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FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS

Production Notes
Director Will Gluck was looking for another project, having just finished editing Easy A for Screen Gems, when the script for Friends with Benefits came to his attention. "I've always wanted to do a movie that was an update of the old Hepburn and Tracy movies,” Gluck explains, citing his love for the sexy, banter-filled romantic comedies of Hollywood's golden past. So with its pointed dialogue, enticingly adult comic situations and charming yet flawed characters, Friends with Benefits certainly hit the nail on the head conceptually,. Dylan and Jamie are the Hepburn/Tracy characters of our time, with our sensibilities, aspirations, and most of all this generation's views on family, friendship, love, and sex.

Gluck knew that essential to the success of the movie would be casting actors who would match the dynamic and flirtatious chemistry captured in those landmark films. Gluck explains, "Justin and Mila had such good chemistry together, it's unbelievable. It was like magic. You just want to watch them do anything together. The most important part of this movie is when they're on screen together.” Gluck goes on, "I hit the lottery with those two together. Mila's funny, smart, charismatic, beautiful, goofy. It's so fun to watch her, especially with Justin.”

Gluck recalls catching Timberlake on "Saturday Night Live" and being wowed. "I was impressed, and then he did another 'Saturday Night Live' and he was even funnier. And the reason he's so funny is because he's a great actor. This is his first full-time comedic role. He can do anything. He's so charismatic that you can't keep your eyes off him.”

For his part, Timberlake not only loved the adult humor of the screenplay, but was intrigued by where Dylan and Jamie are in their respective lives when the movie introduces them to us. Both are young and successful at work, but they're also circumspect about love, and struggling with family issues. "Just the things that happen to you when you get to a certain age, like my age,” says Timberlake, "where you're sort of questioning the ‘establishment' of what you've grown up with - as far as relationships are concerned - what it all means.”

The actor goes on, "Our characters meet each other in that time where they've both recently split up from other relationships and we're both in that headspace where we kind of want to just be single.”

Mila Kunis saw her character Jamie as someone who "believes in true love and believes that Prince Charming is out there and is desperately seeking that.” Jamie doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve, though. "She's a typical New Yorker,” laughs Kunis. Indeed, Jamie is sharp, fast-talking, determined, and by all accounts more of a realist than a dreamer.

Jamie is also funny and easy to be with. So when Dylan moves to New York after she recruits him for an exciting position at GQ Magazine, the two become fast friends, comrades in cynicism, ready to laugh at the world's craziness and each other's foibles.

With Timberlake's Dylan working hard to establish himself at a new job in a new city and no time to pursue life's more frivolous aspects, and Kunis' Jamie meeting too many "nice” guys who turn out to be not-so-nice, the two come to an agreement asserting mutual benefits without the emotional complications of dating. ‘Cause after all, everyone has physical needs, they convince themselves. What could possibly go wrong?

Timberlake explains, "It's about two people kind of living parallel lives. They get together and come up with this crazy plan of having the physical act of a relationship without any of the emotion. That's really where a lot of the hilarity ensues. It's nice to have a "R” rating for this movie because in the intimate scenes, there's some funny things that we were able to come up with. It's a funny dynamic when you have characters who aren't emotionally attached in that way - or at least the don't think they are.”

Jamie's mother, Lorna, brilliantly brought to life by Patricia Clarkson, provides a good deal of humor and color as well as some pointed insight into Jamie's character. Will Gluck explains, "Lorna is a single mother. The kind who was probably a groupie for some rock band in the seventies and eighties. She's very absent and Jamie was probably the mother in that relationship.” Coupled with a string of disappointing relationships, it was easy for Jamie to assume the stance that it's better not to depend on others for emotional sustenance.

While Gluck, having recently worked with Clarkson on Easy A, was well aware of her genius, it was the first time Kunis and Clarkson had worked together. Kunis was smitten. "One of the greatest actresses I've ever worked with,” says Kunis. "I so wish we had more scenes together because I loved working with her.”

Dylan's family resides in Los Angeles. His father, a respected journalist, now retired and suffering from the early stages Alzheimer's disease, is touchingly played by Oscar®-nominated actor Richard Jenkins. Dylan's sister Annie, played by Jenna Elfman, feels the weight of handling their father's challenges alone while raising her son.

"We have so many great actors in this movie,” says Timberlake, "but to have Richard as your dad - great scenes playing back and forth - I think that's been my favorite exchange.”

It's not common to have a serious issue such as Alzheimer's threaded into what's primarily a comedy, but Gluck likes the juxtaposition and explains, "I like doing more emotional stuff. Not just with Alzheimer's, but their (Dylan, Mr. Harper and Annie) relationship, and also the strained relationship between Jamie and her mother. As long as they can laugh about the tough situations they're going through, that makes it even better.

Gluck tells how he came to cast Elfman: "She did the table read and within the first few seconds it felt like Justin and Jenna had been brother and sister forever. Jenna has a great combination of playing a motherly figure but also gives Justin the business. They feel like they've fought a lot as kids. It just feels real.”

For Elfman, the role represents the voice of reason for Dylan. "My character thinks he's lost his mind and can't see what's right under his nose, which is this amazing girl with this great sense of humor." She cites the family scenes as crucial to understanding the movie's message about what's important in life: "Justin's character coming back and being around his family starts to wake him up, because you can't take things for granted. At its core, that's what this movie's really about."

Richard Jenkins offers a similar viewpoint about the movie. "The thing about having Alzheimer's is you do realize you don't have a lot of time. If you feel something for someone, you should not play games."

Serving as both court jester and sage in Dylan's New York world is his new co-worker Tommy, an athletic, flamboyant art director at GQ, played to profanely funny perfection by Woody Harrelson. Says director Will Gluck, "Tommy's a strange character to play and I don't think Woody's ever played it before. I don't think anyone's quite played this character. Only someone like Woody can pull it off.”

Harrelson says it took him a bit to devise an approach for such an outrageous character. "It took me a second to really get it,” Harrelson explains. "The thing that was interesting to me about Tommy Bollinger is that he's kind of a guy's guy. Like one of these guys who talks about girls in a pretty graphic terminology, but as a gay man." Laughing, Harrelson adds, "He says stuff that

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