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Rob Reiner Talks About ‘Flipped’

Madeline Carroll, Rob Reiner and Callan McAuliffe on the set of 'Flipped.'

Madeline Carroll, Rob Reiner and Callan McAuliffe on the set of ‘Flipped.’

© Warner Bros Pictures

August 19, 2010 – Rob Reiner is back at the helm of a coming of age film with Flipped, the big screen adaptation of the bestselling young adult book by Wendelin Van Draanen. Set in the ’60s, Flipped follows neighbors Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) and Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) as they grow up across the street from each other but in dramatically different environments. Juli’s family is grounded and open with each other; Bryce’s family is all about outward appearances. Juli’s been in love with Bryce since the second grade, but Bryce doesn’t feel the same way. Flipped flips back and forth, showing their lives as they grow up in the same neighborhood from Bryce’s point of view as well as Juli’s.

At a press conference in LA in support of Flipped, co-writer/director Reiner talked about the appeal of the project, his young cast, and adapting the popular novel.

Rob Reiner Flipped Press Conference

How did you discover Flipped the book?

Rob Reiner: “My son, Nick, was assigned it in school. He was 11 years old, he was in the fifth grade and he brought the book home and we read it together because many times we read things together. As we were reading it, I was just blown away by how good the writing was. A lot of times you’ll read in books that are written for children, there’s a kind of level of writing that isn’t particularly insightful or there’s not a lot of depth to it. This book had real sophistication. It was a real, honest understanding of what kids go through when they experience those first powerful confusing feelings of love. I was knocked out by that. I also was taken by the fact that it was also told from both points of view – from the boy’s point of view and the girl’s point of view. I was intrigued by the fact that even though I was going to see essentially the same things done over, I stayed completely riveted and involved. I was wanting to know what was going to happen even though we had just seen what was going to happen because now we’re going to hear her point of view and her take on it, and we were going to get new insights and new information about it. It held my interest all the way to the end and then I cried at the end.”

“My son actually, as we were reading it, said, ‘You know, dad, this would make a really good movie.’ I said, ‘Yep, you’re absolutely right.’ So that’s how I learned about it. And it also struck me, even though it was set in a modern day setting, it spoke to me because it made me think about the feelings that I had as a kid growing up and what I felt like when I first fell in love. That’s when I knew it was going to work for adults and for kids, because even though it’s about kids, I think adults looking back on that really get more out of it. And I thought back to when I did Stand By Me and there’s a great line at the end of Stand By Me where they say, ‘You never have friends like you do when you’re 12 years old.’ It’s the same thing when you look back. You never have those kinds of feelings. You experience them once in your life, that first very powerful feeling of love for the opposite sex or any, even the same sex but that first time. I said, ‘This is like Stand By Me for me.’ I had the same kind of response when I first looked at Stand By Me and that’s one of the reasons why we set it back in the late ‘50s/early ‘60s because it was the time that I was coming of age at that period.”

How did you avoid making the flips predictable?

Rob Reiner: “It was very challenging. First of all, I don’t know a lot of movies except for Rashomon and maybe one or two others…there’s not a lot of movies that commit to the idea of going back and forth the entire movie. You may have a scene or two that are told from two perspectives, but not an entire film where you go back and forth so that is kind of risky. We did toy for a while with the idea of telling it, when Andy Scheinman and I adapted it, we toyed with the idea of, ‘Can we tell it in some kind of linear fashion without using the convention of flipping back and forth?’ But we kept going back to the fact that it worked in the book. I felt since it worked in the book, from an emotional standpoint, it had to work in the film.”

“When we did Princess Bride years ago, a lot of people said to us, ‘You can’t have the grandson keep interrupting the story because then people are going to lose track of the story. You’re going to have to start it up again, you’re going to lose the momentum of the story.’ I said, ‘You know, it works in the book. It works in the book. Let’s be true to that and trust that it’s going to work when it’s on the screen.’ We did that when we did Princess Bride and it worked, so we had a feeling that this would work. Plus, every time we went to the girl’s point of view after the boy’s point of view, there was always new information because it was her perspective. So you weren’t seeing exactly the same thing. You were seeing it from a completely different angle and you were getting new information.”

“The hardest part was not in writing it because [author Wendelin Van Draanen] gave us the greatest blueprint of all. We basically took her book and made a screenplay out of it. It is essentially that story that’s in the book. The hard part wasn’t doing that. The hard part was keeping track of the points of view when you’re filming it. That was like a real puzzle because you shoot things out of sequence anyway. Now we were shooting two points of view out of sequence and many times we’d shoot the boys and the girls’ point of view at the same time because we’re shooting in a certain direction where the light is in a certain place, so it got very, very confusing. I’m now 63 so the whole time, it’s interesting, I started doing crossword puzzles and Sudokus during the making of it just to keep my mind going like this. And while we were making the film, for some reason the Rubik’s Cube became the fun game on the set. Our script supervisor was doing it, Callan [McAuliffe] started doing it, all the kids were doing it. This was like a Rubik’s Cube and many times the script supervisor would say, ‘Wait a minute, is this Julie’s point of view or is this Bryce’s point of view? Wait a minute, shouldn’t the camera be over there?’ We kept going through that, so that was the hardest part.”

“I’ve got to say, Wendelin and I, I think she was surprised a little bit because I’m very… To me, she did all the grunt work. She did all the hard work, the heavy lifting because she wrote a wonderful novel that lays out. And many times a filmmaker will take that novel, and to me if you’re going to make a movie out of a book or a play, it should be that you like that book or that play and you should respect it and want to make that. I did it with Princess Bride and Misery and Stand By Me. Keep what is good about it. Don’t start changing things for the sake of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get my point of view in there and all this stuff.’ We met and this was an interesting thing because I got this question when we did one of the Q&As after one of the screenings. They asked me, ‘Do the kids in the book at the end – do they kiss at the end?’ I said, ‘No, they don’t kiss at the end.’ You know they’re going to kiss eventually. As soon as the camera goes off, these two are going to kiss each other and we know that. Wendelin, because she’s done so many lectures to schools and stuff with the book because the book has been a popular thing in schools, she’d get that question all the time: ‘I want to see them kiss.’ So she actually lobbied me to have them kiss at the end, which was not in her book. I said, ‘No. What’s good about it, what we loved about your book is that he brings the tree and that’s the emotional moment and that’s what we want to go out on.’ So I was arguing.”

The Baker family talks about important issues, supports each other even when they disagree, and nurtures each other. Could putting that on film inspire families to talk to their kids and include them in family discussions?

Rob Reiner: “I don’t know if it can inspire people. All I know is that what was so wonderful about the story is that you have two very real families that live across the street from each other. One of them, the values of one of them is not nearly as solid as the values of the other. I mean, the Loski family is more interested in material things and they’ve kind of lost their way in terms of the real values. And then you have the Bakers who don’t have nearly as much money but they have stronger values. Not to say that they’re perfect. They do argue. They do have their problems, but there is a deeper feeling of love there than there is in the other family. I love that, that we were able to explore those two types of families living in this rural suburban area that were right across the street from each other.”

“Hopefully people will be able to take from the Bakers. To me, the moral ballast of the movie is the Baker family and then the grandfather in the Loski family. He’s the one that comes along at the time when Bryce is really starting to drift into a bad place. He comes along to put him on the right track. He has a great line where he says, ‘Ideas are formed at a very early age. I’d hate to see you swim so far out you can’t swim back.’ He comes along at a certain time in a life where that boy has to start questioning what are his father’s values and are they the right ones? Because a parent has such a strong influence on you and he’s lucky that he has this grandfather to steer him in the right direction, which is towards the Bakers and towards the way they live their lives. So I don’t know if it will inspire people but I know that these are two very real families and very different types of families. I like the idea and that, to me, is a big part of the movie. Not just the first love and all that, but how families have an affect on the way you think and the way you conduct your life. Bryce is making some pretty poor decisions until he has his grandfather come into his life and put him on the right track.”

Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe and Rob Reiner on the set of 'Flipped.'

Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe and Rob Reiner on the set of ‘Flipped.’

© Warner Bros Pictures

Rob Reiner: “It was interesting because Madeline Carroll came to us immediately. I had seen her in a movie called Swing Vote where she played Kevin Costner’s daughter and I thought she was really good and she came in to read. She was the first person that came in to read for the part and we were all there, Andy [Scheinman] and Allen [Greisman] and I and just knocked us out. She was unbelievable. We all three looked at each other and said, ‘This is Julie Baker.’ We had 30-some-odd other actresses to see and I said to the casting director, ‘We’ve got Julie. We don’t need to look anymore.’ He says, ‘Well, you’ve got all these people.’ They all came in and read and there were a lot of very good ones but nobody came anywhere close to Madeline. She is extraordinary. She’s got gifts of somebody two, three times her age. She was 13 when she shot it. She’s 14 now and she has an instrument that’s as finely tuned as any 30, 40 year old actor I’ve ever worked with. So that was extraordinary.”

“Now the Bryce character was really difficult to find, and we were trying to figure out why it was so hard. I think it’s because Bryce is supposed to be a very handsome kid, he’s got a sexuality to him, this kid that every kid would just want to fall in love with and kids at 13-14. I think Callan [McAuliffe] was 14 when he did it. Those kids are out playing ball – they’re not acting. You don’t find those kids that want to act. They’re playing in a band, they’re playing sports or whatever they’re doing. They’re not usually wanting to be actors at that age if they’re going to be very real. So we had a hard time finding somebody that would be a regular kid, that would be that handsome and be that good an actor and we searched everywhere.”

“We couldn’t find the right guy and there was a tape that was sent to us on the internet from a kid that was in Australia and that was Callan McAuliffe. He has a thick Aussie accent and he looked great. I said, ‘Wow,’ and he did this great American accent. So we flew him from Australia and he read with Madeline and they were unbelievable together. So that was hard. It was hard to find him, but we got lucky. Then I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s got such a thick Aussie accent,’ the first time up in Ann Arbor. I said, ‘Maybe you should practice speaking American when you’re not [filming]. Even now, just keep talking with an American accent.’ He never did, not once, except when we said action. Boom, the accent would go on. He put it on and then I said cut, and it was, ‘G’day, mate,’ and he was into that. It was spooky. He always knew. He knew before I knew, ‘That was Aussie. I said chicken in an Aussie way. I can do it better.’ He had a better ear than any of us did.”

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August 27, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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