the first place is now behind the wheel of a rental car and offering him the passenger seat.

Though clearly not his best option, it's Peter's only option.

At first grateful for the company, Ethan soon learns that his tightly wound traveling companion is not going to be any fun at 20 Questions, nor generally receptive to the concept of going with the flow. Meanwhile, Peter realizes he's just joined forces with a guy who can casually ruin his life in more ways than he could ever imagine.

"If there really was somebody like Ethan around, he'd have been strangled in his sleep long ago,” Downey attests. "He's like a laser beam that focuses on the one thing that will drive you crazy the most, the kind of guy who will eat a whole plate of waffles before mentioning he's allergic to waffles. I'm sure a lot of people know someone like this, someone who is perfectly wired to activate all of their irritation buttons.”

Granted, Peter has a short fuse to begin with. "He's kind of an edgy, controlling, judgmental guy with some anger-management issues. And who better to help him explore those issues than Ethan Tremblay? High-strung as he is normally, Peter is now facing the birth of his first child and is thrown into this nightmare, so it's all amped up,” Downey adds. Ethan, by comparison, gives new meaning to the term laid-back. Zach Galifianakis, who stars as the human lightning rod for trouble, observes, "Nothing affects him, no insult seems to penetrate. Ethan lives in his own head. He has no talent, and he's on his way to Hollywood to capitalize on that. These two guys meet through a series of unfortunate circumstances that are entirely Ethan's fault, to which he is completely oblivious. And every bad thing that happens from that point on is Ethan's fault. Everything.”

Says Phillips, "People always cite chemistry in these kinds of movies. They say it's the chemistry between the two lead actors that make it work. I believe what makes ‘Due Date' work is anti-chemistry; it's two guys with zero connection and zero rapport, constantly butting heads, that generates both the tension and the comedy.”

Dan Goldberg, who has produced all of Phillips' feature films since their 2000 collaboration on the hit comedy "Road Trip,” says, "The ride develops its own momentum as one thing after another happens to impede their progress.”

At the same time, their cross-country trek takes Peter and Ethan on another, more unpredictable journey than what they face geographically—one that leads them to discover as much about themselves as each other.

Provided that they survive it.

Scott Budnick, an executive producer on the film, says, "There's real emotional substance to the story and real issues, and Robert and Zach do a phenomenal job in delivering both the humor and the emotional stakes. My favorite comedies are always the ones that have heart.”

As infuriating as Ethan can be, whether mismanaging his funds, missing potty breaks or launching their car off an overpass, Phillips concedes he has his good points, citing "honesty, innocence and a humanity that makes you connect with him and root for him despite it all. Ethan is a complex character. He has just lost his father, who was his best friend, and is having a tough time dealing with that. There's an underlying desperation in everything he does and an eagerness to please to the point where just making friends means trying too hard.”

"A lot of what he does is to avoid being lonely,” says Galifianakis.

Peter, on the other hand, may come across like a self-assured, aggressive control freak but, says Phillips' "Due Date” screenwriting partner Adam Sztykiel, "You sense that his behavior comes from an emotional place and from issues he has yet to work out, that are revealed in the story. Not far beneath the alpha male posture is his own vulnerability and how terrified he is to be responsible for a child.”

"As a parent,” Downey offers, "I know the big question is how are you going to manage and protect something that you have no experience with?”

Playing on that theme were screenwriters Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland, who also have story credit on "Due Date.” "Peter's comfort zone is when he's in control. And everything that happens in this movie is about losing control; from his inability to get back home to the larger issue of his impending fatherhood—and whether or not he's ready for it,” Cohen says.

"We wanted to put him into a situation where he had to travel across the country with someone who was effectively a child,” adds Freedland.

Not that it would lessen Peter's pain, stress and frustration if he knew it might be pain, stress and frustration with a purpose. Still…

"When I read the script, I was moved,” recalls executive producer Susan Downey. "It's so funny and yet so human. You want a comedy to have that grounding, in the way that you want a drama to have some humor. In ‘Due Date,' though his experience with Ethan, Peter finds his human side and gets ready for the birth of his own child. It's about him becoming a man before becoming a father.”

"Guess who's got the Subaru Impreza? Me! Guess who's got the winning personality? Me! What do you have? You have a nice hairline. Fine. You have a strong jaw. But I gotta tell you, mister, your personality needs some work.” - Ethan Tremblay

Despite the "anti-chemistry” Phillips had in mind for their characters, Galifianakis and Downey generated some genuine positive chemistry from the start.

Downey vividly recalls their first meeting. "I was in Venice, California, and some weird guy walks by and says, ‘Hi, I think I'm doing a movie with you.' And I was thinking, ‘I might have to punch this guy.' Then I realized, ‘Oh my God…that's Zach.'

"Later, he came over for dinner so we could talk about the script,” Downey continues. "I asked if he had any dietary restrictions and he sent me a note detailing everything he'd need, like bottled water flown in from Barstow. It's one of my favorite things. I read it to people at parties.”

"We kind of took care of each other on the set—very different from what was going on in the movie. We'd talk every morning about how to make a scene work. It was great. Funny how hanging out with a legitimate actor raises your game,” Galifianakis returns.

"I always respond to projects based on the casting potential,” says Phillips. "I immediately start seeing a movie from the standpoint of casting it. For ‘Due Date,' I knew that if I could get Robert and Zach we could go full out.”

Ph

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