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HOW DO YOU KNOW?

About The Film
"If this movie is about one question, it's ‘How do you know when you're really in love?'” says Reese Witherspoon, the star of How Do You Know, the new comedy from writer-director James L. Brooks.

"We all have, at some point, a feeling that everything we've depended on we can't depend on anymore. And when that happens, the only thing we have left is love,” says Brooks. "You can think your life is terrible, and then he or she walks in and it's not terrible anymore. That's it – love is our saving grace.”

The title question is the most important one most of us will ever face, and as the world gets more complicated and disconnected, it's harder to answer than ever.

How Do You Know is a comedy about four people in transition. Witherspoon plays Lisa Jorgenson, a woman who finds the entire life she knew slipping away. The part was written for Witherspoon. "Jim first called me and said he was thinking about his next movie and he'd like me to play the lead character,” the actress says. "I was honored and thrilled, because I'm such a huge fan of his work – I thought we were just going to have lunch, and then he said he wanted to write a movie for me. It was just unimaginable to me that he could think of me in that way.

"So we talked about his ideas a bit, and slowly after that he started sending me scenes and different things he had written as he did the research,” Witherspoon continues. "It was a great experience, because when I finally got to read the actual, full-length script, I'd already known the character. I was excited to see where he was going to take her and where she was going to end up.”

Brooks says that the project began simply. "I was driving by some ball fields, soccer fields, and filled with women and girls, all ages, and I thought, it's been a while since we've seen a female jock heroine. And I'm a research nut, so that started me on a year of talking to great female athletes.”

And there was only one woman to play the role. "I had just seen Walk the Line, and I knew her comedy skills. Reese was the one,” says Brooks. "So I spoke to her, and then, I went away for a year and a half.”

"There's maybe five minutes of softball in the movie, but it informs the whole character,” says Brooks. "I have a rule in research: the third time I hear something, it's generally true. This time, every female athlete I spoke to said that it takes another athlete to understand how much time they have to give to their sport. They can't go out, they can't go to the party, because they're playing, they're honing their skills. It's very hard for a man to understand that if he doesn't share it.”

As a starter, Brooks wrote a scene: a major league baseball relief pitcher asks her out. "I wanted to show the athletes she dates before she meets Paul Rudd's character,” Brooks says. "And as I started writing Owen Wilson's character, I had more fun with the character than I imagined – and I changed the story to make him a central part of the plot.”

"The best way I can describe Matty is happy-go-lucky. He doesn't want to complicate things,” says Wilson. "At first, Lisa's just another girl – he's just out to have a good time. But that changes as he hangs around with her more.”

"If Matty is not having a great time in every minute of his life, he feels wildly uncomfortable,” says Brooks. "How many women have known a Matty, where they know at that moment that they fall for him that it may not mean anything to him?”

The last thing Lisa wants or needs was a complicated relationship – and things get even more complicated when she's set up on a blind date with George Madison (Rudd), a man going through several transitions of his own. "He gets this letter – ‘The United States Government vs. George Madison' – and all of a sudden he's in trouble for something he doesn't think he's done,” says Rudd. "Things escalate from there and when he meets Lisa, he's right at the bottom. And there's something about her – the way she talks to him, and the way she handles that situation – that makes him fall for her on the spot. When I read that, I thought that was a great impetus for a story – what would happen if two people met on the worst day of their lives?” For Brooks, that setup was the third and final piece in the puzzle when he started writing.

Jack Nicholson plays George's father, Charles. A business tycoon, he's worked all of his life for only two things: the success of his company and his son's well-being. In fact, he's put his son as the figurehead of his empire (even if Charles remains the power behind the throne).

"Because of their long association, Jim and Jack wanted to make certain that the role would allow Jack to show colors he hasn't shown before,” explains producer Laurence Mark. Amazingly enough, Nicholson has never played the father of an adult man. "So, Jack's involvement actually affected the role in a positive way, making it even more dimensional.”

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