'This Is Where I Leave You': Six movie revelations from BookCon
You can go home again — sometimes with less drama than going to your actual home.
Five years ago, author Jonathan Tropper debuted This Is Where I Leave You at Book Expo America, and on Friday afternoon he returned to his old stomping grounds to present footage from the upcoming film version of the novel, about a combative family brought together by their father’s funeral.
The event kicked off BookCon, the new public section of the convention, and along for the ride were director Shawn Levy (Real Steel, the Night at the Museum movies) and stars Tina Fey and Jason Bateman. “I’m going to keep bringing movie stars on book tours, because I never get this crowd,” Tropper told the packed auditorium.
Here are six things fans should know about the movie, which comes out Sept. 12:
WHY THE FAMILY’S NAME CHANGED
In the novel, the dysfunctional family is named the Foxmans, but the studio had trouble getting legal clearance for that.
“You have to submit names of all the characters, and if there are real people with those names in the community or area represented in the movie, you can’t use that name,” Levy said. “And we didn’t want to change the first names.”
“So Shawn and I started emailing back and forth vaguely Jewish names,” Tropper said.
“I have a friend I do that with, too,” Fey interjected.
Bateman joked that “vaguely Jewish” was “also one of the titles we were thinking about.”
SAVING FAVORITE LINES
The novel is written in the first-person, with Judd
Foxman Altman narrating his own story. But a movie naturally can’t have the same interior perspective, at least not with a crushing amount of narration.
Levy was afraid of losing some of the more memorable lines from the book, so he went through and marked up a copy of the book to highlight narration he wanted Tropper to reconfigure into dialogue.
“I underline everything I loved,” Levy said. “And I still have that copy. I wanted the movie to be, if anything, more faithful to the book.”
NEXT PAGE: NOT KNOWING WHETHER TO LAUGH OR CRY
NOT KNOWING WHETHER TO LAUGH OR CRY
Both Fey, who plays Wendy (the not-so-happily married mom of two) and Bateman, who plays the sad-sack Judd (whose wife has just him for his boss) are primarily known for comedies. But obviously there’s a lot about the characters that is more melancholy than funny.
Bateman says he was surprised that some of the saddest moments, such as the opening scene where he gets word of his father’s death, actually result in some of the biggest laughs.
“[Tropper] creates these emotionally vulnerable situations which is really the grounding of comedy anyway,” the actor said. “There’s nothing funny about somebody who’s bullet proof. So the comedy was always right there for you to grab if you wanted to.”
TINA FEY WILL BEAT YOU UP
One of the scenes invented for the movie was a battle between Fey and Bateman when the sister starts trying to get her brother to reveal the secret of his marriage breakup.
They go from trading whispered insults to actually grappling in front of a houseful of mourners.
It helps when you give opposite direction to your actors,” Levy said. “I would whisper in Jason’s ear: ‘Shut her up.’ And I would go to Tina: ‘Make him confess.’ The only note I ever gave her was, ‘Pull his hair harder.’”
“This came off three times!” Bateman joked, wiggling his hair like a wig.
“It ended up backwards,” Fey said.
“Is it on straight now?” Bateman asked.
NEXT PAGE: TINA FEY WILL BEAT YOU UP — PART II
TINA FEY WILL BEAT YOU UP — PART II
Another change to the book takes place later in the story, when Judd is at the hospital with his brother Phillip (Adam Driver) and his sister Wendy, only to come face-to-face with his ex-boss Wade (Dax Shephard), who gets pushy over his affair with Judd’s wife.
In the novel, Wade ends up getting decked in the face by Phillip (seen here getting the dreaded Purple Nurple in another scene.) But Levy and Tropper decided it might be more interesting if the sister stepped in instead. “I’m certified in stage combat,” Fey joked.
“Wendy is always giving advice to Judd, but we thought it would be good to have Tina make Wendy stand up for her brother and take out Wade,” Levy said.
The actress didn’t just clock Shephard, she made up the insults that provoke the character to throw the punch. “You won’t find many actors who give an insult about themselves to another actor to say to them!” Levy said.
“The way I saw it is, we were getting some free writing from Tina Fey,” Tropper added. “And I could take credit for it!”
JANE FONDA LOVED HER FAKE BOOBS
In both the movie and the book, Jane Fonda’s character of the widowed mother is uncomfortably frank about her sexuality, and has recently had … augmentation. The way they created that in the film is with kind of rubber chest-plate that had anatomically correct (and massive) breasts.
“Jane said, ‘I want to see the top prosthetician in L.A. and get really, really big boobs,” Levy said. “They look completely real, and we would be sitting at lunch and she would just go, ‘Oops …'” He mimed a robe falling open.
“To Jane, it was like wearing a chest plate,” Levy said. “She would, like, flash passing-by cars!”