'This Is Where I Leave You' Premiere: Shawn Levy, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey Celebrate Family Dramedy

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Tina Fey, Abigail Spencer, Jane Fonda and Kathryn Hahn

"I have never done a movie where people actively sought me out to chase parts," says director Levy

This Is Where I Leave You director Shawn Levy got the chance that many people dream of: He had the opportunity to cast his own family. His onscreen family, that is.

“I needed everyone to mesh, as a whole,” Levy told The Hollywood Reporter outside the TLC Chinese Theatre in Hollywood at the Los Angeles premiere of the family dramedy.

The film features performances by a virtual armada of notable actors, including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll and Jane Fonda, who all play members of a family that has to sit shiva — a Jewish practice where a mourning family receives friends and family for seven days — as the final wish of their late father.

THR asked screenwriter Jonathan Tropper, who also wrote the book on which the movie is based, if he had any preconceived ideas for casting going in. He responded: “The only guy I pictured was Jason Bateman.”

As Levy describes it, it may not have been that hard to convince Bateman or any of the extremely talented castmembers to sign on for the film.

“I have never done a movie where people actively sought me out to chase parts,” he said. “It was no ‘Yes, I will do it.’ The emails and calls I got were ‘I hope you will consider me; I desperately want to be in this movie.’ ”

He credits the story’s sincerity as the reason why so many of these accomplished actors were drawn to the film, saying, “For a script like this to get made by a studio that is funny and sad and is not about a superhero and is not a tentpole, I mean, there were few actors who didn’t chase this.”

Levy made his onscreen family a little larger and funnier, casting comedian Ben Schwartz to a play a friend of the family and the local rabbi.

“When we did the table read, around the table was Bateman, and I am a huge Arrested [Development] fan, and Tina, who I think is one of the most talented beings in the universe,” said Schwartz. “Then you see Jane Fonda. It is all just very surreal.”

The story’s familial emphasis even extended to the cast’s shooting conditions. Levy told THR that shooting took place over 25 days primarily in a residential home, adding that between scenes the cast would retreat upstairs to the master bedroom to talk about the movie and unwind.

Actress Kathryn Hahn described the unconventional green room as “more valuable then any rehearsal process,” adding that the actors would show each other YouTube videos and pictures of their kids. “It was constant chatter,” said Stoll.

Of the cast coming together the way it did, Topper said: “This is all just a big unexpected miracle and I am thrilled for it.”

After having such amazing luck with This Is Where I Leave You, THR asked the screenwriter — who is adapting another of his novels with two others already optioned — if there is anyone in particular he hopes to cast as any of his future characters. 

He offered: “There is a role that I would love Tom Cruise to take.”

This Is Where I Leave You is out in theaters Sept. 19.

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