'Snatched' Director on Casting Goldie Hawn: Amy Schumer "Advocated for Her Very Hard"

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox (Snatched); Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images (Levine)

Director Jonathan Levine also opens up about making the controversial Beyonce "Formation" spoof on set.

Goldie Hawn is back on the big screen for the first time in 15 years. 

But despite an Oscar and Golden Globe to her name, convincing 20th Century Fox to cast the comedy icon in Snatched was not a simple process.

The film, opening nationwide Friday, sees Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) convince her divorced, cat-obsessed mother (Goldie Hawn) to vacation with her in Ecuador. Their trip takes a dangerous turn when the two are kidnapped for ransom.

Director Jonathan Levine says Amy Schumer spearheaded the casting of Hawn as her overprotective mother. "Amy advocated for her very hard," Levine tells The Hollywood Reporter. "We had the list of the usual suspects of people who could play Amy’s mom. Amy would keep bringing up Goldie. No one was necessarily opposed to the idea — I mean, it’s Goldie Hawn. But we didn’t know why she hadn’t acted in so long. There were so many variables."

Hawn reportedly took a 15-year hiatus in order to pursue other interests, including writing books and creating MindUP, an educational program for children.

Levine, Schumer and Hawn met at the Sunset Marquis Hotel to discuss the potential casting in person. Levine recalls seeing Schumer light up around Hawn and vice versa: "There’s just no other word for it but chemistry. From that moment on, I was completely on board." He continues, "We were all like a team advocating for her with the studio. The studio was not opposed to it either. I mean we all love Goldie."

Once Fox was convinced, Levine did not look back. "You can feel the excitement that people have about seeing her on screen again. To harness that energy and to selfishly draft off that good will and put that in our movie — I’d be crazy not to do it." But he admits it was "scary" to work with the Hollywood veteran. "You definitely feel like it’s a big responsibility. You know, she’s a comedy icon. And you want to do right by her."

The 40-year-old director suggests that the lack of meaningful roles in Hollywood for women of a certain age impacted Hawn's break from the film business. 

"There’s a very short list of actors with comedy chops and box office impact who are over the age of 60. The roles for them are not always great, and that certainly played a part in why Goldie had not been acting in so long. That was another reason that she really appealed to me," Levine explains. "She has not tarnished her brand by playing the mom in some sitcom or whatever. You associate her with quality film projects." 

As for Schumer's casting, "who better to play this kind of very flawed, narcissistic, yet hopefully likeable human than Amy?" he asks. "She is so happy to be a butt of the joke. She’s also willing to let other women feel like they’re not alone when they’re embarrassed or ashamed."

Joining Hawn and Schumer in the film is another comedy veteran: Joan Cusack. Levine says Cusack was easily convinced to play a mute, ex-member of the special ops forces. She took her role "immensely seriously," even meeting with a military expert on set for advice and training. 

During production, Snatched came under fire when Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer filmed a parody video of Beyonce's Formation. Critics slammed the spoof as cultural appropriation and racial insensitivity, as Beyonce's video is perceived as an instruction for black female empowerment. 

Levine offers his take on the situation: "That’s the thing about working with Amy is she really is a lightning rod for controversy, but she also is someone who speaks her mind, so it becomes a double-edged sword. I try to not to over think it. As a director, if you go obsessively down these rabbit holes, you probably start to go crazy, so maybe that’s my blind spot, but it’s one that preserves my sanity." The director shares his small role in the making of it, which involved playing the Formation song for Hawn and Schumer to dance to from his phone. 

The final cut of Snatched includes a Beyonce reference to her song "Single Ladies." When asked about leaving that line, the director says the connection to the parody video "didn’t even occur" to him. "Perhaps this is kind of my bad, but it didn’t even really resonate with me. This was just the character in the movie referencing Beyonce as a character who would like Beyonce. We didn’t put any Beyonce songs in the movie. I think we originally did have Formation in the trailer, and we took it out."

Levine also spoke to the decision to keep jokes about rape whistles in the film. "We’re pushing the envelope by mentioning that word [rape], but it’s not something where we would ever make light of that actual act. You never want to make light of something like that. There are lines that you don’t cross," he explains. "There were jokes in the movie that crossed the line, and those jokes we cut out of the movie."

Levine reflects on his eighth directing credit on a feature: "I’m happy with how it turned out ... If this movie does well enough to make a sequel, I’ll do a thousand sequels."