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Mayhem In The Morning
There's a storied history of working women in sexy screwball comedies. From Rosalind Russell's ace newswoman squaring off against Cary Grant as an underhanded editor in Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday to Melanie Griffith's working class secretary pretending to be her high-powered boss in Working Girl, women trying to get on top have turned out to be some of film comedy's smartest, wittiest and most appealing heroes.

Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna has long been drawn to the trials, and triumphs, of young women finding their way – and themselves – in the workplace, which first came to the fore when she penned the hit comedy The Devil Wears Prada, based on the bestselling book about a young assistant who valiantly faces off with the boss from hell.

Now she brings her refreshingly contemporary POV to a portrait of a feisty young upstart who falls right into the middle of what might well be the highest high-pressure cooker in all the working world: producing morning news, a job notorious for driving the young and ambitious either to the heights of achievement… or to the madhouse.

McKenna began with the idea of a struggling, recently let-go, local news producer, whose career prospects seem about as bleak as her foundering love life until she gets her first big break at "Daybreak.” She knows the odds couldn't be any more stacked against her, but Becky Fuller is not going to let a once-in-a-lifetime chance go by without giving it her all. That's when this overexcited and unsinkable young woman collides head-on with her polar opposite: a legendary evening anchor who cannot stand anything soft, sweet or, worst of all, fluffy, but is forced to take on all of that, and more, when Becky recruits him as the show's new co-host and, so she hopes, savior.

When she pitched the story of Morning Glory to J. J. Abrams, he instantly fell in love with the push-pull tension between a determined newcomer who won't say die and the ultimate work-place troublemaker, who won't cooperate to save his life.

"The engine of Morning Glory is the very fun dynamic between these two terrific characters: Becky, a young woman who is incredibly enthusiastic about her new job, who just wants everyone to believe in her; and Mike, this once-revered, now-retired anchor who could not despise morning news any more than he does and does everything he can to make Becky's job absolutely impossible. I loved that Aline was going for a high-energy, old school feeling, like the movies of Preston Sturges. Morning news is a great backdrop for a work-place comedy because it's such a live-wire atmosphere, but Aline came at it from a completely fresh approach. Succeeding at this job means everything to Becky, yet Mike has no intention of making it easy for her.”

The team at Bad Robot was also excited by the fun of exposing the behind-the-scenes mayhem of the morning news shows that many Americans wake up to every day – which are rife not only with wacky weather reports, rampaging animals and baked lasagnas, but also with some of the most outrageous and desperate bids for ratings in all of television.

"If you've seen any clips on Youtube, you know that morning news is full of some the most absurdly hysterical stuff that's ever been captured on video,” notes Burk. "It was exciting to think about all the comedic potential in that.”

They also had little doubt that Brosh McKenna could get to the heart of that comic potential in the final screenplay. "We were all big fans of Aline's work,” says executive producer Sherryl Clark, who runs the feature production side of Bad Robot, "and we thought she was the perfect fit for this story.”

McKenna is known for her dynamic use of dialogue, but also believes in research. Right away, she set her alarm for the middle of the night and began spending her days behind the scenes at all the New York morning shows, getting an inside glimpse at just how tough a lifestyle a young producer must lead.

Says Clark, "I think one of the greatest compliments we received was when Morley Safer, who makes a cameo in the film, asked if Aline had ever worked in news because he thought everything was so incredibly accurate.”

The more she learned, the more McKenna felt it had to be more than the now waning war of news versus entertainment. Instead, she had her main character face head-on today's reality: that the two have become entwined beyond separation. Mike Pomeroy might believe heatedly in the power of real news to impact the world, and Becky might be awed by his skills as a reporter, but she knows that the world has changed to the point that Mike must either find a new way… or fade away. And, as crazy as drives her, she wants to save his career as much as she wants to kick-start her own.

"Aline's script acknowledges the debate and touches upon the importance of the news, but her story is not really about that,” explains Clark. "It's really about a girl who is an underdog, who comes to the big city to try to change the fate of the fourth-rated morning show in America, and how, in the process, she has to turn around some of the most cynical, jaded people in existence.”

From the time the script was in early development, Aline Brosh McKenna and J.J. Abrams dreamed of having Harrison Ford in the film. "I felt this was right up his alley because he's got an amazing sense of humor,” says Abrams, who first worked with Ford many years ago, when he wrote the drama Regarding Henry. "We tend to think of Harrison as the action hero, as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, but he has always been extremely funny as well. It's just been a long time since he's had a great comic role.”

Quickly after attaching Ford to the project, the search for a director was on and one name came quickly to the forefront: Roger Michell, whose knack for disarming comedy came to fore in Notting Hill, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in an unlikely love story between the world's most famous movie star and an ordinary London bookseller. Michell is also known for the Oscar®-nominated drama Venus starring Peter O'Toole in one of his most celebrated roles, the critically acclaimed drama The Mother and the thriller Changing Lanes.

"Roger Michell can do it all and he always brings a distinct sense of style and grace to anything he does,” says Abrams. "Roger gave Morning Glory a wonderful, vibrant look and he brought out terrific performances from the actors.”

The screenplay took Michell by surprise. "I'd wanted to come back to America and make a film that would bring a lot of people joy,” he says, "and when I read this script I felt it had terrific potential. It was based in a real, recognizable world – the world of morning television – but, one that was also far more seductive and interesting that I imagined. The humor was in the characters and how Becky Fuller prevails by the sheer force of her personality and charm, turning this unlikely mix of people into a success.”

The combo of McKenna, Ford and Michell already held out a lot of promise, but it was heightened even more so by two other great additions. Not only would meteorically rising comic star Rachel McAdams take the challenging lead role of Becky Fuller, but an undeniable screen legend, Diane Keaton, would also come on board to play her comic foil in tandem with Ford.

"To have a chance to watch these two icons go at each other is just priceless,” sums up executive producer Guy Riedel. "Harrison and Diane brought their characters alive to the point that you don't want their repartee to ever stop. We wanted to write more dialogue for them just so we could all witness more of their relationship.”

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