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THE DILEMMA

About The Production
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines: The Dilemma Begins

Director Ron Howard recalls the night that became the genesis for The Dilemma: "We were at a dinner party in Rome during Angels & Demons, and Brian [Grazer] started talking about these crazy scenarios. One of them was ‘What would you do if there was somebody you cared a lot about, say, your best friend, and you spotted his spouse cheating?' He said that this idea popped in his head: ‘What if I saw Ron's wife kissing a guy somewhere? What would I do, and what would be my process in figuring out when and how to tell him?'”

It not only received a laugh at the dinner table, it also kicked off a lively conversation among the attendees. After the party was over, Grazer told Howard that his simple question was actually an idea he was considering for a movie. Howard advised his longtime friend that this idea was a solid concept and that he should pursue it.

Once they returned stateside, Grazer offered the same query during a meeting with Vince Vaughn. The actor/producer immediately became interested in the premise and put his twist on the watercooler subject. "When I met with Brian, what I connected to was the idea of how you get the information to your friend without destroying him…and in the process losing him as a friend,” explains Vaughn. "For me, it wasn't about whether I should tell him or not. It was about watching someone burdened with the knowledge of what's going on and the struggle to figure out how and when to tell him.”

In many of his films, Vaughn has found comedy from the problems inherent in relationships. From Swingers to The Break-Up and Couples Retreat, he's enjoyed exploring the laughs that come from situations in which we've all found ourselves. He says: "It's fun to watch a character go through this because you know he has to tell his best friend, but how do you do that? It's easier said than done, and the dilemma becomes how does one friend navigate it and cause the least amount of damage possible?”

Though Grazer hadn't worked with Vaughn previously, he'd long admired the actor's ability to introduce audiences to tough, relatable subjects through his signature humor. "Vince has this everyman quality that women love and guys aspire to,” says Grazer. "Whether one of his characters is telling you he's considering breaking up with his longtime girlfriend or he's struggling to balance being a dad and a husband, he allows us to explore the rough patches in our lives in funny ways. Through Vince, we see a heightened comic reality of our own lives. I've met very few actors who have that ability.”

With Grazer and Vaughn fleshing out ideas for the story, Allan Loeb was brought on board to write the script for what would become The Dilemma. A screenwriter whose recent credits include Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, 21 and The Switch, Loeb was the ideal writer to take Grazer's idea to the pages. Loeb completed his original draft about best friends Ronny Valentine and Nick Brannen, two guys who had known each other for more than 20 years and shared a business. We follow Ronny and Nick as they try to build a small engine-design company that is on the verge of making a name for itself. Their lives will change if they can land a big production deal for a large automotive company. It is during this pressure-packed window that Ronny sees Geneva with another man. He struggles to figure out the right time to tell Nick, and the deeper he digs into his best friend's life, the more cloudy the picture becomes. When Ronny confronts Geneva, things go nuclear.

Once complete, the script made its way back to Ron Howard for consideration to direct. Howard was intrigued by it, as well as the prospect of collaborating with Vaughn. "I knew that Brian and Vince had brought on Allan Loeb, who's a terrific screenwriter, so it wasn't a hard decision,” says Howard. "Allan is a strong, multidimensional storyteller. He doesn't write to genre, but instead thinks of interesting cause-andeffect situations, and he's able to sort those out in ways that are concise and entertaining.”

The script lived up to the possibilities Howard found at the dinner party in Rome when the partygoers were enthralled by the "what if ?” scenario. "Questions of infidelity certainly play a part in this story, but it also boils down to trust, truth and how much we tell our best friends and loved ones,” explains the director. "It makes you think about how much we trust the people who we are closest to.”

When Howard and Vaughn met, they discussed where the script could go—both comedically and dramatically. They liked the fact that Loeb's screenplay took a realworld issue, heightened it and made it uncomfortable, yet funny. Within days, the men were committed to making the movie.

The Dilemma marks Howard's return to comedy after more than a decade of helming blockbuster thrillers and dramas. Despite having directed multiple hit comedies in the '80s and '90s, Howard does not choose his projects by genre, but by stories and situations that intrigue him. "Long ago I gave up on the idea of trying to manage my career by genre,” he laughs. "I love all kinds of movies: big, small, comedy, drama, thriller or fantasy. Comedies are among some of my favorites, and what I want to avoid is making films where you absolutely know where the story is going.”

He admits he was pleased to find a comedy project that was funny and relevant on a deeply human level. Continues Howard: "From a storytelling standpoint, it's an interesting blend that is fresh and fun to explore. It's been 12 years since I focused on making a comedy, and it was flattering and encouraging that comedic actors on the level of Vince Vaughn and Kevin James were interested in my ideas.”

For Vaughn, it was most important that he'd found a director who would challenge him. "When we were developing the script, people said this story sounds like a Ron Howard comedy,” recalls Vaughn. "It felt good to be part of something that brought him back to where he began in comedy. Night Shift, Splash, Cocoon and Parenthood are all classics and just fun movies. In a Ron Howard film, you're going to get sophistication without pretention. He has a great understanding of human behavior and an elegant way of revealing a story that's not self-indulgent and is very accessible.”

With Vaughn on board in the role of Ronny, Howard was ready to find the rest of his team. Of this project's draw, he echoes Grazer's thoughts on Vaughn's relatability: "The Dilemma is told almost entirely from Ronny's point of view. He is a unique, modern Midwestern guy who gets pulled through this emotional gauntlet of twists and turns. I don't think there is anyone in modern comedy who audiences would rather see playing a character caught between a rock and a hard place than Vince.”

Guns on the Table: Casting the Players

When we meet Ronny Valentine and Nick Brannen, they are both at what they believe is a great place in their lives. Together, they own B&V Engine Design, a small company that's on the brink of landing a very big deal, but it's going to take a lot of work, especially from Nick, who handles all of the designing of the engines. Enter the comic stress.

When casting the role of Nick, the filmmakers went to performer Kevin James, who, with the recent hit films Grown Ups, Paul Blart: Mall Cop and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, has risen to the top echelon of comedic film actors.

"Kevin is a great guy and very funny,” praises Howard. "He

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