“Finding the Funniest People Was a Non-Negotiable”: ‘THR Presents’ Q&A With ‘I Want You Back’ Team

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I Want You Back started with a scheme.

The romantic comedy, which stars Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Scott Eastwood and Gina Rodriguez, follows Day and Slate after they’re both dumped (by Rodriquez and Eastwood, respectively) and decide to form a friendship with the aim of putting their heads together to get their former flames back. The resulting plot offers a bit of a twist on the more traditional rom-com, which is just what the movie’s creators had in mind.

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“The idea of people scheming, who are not good at scheming, was the jumping-off point,” says co-writer Elizabeth Berger. “We thought, what if you took an idea like Cruel Intentions but made it about people who would be terrible at pulling that off. That really made us laugh.”

Berger wrote the script on spec alongside Isaac Aptaker — the two also created Love, Simon and Love, Victor together — and began adding in all the elements that they love about the genre, updating the story along the way as they cast each character. “I picked it up maybe half expecting it not to be great,” Day says with a laugh. “But I just could not put it down. I read it cover to cover, which is rare for me because I’m still at a fourth-grade reading level.”

The writing team, along with director Jason Orley, believes that the secret to a good (non-formulaic) rom-com is focusing on the com. Specifically, they aim to cast people with the improv skills to take the dialogue beyond what’s written beyond the page. “I think that sometimes, casting funny people falls out of the priorities of making a rom-com,” says Berger. “Finding the funniest people for these roles was a non-negotiable for us.”

They’ve also learned to give the people what they want, but not necessarily what they’d exactly expect out of the love stories. They knew I Want You Back needed to have a happy ending — audience members saw Day and Slate on the poster and in the trailer, which would mean they would like to see them unite romantically in the end. “You have to deliver on the promise of the movie,” says Orley before explaining that they chose not to show the main characters kissing in the end. “It’s ever-so-slightly subverting the ending. It’s a subversion of expectation while also giving a satisfying ending.”

In the video above, watch Day and the creative team reunite for a THR Presents panel, powered by Vision Media, to reminisce about shooting the movie’s big wedding scene while stuck on a boat without a working bathroom, and the story behind cameos by Pete Davidson and Ben McKenzie.

This edition of THR Presents is brought to you by Prime Video.

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