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HALL PASS

Let The Countdown Begin
Indeed, this holiday from matrimony could cost Rick and Fred plenty—especially after it dawns on them that their born-again bachelorhood has temporarily turned their wives into singles too. Conversely, it could pay off in ways that neither of them anticipates.

Of the two, Bobby Farrelly says, "It's more Rick's emotional arc that propels the story so it's important that the audience likes him. That's one of the reasons we cast Owen Wilson, because he has such an inherent likeability and decency. He's very funny, but also someone you can get behind and want to support.” In such a potentially polarizing role, being able to convey that core decency is key.

Pegging Rick as "kind of a schlub,” Wilson explains, "It's not that his marriage is bad, just a little predictable, and he has this illusion that if he was still out there, single, he'd just be crushing it. But that's not necessarily the case. He really has no idea what it's like anymore. Besides, you have to wonder if he was ever that great to begin with.”

As Rick, Wilson got the opportunity to portray a character not as successful with women as he imagines—in contrast to some of the actor's best-known roles. Says Peter, "Owen is usually Mr. Slick on screen, the charming, good-looking dude, but he can also be goofy. We thought it would be interesting for him to play a guy who struggles to be noticed.”

Meanwhile, Fred is free to be the wild card and the instigator—or, as Bobby describes, "the perfect wingman. Unlike Rick, Fred can say anything and get away with more outrageous behavior because we don't hold him to the same standard. For one thing, he doesn't have children and, for another, his wife is a bit on the wild side, too, whereas Rick and Maggie are much more grounded as a couple and a family.”

Comparing his character with that of his onscreen partner-in-crime, Sudeikis observes, "Rick is more thoughtful about the hall pass, asking himself, ‘Should I be doing this? Is it a good idea?,' whereas Fred is gung-ho. He's like, ‘Let's do it!' Fred is the guy who, if they were discussing a plan on the battlefield, would take off before the plan is fully explained. He'd be the first one out of the foxhole.”

Meanwhile, egging them on from the sidelines are Rick and Fred's friends, Gary, Hog-Head and Flats, played by accomplished comic actors Stephen Merchant (also an Emmy-winning writer on "The Office”), Larry Joe Campbell ("According to Jim”) and JB Smoove ("Date Night”). Deemed "a motley crew of likeable goofballs” by Peter Farrelly, "these three are eager to inhale the contact high from standing next to a guy holding a hall pass.”

"These guys drive the same minivans and live in the same cul-de-sacs and go to the same family restaurants that Rick and Fred do so they want to watch this thing happen and live it vicariously,” says Sudeikis.

Together, they are a Greek Chorus of bad ideas and even worse advice. Not that Rick and Fred need any help when it comes to bad ideas. They've got that covered already, from their questionable pick-up lines ("Do you think these bar napkins smell like chloroform?”) to the prop helmet Fred carries ("Because chicks dig motorcycles”).

Clearly, what these boys need is a little expert guidance to get them back in the game. As their week dwindles down to a few precious hours with double zero still on the scoreboard, they get exactly that, in the form of their old pal Coakley, "the relief pitcher who shows up in the ninth inning,” says Wilson.

"Coakley is a legendary character, eternally single, who goes around the world to where the girls are: South America, Iceland, Dubai, the Hawaiian Tropic Finals. Wherever there are beautiful girls, he's there,” Peter explains. "He was hanging out at Club Med in the ‘80s. He never misses an opportunity. He's the gang's only remaining single friend and they revere him because, to them, he's living the dream.”

This perpetual king of the swing is played by Richard Jenkins, a regular in the Farrelly filmography. For him, "Coakley is the love doctor, here to show them the ropes. This is serious business to this guy; partying is a science, not just some haphazard weekend job. It's his life's work. He takes them to one of his favorite clubs, Enter the Dragon, and skillfully shows them how to read women, their signs and giveaways, from his years of observation.”

The actor reportedly found added inspiration in the wardrobe department as he worked out the details of Coakley's look with costume designer Denise Wingate. Wingate, who was aiming for the aging rocker look, describes Coakley's club-wear as "pointy black boots and tight black jeans that he can't zip up fully. The theory is that, despite the fact that he can't quite fit into them anymore, this is his uniform of choice and he's not going to mess around with a winning formula.”

Whether due to Coakley's coaching, or in spite of it, the guys finally manage to get themselves into real trouble at the club. It's here that Rick reaches the put-up-or-shut-up point in his ongoing flirtation with free-spirited Aussie barista Leigh, the ultimate temptation, played by Australian actress Nicky Whelan. It's also here that Leigh's insanely possessive co-worker Brent, nicknamed Wannabe, a coffee house waiter with DJ'ing ambitions, played by Derek Waters, goes nuts on his presumed rival in a confrontation involving a crowbar, the guys' minivan, and a frantic highway police pursuit. Running the gamut from elation to discomfort to downright panic during his week off from marriage, Rick begins to deal with what Wilson calls "the rude awakening of what it's like to return to the game after a 20-year absence. The rules have changed. I think he always knew he was lucky to find Maggie, but he didn't know exactly how much.”

So, If Their Husbands Have the Week Off… Who, Exactly, are These Women Married To?

Initially conceived as a tale in which two husbands score a week off from marriage while their mates anxiously await developments, "Hall Pass” took another twist as the Farrellys delved further into the story and characters. Now, in addition to tracking Rick and Fred on their seven-day bender, the story takes a look at what might happen if Maggie and Grace assumed the same freedom.

"It has to go both ways. That's key to unlocking the story, making it fair and opening it up for everyone,” says Peter Farrelly.

Not only fair, but, as Bradley Thomas points out, more honest. "If you make a movie about two guys who get a hall pass while their wives are sitting at home, hoping and praying they don't do anything, that's just baloney. It's not real. I'm sure that if these two guys are looking at other women, then other guys are checking out their wives, too.”

To allow Rick and Fred some space for the week, as well as themselves, the women head out of town to Maggie's parents' home in Cape Cod. Two days later, tanned and relaxed in the stands at a Minor League baseball game, Grace attracts the flattering attention of Gerry, a confident, young hard-bodied first baseman, played by Tyler Hoechlin, while Grace is approached by the team's suave coach, coincidentally named Rick, played by Bruce Thomas.

It's not till the guys ask them out for a beer that Maggie and Grace understand that this hall pass could be printed on both sides…

"For Maggie, the story becomes about her own complacency in the marriage,” offers Jenna Fischer. "After she grants her husband a week off because she thinks it's what he wants, she realizes that she's

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