Here’s an interview that’s a little different from the norm, since here at Above the Line, we tend to have very serious conversations about the industry and making movies and what’s involved When you speak to filmmaker Will Gluck (Easy A), it’s very difficult to stay serious.
Gluck’s latest movie, Anyone But You, stars Sydney Sweeney (Euphoria) and Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick) as Bea and Ben, a couple who go on a date that’s going well… until it isn’t. Years later, they meet again when Bea’s sister is marrying Ben’s friend, and they all travel to Sydney, Australia for the destination wedding. Despite their differences, Bea and Ben are forced to get along, but when their exes also show, they have to pretend to be together.
Gluck, who received a Golden Globe nomination for Easy A, has remained active in comedy, writing for television first before shifting over to movies in 2009 with relative hits like Friends with Benefits – a definite rom-com precursor to Anyone but You – as well as directing the family film, Peter Rabbit, and its 2021 sequel, about which he spoke to Below the Line two years ago.
Above the Line spoke with Gluck over Zoom recently for the following interview.
Above the Line: Romcoms can be tough, though you’ve had elements of them in your previous films. I know this one you wrote with Ilana Wolpert, so how did that screenplay come to you for you to direct?
Will Gluck: I heard that there was a script that Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell was attached to, and I’ve always wanted to work with them. I called them and said, “What’s going on with it?” We all got together, and we talked for a long time, and then we said, “What if we do this? We’d want to do it this way.” So then we all kind of joined hands and did it the way we wanted to do it, and we were off to the races. It came together pretty quickly.
ATL: So Sydney was already involved and attached as a producer?
Gluck: Sydney was attached to Ilana’s script, and then Sidney got Glen attached, and then very shortly after, we all talked, us three, and then we all decided to do it this direction. And that’s why I said, “Let’s do it in Sydney,” and then we wrote [it] for Glen and Sydney… and Sydney [Australia].
ATL: Sydney’s an up and coming dramatic actor, but I didn’t realize how funny she is, at least not from her work on Euphoria. She’s not even just funny, she’s hilarious.
Gluck: She’s hilarious in real life, and she’s really funny and winning in real life. She’s a really good actress with her parts in Euphoria and Reality and Handmaid’s Tale, so people thinks that what she does, but Sydney is much more vivacious and funny and outgoing than she’s been playing recently. So it’s kind of fun to see her show her true colors in this.
ATL: Had she and Glen already worked on it a bit or spent any time on the script before you came on board?
Gluck: Sydney met Glen, when Glen gave her an award at the [MTV Movie Awards], as all regular human beings do; that’s how they meet each other. When he handed her a silver [popcorn] bucket, that was it – that literally was how they met. When I came aboard, then we started kind of working together, and then they didn’t meet in person until the day before shooting.
ATL: Where was the script at when you came on board? Did you feel that you had to add more humor or jokes to it? You have two really good-looking people, at least, so you know you have that going for you.
Gluck: I just wanted to do what I do, to make it my tone, so it’s what I do to all the things. Once you know who is going to be in it, it changes everything to me, especially a romantic comedy, it’s all about who’s in it. You have to really write towards who’s in it, their strengths and weaknesses – not that they have any weaknesses — and then we started casting the other 10 people. rewrote every character for the actual actors, which is a big part of my process.
ATL: When you came on board and started working with the actors, what were some of the things you talked about? Were there specific scenes you had to figure out and work on?
Gluck: The way we do it is I write the scenes, as always, and then send it to them, and we’d all get together on Zoom and talk about it, then I rewrite it and send it back to them, and then we’d have as much rehearsal as we possibly could, on Zoom, but also in person. Glen got to Australia earlier, and then when Sydney got there, right before, we would do as much rehearsal as we can the day before and the weekend. My idea is always to be so familiar with the material so that we actually get on set and start to shoot the actual scene, then it’s time to play. Honestly, the chemistry that I saw between Syd and [Glen]… people are always talking about chemistry, that crazy word, but the first time when Sydney came into Australia on that Sunday, right from Italy after shooting her movie Immaculate, which is this Italian Vatican movie. She came to Sydney on Sunday, and they sat down where we were staying and started rehearsing, and within about a minute, I was like, “Oh, my God, thank God. This is incredible,” and nothing else mattered except for these two, and then we’re off to the races.
ATL: Is that something fairly common for you to write a script and have the actors to bounce ideas off of while you’re writing? I feel that’s not a very common thing.
Gluck: Everything I’ve ever done, I d that. I just constantly send scenes and scenes, and then they would text back, and then Zoom and then rewrite them and text back.I want to have input from the people. Especially a romantic comedy, I always say you can’t hide in a romantic comedy. It’s you up there. I really wanted to make it feel natural and what these characters are going through their lens. I always do that. Every one of the movies I do.
ATL: Even back when you made Easy A with Emma Stone, you were collaborating with her while writing?
Gluck: Absolutely, constantly, and Emma Stone was many more weeks of rehearsals and talking it through and changing. Also, on-set I change constantly. If something doesn’t go, well, you stop, rewrite the scene, rework it, do the rehearsal and then, try it again. As long as everyone trusts each other — as I trusted Emmy implicitly — try anything.
ATL: Do you know if Sydney Sweeney was a fan of Easy A, and that’s how she thought of you to direct this?
Gluck: Sydney Sweeney said something that really pissed me off in the press last week. She said, “I grew up watching his movies,” and I’m like, “Come on, girl.” So I don’t know, but she’s definitely seen them.
ATL: She would have been a teenager when Easy A came out, so it’s definitely possible.
Gluck: I guess so… technically, yes.
ATL: You’ve obviously shot in Sydney, Australia a lot, so did that make it easier to get places like the Sydney Opera House? We’ve seen it from across the bay in many movies, but you really film there. Is that just out of having a good relationship with the Australian Film Board?
Gluck: It was not easy. It’s not easy. Because most movies, when you film in Australia, even the ones I did, you have to pretend it’s someplace else, which means you can’t show the Opera House. You can’t show all that stuff. I said to New South Wales and Sydney that I want to show Sydney for Sydney and showcase it. Once they realized that we really wanted to make it a love letter, which is what I really wanted to do, they pretty much did everything we could have asked for, and they helped out with everything, and let us shoot everywhere. They let us shut down a bridge and land a helicopter at the Opera House. Landing a helicopter at the Sydney Opera House, that’s like asking to land a helicopter outside of Times Square. They made it happen, and I’m really happy with the result, and I hope they will be, too.
ATL: I do have to ask about Bryan Brown. When he shows up in this movie…
Gluck: I know. You love Bryan Brown. The word on the street, Ed, is that you love Bryan Brown.
ATL: Not only that, but every guy of a certain age has seen F/X either on HBO or cable maybe 100 times, because it was on constantly in the ’90s. I saw Bryan Brown, and I immediately told a few male friends who I knew would have no interest in this movie, and that got them excited about a movie that never would have even thought about seeing.
Gluck: Funny about Bryan Brown is that when he did Cocktail with Tom Cruise, he was arguably the same [level] of star that Tom Cruise was at that moment in time. He was huge, and he’s the best. He’s absolutely as advertised.
ATL: Who came up with casting Bryan, was it you or one of the other actors? A producer?
Gluck: Me. You want a quintessential Australian; there’s two to choose from, and Bryan is one of them.
ATL: I guess he’s remained working in Australia a lot.
Gluck: Constantly. He always does Australian TV series. He and Sam Neill fight it out all the time as far as roles. “I’ll do one, and he’ll do the other.” They’re best mates, which is really nice, and he always works.
ATL: Have they done a movie together?
Gluck: Oh, yeah. They just finished one a couple years ago called Palm Beach, that Sam Neill’s wife, Rachel Ward, wrote and directed, but they’re really good friends, they work together all time.
ATL: Anyone But You is Rated R, which is becoming more and more okay. For a long time, studios insisted on making comedies PG-13 in order to bring in a teen audience. This one feels like it has to be R-rated, since it thrives on its raunchier humor. Can you talk about that? Did you have to push for an R-rating, or was that always the plan?
Gluck: No, we didn’t have to push for it at all. One thing we’re all trying hard is to get people to come to theaters to go see romantic comedies, because as you know, in the last five or six years, it’s defaulted into seeing them on streaming at home. Before that, it was always go to the theater with your friends or your partners or your loved ones or your dates to go see romantic comedy. We’re trying everything we possibly can to make as good and as real and as edgy and an adult comedy as we possibly can to get people to go see it. So it was never a question what the rating was going to be.
ATL: What is going on between you and Natasha Bedingfield? When we spoke for Easy A, I asked about “Pocketful of Sunshine,” and in this one, there’s Glen’s serenity song (“Unwritten”), which I didn’t realize at the time… but that’s ALSO Nathasha Bedingfield. Did you get a two-for-one deal?
Gluck: It’s one of those things that whenever I pick a song like that, I’m like you, and I didn’t realize, “Oh my god that’s Natasha Bedingfield,” and then, subsequently, during this, we become friends, and we talk all the time. She’s got this incredible sound that the songs are so vivacious you can’t stop singing these songs, and it’s of a certain era that there’s just something about her that even though you first hear them people are kind of rolling their eyes at the song. Within about 10 seconds, they’re singing along at the top of their lungs, and it’s such a fun song. The scene in the movie, the first time he introduced the song when Glen’s hearing it on his earphones, there’s a little bit of eye rolling, and then, you ultimately realize how much everyone loves the song, which is what I love about her stuff.
ATL: I’m not sure how many people will make that connection between this and Easy A. Has Natasha ever performed at one of your premieres?
Gluck: We were going to do a new version of it, and we started talking about it, but we kind of ran out of time, because the actors’ strike stopped everything. There’s talking of her coming. She’s in New York, so she might be. She’s really into this movie and into the song. So it’s exciting.
ATL: Where do you go from here? You’ve done some family films, you just did this R-rated rom-com, so have you been writing a lot of stuff over the course of COVID?
Gluck: The next movie coming up is a big action comedy with two big stars, which you’ll hear about pretty soon. Big funny action comedy that’s about class and what’s going on right now in America, but it’s a really funny movie.That’s my next one, and I just like to keep trying to do different things. Listen, anytime anyone lets me make a movie, I think they’re crazy, so I say yes, and I just keep going.
ATL: It was great talking to you again, Will. I hope next time we talk, it will continue our discussions about Natasha Bedingfield. I’ve literally only heard two of her songs so far, both in your movies.
Gluck: But you had heard those songs before?
ATL: Sure, I probably heard them, but didn’t know what they were at the time.
Gluck: It’s okay to say you like them, Ed. There’s no shame.
Anyone But You opens on Friday, Dec. 22.