Gary Winick directed Letters to Juliet, a romantic comedy about Sophie (Amanda Seyfriend), a young woman who travels to Verona, Italy with her fiancé, Viktor (Gael Garcia Bernal). Upon visiting the Juliet's Courtyard, she comes across a letter written 50 years ago by Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) to her lover, Lorenzo Bartolini. She decides to find Claire and to help herlocate Lorenzo with the help of Claire's grandson, Charlie (Chris Egan). Gary Winick has previously directed Bride Wars, Charlotte's Web, 13 Going on 30, Tadpole and The Tic Code. It was a real privilege to interview him.
Summit Entertainment releases 2012 nationwide on May 14th, 2010.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like to close down Juliet’s Courtyard to film the movie?
GW: The fact that Juliet’s Courtyard was closed down for four days was a big deal. The city wanted to do it, but the community was mixed about closing it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What is the wall actually look like?
GW: The wall, [in reality], is not like the Wailing Wall or something romantic which we made. We made a beautiful wall with cracks in it, but the wall there is kind of posterboard. People just tape [their letters] and just sharpie it over, so we changed it around.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you find the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally?
GW: We had any easy way of provoking audiences emotionally. I took the movie because it was about friendship. I have to take a movie that has a story that’s worth telling. I felt it had an organic, emotional thing right there---now, how do I dramatize it? Having a letter that was left in a wall for fifty years by a woman who was in love with a boy and, fifty years later, comes back to find that. That’s a high concept---I kind of do high concept movies in the romantic comedy world like 13 Going on 30. The entertainment part is always tricky because I wanted to do it in the style of old 40’s and 50’s Audrey Hepburn/Spencer Tracy movies, but those are hard to find, hard to write and hard for people to say, “Yes, let’s do it.” Hopefully, there’s a little of that His Girl Friday, Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn stuff between Sophie and Charlie. For the most part, the entertainment had to come through the journey. Are those Lorenzos worthy entertaining? Some of them are better than others while some of them we moved around and shortened them.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like working with Italians on the set?
GW: It was very hot outside. The Italians work differently—it’s a 10-hour day, 10 1/2 if you’re lucky. We had a schedule that was hard and it was all outdoors.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the basic elements that turn a romantic comedy into a classic?
GW: I am in that genre, it seems. Well, I’d like to be more of a George Cukor because I do a lot of movies that appeal to women. To elevate the genre, for me, it wasn’t really attacking the genre because I watched every single movie in that genre. To me, Notting Hill is a modern day [classic]. I watched Bringing Up Baby. The original Sabrina is unbelievable. What makes those great are basically the writing and the two actors that you cast. I’m always struggling with, “Okay, they got to break up with the guy and he has to be the wrong guy, but you can’t think right in the beginning that he’s the wrong guy.” You have 4 or 5 scenes with that character. When you do these films for girls, all the girls say, “Oooh, he’s so good-looking. I wanted them to kiss. I was waiting for them to kiss.” But, really, you want to earn the kiss, and that comes through seeing a relationship in a way that you don’t see it with whoever they’re going to dump. With Anne Hathaway and Chris Pratt [in Bride Wars], we struggled with that scene in the wedding. Whether we earned it or not is very not the point. We went through 3 or 4 previews, and all the executives re-cut that scene to try to get the right balance because it was hard to get the right balance when you have a guy who starts out guy who’s not well-rounded to begin with.