After the theatrical release of Mother Night, and the completion of my long-gestating documentary on Lenny Bruce, I felt it was time to make a move towards directing a feature film. Then, in October of 1998, I got a phone call from my old friend Larry David, asking if I'd like to direct him in a one-hour HBO special. I figured, ''Why the hell not? This should only take about six months.''
Then I blinked my eyes and seven years had passed. After five seasons of producing and directing Curb Your Enthusiasm (the series based on that original special), I decided it was time to return to the game plan I was ready to enact when Larry first called.
As ''Curb Your Enthusiasm'' continued to gain momentum over the preceding years, and especially after I received my directing Emmy for the ''Krazee-Eyez Killa'' episode, I started to receive a lot of feature scripts. There were a few along the way that I really responded to, but most of them were films I couldn't see spending two hours watching, let alone a year making. I did have a low-budget indie I had written myself called ''American Standard,'' for which I was hunting down financing. I was also attached to direct a terrific script by Pete Dexter called ''Florence,'' which was going out to actors (and which I still plan to make), but nothing was set up and ready to go.
Then my agent sent me a script with the unlikely title, ''How to Lose Friends & Alienate People.'' I knew it was something special before I finished the first page. By page ten, I had to keep myself from calling my agent to tell him to get me a meeting. I did call him once I finished the script, as my initial excitement remained undiminished. The script was fresh and funny and smart, and totally suited to my sensibilities.
The film was being produced by a Stephen Woolley, a formidable name in contemporary British Cinema. Stephen had a list of credits longer than a baboon's arm, including all the films directed by Neil Jordan (''The Crying Game,'' ''Interview with the Vampire,'' ''Michael Collins,'' etc.)
''How to Lose Friends…'' was based on a best-selling memoir by British journalist Toby Young. Toby was a rather celebrity-struck, model-ogling hack who, in the early-mid 90's, was publishing an intellectual/pop culture hybrid rag in London called ''The Modern Review.'' One day he got a call from Graydon Carter at ''Vanity Fair,'' asking him to come to New York and work for the magazine. Toby was like the proverbial pig in shit as he was thrust into the promised land of celebrities and super models. However, he somehow managed to piss off just about everyone he came in contact with, until he was finally fired by Carter and sent back to England with his tail between his legs.
I learned that the book was a huge seller in England, and also sold respectably in the U.S. When I finally read Toby's book, I truly enjoyed it, but I was glad it wasn't up to me to pen the adaptation. I don't know that I would have ''found'' the movie in it. This made me all the more impressed with the brilliant screenplay by British writer Peter Straughan. He was smart to take a certain amount of creative liberty with the actual events from Toby's life. He absolutely captured the spirit of the book and preserved many of the more memorable anecdotes, but structured a beautiful multi-layered story (even brought out the boy-meets-girl), and found the movie in Toby's loser-take-all memoir.
Woolley brought me to London in April, 2006, where I met with Peter Straughan and Toby Young, respectively. I returned in June to meet with Simon Pegg who had read the script and was interested in playing the lead. This was thrilling news. Simon's fans are myriad and I'm one of them. I knew his work initially from the cult zombie comedy ''Shaun of the Dead'', and later from his remarkable BBC series, ''Spaced.'' He struck me as perfect for the part of Sidney Young. (The names of the film's characters differ from the real-life counterparts who inspired them.) The prospect of working with Simon makes it impossible for me to curb my enthusiasm about this project. If all goes according to plan, we should be in active pre-production in January of '07, and in production this spring. Filming is due to take place in London and New York.
As additional parts get cast over the next while, I'll update this webpage, so if you're interested in staying apprised of the casting, check in regularly. (And please, don't attempt to contact me about casting, if you're an actor. Your agent will know how to contact the casting director.)
Update: 20 May, 2007. Greetings! Updating you from London, where I've been since March 25. We commence filming on June 4, and I'm winding up with a dream cast.
Pegg's co-star in the film is the fabulous Kirsten Dunst, whom I last worked with on "Mother Night" when she was thirteen years old. (I know she hasn't done much since then, so I thought I'd give her a break.)
Playing editor-in-chief Clayton Harding is Jeff Bridges. Jeff and I have been friends for ten years and have long talked about finding the right project to do together. Well, we found it.
Other cast members include the amazing Danny Huston (whom I've been stalking for months to play this role), the very lovely and talented Gillian Anderson, and the rapidly ascending upstart Max Minghella. We are close to closing a deal with the delicious Megan Fox from "Transformers," to play our ingenue, Sophie Maes. Rounding out the cast are the highly regarded British thespians Bill Paterson and Miriam Margolyes. More announcements to come, so stay tuned....
NEW: Exclusive interview with Robert B. Weide about the production of ''How to Lose Friends''