Old School

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Production Notes Part 2

Reitman recalls that he immediately responded to the idea presented by Phillips and Armstrong. “There are only so many original college-based movies you can do, and I thought there was a funny movie to be made out of these three good friends who each come to a crisis point at about the same moment in their lives, and their solution is to start a fraternity—the fact that they are long gone out of college notwithstanding. I thought that if we could capture that transitional moment when you have to make the decision to mature into full adulthood, it would be something audiences could relate to.”

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Pollock offers that the producers were also happy to be collaborating again with Phillips. “After the success of ‘Road Trip,’ we very much wanted to work with Todd again. When he brought us this script, we thought it was a great idea. And as a director, it’s clear that Todd gets the joke, which is harder than it sounds. Not every director knows what’s funny. I really believe Todd knows what’s funny.”

“Todd not only knows where the joke is, he has a really fine casting sense,” Reitman adds.Phillips might consider Reitman’s comment the highest compliment he could be paid, since he believes that the right casting is key to making a film work. “In general, I think casting is 70 percent of a film’s success, and for a comedy it’s 85 percent. If you do it well and get the right chemistry, your job as a director is a lot easier.”

The right chemistry was especially important in the casting of Mitch, Frank and Beanie. From the start, Phillips had three names in mind: Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, starting with Vaughn. “Vince was the guy I wanted from day one. I think he’s one of the funniest actors around, which has gone pretty much untapped, at least in the mainstream. Once we had Vince, I thought it would be amazing if we could get Will and Luke, and it all just fell into place. I feel very lucky. These guys all come from different places and their comedy is different, too, but the chemistry was just perfect.”

Producer Dan Goldberg acknowledges, “It might seem like unconventional casting. I mean, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell and Luke Wilson are three actors you might not think of together normally, but they really worked well as a team. When we started shooting, we could see how interesting they were together, and it really transcended the script. It was even funnier than it was on the page, and to our surprise, some of the humor ended up coming from much more subtle things.”

“There is something in their energies that mixes together to create something that’s delicious to watch,” Reitman agrees. “The cockiness of Vince Vaughn is a perfect foil to the kind of innocence of Will Ferrell. And then you have Luke Wilson, God bless him, who is right down the middle and is the glue that holds this unusual ensemble together.”

Luke Wilson stars as Mitch, whose rather shocking discovery of his about-to-be fiancée’s extracurricular activities is the catalyst that sets everything in motion. “Mitch is this by-the-book real estate lawyer, maybe slightly uptight,” Wilson offers. “In the beginning of the movie, he’s about to propose to his girlfriend...until he comes home early from a business meeting to find she’s been unfaithful to him—to put it kindly. He moves out and gets this house right off a college campus. That’s when his two best friends, Beanie and Frank, encourage Mitch to start his own fraternity and everything gets rolling from there. I guess you could say that Mitch remains the voice of reason; he’s the guy who’s got his finger in the dam even while it’s coming down around him.”

Frank is played by Will Ferrell, who describes his character as “a big teddy bear of a guy. He is getting married, but even at the alter, he doesn’t really know if it’s the right thing. He has this alter ego, ‘Frank the Tank,’ from his past party days, who is not quite out of his system. Over the course of the film, ‘Frank the Tank’ takes over and pretty much wrecks his marriage. But that’s okay; we don’t really want to see Frank married.”

Revealing what attracted him to the project, Ferrell jokes, “Number one, I wanted to be able to run naked through the streets of Montrose. Once I found a role that satisfied that, I knew I was okay. Actually,” he continues, “the opportunity to work with Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson was the biggest thing for me. Then I met Todd Phillips and thought that the combination of the four of us working together, along with the premise of the movie, had the potential for a really fun comedy.”

Vaughn’s character, Beanie, is the most settled of the trio, with a wife and kids. Vaughn notes, “He is a married man, but when he helps start a fraternity to help Mitch meet girls and have some fun, Beanie also becomes tempted by being around that atmosphere. Beanie owns Speaker City. He’s a salesman, kind of a hustler, but I think he’s ultimately a good guy. To play him I just took on that sort of salesman mentality and exaggerated it for the comedic value…made it just slightly off-center.”

Like Ferrell, Vaughn was drawn to the project by his fellow castmates, as well as the director. “I was really impressed by Todd and his ideas for the story, and I particularly liked that he was open to collaboration,” he says.

Wilson adds, “The script was really funny to begin with, but the cast would come up with lines and different ways to do a scene, and Todd was great about incorporating those ideas. It made it exciting to show up every day and find new things in the script.”

Phillips remarks, “As my co-writer, Scot might kill me for saying this, but to me, the script is a blueprint; it’s a jumping-off point. Then the actors and I get in there and work out new ideas to make it tighter and hopefully funnier. We take out lines, add in new ones…and it just makes the process so much more exciting.”

The director is quick to point out that it was not only the three main leads who took part in that process. “We had a great cast, really solid actors with terrific timing, who could consistently deliver the comedy.”

The sorority of actresses in the “Old School” cast includes Ellen Pompeo, Juliette Lewis, Leah Remini, Perrey Reeves and Elisha Cuthbert. Ellen Pompeo plays Nicole, who becomes the love interest to Mitch after his sudden breakup with the woman he intended to someday marry. Pompeo explains that, like the fraternity, the couple’s relationship is also something of a throwback to the past. “Nicole and Mitch went to high school together, but neither of them realized that they both had a crush on each other, even then.”

Nicole is happy to have Mitch back in her life, though she becomes somewhat skeptical about their future when she learns about the fraternity. “The frat thing—I don’t understand anything about it. I mean, the things these guys go through… I guess it’s the brotherhood. Why don’t they just join the army? But then, Ivan already did that movie,” Pompeo laughs.

Mitch would not have been available for Nicole, were it not for the actions of Heidi, his would-be fiancée. Juliette Lewis, who plays Heidi, notes, “My character sets up what happens to Luke Wilson’s character when he finds out that his girlfriend is not the nice girl he thought he knew. I got to do a send-up of the quintessential L.A. girl, really cute, pretty and vacuous… and I got to blow out my hair. She was a character I’d had in my head that I’d been wanting to play, and it just so happened that I could fit it perfectly into this movie.”

Leah Remini plays Beanie’s wife, Lara, who seems the most able to handle her husband’s fraternizing. “Beanie is a wheeler-dealer and everybody gets talked into his game—except his wife,” Remini states. “She basically doesn’t take any crap from him, so the few times you see her, she may not be particularly charming, but a lot of wives out there will understand and relate to her.”

Unlike the long-married Lara, Marissa has just walked down the aisle with Frank, so his regression comes as something of a shock to the newlywed bride. Perrey Reeves, who plays Marissa, remarks, “I think Marissa is the girl who said ‘I’m going to find the perfect husband and get married in the most glamorous, fluffy wedding dress, with the lace, the beads and the tulle, and live in the perfect house…’ She just picked the wrong guy. She thought she married a grownup, but the minute they get married, Frank decides to revert back to his teenage years, and there doesn’t seem to be anything Marissa can do to reel him back in.”

“Old School,” however, is far from being a comedy about the men versus the women. Elisha Cuthbert plays Darcie, a young co-ed, who is happy to welcome Mitch and friends back to “Greek Row.” Jeremy Piven and Craig Kilborn appear as two guys who have no intention of joining the frat—not that Piven’s character, in particular, is removed from college life.

Piven plays Gordon Pritchard, the Dean of the University, who, the actor says, “is an over-achiever, but you also might say he has an anger management disorder. He grew up with the three boys, but I think they used to torture him as a child. Now he’s in a position to turn the tables on them, and he ends up being their arch-nemesis.”

In his feature film debut, Craig Kilborn appears as Mark, the man vying with Mitch for Nicole’s affections in some pretty underhanded ways. “He’s a jerk,” Kilborn can’t help but admit. “We always need people to be jerks in movies, and I’ve got that plum role here.”

There are also a number of recognizable actors who make cameo appearances in “Old School,” including “Road Trip” alumni Seann William Scott and Andy Dick, and rap star Snoop Dogg. Appearing as himself, Snoop Dogg performs at a frat party that would make any adult want to relive his unbridled college days, albeit briefly.

Phillips offers, “These guys are in their 30s and out of step with college kids today, but they want so badly to fit in again, each for different reasons. ‘Old School’ is about their usually left-footed attempts to recapture those times. Maybe because I’m 31 and sort of at that same point, it was a topic I felt was fun and interesting to explore.”