Eight things we learned at Nancy Meyers’ AFF interview

avatar-jpg-320x320pxWriter/director Nancy Meyers, this year’s Distinguished Screenwriter recipient at the Austin Film Festival, sat down with Barbara Morgan Oct. 15 to talk about her career from her days as a Hollywood assistant to becoming one of the most powerful directors in the business. Here are eight takeaways

She is not an idea factory. “The truth about me is that I don’t have a million ideas,” Meyers said. (She has written, or written-and-directed, 14 projects in 36 years.) She noted the scene in in the Woody Allen “American Masters” documentary where he opens a drawer full of ideas on scraps of paper. “I looked at that and thought, ‘Jeez, you’re so lucky.’ I never have an answer for ‘what are you doing next?’ I really wait for something to come and I’m grateful when it comes and I try to make it work.”

“Private Benjamin” remains her favorite writing experience. “The most fun of all time,” Meyers said. “Nobody was ever as funny as (her writing partner, Harvey Miller). I have only great memories of writing that movie.” She, then-husband  and life-ling creative collaborator Charles Shyer and Miller would only sell the script if they could produce it. And it’s still paying dividends: “I got a check for it last week for $87.”

Goldie Hawn looked at the marquee with tears in her eyes. When “Private Benjamin” was released, Meyers said Hawn got a bit verklempt and said to her, “I’ve never my name alone without a guy (next to it).”

 Polish that script! “My advice to you,” Meyers said to the writers present, “is do not hand it in until you have it where you want it to be. Write it to within an inch of its life. I want to fix things before they get to the preview screenings.”

Her writing does, in fact, reflect her life. “One of my kids’ friends went to see ‘Father of the Bride’ and said to me, ‘It was like being at your house for two hours.’ I thought that was a pretty good review.”

She was a huge fan of the original “Parent Trap.” “Disney knew how much I liked it and promised I was going to honor it,” Meyers said. Of  young Lindsay Lohan, Meyers says simply that she “was great; she was really a gem.” Also, the movie took forever to shoot because Lohan was playing two leads and could only work six or seven hours a day. “AND I GOT TO MEET HALEY MILLS,” Meyers said (or almost squealed, as much as Nancy Meyers squeals).

 On “What Women Want:” “I was a newly divorced woman and Mel Gibson really did whatever I wanted all day long,” she says. “He was a doll to work with. He was a huge star, I had only directed one movie and he completely turned himself over to me. Ii will always appreciate him for that.”

On working as a producer on her daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s first film, “Home Again,” starring Reece Witherspoon:  “I literally have tried to tell her everything I know,” Meyers said. “I with her in every meeting. I want her to make her movie her way but…(I do say things such as) ‘I think it would be best if you covered this.’ Why have her suffer?”

Also, the realities for women filmmakers are such that she wants to help. This is her daughter’s first movie and “women in particular often don’t get a second chance,” Meyers said. “If I had a son, I wouldn’t be so worried.”

 

 


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