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Alison Brie wasn’t the first actress attached to writer-director (and former Harvey Weinstein assistant) Leslye Headland‘s new romantic comedy, Sleeping With Other People. Brie came on board to star opposite Jason Sudeikis after Headland’s Bachelorette star Kirsten Dunst had to drop out, due to a scheduling conflict.
But it didn’t take long for Headland to know Brie was the right woman for the job.
“We had a chemistry read with [Brie and Sudeikis]. … I would say within 20 seconds of them beginning to speak, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is it, this sound is what the movie’s going to be,’ ” Headland told The Hollywood Reporter at Sleeping With Other People‘s New York premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Tuesday. “It was really magical. I was like, ’90 percent of my job is done.’ ”
Brie added that she met Sudeikis for the first time when she came in for that session, but the two spent a week of rehearsal talking about their own romantic pasts and beliefs about couples. This further helped them develop their ease together onscreen.
“We would read through the scenes, but much more time was spent talking about our own past relationships — at what time were we a Jake or a Lainey in different scenarios — and even larger conceptual things about men and women in relationships and that stuff,” Brie told THR.
In the film, the Community star (Brie) and Saturday Night Live alum (Sudeikis) play platonic friends who lost their virginity to each other. But as they see (and sleep with) other people, Jake and Lainey grow closer.
In a post-screening Q&A before an enthusiastic crowd, Headland said she developed the characters first and “ask[ed] what kind of movie they’d like to be in.”
“They wanted to be in a romantic comedy, so I wrote one,” she explained.
She added that she had talked to Sudeikis about his character and her idea of the movie before she wrote the script and crafted the first draft during “a feverish, isolated vacation that I took to Big Sur, where I basically didn’t have any cell service for several weeks.”
Headland frequently has referred to the film, which premiered at Sundance, as “When Harry Met Sally for assholes,” and much like the Meg Ryan–Billy Crystal classic, the film is a true romantic comedy — with some risque moments Bachelorette fans would expect.
Jason Mantzoukas, who plays Sudeikis‘ character’s married friend and co-worker, told THR ahead of Tuesday night’s screening that Sleeping With Other People “works as the classic kind of romantic comedy archetype that you understand of the meet-cute and all of the beats of the romantic comedy but always undercutting them because the people are so f—ed up. And I think that’s pretty fun to watch, and it’s a bit refreshing to see more real people in what is still a functioning romantic comedy.”
[WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Sleeping With Other People.]
Much like many romantic-comedy classics, Headland’s film has a happy ending — but that doesn’t happen without a few twists. In the post-screening Q&A, the writer-director said she felt she had to “earn” that resolution.
“I, while writing the script, was in so much pain and depression that I thought, ‘I have to earn these two people getting together,’ ” she said. “So it actually sort of started from a place of, ‘Does love exist? Is love real? Is commitment real? … If I want these two people to end up together, as they do in the best romantic comedies — the ones that I loved, especially like The Philadelphia Story and The Apartment and stuff that I grew up watching — what do I have to do to earn that?’ “
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