The Idea of You Director on Recreating Coachella, Harry Styles, and Loving Rom-Coms

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The post The Idea of You Director on Recreating Coachella, Harry Styles, and Loving Rom-Coms appeared first on Consequence.

There’s a moment in The Idea of You, the new Prime Video romantic dramedy, in which 40-year-old Solène (Anne Hathaway) stands in front of a mirror, feeling insecure over the way she looks in a swimsuit. It’s a moment everyone might experience in their lifetimes — even someone who looks like Anne Hathaway, as director Michael Showalter tells Consequence.

“This is the age-old thing, you know — the supermodel that says ‘I have bad skin in the morning’ or whatever,” he says. “But I believe there’s a real authenticity to [Hathaway’s] performance that people do connect to. And in all honesty, no matter what people look like, there is insecurity. Just because one person looks one way and one person looks another way, there are feelings that are real.”

Solène’s insecurities are just one of the issues affecting her new relationship with Hayes (Nicholas Galitzine) — who just so happens to be a 24-year-old internationally-recognized boy band star — in the film. After meeting cute at Coachella, Solène and Hayes’s relationship turns her life upside down — but maybe in the way she needs, after a painful divorce and years of focusing on her teenage daughter.

Below, Showalter (an alum of The State and director of films including The Big Sick, The Lovebirds, and The Eyes of Tammy Faye) reveals what was involved in recreating the Coachella experience for that meet-cute and why he loves making romantic movies. He also explains why we’re at an interesting point right now when it comes to pop music, where “some of the most popular musicians are also the most interesting musicians artistically.”

You’ve gotten to do a lot of romance lately, in terms of film work. Is this a genre you feel like you’ve been gravitating towards on purpose, or are these just the projects that have come to you?

It’s both. I love romantic comedy, and I’ve made like two movies that are literally deconstructions of romantic comedies: I did a movie called The Baxter, which was my first movie many years ago, and then a movie called They Came Together. It’s a genre that I know very well and I’m very fond of, so I’m always looking for and excited to find movies in that genre that I feel move the needle in a new direction. I’m sort of like, “Oh, that’s something I haven’t seen before,” you know?

And then I do seem to be approached about doing those kinds of movies, too. So there is a little bit of going where you’re wanted. But I enjoyed doing this movie enormously, and I will say that, having tried some other tones and some other kinds of things, there was a part of me that felt like, “This feels very natural for me, and a lot of the things that I want to do or that a lot of the things that I have to say, I can kind of do in this genre.”

Because they can be funny, they can be romantic, they can be dramatic, they can be cool, there are great costumes and the soundtrack and all those elements. Great performances, a great opportunity to work with good actors. So it kind of combines a lot of the things that I’m interested in.

Do you feel like satirizing romantic comedies at the beginning of your career helped you figure out how they work?

Oh, yeah, for sure, although to be honest, I didn’t learn about them in order to satirize them. I loved them first, understood them deeply, and at that time, that was how my writing was, this sort of regurgitation of the tropes that I was interested in. And then it’s been a process of moving away from regurgitating the tropes and now trying to actually work within those tropes and conventions, but hopefully put a new spin on them.

Because candidly, I like those conventions and I like genre. I think the word cliche can be misused. But yes, definitely in my early days, I could tell you inside and out how romantic comedies are built. I do know the answer to that. So many of my favorite movies are romantic comedies — like, my all-time favorite movies.

You mentioned the idea that this genre can accommodate a lot of other genres. How did you respond to knowing that The Idea of You would also encompass a lot of musical elements?

Yeah, it’s like all of these movies are sort of mashups of little other things. Like The Lovebirds was a romantic story, but there’s a genre that I put it in, the crazy overnight movie like After Hours and Into the Night and things like that. And for me, I love music. I love musicals. I love the opportunity to use music in a movie. So this was exciting to me, to make a movie where I could incorporate what felt like a live performance element.

The film recreates Coachella — talk to me about filming those festival sequences. I saw in the credits that Imagine Music Festival in Georgia got a thank you — was there filming done there?

No. Well, maybe a tiny bit. We went to that music festival and shot a few shots of, like, audiences like banging their heads. In the beginning of [the Coachella sequence], before it gets dark, there’s some footage of audiences that we shot at that.

For the big concert scene at night, we really, truly built our own Coachella stage, and put on a concert and filmed it like it was a concert movie. So the guys came on stage, they had three songs and they performed them in sequence with an audience. We added a lot of audience with visual effects, so it wasn’t as big as it looks in the movie, but there was a good crowd.

So that definitely gives it, hopefully, a feeling of it being live, and a sort of spontaneity. And our boy band guys worked forever with a choreographer to have that comfort level with their microphones, with each other — the way they dip in and out of the choreography so that they really feel like this is a real band.

The Idea of You Michael Showalter
The Idea of You Michael Showalter

The Idea of You (Prime Video)

I’ve heard actors talk about how when they’ve had to perform in front of audiences that are made up of extras, it can actually be really nerve-wracking, because they know that they’re paid extras and they’re not really committed to it. Do you feel like these extras were really engaging with the music?

I do, because they were so good. They were so fun to watch. They’re all really charismatic and great dancers, and the choreography was great, and the songs are fun. And so I think the audience included those of us who were there as the crew — we were very much enjoying it. I mean, it had great sound quality, because it was a real stage. So the jumbotrons were real, the songs were blasting out. And people were having a really good time.

Financially, was this one of the bigger lifts of the movie? Just in terms of creating that whole experience.

Oh, yeah. Yeah. And it was very important that we not compromise that scene. It was very important for the whole movie, and for me, that the audience understands like who [XXXXXXXXX] is, and how the world sees him. This is our moment in the movie to really try to convey who he is and what his real life is like — so that when they get to know each other, the audience really understands that his everyday life is that. So it was not a set. I felt like we needed to not cut any corners on that.

The movie has a very respectful approach towards the boy band genre. Having explored it in this way, what for you is powerful about that genre of music?

I mean, for me it’s less specifically about boy bands and more about pop music in general. And the current crop of pop musicians, be it Harry Styles or Taylor Swift or Billie Eilish and on and on — there’s an interesting thing happening right now where we really have major artists who are also the top charting artists. There have been other times when that’s been true, but oftentimes the top 40 artists aren’t the good musicians. They’re the cheesy musicians or whatever. And we’re living in an era where some of the most popular musicians are also the most interesting musicians artistically. That’s how I feel, anyway.

You mentioned Harry Styles, which is a name that’s come up a lot in connection with this project. Did you realize that Harry Styles would be a part of the discussion around it?

Yes, I did. When I, when we started working on the movie, he was at his peak of his moment, and maybe his moment will come back when he puts his next album out. But the Harry Styles thing was in full bloom at that time and there’s a curiosity factor there: Pro or con, he’s an interesting public figure. This is a movie, hopefully, that people will want to talk about, and it’s attention-grabbing and he’s attention-grabbing. But it isn’t just him — there’s many other sort of references that we were drawing from in telling this story. At the same time, Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson were running around town. It sort of seemed like it was in the ether. And it felt like something that was exciting.

The Idea of You is streaming now on Prime Video.

The Idea of You Director on Recreating Coachella, Harry Styles, and Loving Rom-Coms
Liz Shannon Miller

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