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Nancy Meyers on the Importance of Confidence and Why She’s a Writer At Heart

Nancy Meyers on the Importance of Confidence and Why She's a Writer At Heart

READ MORE:Nick Hornby Kicks Off BAFTA and BFI Screenwriter’s Lecture Series With Honest Discussion About His Place in Hollywood

As part of the BAFTA & BFI Screenwriters’ Lecture Series, Nancy Meyers followed Nicky Horby and Andrew Bovell to offer audience members an inside look at her life’s work and what it means to her to be a writer first. Meyers opened her talk claiming that her passport notes her profession as “writer,” therefore, that is her true calling. Cheering up cinemas since the early 1980s, Meyers is responsible for the hit films “Father
of the Bride,” “The Parent
Trap,” “What Women Want,” “Something’s
Gotta Give,” “The Holiday,” “It’s Complicated” and the newly released “The Intern.” Safe to say that Meyers knows how to flip a script into a film, and moreover, how to keep theaters packed. 

Even though Meyers has such an extensive resume in the industry, she doesn’t see herself as a big shot director; instead, she approached the topic by humbly stating, “Directing I find
is just executing the writing. That’s really
why I became a director, honestly it
really started out of just protecting the
screenplay.” Like most screenwriters, she can easily identify with hitting a wall; even just starting a script. She said, “Beginning is really hard, the hardest part.
Once you get in there it’s just so much
better, but the beginning is so hard. I’ll do
anything to avoid the beginning.”

READ MORE: Rebel Wilson to Star in Remake of ‘Private Benjamin’

Meyers quickly bolstered her modest statement by saying that the key to her success as a writer and director has been confidence. She said, “It’s all about getting the page on screen… It’s another
year of my life, I have to be the one
that’s confident about it, I have to be
the most confident about it. ‘Cause I
have to also bring a whole lot of people
in with me; I have to wrangle actors, I
have to get the studio — I have to be the one that makes it all happen. So confidence I think is critical.”

When asked who gives her notes on her 10-15 drafts before she submits them to studios, she said that she only trusts her closest friends, however vague their notes may be. Meyers humorously recounted, “On ‘Something’s Gotta Give,’ I thought I was
done, it was a year of my life, it was 250
pages that I finally got down to 125
pages, and you know who James L
Brooks is? He’s a friend of mine, so I
called and he came over to my house
and he stayed about six hours and we
sort of went through it all. He had such
good ideas, really good ideas. He’s an
interesting note-giver because he gives
you absolutely no solutions to anything.”

Being critic-proof isn’t something Meyer’s has mastered. She claimed that even though her 35 year career has proven to be successful, she still cares when someone knocks her down at the end of the day. She simply just tries to forget about it. Meyers said, “I do care, I wish I didn’t care. I wish I
was bigger but, you know, I care. I don’t think talking about
the décor of the film for example is
important in any way, it should not factor
in. I can’t imagine somebody does some
space movie and they talk about the
choices that director made to show you
what space looks like. Right? Why in my
movie do we have to talk about what
the décor looks like? Who the hell cares?
Just let it be, it’s not the story.”

READ MORE: Quote of the Day: Nancy Meyers on Sexism in Hollywood

It’s a good thing that Meyers hasn’t listened to all of the naysayers in her life, otherwise audiences would’ve never seen “Private Benjamin.” Meyers outlined that the film industry has changed dramatically in the past 30 years in regards to its reception of a female lead. She said,  “It was really hard to get ‘Private Benjamin’ made by the way, every single studio in
Hollywood read it and passed on it.
Nobody even met with us, it was really
hard. As a matter of fact, one studio had
called Goldie [Hawn] and said, ‘If you
make this movie it’s a career ender.’ So
maybe they weren’t that amused
actually now that I think about it.”

Meyers admitted that she is able to pump out such relatable comedic scripts because she stays true to who she is. It seems that Meyers can relate to most people in her audiences in one way or another, because she lacks an “extreme point of view about things.” She said having gone through a divorce was ironically helpful for her as a writer because it allowed her to tap into a whole set of people struggling with the same common issues. It is because Meyers sticks to what she knows that she finds fulfillment in her work.

The greatest gift a screenwriter can get when it comes to working on a project is having a dynamite actor deliver your words. In Meyer’s unique case, that happened when Steve Martin signed on for the lead in “Father of the Bride” before she had written the screenplay. In a statement that most working screenwriters would kill to utter, Meyers said, “”It’s a gift because you know you’re
writing for Steve Martin, so you know you
can be funny and you can be loose and
you can do all these twists and turns in
the scene.” Since making the hit installment, Meyers always thinks of casting when she begins to write a character. It’s crucial to Meyers to have a great cast because the nature of her films can easily be seen as tragedies as much as they are comedies; yet she wants audiences to leave theaters smiling. 

In Meyers’ newest film, “The Intern,” she got Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway to translate her story to screen. She had an immense amount of fun in the process of toying with De Niro’s character in particular. She said that unlike any other comedy that De Niro has played, “he’s really a very centered,
calm, patient, non-threatening person.
Totally against type because in every
comedy he’s in he’s sort of trading on his
threatening stuff that people know him
from. He’s not
nuts in my movie at all.”

Meyers concluded her talk with a small but earnest dosage of reality for aspiring screenwriters. “The last 35 years
you could make movies about people. ‘The Intern’ was very hard to
get made, for me it was hard to get
made and I have had successes so
there’s a track record there they could
look at and feel good about,” says Meyers. “It was still
really hard to get made…I know a
couple of other people that have gotten
movies made that are not superhero
movies or whatever, maybe the
pendulum is swinging back in the
direction of human beings and human
stories and comedies about adults.” 

Meyers’ “The Intern” is now playing in theaters. 

READ MORE: Review Roundup: Nancy Meyer’s ‘The Intern’ Is Odd-Couple Workplace Comedy With Can-Do Spirit

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