Here's the thing: "The Proposal" may look like a big, fat romantic comedy, but the film's director, Anne Fletcher, has other ideas. Sure, it stars Sandra Bullock, and, yes, she and Ryan Reynolds play feuding co-workers who probably (definitely) wind up falling for each other by the movie's end. But Fletcher, a dancer-choreographer turned director, says at its heart the movie is pure screwball fun.
Having made her name with the movies "Step Up" and "27 Dresses," Fletcher says it's an important distinction. She explains why:
You've said that your big goal is to be in the comedy movie-making business. Where does directing romantic comedies rank? Have you achieved the dream?
No, I want to do a [broad] comedy -- why do I have to be so gross? I don't know -- but I have to work my way up. Right after directing "Step Up," I thought, "Well, I'm going to do a comedy now. I've been dancing in and choreographing comedy movies for years [among them 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin' and 'Bring It On'], why wouldn't I be able to get into it?" But you soon find out you've done a dance movie. You don't just get a comedy after that. It hit me like, "Oh, that's how it works?" People need to see you have an understanding of comedy, so a romantic comedy was the next step, and that's what happened with "27 Dresses." It's a stepping stone to ...
Yes, a [broad] comedy. I want to step away from romantic comedy right now. I'm just so afraid to do the next one.
Does the success of something like "The Hangover" give you hope?
I loved every second of that movie. I thought [director Todd Phillips] did an amazing job. Not only is he funny and hires the right people to do their job, the cast is perfect, but the movie is gorgeous. I love to see crazy comedies look beautiful, because they should. There are a lot of comedy directors who don't take care of that kind of thing. I would love to do something like "The Hangover." Or like "Waiting for Guffman." I sat in my car and cried after seeing that at the Beverly Center. That movie was and is my everything.
You've been saying "The Proposal" is less romantic and more comedic. How so?
That is exactly right. The script was so great, like a little screwball comedy. We want to deem ourselves more screwball than romantic comedy, even though with any good screwball comedy there's romance involved, or love, or icky kissing. I felt like "27 Dresses" was a bona fide romantic comedy. But you can't get Sandy [Bullock] to call "The Proposal" a romantic comedy. She does not want it to be called that.
So it's safe to say you're not the biggest fan of romantic comedies. What made "The Proposal" stand out?
I loved the writing. I love how she was written as the "male" role and he was written as the "female" one, basically. The roles were completely reversed. You start the movie and she's the one that's over him and he's just this guy trying to survive so he can become an editor and get out of her clutches. She pulls a fast one on him and corners him into marrying her and then he flips it on her. Then, I like to say, let the games begin. It's like 'Bringing Up Baby' with Katharine [Hepburn] and Cary Grant where you're like, "Oh, my God. They're going to punch each other." It's that fine line between love and hate.
What was working with Bullock like?
When you get someone like Sandy, you know you have the ability to do anything with her. I had a limitless ability to do anything I wanted because of her. Like when we were scouting locations, we see a ladder going down to a boat and it's low tide and I go, "I want to see her in 5-inch pumps and a nice dress go down that ladder because I know she can! I know she'll do it!" Same thing with Ryan.
The commercials for the film don't play up the age difference between Bullock and Reynolds. Was that intentional?
There was a May-December romance feeling in the script, and Sandy wanted to push it. She was like, "Push it! I'm older than him!" And I was like, "Yeah, but you're Demi and Ashton. Like you would date in real life." It's not "The Graduate." In real life, they would date and no one would think twice about it. So I couldn't logically sell that part of it. There are a couple of moments peppered in, but I didn't look at it that way so much. I didn't buy it. Maybe if she was in her 50s.
There's been some, how shall I say, interest in nudity in the movie?
In this day and age, you want to see how far you can go without being offensive or gross or anything sexual, just hilarious funny. I was so nervous about approaching Sandy and Ryan. What if they said no? I had a back-up plan if they did, but I really wanted, like, my dream to come true. And what do you know? They were game! Some of the stuff they made up -- they, not me -- was just so crazy. It got very technical, but it was fun. Like, "I don't want to see your hairy squirrel. How do we cover that up?" We figured it out and then shot it very quickly because it wound up being so technical. They were naked -- it had to be.