Director Jonathan Levine on 'Long Shot': "It Was Our Number One Goal to Be a Character-Driven Story"
Dan Sterling, along with comedy duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, was committed to seeing the film through. Then, when Charlize Theron was recruited to play a politician and Rogen's onscreen love interest, Jonathan Levine came aboard.
There's no denying the political climate has changed in recent years, and that's something the minds behind Long Shot knew they had to acknowledge in the film. As a result, the version that premiered in New York City on Tuesday was much different compared to Dan Sterling's screenplay that he wrote back in 2009.
"That was a time when Obama was president, and I was still angry about the second Iraq war and Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state," Sterling told The Hollywood Reporter. "So yeah, it took a lot of work to update this movie when we started shooting it in 2017."
Sterling, along with comedy duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, was committed to seeing the film through. Then, when Charlize Theron was recruited to play a politician and Rogen's onscreen love interest, Jonathan Levine came aboard.
"Of course, as we were going through the process of making the movie, the political world got so charged that we would’ve been crazy not to incorporate it into the movie," Levine said. "But we had to do it in a way that would sort of hold up a mirror to the absurdities of our real world, yet also feel different enough that you’re not thinking about modern Donald Trump politics, your Twitter feed, all that stuff."
According to Sterling, the process was "laborious," but the result is a film that's, for the most part, nonpartisan. Rogen described it as "something everyone can enjoy and laugh at."
"And I think that yeah, although there is a political backdrop, I don’t think it is alienating to anyone and I think everyone can just enjoy it," he added.
There are certainly familiar elements of today's political turmoil, though. Bob Odenkirk, for example, plays the president of the United States who is more focused on transitioning from TV — where he got his start prior to leading the country — to film. There's also Fox News-esque talking heads always ready to hurl sexist comments toward Theron's character.
But even with Liz Hannah, who co-wrote the screenplay and brought her knowledge of politics and journalism from The Post, the filmmakers ultimately decided to place politics in the background.
"It was always our number one goal to be a character-driven story about two people who fall in love," Levine told THR, adding that he loves exploring emotional subjects "and then undercutting them with jokes."
This is part of what makes Long Shot such a true-to-form romantic comedy. Sterling explained that he simply wanted moviegoers to walk away feeling "hopeful."
"And that doesn’t mean hope like, oh, a schlubby guy can get a tall, willowy model or anything," he said. "I would like that everybody thinks that they could find love — the kind of love that would be so all-consuming and so completely fulfilling that the rest of the world could just fall away; even if there’s a lot of risks to the relationship and there’s a lot at stake, that they could be so fulfilled by a relationship that it would be worth risking just about everything."
Theron described Long Shot as the type of romantic comedy that she's particularly drawn to: relatable.
"This has got really nice conflict; this is not an easy relationship. The world is not making it easy for them to be together," she said. "But it feels very believable. I think that was important for me to want to be a part of it."
Part of the believability, according to Levine, comes from the chemistry between Theron and Rogen.
"Their energies really compliment each other and I think that the truth is, they’re both fans of each other," he said. "So that comes through, like Seth is such a huge fan of Charlize and Charlize thinks Seth is so funny, and that comes through on the screen. It’s wonderful. They really admire each other."
Long Shot also stars June Diane Raphael, O'Shea Jackson Jr., and Alexander Skarsgard. The film hits theaters this Friday.