'We're the Millers': From Cancer-Treatment Project to All-Star Family Comedy
The audience at Thursday night's premiere of We're the Millers in New York spent much of the movie laughing uproariously at the fictional follies of Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts and Ed Helms.
But when co-writer Steve Faber first started working on the script, roughly 11 years ago, he was dealing with a very serious reality: non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
As he was undergoing chemotherapy, he wrote the first draft of the film while he spent a year and a half in the hospital, at times not thinking he'd make it out, Faber tells The Hollywood Reporter at Thursday's premiere party.
Faber and his writing partner, Bob Fisher, sold the script to New Line Cinema, where it spent more than a decade in development with various writers, including director Rawson Marshall Thurber, tinkering with the script.
Now Faber is cancer-free and the movie is finally being released.
New Line president Toby Emmerich defends the film's long gestation period, similar to that of the 2011 New Line hit Horrible Bosses, saying "This was the right way to make it, and we didn't know that nine years ago. We were actively trying to make it, but it took a long time to get the right combination of filmmaker and cast where we really thought that it made sense and worked. It's a little daunting that it can take so long, but like Horrible Bosses, it's a reminder that if you really believe in the material and the idea, you should just stick with it."
Indeed Emmerich and New Line president of production Richard Brener have high hopes that the comedy will find an audience in a crowded summer marketplace.
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"Comedies tend to have an opportunity to compete against even the biggest movies. … So hopefully with our Wednesday opening and the word of mouth that we anticipate, we'll have a good little run," Brener says. "And it's not just about the first weekend, even though everyone kind of says that; there aren't a lot of comedies coming up for the rest of the month, so hopefully we'll have some legs."
"I think there hasn't been a comedy in a while, and people love to see comedies in the summer," Emmerich adds. "I think it's a great comedy, so hopefully people will enjoy it, and it offers counter-programming to so many other genres that have been more prevalent in the past few weeks."
Earlier on the red carpet, Thurber said of the film, "It's got lots of laughs, and it's got just enough heart to make you care."
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Indeed, despite some of the depressing production developments, the original idea for the story was light-hearted, Faber says.
"I did take these long, meandering drives down to the border," he explains. "And I would notice the same guy getting busted over and over again -- hair down to his back in a VW bus -- and I always thought to myself, 'Why not clean up?' "
Faber says the movie is ultimately about family, and Fisher compares it to another comedy the two wrote for New Line, Wedding Crashers.
"Wedding Crashers started off as a critique of marriage and ended up being an embrace of it," Fisher says and adds that We're the Millers does the same thing.
But while family is the focus of the movie, on the red carpet THR asks Sudeikis, Aniston and Helms about various developments in their careers.
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Sudeikis is particularly nonchalant about his recent announcement that he won't be returning to Saturday Night Live in the fall, agreeing that it was simply time to move on.
"I had my time with [SNL]. Gotta move on and do other things," he says.
"And I think the show benefits from people moving on; it loosens things up for the people that just got there or have yet to be there," he adds.
And Helms said that while he's known Sudeikis for 10 years, he hasn't given him any advice on transitioning from TV to movies like he did and doesn't think he needs to.
Meanwhile, Aniston, who directed a short film for Lifetime, tells THR that she was eager to do more work behind the camera.
"I'm chomping at the bit to do that again," she says.