- RatedPG13 /GenreComedy
When it comes to romantic-comedies, no one does it better than Nancy Meyers.
A veritable hit-maker and a contemporary of the late Nora Ephron, Meyers has a way of writing about women, romances and friendship, so much so that the 65-year-old writer-director is known as one of most prolific and powerful people in Hollywood.
‘What Women Want’, which starred Mel Gibson as a man who acquires the gift of reading women’s minds became the most successful film ever directed by a woman, grossing upward of US$370 million (S$517 million) worldwide.
Meyers' follow-up, 2003's ‘Something's Gotta Give’, follows an unlikely relationship between a couple played by Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton.
That film, and her 2006 feature ‘The Holiday’, featuring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, both pulled in more than US$200 million worldwide.
Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway in 'The Intern' | Photo: Warner Bros
Her latest, ‘The Intern’, comes after a six-year hiatus. The movie is a quirky workplace comedy which stars Robert De Niro as Ben Whittaker, a retiree who gets a senior citizens-specific internship with a highly strung fashion start-up founder Jules Ostin, played by Anne Hathaway.
“The initial idea was an older man choosing to work as an intern as a fun learning experience, and then that grew into thinking about what impact he would have on those he worked with who were so much younger. And, of course, a women boss felt like the right choice and an authentic one.”
“Once I had the idea of an older guy in a younger workplace, I knew there would be a lot I could do with that,” Meyers said.
It turns out that De Niro’s 70-year-old Ben ran his own successful business before retiring. What starts initially as a clash between old and new business values grows into something more as the intern becomes a mentor to the young entrepreneur.
The movie is in many ways a variation of her previous films – ‘What Women What’ – but without the sexual politics as well as the romantic trials and tribulations. In ‘The Intern’, the relationship between Jules and Ben is strictly platonic.
“Relationships are what drive my films, but there are other kinds of relationships other than romantic ones,” she noted. “It’s a story about a bond and friendship between two people who might otherwise never cross paths.”
ANOTHER SIDE OF ROBERT DE NIRO
This is also the first time that the 65-year-old writer-director is working with her two Academy Award-winning lead actors.
“Anne is full of energy, resourceful, very clever and extremely skilled. It’s fun to direct her, her acting is very deep and that’s a great advantage for a director,” Meyers said.
Christina Scherer, Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway in 'The Intern' | Photo: Warner Bros
As for De Niro, Meyers said that although she has seen the veteran actor in comedies before, she has never seen this other side of him.
“I think he has smiled more in my movie than all his smiles in all his movies put together. He was the glue we all needed and the glue the film needed,” Meyers gushed.
“And, he is simply one of the best there’s ever been. That’s all there is to it. The way he embraced the role was remarkable. You don’t really know what someone is going to do with a part until day one. I knew what kind of movie we had the first time I saw him in character,” she recalled.
CREATING AN AUTHENTIC ENVIRONMENT
One of the hallmarks of a Nancy Meyers film is that they’re always set in meticulously designed spaces. Who could forget Cameron Diaz's Spanish-styled home in ‘The Holiday’ or Meryl Streep's bakery in ‘It's Complicated?’.
For ‘The Intern’, the director spared no expense in creating an authentic setting for audiences. This time amidst the milieu of the current start-up culture but also touching on topics such as women entrepreneurs, work/family balance, retirement and staying relevant.
“We designed the set to reflect what I saw in my research. All the start-ups I visited were in one large space, no private offices, and all of the founders sat right in the middle of all of this activity. They didn’t isolate themselves in a private office. I saw that time and again. I would have a hard time with that because, being a writer, I need a quiet workspace, so I found that so interesting. It’s definitely a new kind of workspace for a new generation.”
Anne Hathaway in 'The Intern' | Photo: Warner Bros
“What’s great about these start-ups is that there’s this kind of ‘we are all in this together’ thing that permeates, and the comfort and needs of their employees seem paramount,” she said.
What’s fun about the story, Meyers said, is letting the different generations collide in the movie.
“That part was so fun to write and direct. There are so many differences in the Millennials and Ben’s generation,” she observed.
That generation gap has also given way to a somewhat intriguing reversal, which is reflected in the film.
Meyers explained, “As women went from girls to women, men went from men to boys. While girls were being told they could accomplish anything, I think guys got a little lost in the shuffle and are still trying to figure it all out.”
‘The Intern’ opens 24 September 2015