How do you top yourself after making one of the most critically awarded films of the decade? If you’re Hanson, you make your next movie about a novelist whose last book was such a huge hit he hasn’t published a word since. ”There is a similar theme,” concedes the director. ”Being paralyzed by your own success. But in the movie business, success only gives you more leverage to make the movies you really want to make.”
What Hanson really wanted to make was an adaptation of Michael Chabon’s quirky 1995 novel about an overweight, pothead writer-teacher (Douglas) who spends a drug-addled weekend averting various disasters with his lecherous editor (Downey) and a suicidal student (Maguire). But it took Douglas to give the project enough star power for a greenlight. ”I’ve done the slick millionaire trilogy, the sex movie trilogy — this was just a nice stretch for me, to play a real screw-up,” says the future Mr. Zeta-Jones.
A stretch in more ways than one: Douglas gained 25 pounds for the role. ”I wanted him to gain some weight, but not so much that it would be distracting,” explains Hanson. ”I didn’t want the audience to be thinking, Oh my God, look what happened to Michael Douglas!” BUZZ FACTOR: 7
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