Will Gluck, director of Easy A and Friends With Benefits, tells Screen that he’s already starting to think about who should take the demanding lead actor role in his adaptation of Sex On The Moon.
Gluck is directing the big-screen adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History, which chronicles the true story of 25-year-old NASA intern Thad Roberts, who stole millions of dollars worth of moon rocks to try to impress his girlfriend. Producers will be Scott Rudin, Michael De Luca, and Dana Brunetti.
“It’s a great story, I’m just starting to write it,” Gluck says. “It’s a movie about reinventing yourself all the time, and this guy who has a weird morality [he had a strict Mormon upbringing]. It’s about who we are and who we think we are.”
Gluck says the lead will call for an All-American type actor who can pass for 22 years old - not the geekier Jesse Eisenberg type in The Social Network (another Mezrich adaptation that Rudin produced.) Gluck’s casting choice could make a career - after all he can take some credit for the skyrocketing career of Emma Stone, after casting her in Easy A.
Gluck, speaking to Screen during the London junket for Friends With Benefits, said he doesn’t know if Sex On The Moon will be his next project or not. He is also attached to work on Rehab with writer Sam Laybourne, is said to be planning another film with Emma Stone, is producing the About Last Night update, and with his production outfit is working on several TV projects. Keen for a challenge, he adds: “I hate superhero movies…so I’m contemplating doing one.”
Earlier this year, he signed a two-year development and production deal with Sony Pictures to cover film and TV projects for Screen Gems, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Television. “They really support you, they get our of your way,” he says of the Sony team. “But creatively they are such smart people, if they give you notes it’s like if a friends says, ‘Hey what if we did this?’”
Speaking about Friends With Benefits, Gluck paid tribute to the contributions of his stars Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. He worked on the script with them, in fact - starting only with an outline when they came on board and developing the script with feedback from the stars. “Justin and Mila brought so much to the characters, how they would say things, they were such a joy to work with,” Gluck sold Screen.
Gluck says the dialogue was so specific that he didn’t encourage much improvisation while cameras were rolling, but that ideas were welcome beforehand. “Because we created the banter to be like ping-pong, ping-pong, we couldn’t have much improv on camera, but before cameras were rolling we could absolutely try things.”
One such addition came from veteran actor Richard Jenkins, who suggested a change to the script based on his character, Dylan’s father who shows the early signs of Alzheimer’s. Jenkins noted that the son would be unlikely to leave his father alone in his apartment, therefore adding a priceless comedy moment involving a neighbour. “He’s a phenomenal actor. Richard Jenkins was so dedicated to the character. He said, ‘Would he just leave him here with this illness?’”
Gluck says the blend of comedy and serious subjects - seen in both Easy A and more with Friends With Benefits - reflects the way he sees life. “It’s not to say ‘We need to add some tragedy here.’ It’s just how I see the world. I’ll have one part of my brain coming up with a scene that’s straight and then the other part of my brain has this voice that just wants to crack a joke. “
After twisting the teen comedy with Easy A and twisting the rom-com with Friends with Benefits, he doesn’t always plan to reinvent the wheel: “I will eventually do something that doesn’t subvert a genre.”