The Filming of "Valentine's Day" Behind the Scenes
"Valentine's Day. It comes every year
whether you like it or not."
JESSICA BIEL as Kara Monahan and JAMIE FOXX as Kelvin Moore in New Line Cinema's romantic comedy "Valentine's Day," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Ron Batzdorff
If you are happily in love, Valentine's Day is a day of hearts and flowers, romance and sentiment. If you are among those who are unlucky in love, it is just another day.
Director Garry Marshall, who has successfully captured the many facets of love in some of the screen's biggest romantic comedy hits, offers, "Some people think Valentine's Day is the best thing and others try to block it out. It means different things to different people.
The other holidays are all clearer," he adds with his trademark deadpan delivery, noting, "Christmas, we decorate a tree, you give me a present, we sing nice songs, go home, go to bed. New Year's Eve, you drink, you kiss at 12 o'clock, sing Auld Lang Syne and cry, go home, go to bed.
That's simple. Got it. Arbor Day...not the biggest holiday, but getting bigger because we're all 'going green.' But Valentine's Day is vague. It's a hard holiday to define because love is so hard to define and that's why it makes for a good story.
Why not do a romantic comedy about the day we're all concentrated on romance, and that's 'Valentine's Day.'"
Seen through the eyes of a multigenerational cast of characters, "Valentine's Day" threads its way through a variety of relationships--from first dates to longtime commitments, from young crushes to old flames, and from perpetual singles to unrequited loves.
To tell the interconnecting stories, the film brings together one of the largest all-star ensembles ever assembled in one film, including three Garry Marshall veterans, Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway and Hector Elizondo, as well as Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, and Taylor Swift. Continue reading more about the making of "Valentine's Day."
Producer Mike Karz remarks, "We felt very fortunate to have such an extraordinary cast. But the fact that we were able to have this level of actors in the film is really a tribute to Garry Marshall and his reputation and skill. He is such a great leader and a brilliant comedian, which has been proven over and over again for decades. He is a genuinely funny guy who just knows how to deliver a joke. But, more importantly, he knows how to deliver a story."
"In order for any film to get made, the planets have to align," producer Wayne Rice adds. "Certainly a lot of planets aligned for us to make this movie with such a remarkable roster of talent."
Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway both count "Valentine's Day" as their third collaboration with Marshall, including their breakthrough roles in "Pretty Woman" and "The Princess Diaries," respectively. They agree that there are many reasons actors relish working with the famed director. "I've gotten to work on some wonderful films, but there's nothing like a Garry Marshall movie," says Hathaway. "He's generous and sensitive and fun, and he's a director you can trust. He's a passionate filmmaker; he's invested in every take and he works with you to craft a beautiful performance."
Roberts observes, "All Garry wants to do is tell a great story and make people laugh, and he's masterful at it."
The chance to work with the director was also a major attraction for the actors teaming with him for the first time. "Garry Marshall is a craftsman, and the opportunity to work with someone who can elevate your game and you can learn from--you don't pass those opportunities up," states Ashton Kutcher.
Bradley Cooper adds, "When I heard Garry would be at the helm, I jumped in with both feet. He's the perfect choice to direct this kind of movie."
"He is the king of romantic comedy," Jennifer Garner attests, "so it was a no-brainer for everyone in the cast. We all wanted to be in there."
Chart-topping recording artist Taylor Swift, who makes her film acting debut in "Valentine's Day," says, "It's amazing to be a part of something with so many names I've admired, but my favorite name has to be Garry Marshall. I was so excited to get to work with him. He's charming and funny, and he obviously knows how to make a great movie. And he took the time and effort to incorporate our mutual lucky number--13--into every single one of my scenes, which was awesome. I'll never forget that."
In fact, when asked what attracted them to the project, all the actors had one answer in common: Garry Marshall. However, before any of the cast was in place, what first drew Marshall to the film was the original screenplay, written by Katherine Fugate. He recalls, "Mike Karz and Wayne Rice told me they had a movie they wanted to make with me. They said, 'It's a love story; you do those things.' I read the script and liked it and said, 'Let's go.'"
Fugate says that she created the interwoven stories in the screenplay "to show how love was approached from different angles and different generations--from the unjaded 10-year-old boy with his first crush, to the thirtysomethings dealing with their relationship, or lack thereof, all the way to the older married couple looking back at the journey of love they have taken together. Love also takes on many different faces that go beyond romance, but at the end of the day, love always brings us back to what is most important in life."
Screenwriting partners Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, who recently demonstrated their knack for ensemble comedy with the hit "He's Just Not That Into You," helped develop the story. "When we met with Garry and the producers, we were all interested in having the film cover a lot of perspectives, especially in capturing the different feelings people have about this holiday," says Silverstein.
Bringing another age group into the already multigenerational story, Kohn and Silverstein also recognized the importance of including a teenage romantic angle. "When you're a teenager, there are a lot of firsts when it comes to love and romance," Kohn says, "but it's not something you typically think of with regard to Valentine's Day. We wanted to make sure that the film had something that could speak to almost anybody."
Marshall states, "'Valentine's Day' covers various types of relationships, and I think they all work very well because all our actors were so good. The most important thing was finding the right chemistry. Nobody can define it, but the audience knows when it's there. The great actors and actresses can create it...and we certainly had a great cast."
"It's a day when your love life is put on display.
Where there's always a chance for romance..."
"Valentine's Day" starts out on a romantic note between Reed Bennett, played by Ashton Kutcher, and his girlfriend Morley, played by Jessica Alba. Morley awakes as Reed is attempting to place a diamond ring on her finger, only to find her clutching her Blackberry. "I don't know if he's hopeless, but he is definitely a romantic," says Ashton Kutcher, who plays the role of Reed.
Reed is the owner of Siena Bouquet, a flower shop and cafe, which is the eye of the storm on the day devoted to expressions of love. Rice explains, "It's no accident that Reed works at a flower shop, which is a common denominator on Valentine's Day, the holiday for giving flowers and candy. It was the ideal epicenter for our story."
"A florist knows everything," Kutcher asserts. "He knows who's dating; he knows who's sick; he knows who's cheating... He's got the inside scoop because of the notes and messages that are sent with the flowers."
Marshall affirms, "Florists can really get into people's love lives, so they have to have a code of confidentiality, like a doctor. But in some cases, it's difficult to stick to the code; it's just too personal. That's part of what Reed's dilemma is."
Reed begins this particular Valentine's Day focused on his own love life, and when Morley accepts his proposal, he's ecstatic. Alba describes her character as "much more buttoned-down and conservative than Reed, so I guess it's an example of how opposites attract. She's completely taken by surprise by Reed's proposal. She is entirely focused on her career, so she might be a little hesitant about making that kind of commitment, even though she says yes."
In fact, Morley's acceptance comes as a surprise to Reed's closest friends, beginning with Alphonso, who was expecting to be consoling Reed instead of congratulating him. George Lopez appears as Alphonso, who is Reed's right-hand man at Siena Bouquet and is also the voice of reason in his personal life. "Alphonso is happily married and more grounded," says Lopez, "so Reed looks to him for advice, but he doesn't really need Alphonso to give him the answers. He knows what he should do. In life, we sometimes ask other people for their opinions, but if they're really good friends, they won't tell you exactly what to do. They will just lead you on the right path, which you're probably already on."
News of Reed's engagement is also met with initial skepticism by his best friend, Julia Fitzpatrick, played by Jennifer Garner. But Julia would rather concentrate on the wonderful new man in her own life. "Julia has not had a boyfriend in a long time and she is finally in love," says Garner. "She wakes up on Valentine's Day feeling like the happiest person in the world, but as the day goes on, her heart goes through some definite ups and downs. This film celebrates the day devoted to love--both winning and losing, and having and not having."
Patrick Dempsey, who plays the new love of Julia's life, Dr. Harrison Copeland, counters, "I think Valentine's Day is actually a very unromantic day because you can't really force romance. It just has to happen naturally. There is so much pressure to make that day special and have a good time, it's virtually impossible to have one."
One of Julia's fifth graders is Edison, played by Bryce Robinson. The 10-year-old boy has a serious crush on someone in the classroom, so while his friends are exchanging homemade valentines, Edison is thinking of even better ways to impress the girl of his dreams.
Edison lives with his grandparents, Estelle and Edgar, played by veteran stars Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo. Unlike her onscreen husband, MacLaine had never before worked with Garry Marshall, although they had known each other for years. "You can't understand much of anything he's saying," she teases, "but if you're on a good emotional and mental track with him, you know where he's going."
"It's a process to figure out what he's saying, but somehow it all works out," says Elizondo, a regular Garry Marshall cast member, who has been seen in all of the director's features to date. "Whether I'm available or not, he hunts me down," he laughs.
"I always have to have Hector," Marshall confirms simply.
Estelle and Edgar have been together for more than 50 years and have celebrated many Valentine's Days, but this particular one brings some surprising revelations that test their marriage. MacLaine observes, "All love affairs are full of promises and betrayals and all kinds of human drama, and these subjects are broached in the movie. It's a funny romantic comedy, but I think it also has something to say about love."
"I also think the inter-generational braiding of stories makes it quite interesting," says Elizondo. "In some ways, we see things very differently, but some things remain the same at any age."
The difference between the generations is evident when Edison's teenage babysitter, Grace, seeks relationship advice from his grandparents. Emma Roberts plays Grace, who has decided to take her romance with her boyfriend, Alex (Carter Jenkins), to the next level. "She is trying to have the perfect Valentine's Day with her boyfriend, which includes the two of them losing their virginity," Roberts confides. "Throughout the day, they keep trying to meet up, but things just keep going wrong. Alex is doing everything he can think of to be very sweet and romantic, but his attempts keep failing. He definitely gets an A for effort, though. It just goes to show that Valentine's Day can cause all kinds of problems for people, but I think everyone should just have fun. It doesn't have to be a couples' thing; it can just be about family and friends...as long as you're with people you love."
Taylor Swift appears as Grace's high school classmate and friend Felicia, who is not short on advice for her best friend. "If I had to give advice to my girlfriends about Valentine's Day, it would be that if you have a special someone, make a big deal out of the day," Swift offers. "But if you don't, don't psych yourself out; just think of it like any other day."
Felicia has a special someone in her boyfriend, Willy, played by Taylor Lautner. "Willy and Felicia are being interviewed for a news segment about young love on Valentine's Day, and Felicia gets Willy to show off his athletic skills on the track," says Lautner of Willy's ill-fated hurdles run. "It was a lot of fun, but my favorite part was getting to do a complete face plant."
Over Marshall's objections, Lautner did his own stunt--tripping over the final hurdle and landing flat on his face. "He was so brave," Marshall recounts. "I told him we'd get somebody to fall for him, and he said, 'No, I can fall.' I said, 'You're a star. If you fall and get hurt, they'll yell at me.' But he said, 'Let me try it.' I said, 'All right, don't hurt yourself.' I told the stunt coordinator, 'The kid's gonna do it himself...get another camera,'" he laughs. "We had three cameras on him, and he did the stunt beautifully. We didn't need a double. He was terrific."
Felicia and Willy are being interviewed by local L.A. TV station KVLA, looking for the "man/woman-on-the-street" perspective on Valentine's Day.
News producer Susan, played by Kathy Bates, had initially assigned sports reporter Kelvin Johnson to the story, despite his protests. Jamie Foxx plays Kelvin, who resents being temporarily sidelined from the sports desk to do what he considers a "fluff" story. "Kelvin is not really a fan of Valentine's Day," Foxx states. "His boss wants him to get out there and find happy, romantic stories--that old school 'Will you be my valentine?' nonsense. But he wants to be taken more seriously as a sports journalist. He's just waiting for his break--that one big interview."
The scoop Kelvin wants is the major sports story of the day: the future of star professional quarterback Sean Jackson, whose career is in doubt after his team lost in the playoffs. Jackson is played by Eric Dane, who notes, "If you are 25 and lose in the playoffs, the attitude is, 'We'll get them next season.' If you are 35 and lose, they want you to retire. So Jackson is in the twilight of his career, although I think he's still somewhat relevant as an athlete. The big question is whether or not he's going to hang it up or continue playing."
Jessica Biel appears as Sean Jackson's publicist, Kara Monahan, who has spent the day fielding questions about her star client's intentions, while also stressing over her annual "I Hate Valentine's Day" party, held for people, like herself, who are perennially single on a holiday designed for couples. "Kara has a special relationship with Valentine's Day: she detests it," Biel laughs. "What I love about Kara is that, on the one hand, she's a very together professional, but she's also very passionate and emotional. I think Valentine's Day can make people a little crazy. There's that pressure of: 'Are you going on a date? Did somebody send you candy or flowers? Did you get a card?' And if you didn't, it's supposedly a bad thing. I think that's silly because being on your own and independent is fantastic."
Screenwriter Katherine Fugate reveals that Kara's anti-Valentine's Day party was one somewhat autobiographical element of her script. "I actually threw an annual "I Hate Valentine's Day" dinner because I didn't like the idea of people being alone on a holiday about love and companionship. One year, two people even met there and fell in love. It was a positive way to look at the holiday and remember that, despite it all, love is still pretty wonderful."
Valentine's Day notwithstanding, the one character who has no time for love is Sean Jackson's agent, Paula Thomas, a no-nonsense businesswoman, played by Queen Latifah. "Paula is smart and confident," Latifah says, "and I love that when she walks down the hallway at the agency people are a little afraid of her. She's the top dog, and I'm sure she didn't get there by being nice."
The receptionist at the agency is Liz Curran, played by Anne Hathaway, who reveals that Liz makes her living on the phone in more ways than one. "She moonlights as a phone sex operator," the actress offers. "But Liz is a girl with real financial worries, so she sees it as a means to an end. She certainly doesn't want to do it forever, but, for now, she has to do it until something better comes along. I think Liz is one of those women who are very open to what the universe has to offer, even when it seems kind of unusual."
Nevertheless, Liz's alternative source of income does create some problems with her new boyfriend, Jason, who is an agent-in-training, working in the mailroom at a big talent agency. Hathaway explains, "When we first meet Liz and Jason, they have just consummated their relationship on the eve of Valentine's Day, but then Liz very quickly runs off, leaving Jason a bit confused. Jason is a guy from Muncie, Indiana, who never imagines that the girl he might be falling in love with would be making a living in that way."
Jason is played by Topher Grace, who affirms, "Jason is one of those guys who has an agenda for his life; he has high expectations for himself, and subsequently his girlfriend, so Liz's part-time job would come as a shock to him. What I relate to about Jason and Liz is that they are only about two weeks into their relationship when Valentine's Day rolls around, which has personally happened to me. It's a celebration of love and commitment, so Jason is confused about how much he needs to do. But he's smart enough to know he doesn't want to mess it up."
While most of the film's characters are grounded in Los Angeles, two of them are on a plane, en route to the city. Julia Roberts appears as U.S. Army Captain Kate Hazeltine, who is on a short leave and is flying fourteen hours in order to make an important rendezvous, although she never says with whom. "One of the things I like about the part of Kate is that there is a little mystery about her, and I think where her story ends up is very sweet and truthful."
Bradley Cooper plays Kate's seatmate on the plane, Holden, who provides a shoulder for her to sleep on, not to mention a good ear. "Well, either you spend fourteen hours feeling like you made a friend or you spend fourteen hours trying to avoid making eye contact with the person next to you," Roberts quips.
"Valentine's Day" reunites Cooper and Roberts, who previously worked together in the play "Three Days of Rain" on Broadway. "We did eight shows a week, so I got to know her pretty well," Cooper says. "It definitely helped to have that prior relationship coming into this film because we spent almost all of our time sitting side-by-side, so it's pretty close quarters. But we really had a great time."
"It's L.A. Nobody RSVPs."
"Valentine's Day" was shot entirely in and around Los Angeles, with locations including downtown L.A., Malibu, Hollywood, Venice, Burbank, Beverly Hills, and the San Fernando Valley. Some filming was also accomplished on soundstages on the Warner Bros. lot.
"I'm originally from New York, but I've been here a long time, so this was my love letter to Los Angeles," says Marshall. For certain scenes, the filmmaker chose some of the city's recognizable landmarks to serve as backdrops, including the magnificent Disney Concert Hall and the colorful Los Angeles Flower Mart, both located downtown; famed Hollywood Boulevard and the Hollywood sign; and the romantic Venice Canals.
A significant scene between Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo was filmed at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which is the final resting place of many screen legends. However, the cemetery is also known for its popular outdoor screenings of classic films. Executive producer Diana Pokorny remarks, "Even though it's a cemetery at night, it's not a scary, creepy place at all. It's actually a very beautiful, romantic place to see some great old movies in the dark."
In "Valentine's Day," the film being screened stars Estelle in her Hollywood heyday as a young, up-and-coming actress. True film buffs will recognize the scenes as being from 1958's "Hot Spell," starring a young Shirley MacLaine.
One notable location will be familiar to fans of Garry Marshall movies: the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, which has often been referenced as "the 'Pretty Woman' hotel" because of its importance in that memorable film. For "Pretty Woman," Marshall's team had put a bus stop bench in front of the hotel for a scene between Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Returning to the hotel nearly two decades later for "Valentine's Day," Marshall wanted to film at the same spot, but "there is no bus stop there; we made it up," he recalls. "There's no bench, nothing. So we figured we made it up once, we can make it up again." As something of an homage to his earlier film, the director had the bus stop bench reinstated in the exact same spot for a pivotal scene between Anne Hathaway and Topher Grace.
One of the film's central sets is Reed's flower shop Siena Bouquet. Production designer Albert Brenner and his team took an empty storefront in Burbank and transformed it into the combination flower and coffee shop.
The "Valentine's Day" production was among the very first in the film industry to "go green" in a conscious effort to lessen its environmental impact. Pokorny was largely responsible for spearheading the project's green initiative, which extended from the director and cast to the entire crew. It encompassed virtually every physical aspect of production, including the use of reusable set pieces, solar-powered lighting, hybrid or clean diesel vehicles, and biodegradable plates and utensils at craft services. In addition, every member of the cast and crew was given his or her own reusable stainless steel water bottle, eliminating the need for the thousands of plastic water bottles usually used over the course of production.
"Every department was very proactive about coming back to us with ideas on what they could do, and we also had the strong backing of Warner Bros., which was key. We met with (Warner Bros. Pictures sustainable production manager) Jon Romano about how to make the entire production more environmentally responsible," says Pokorny. "It's not only about making a difference now; it's about creating technologies and methods that will continue to be improved upon for the next movie, and so on. It was exciting for everyone involved in the film because they could see the tangible differences they can make."
Mike Karz adds, "Everyone embraced it willingly, and we all found that it was actually not difficult to have a green set. And it's just going to get easier and easier, which is a great sign for things to come."
"There are a lot of things wrong with our environment, so to 'go green' seemed to me to be a very good thing. It's not that big an effort; if we could do it, others can do it," Marshall states.
"It can be confusing. It can be complicated.
But at the end of the day, it's all about love."
In keeping with the film's title, "Valentine's Day" takes place over the course of only one day. Karz says that the timeframe adds to the pressures that are inherent to the day. "Valentine's Day is just so many hours, and there are expectations on both sides of the equation. If you go on a date, is it the right restaurant? If you buy a present, is it nice enough or is that putting too much pressure on the relationship? If I don't buy a gift, what does that say? It's a great holiday to celebrate, but there are certainly a lot of expectations that come with it, which is what we explore in this movie."
Marshall concludes, "We hope this movie inspires some people to take a chance on a relationship and maybe even fall in love. If you're in love it can be a wonderful thing; it's really nice when somebody needs you. Valentine's Day is a good day to give it a shot. But whether you're in a relationship or not, Valentine's Day can be stressful, so get ready."
© 2010 Film Entertainment Magazine / EMOL.org. All rights reserved.
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