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Articles - The Amateurs - Ted Danson Jeff Bridges - Press Release

The Amateurs - Ted Danson Jeff Bridges - Press Release
The Amateurs
Jeff Bridges, Ted Danson, Joe Pantoliano
Isaiah Washington, Valerie Perrine, Lauren Graham
Written and directed by Michael Traeger
First Look Studios 2007
99 minutes
Release date December 7 2007

PRESS RELEASE TEXT 

Synopsis:

Down-and-out divorcee Andy Sargentee (Jeff Bridges), with the help of his five motley friends, brainstorms a genius idea to make their dreams come true. They are going to rally their small town to produce an amateur adult film!  They think they've found the road to fame and fortune, but their fantasy quickly turns into a hilarious misadventure as they encounter more than a few bumps in the road. Their good natured attempts lead to the creation of the most un-adult, adult film ever.  See how The Amateurs bring an entire small town together, in the biggest comedic disaster turned boffo box office success.

About the Production:

If there's a parallel between THE AMATEURS writer/director Michael Traeger and Some Idiot, the writer/director of the porno film in THE AMATEURS, Traeger won't say.  But the getting THE AMATEURS into production was almost as challenging, and not nearly as speedy as the amateur porno the "Sure-Enough Six" put together.

 "Part of it was that I wanted to write a very sweet movie," explains writer/director Michael Traeger, "and I thought the only way that it ever get made if it was about porno." 

But at the heart of the movie are many more resonant themes.  "I started making a living very late in life and that bugged the hell out of me," Traeger relates.  "I always knew what I was pursuing and that it was a good reason to be poor, but once you're thirty it's just horrible.  I was in desperate need of an accomplishment.  I woke up one morning just aching - it killed me that nothing was going on.  I needed a success badly and right away, but nothing was available to me.  The only thing that I could come up with that was handy and available to me was quitting smoking.  I was very fond of cigarettes; they were truly my best friends with whom I had spent hours a day, fantastic hours.  I had tried to quit a million times before, but because I was in this very strange state, where I was so desperate for an accomplishment it made quitting smoking the easiest thing.  Decisively quit.  And that's the best sort of analogy for Andy."

In THE AMATEURS, it's Andy's desperation to have his efforts finally culminate into some kind of measurable success that drives the story.

But the story, in fact, lay in a drawer with many others while Traeger worked with producer Aaron Ryder on another project.  After some effort, when it became apparent the project wouldn't move into production, Ryder asked Traeger if he had anything else they should consider. 

Fast-forward to two years later, Ryder secured financing from Michael Kuhn's Qwerty films.  Ryder recalls, "Michael Kuhn asked me on December 1st if I could pull everything together before the end of the year.  Everyone in town was leaving for holiday the Friday before Christmas, the 22nd of December.  I had twenty-two days, including weekends to put an entire movie together.  I immediately said yes."

Ryder sent the script out to agents with lukewarm results.  "People were out of town, no one was reading, we weren't getting interest.  We knew that Bill Fichtner wanted to do it.  I asked my friend Joey Pantoliano and Bill if they would write letters of intent saying if the movie got made, they would be in it.  Joey never even read it.  They both immediately said yes.  That triggered the financing. Then on December 13th the director dropped out." 

In fact, Traeger had always wanted to direct the film, but both writer and producer feared that a first time director would be a difficult sell.  Ryder continues, "I convinced Michael Kuhn that the best person for the job was Michael Traeger.  Kuhn replied, ‘but who's your actor?'"  They still hadn't cast the key role of Andy.

Says Ryder, "When Traeger and I sat down and first read the script two years ago, we asked each other, ‘Who would be perfect for this movie?' We each wrote down a name on a piece of paper and then we traded.  He had two names, the first was Jeff Bridges.  Mine had one name on it, it was Jeff Bridges.  That happened two years ago and we hadn't talked about him since because there just didn't seem to be any way to get him because he's a huge movie star.  So in the 11th hour Michael Kuhn said ‘Why don't you try for Jeff Bridges, he seems perfect for the role.'"

The script went to Bridges' agent then his manager and both loved the script.  Ryder continues, "Then we heard that Jeff had to be talked into it.  And we began this month long process of courting Jeff.  We put together this stellar cast for the read-through and it went brilliantly and Jeff began to more and more fall in love with the material.  What's amazing is that we ended up exactly where we started; with the cast that we always wanted, with Traeger directing, with the script we wanted and with enough money to actually make it in the proper manner."

From that read-through, several actors were cast: Joe Pantoliano and William Fichtner were already set.  But Glenne Headly, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Isaiah Washington nailed their parts so well that the director and producer immediately wanted to lock them in. 

Michael Traeger relates, "Glenne blows me away.  You can be very bright about this (acting), you can be very talented, you can be very trained but I think some of it is, God picks the really unbelievable ones.  And that's Glenne." Ryder continues, "With Jeanne, it just felt like, after the read-through, after that performance that was the way to go."  Tripplehorn had nailed it. 

If the core of the film is the friendships within the small town of Butterface Fields, at the center of that lays the relationship between Andy and Barney (TIM BLAKE NELSON).   Once again, the production was blessed with an incredible talent.

"Tim is very, very bright.  And trained.  He's an actor with God given skills but also ones which are honed with good, top-notch training," says Traeger.  Ryder also sings Blake Nelson's praises; "He's a solid guy and also a filmmaker.  So he's somebody that you can turn to and say, ‘What do you think about this shot?"  These guys are remarkably like their characters.  Tim is a fantastic best friend.  It was important for him to play Barney as opposed to Some Idiot, where he might just be comic relief.  In this one, he actually gets the girl."

Tim Blake Nelson relates, "It's been fantastic for me to get to play this role, I feel really, really lucky that Michael thought of me for it.  If every character were wearing a sign around their neck, the sign around Barney's neck would be ‘Best Friend.'  It's been really fun to play this part because for the first time I'm playing one of the straight characters in the film.  I'm not a complete scamp or goofball."  And about that romantic story line, "I have admired Glenne for years.  A good portion of my scenes are with Glenne, she's an extraordinary actress and it's really easy to be around her and to play a scene with her because she's so completely alive and sensitive to whatever it is you do."

Still in all, THE AMATEURS is a comedy and stepping in to amp up the action in that department is the mirthful Joe Pantoliano, who relished the role.  "Some is a guy who is somewhat unsure of himself.  He was named by the guys, and is totally self-conscious and insecure.  He has a loving mother, an adoring mother.  Some lives with his mother.  In fact, it's a story about unconditional love; it's a story about dreams, hopes, and aspirations.  It's got a lot of sex.  So it's funny, it's got a lot of sex and that's the best part of the movie."

"There's only one person I have a problem working with on this set," says Ted Danson, "That's Joey Pants.  Cause I can't stop giggling - he makes me giggle.  He's a very, very funny man."

 And yet, to Joe Pantoliano fans, the role of Some Idiot might seem a little off-course.         "Well, you know the kind of roles that I'm asked to play and I'm known to play, and I'm usually playing." Pantoliano explains.  "I wanted to go against type.  It's nice that all of us - Tim Blake Nelson, Bill Fichtner, Ted Danson - we are really playing roles that audiences are not used to seeing us play and with our fearless leader Jeff Bridges  - I think it's a cast of dreams.  I think everybody is so perfectly suited for this material."  Pantoliano goes on, "I guess if you were to type cast me in this movie you'd probably ask me to play Otis.  And Bill Fichtner, if you were going to type cast him, would play Some."

But William Fichtner wouldn't have it any other way.   Fichtner recalls, "I had a meeting with Aaron over a year ago.  I said, ‘When?  When are you making this movie?  I'm in love with the characters, the story has a bit of a fable about it and it's just a wonderful little journey of friendship.'  Aaron asked if there was a character I liked.  I said, "Otis.  Please.  That's it.  That's it." 

Ryder is equally enthusiastic about Fichtner.  "I wish we could multiply him, I wish we had more roles for him to play.  He's one of my favorite actors anyway.  I don't know why that guy isn't a bigger star - because he's, I think, one of the most gifted actors working."

The casting of the closeted but obviously gay, Moose, makes for its own little fable, even if it's the Hollywood kind.  Substituting for a fairy godmother in this fable is actress Mary Steenburgen who relates, "My agent sent me the script and as I read it I was laughing out loud.  In fact, my husband kept saying, ‘What are you reading?'  I said, ‘I'm reading the funniest script.'  As I read it, I thought, ‘I have to go tell them that they have to cast Ted in this part of Moose, because I don't think they'll think of him.  You know, people think of him as Sam Malone from ‘Cheers," the last person you're going to think of is Ted Danson, but I knew he would be hilarious.  I went in and started really under-selling myself and really selling my husband and by the end of the meeting I said, ‘Would you please, it really doesn't matter about me, but would you please promise me that you would just meet my husband for the role of Moose?'"

They eventually did, and are delighted and thankful.  Ryder elaborates, "Ted was the last one who came to us and I honestly cannot imagine anyone else playing this role now."  Traeger adds, "He has freaky comic skills.  And he's very, very comfortable with them.  His guts in the movie are not to be believed.  He does some fantastic and brave things and he will, I think, get a lot of praise for this role that he really does deserve."

Danson loved the script.  "They're such wonderful innocents that when they actually find someone to be in their porno film, when they shoot it, they all turn their backs and cover their eyes.  They're that kind of people."  As much as Danson enjoyed the script, Moose is where his heart is.  "I love Moose.  Moose is a homosexual who in the thirty years that he's been hanging out with his friends has never admitted to anybody that he's homosexual.  He's very macho in his dealings - although he's clearly gay - always taking about chicks and hot babes. He's a very sweet character, all he wants to do is be with his friends.  He loves his friends."

The last of the Sure-Enough Six, and somewhat younger than the rest of the cast, is the role of Emmett for which the producers cast Patrick Fugit.  "He was always the one I wanted, he's a very substantial kid," Traeger says.  "He's like this classic silent movie character and does amazing stuff that he deserves credit for that has helped this movie so much."

Fugit wasn't so sure. "I don't say much, so there's some other way you got to make it interesting, and it's been fun finding a way, but Jeff Bridges attracted me to the script.  I wasn't sure how it was going to play out, but I was very interested because Jeff was in it."

With financing, director and cast finally secured, comparisons between the making of THE AMATEURS and the making of the porno in THE AMATEURS end - except for one final detail.

The filmmakers wanted to ensure that this diverse group of actors would be able to project a feeling of deep-rooted familiarity with one another.   "Everybody knew who everybody was," recalls Ryder, "but nobody had a close friendship.  It was important to Traeger and I that the actors spend time together."

Ryder continues, "Jeff and Traeger and I were going out and drinking every night, just spending time enjoying each other and we thought we should have a boozy night with the rest of the cast.  And Jeff said, ‘You know, I was kinda thinking, my mom owns this beach house - maybe we could just do a weekend thing...'

Once the director heard that idea, he would not be dissuaded.  Ryder recalls, "There was no way that it wasn't going to happen."

William Fichtner relates, "It was really smart and so wise to spend that time together because you know you could be on a movie set and spend five weeks before you get that sort of time together, collectively."

And what did the "Sure-Enough Six", producer Aaron Ryder, writer/director Michael Traeger and AD John O'Rourke do for three days?  The response is varied:  Pantoliano recalls, "Some of the scenes we actually blocked on the beach.  The AD blocked out scenes on the sand during low tide."  Patrick Fugit remembers the event as something of a summer camp situation, "Jeff plays guitar and I play guitar so we had a little kumbyeya thing going on."

But the consensus is general:  "I want to do it on every movie," exclaims Fichtner.  "We should do it every weekend."  Tim Blake Nelson adds, "The relationships between the actors are really reflected in and feed the relationships that are going to appear on screen - we really do all get along.

Danson and Bridges were probably the most familiar with one another at the start of production. "I've known Jeff for ten years, no twenty.  Fifteen years.  His dad and I made a film together in Vancouver." Danson relates.  "His father took me under his wing and invited me into the family, and when they would have family gathering, they were always so sweet, Lloyd and Dorothy to include me.  But this is the first time I've worked with Jeff - I think he's one of our great American actors."

But the three-day event still provided an opportunity to catch at glimpse at something new.  "I love guys.  I really like to hang out with them, it's so much more relaxing (than hanging out with women) but men don't have the answers, I've always tended to hand out with women, so I had no idea what guys do." 

And we will probably never really know either.  Maybe it's just a guy thing.

Producer Aaron Ryder sums it up beautifully, "At one point, the six guys were down at the beach and Traeger and I were standing on the porch and just seeing the six of them sitting around smoking cigars - these six amazing actors doing our movie after two years of going through that whole ‘are we making the movie or not?' thing, and it suddenly becoming very tangible and you have a moment when you want to cry."

"As Traeger's always said," Ryder goes on, "we know the end of the story, and it's just like the end of the script.  Everything's going to work out real, real well."

Cast:

JEFF BRIDGES (Andy Sargentee) last starred opposite Shia LaBeouf, as "Geek" a cantankerous washed-up surfer penguin in "Surfs' Up" from Sony Pictures Animation, a film that goes behind the scenes of the world of competitive pro Penguin Surfing, is one of Hollywood's most successful actors and is a four-time Academy Award nominee.

He earned his first Oscar nod in 1971 for Best Supporting Actor in Peter Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show" co-starring Cybill Shepard.  Three years later he received his second Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Michael Cimino's "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot."  By 1984 he landed top kudos with a Best Actor nomination for "Starman."  That performance also earned him a Golden Globe nomination.  In 2001, he was honored with another Golden Globe nomination and his fourth Oscar nomination for his role in "The Contender," Rod Lurie's political thriller co-starring Gary Oldman and Joan Allen, in which Bridges played the President of the United States

He will soon appear in THE AMATEURS, a comedy written and directed by Michael Traeger, in which citizens of a small town, under the influence of a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis (Bridges), come together to make an adult film.  He recently was in his second film with director Terry Gilliam titled "Tideland" where he played Noah, a drug addicted, has-been, rock guitarist as well as "Stick It" for Touchstone Pictures where he played the coach of a team of rule-abiding gymnasts.

TED DANSON (Moose) Ted Danson's versatility in both television and film makes him one of the most accomplished and credible actors today.  From his feature film debuts in Joseph Wambaugh's "The Onion Field" in 1979 and Lawrence Kasdan's "Body Heat" in 1981 to his starring role in the television series "Cheers," Ted Danson has captivated worldwide audiences with his equally sensational dramatic and comedic performances. 

Upcoming, Danson can be seen starring opposite Jeff Bridges in the offbeat comedy THE AMATEURS.  The independent film is directed by Michael Traeger and produced by Aaron Ryder ("Memento").

LAUREN GRAHAM (Peggy) For her critically acclaimed portrayal of Lorelai Gilmore on "Gilmore Girls," Lauren Graham has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award for "Best Actress in a Drama Series," a Screen Actors Guild Award for "Female Actor in a Drama Series" and two Television Critics Association Awards for "Individual Achievement in Drama and Comedy." In its last season, Graham became a producer on the series. Additionally, she has earned two Teen Choice Awards for "Choice Parental Unit," a "Best Actress" nod from Viewers for Quality Television, an award for "Best Actress in a Drama" from the Family Friendly Forum and was recently honored by Planned Parenthood as a "Champion of Choice" for her work with family issues on and off-screen.

JOE PANTOLIANO (Some Idiot) -  Pantoliano has appeared in over 100 films including Risky Business, The Goonies, La Bamba, Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, Midnight Run, The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals, Bad Boys I & II, Bound and Daredevil.  He also notably produced and starred in  Taxman and Second Best.

TIM BLAKE NELSON (Barney Macklehatton) has appeared in over thirty films including Warm Springs, Meet the Fockers, Holes, The Good Girl, Wonderland, Minority Report and O Brother Where Art Thou?.   Nelson has recently been seen in the films Syriana, THE AMATEURS, The Big White, Come Early Morning and Fido.

WILLIAM FICHTNER (Otis) Currently, Fichtner plays the role of FBI Agent Alexander Mahone on Fox's hit drama series "Prison Break."  His character is as brilliant as the escaped convicts Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) and Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), but as the plot unfolds during the season, viewers learn that he is haunted by his own demons.

PATRICK FUGIT (Emmitt) began his acting career at the age of eleven.  He currently resides in Salt Lake City.  His film credits include, Almost Famous, Saved!, Spun, White Oleander, Wrist Cutters and the upcoming The Horsemen starring Denis Quaid and Ziyi Zhang.

Glenne Headly (Helen Tatelbaum) has appeared in the films "Dick Tracy" ( as Tess Trueheart opposite Warren Beatty ), "Mr.Holland's Opus" ( as Iris Holland, opposite Richard Dreyfuss ), "Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels" ( as Janet Colgate opposite Steve Martin and Sir Michael Caine ), "Sgt.Bilko" ( opposite Steve Martin ), "Around the Bend" ( opposite Sir Michael Caine ), "Breakfast of Champions" ( opposite Bruce Willis ), "Mortal Thoughts" ( opposite Bruce Willis & Demi Moore ) and others.  On television she received Emmy nominations as best supporting actress in a mini-series/movie for her roles in "Bastard Out of Carolina" and "Lonesome Dove".

Isaiah Washington (Homer) - Whether in his professional life as an actor and producer or his personal role as a husband, father and activist, Isaiah Washington passionately commits himself to all ventures. As an actor, critics have lauded Isaiah's ability to effortlessly disappear into each role; allowing the audience to become acquainted with the multifaceted nature of the character. As a producer, Isaiah has championed a variety of projects which fulfill his vision to enlighten the human imagination and experience. As a philanthropist, he uses his resources and notoriety to aide people in need both at home and abroad, founding his own non-profit organization, The Gondobay Manga Foundation, for his work in Sierra Leone, West Africa. It is his fervor for his craft and humanity that drives Isaiah's dedication to both entertaining the public and effecting change in the world.

JUDY GREER (Ellie) - With a genuine gift for comedy and an engaging on-screen presence, Judy Greer has quickly become one of Hollywood's most captivating young talents. 

Judy can be seen starring in the upcoming new 1/2 hr. comedy series for ABC "Miss/Guided."  The single camera project from 20th Century Fox TV and Ashton Kutcher's studio-based Katalyst Films, centers on a woman (Greer) who returns to her high school alma mater to become a guidance counselor.  Caroline Williams  (The Office)  penned the script for the pilot which will be directed by Todd Holland.  This follows her prior TV work in "Love Monkey" with Tom Cavanaugh and the critically-acclaimed hit show "Arrested Development" in her hilarious recurring role as Kitty Sanchez.  Judy  also recently finished an episode of the FX series "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia", "Californication" for Showtime, and the the NBC hit, "My Name is Earl" and has a recurring role on the NBC sitcom "Two And ½ Men."



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