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The Rise of Big Pharma
LOVE & OTHER DRUGS is set in the late 90s, a moment, says Zwick, "when the fabric of American life changed forever” because for the first time, drugs became commercialized, via ads in magazines and on television. Drugs were now being sold directly to consumers. At the top of the sales and advertising charts was a little blue pill called Viagra, a new treatment for erectile dysfunction. Viagra became a phenomenon was that pure gold for the company marketing and selling it, Pfizer, and for its legions of sales reps crisscrossing the country extolling its virtues. Viagra's blockbuster sales trigger Jamie's ascension to the top of the heap as a Big Pharma sales rep.

"The commercialization of drugs is commonplace now, but then it was revolutionary,” Zwick explains. "I think that phenomenon bespeaks deeper cultural trends that are part of LOVE & OTHER DRUGS' story about a guy who wants his piece of the greatest accumulation of wealth in modern memory, and the way he's going to get it is to partake in something that is happening for the first time in American culture—the selling of these drugs. Then, because of Jake's relationship with Maggie, he goes deeper into the world of medicine and drugs and the different strands of the story knit together and, I hope, resonate off each other.”

Jamie Reidy, author of the film's source material, has first-hand experience with the pharmaceutical industry's cutting-edge marketing tactics. After spending time on the set of LOVE & OTHER DRUGS, Reidy was impressed by the film's focus and attention to detail. "The production design of the medical offices was spot-on – and Jake and Oliver look exactly like real drug reps,” Reidy says. "A moment when I noticed that something was a bit off, like when Oliver was carrying a briefcase into the office – a person of Bruce's position would never carry a briefcase – I mentioned to Ed [Zwick] and on the very next take the briefcase was gone.”

To help prepare Gyllenhaal for the role, Reidy met with the actor several times before production. "Jake was great about asking advice on how a drug rep would handle certain situations,” says Reidy. "For example, he didn't understand how a rep could walk in cold into an office and approach the receptionist to try and leave samples or talk to a doctor. I told him it is just like being in a bar and walking up to a woman you don't know. We talked about the lean-in – that when you walk to the reception counter, you don't just stand there, you lean in, just like you would when you talk to a woman at a bar.”

While Gyllenhaal consulted with Reidy, Anne Hathaway received advice from another real warrior in the drug wars, Lucy Roucis, a professional actor with Parkinson's disease (diagnosed when she was in her late twenties) who now works in Denver with an acting troupe called PHAMALY (the Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists League, Inc.). In the film, Roucis plays a comedian with Parkinson's whose shtick at a convention for Parkinson's patients helps Maggie begin to come to terms with her condition.

Also critical in defining the characters and their world was the work of director of photography Steven Fierberg, ASC, production designer Patti Podesta and costume designer Deborah L. Scott. Podesta describes how "Maggie's loft is the complete opposite of the corporate, sterile world that Jamie's been dumped into. It's a big, open factory space with large windows – complex and boundless – where she seems to be almost squatting. It's a free space, yet it's a kind of limbo because as her disease progresses, she won't be able to live there [without assistance]. Ed and I talked a lot about how the medical spaces in the film would be sort of cold and rectilinear, not soft and round so that when we get to Maggie's space we'd see every kind of shape. Jamie is attracted to her home, like he's attracted to everything that she offers – this world that he's never really been opened up to.”

While Jamie's tailored business suits are a type of uniform, Maggie's outfits are a more self-conscious expression of her individuality. "Maggie's an artist and she's quirky,” says Deborah L. Scott. "You imagine her having collected whatever pieces of clothing she liked or found; she doesn't have much money. A lot of her things come from thrift stores and a few are vintage pieces – some of it from my own closet. It's fun to dress Maggie, because you have no boundaries like you have with Jamie. She's not someone whose outfits you can create on paper. It's really hard not to let a quirky character like that get over the top. Initially we explored what Maggie having short hair that was tinted blue, but Anne is so gorgeous, we all decided early on that Maggie should be gorgeous.”

Scott further notes that Jamie's back to the basic clean-cut well-tailored suit fits into an established formula for drug reps. "But Jamie is a complex character that undergoes a subtle transition in the film,” she notes. "While he starts off a bit lackadaisical about the way he dresses, he slowly takes on the uniform of a pharma rep and then takes it a step further to where he kind of owns it before realizing that's not really who he is. "

LOVE & OTHER DRUGS was shot in the fall of 2009 entirely in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The first week of shooting coincided, without incident, with the G20 Summit hosted by President Obama. Over the past two decades, after the collapse of the steel industry, the city completely reinvented itself. Pittsburgh is now a center of the U.S. medical industry, with vibrant biotech research companies, big universities, and impressive resources. Says Brugge: "I'd worked in the city before when I produced and directed my film The Clearing and I'd come to really like Pittsburgh and the fantastic work ethic of its people. We were able to work with an entirely local construction, grip and electric departments; we brought in very few people in order to make LOVE & OTHER DRUGS.”

After principal photography wrapped in Pittsburgh, Zwick and his post-production teams worked for months before the film was ready for its initial previews and screenings. The results met or even surpassed everyone's expectations, including the film's director/co-writer/producer: "What's most pleasing is how people relate to it,” says Zwick. "They see something of themselves in the Jamie-Maggie relationship, which describes something people have, want to have, or something they once had and lost. When you tell a story that's this personal, this kind of response is very gratifying.”


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