It's not 'Easy' making a sexless sex comedy

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Is a sex comedy without sex still a sex comedy?

"I call it a sexless sex comedy," explains Will Gluck, whose "Easy A," opening Sept. 17 via Screen Gems, falls into that unusual genre.

In "Easy" Emma Stone plays a clean-cut high school girl studying "The Scarlet Letter," who suddenly sees her life paralleling Hester Prynne's.

"It's about a girl who is falsely accused of being promiscuous in a small town," Gluck told me. "Instead of denying it, she takes it on as a badge of honor. She decides to put the 'A' on her wardrobe."

Gluck became involved with "Easy" in the fall of 2008 while editing his first feature, the comedy "Fired Up," for Screen Gems. Studio head Clint Culpepper asked him to take a look at a screenplay by first-time feature writer Bert Royal.

Culpepper: "What do you think about this?"

Gluck: "It's pretty good. I like it a lot."

Culpepper: "Good. We bought it."

Gluck: "Oh, that's great. I want to direct it."

Culpepper: "No. I didn't give it to you to direct. I gave it to you just to read."

Gluck: "Well, that's too bad. You gave it to me. I win!"

Gluck pressed Culpepper to let him take a stab at it and says he "reluctantly agreed."

The director knew straight away how he wanted to approach the material.

"It's a lot about how sexuality is viewed in America these days. When you're younger, if you quantify the entire act it's about 80% talking about the sexual act, 15% talking about it after it happens and about 1% actually having sex."

In fact, for young people, he adds, "the actual sexual act is never fun. It's quick. It's ugly. It's awkward. So to me, the most important part of actual sex -- and, frankly, when you get older, too -- is to kind of build up to it and the aftermath of it."

In the PG-13 "Easy" he set out to show those aspects of sex while leaving the sex act, itself, to the audience's imagination.

Casting Stone ("Ghosts of Girlfriends Past") got the project fast tracked.
"We were literally in production within four or five months."

They shot for nearly seven weeks in the summer of '09 on what Gluck calls "a micro-budget." Micro?

"Between $4 million and $100 million," he laughs. "I'll be honest with you -- closer to $4 million."

Filming took place north of L.A. in Ojai.

"We took over the town, which is really nice. We shot in the real high school and the real main street and we shot in all the stores. It's nice shooting a town for a town instead of changing it."
One of his challenges was a scene showing how in high school rumors now travel at the speed of Twitter.

"It's this gigantic steadicam shot that circles throughout the entire school. It goes all the way around and comes all the way back to Emma Stone's character."

To get the shot, steadicam operator Geoff Haley had to travel nearly three quarters of a mile lugging heavy equipment.

"And it's hot in Ojai. It got to be a hundred degrees. Then when we shot at night it was in the high 40's. So it was a big swing in temperature."

It was the first time Gluck directed a project he hadn't written.

"But I did do a lot of re-writing and kind of making it my own. As we cast every actor and actress, I crafted it toward them. And then on the day of shooting, I'd constantly rewrite on the set."

So even though he liked what Royal originally created, the movie wound up being shot "kind of in my tone."

Gluck likes to shotlist scenes and storyboards the more difficult ones, leaving him free to work with his actors on set.

When possible, he prefers to rehearse.

"For the movie I'm doing right now, 'Friends With Benefits,' we have five or six weeks of rehearsal. With 'Easy A' because the actors came in for short periods of time, we didn't rehearse that much."

When I told Gluck I'm always finding directors disagree about the value of rehearsing, he replied he liked it for two reasons.

"One, so the actors can get comfortable with their characters. But, also, so we can all get comfortable with each other -- so we have a shorthand before we get in front of the camera."
In that way, he noted, by the time shooting starts "we know each other very well. So it makes that process easier for me."

When we spoke, Gluck was filming "Benefits" for Screen Gems and Castle Rock. He'd shot for about eight weeks and had four more to go. The comedy stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. Stone's working with Gluck again in a small role.

"It's a big movie. Half of it was shot in New York and the rest we're shooting in L.A. now. If 'Easy A' was small and limber, this one is big and slow."

See Martin Grove's Zamm Cam movie previews on www.ZAMM.com.
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