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Multiple times, Will Smith has faced off against aliens, robots, and Miami drug dealers, but there’s one thing he’s only done a single time: a true rom-com.
Back in 2005, when Smith was still considered Hollywood’s biggest star, he took a break from big-budget action films to star in Hitch, playing a professional date doctor who had all the answers for seducing women, until he met the one of his dreams. Hitch would become a critical and commercial hit, mostly thanks to Smith’s movie star charisma and delightful chemistry with Eva Mendes and Kevin James.
Now, 14 years later, EW is uncovering the film’s untold stories. Below, director Andy Tennant looks back on the Emmy winner who was cut, the TV icon whose door they knocked on, and the Oscar winner who did some doctoring of his own. And always remember, you never go the whole hundred!
1. Alexander Skarsgård was (mostly) left on the cutting room floor
When released in 2005, Hitch was headlined by Hollywood’s biggest name (Will Smith), a bona fide TV star (Kevin James), and a young female lead on the rise (Eva Mendes). But in recent years, eagle-eyed fans have realized the film’s most stealth casting: Allegra Cole’s (Amber Valletta) playboy ex Sebastian, whose sole appearance is via a newspaper photo, is played by Alexander Skarsgård. Three years before breaking out on True Blood, the Swedish actor was cast as Albert Brennaman’s (James) romantic rival. “We shot a huge sequence at Madison Square Garden with Alexander, Will, Kevin, and Amber,” reveals Tennant. “It was like 12 minutes during the Knicks game and in the tunnels. There’s not a confrontation but a definite meeting where Alex and Kevin have this scene with Amber.” And while the game still made the cut, Skarsgard didn’t (sans the photo). Tennant insists the future Emmy winner was great, but that the scene had just become unnecessary. “The sequence was about trying to convince the audience that Kevin’s character was the most-worthy of [Allegra’s] love,” he reveals. “And we just didn’t need it. People loved Kevin James from the first scene.”
2. Will Smith wasn’t the only one doing some doctoring
While Kevin Bisch is the credited screenwriter for Hitch, Tennant says much of the film was actually written on the fly. And it wasn’t just Tennant doing the work, he was aided by a past and future Oscar winner. “Kenneth Lonergan did an amazing amount of doctoring and writing,” he reveals of the Manchester by the Sea filmmaker, who was joined by Rain Man scribe Ron Bass. “It was all hands-on deck.”
3. Ambush in the City
But Tennant and his stacked group of writers weren’t the only ones coming up with ideas as Smith was key in shaping the scene in which Hitch coaches Albert on first kisses. “Will looked around at the location in the West Village and said, ‘This is beautiful, why are we only shooting half a page here?’” recalled Tennant. “We got onto a conversation of walking a girl to the door and Will said, ‘Have you ever heard of the 90/10?’ So he explained what 90/10 was and Kevin, Will, and myself start riffing on jiggling keys and we decide that we’re going to do a scene where Will walks Kevin to the door.” One problem: They didn’t have a permit, so Smith and Tennant started going door-to-door. “We literally pick a brownstone, go up the stairs and knock on the door together and guess who opens the door?” says Tennant. “Sarah Jessica Parker. It’s her apartment. And she looks at us like, ‘Wait, hi, what, what’s going on?’ And we ask if we can use her stoop for a scene that we haven’t written yet and she’s like, ‘Sure!’ So that door is actually where Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker live.”
4. Dancing, Big Willie Style
Smith’s creative mind and cache continued to be a winning formula when it came to his character memorably teaching Albert how to dance. “I remember Will and I going to Amy Pascal, who was a Sony executive, and pitching new ideas and one of those was Will just showing Amy how funny that scene could be,” recalls Tennant. “Will had ‘making the pizza’ and all of these goofy moves, so we knew just then that it was going to be great.” And while the original pitch was Smith’s, it was James who would end up stealing the show. “We had cameras on Will and Kevin, so we shot both their reactions at the same time because we didn’t want Will to know what it was that Kevin was going to do,” says Tennant. “You can see it in the movie that Will is holding the clicker up to his mouth because he didn’t want to break character and laugh. And Kevin did everything he could to make him laugh.” But then it was back to Smith to lock in the music for the film, including the perfect choice of Usher’s “Yeah!” Says Tennant, “We never would have gotten all those songs if we were just a movie at Sony. We got them because Will had all those relationships.”
5. 2 Hitch 2 Close
As evidenced by the upcoming Bad Boys 3, Smith is no stranger to sequels, a trend he almost continued with Hitch. “I wish there had been a Hitch 2 because we had ideas of what would happen,” shares Tennant. “We had some opportunities that for whatever reason it just wasn’t something Will needed or wanted to revisit. I would have really loved to have seen Will and Kevin do it again.”