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The Intern director Nancy Meyers and the best male character she's ever written

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Francois Duhamel

Filmmaker Nancy Meyers — who rose to fame with feel-good flicks like The Parent Trap and Father of the Bride, and whose later successes include include rom-coms Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday — makes her return to the big screen after a six-year hiatus with The Intern (out Sept. 25). Written and directed by Meyers, the unconventional workplace comedy stars Robert De Niro as Ben Whittaker, a retiree who snags a senior citizens-specific internship with stressed-out fashion start up founder Jules Ostin, played by Anne Hathaway. Here, Meyers talks to EW about obsessing over set design, casting comedy stars, and scripting material for “the best guy” to appear in her movies to date.

Tina Fey and Michael Caine were originally attached to this movie, and then Reese Witherspoon was set to star. Can you elaborate a bit on some of the setbacks you experienced in trying to get this movie made?

Well, there’s always hiccups in getting a movie off the ground. It’s a process. Most times it works out for the best, and in my case, it worked out the way it was supposed to. The right people are in the movie. I’m thrilled

How did you and Anne Hathaway work together to create the character of a young woman trying to juggle it all?

When Annie commits, she really becomes one of the family. She’ll come to casting sessions with other actors. Now, other actors will do that, but they’ll come at 1:00 and stay until 1:20. She’ll come at 12:30 and stay until 5. And she’s there when we’re talking to the production designer and costume designer. She throws herself into it in a really lovely way.

What makes Robert DeNiro’s character different from the other male characters you’ve written over the course of your career?

I think he’s the best guy I’ve ever written. He’s a really good man, and he comes to the aid of our girl Jules in many ways. This movie examines men more than I normally do. When you look at movies right now, there’s this disconnect: all the girls are in movies together and all the guys are in movies together. Let’s get them together. The girls aren’t just funny when they’re with the girls.

Francois Duhamel/Warner Bros.

 

By placing a man of a certain age at the center of The Intern, it seems that you’re making a statement about ageism and the workplace. What inspired you to tackle this topic?

Real-life events have inspired everything I’ve ever written. I don’t write things that take place in outer space. You get divorced, you fall in love, you’re in love with someone that doesn’t love you back. That’s all real life stuff. This one is about retirement, when you’re 70 but you’re fully healthy, but you don’t have that thing you do every day anymore. You don’t have that purpose. Jules has created this startup, but the investors think somebody else should come in because it’s too big for one person to run. I can relate to that as a writer-director. Just because you wrote the script, are you also the one who should direct it? I’m not saying that’s been said to me, but I’m sure people wonder that. To me, the answer is ‘yeah,’ because you’re the beating heart, and you want to keep that heartbeat alive.

You also visit the subject of men who seem to perennially be boys — the guys who’ve never tucked in a shirt and who have no idea how to ask girls out on an actual date.

I have a daughter Annie’s age, and I always took her to Take Your Daughter to Work Day. We don’t have a Take Your Son To Work Day. I had never thought about that until recently, when I’ve seen so many movies with slacker boys. I remember when my girls were in high school, they would have parties and put on all these adorable dresses, and the boys would show up with their jeans falling off, and I’d say, ‘Are you guys going to the same party?’

Speaking of guys, you have a great supporting cast, including Workaholics stars Adam DeVine and Anders Holm.

I’m a comedy geek at heart, so if somebody makes me laugh, I’m in love with them. These guys were fantastic. Adam DeVine, who has a really nice part in the movie, is going to be a star for sure. It’s so weird that I cast two people from Workaholics, I’m aware of that. [Laughs]

Gorgeous set design always figures prominently in your work. How did creating the look of The Intern differ from your previous films?

A lot of the movie takes place in an office space, so I did my research on startups, I went and visited One Kings Lane, Nasty Gal, and Moda Operandi. I fell in love with what I saw, and so I got very excited about doing my own version of a startup.They’re so communal. It’s really great. When we were shooting, I remember thinking ‘I would love to work here!’

I have to ask — will there be any drool-worthy kitchens seen in this movie in the style of It’s Complicated and Something’s Gotta Give?

[Laughs] We have a very good kitchen in the movie, because Jules has a brownstone in Brooklyn. Designing the brownstone was a lot of fun for me, because Jules isn’t Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton, or somebody my age. I had a lot of fun using Pinterest to get inspired.

When did you join Pinterest?

I did Pinterest for the movie. Normally what I do is I take one wall in my office and it becomes a bulletin board. I’ll put up wardrobe ideas, set design ideas, all kinds of things. Now, Pinterest is that. So I created a Pinterest for Annie, for Bob, for Bob’s house, the startup. It was a great work tool. You know, some people have accidentally found it and pinned from it, and I’m sure they have no idea what I’m talking about on some of my pins.

Check out the latest trailer for The Intern below.

 

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