Director Michael Showalter chats about Atlanta-filmed rom-com The Idea of You

The film, which stars Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine, is a fun rom-com that also comments on double standards, social media, and celebrity dating

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Director Michael Showalter chats about Atlanta-filmed rom-com The Idea of You
Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine in The Idea of You

Photograph courtesy of MGM and Amazon Prime

You might need to sit down for this. In her new shot-in-Atlanta romantic comedy The Idea of You—based on the book by Robinne Lee—Anne Hathaway, who first burst into America’s heart in the hit comedy The Princess Diaries in 2001, plays a divorced 40-year-old single mom of a teenage daughter. The funny and thought-provoking new film that begins streaming Friday on Amazon Prime explores the romantic complications that ensue after Hathaway’s art gallery owner Solene accidentally runs into Hayes Campbell—a 24-year-old Harry Styles-esque member of boy band sensation August Moon—backstage at Coachella.

In addition to Hathaway’s immediate on-screen chemistry with Nicholas Galitzine, (whose fast-rising star resume includes the new Starz period drama Mary & George and last year’s role as a closeted British prince in Amazon Prime’s Red, White & Royal Blue), there’s lots of snappy dialogue and some pointed commentary about both our addictions to social media and how celebrity dating lives are scrutinized.

Director Michael Showalter chats about Atlanta-filmed rom-com The Idea of You
Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine in The Idea of You

Photograph courtesy of MGM and Amazon Prime

For Atlantans, it’s also a great chance to see the Studio at Candler Park double as Solene’s art gallery, set in the Silver Lakes neighborhood of Los Angeles; Garibaldi’s in Savannah becomes the backdrop for a Paris Café; and a private Buckhead residence portrays a luxury St. Tropez getaway. Oh, yes—and the Atlanta Motor Speedway doubles as Coachella.

In town prepping for a holiday ensemble comedy as his next Atlanta film shoot, The Idea of You director Michael Showalter (who also helmed 2017’s The Big Sick and co-wrote the 2001 cult classic Wet Hot American Summer) sat down with Atlanta to discuss his new Amazon Prime rom-com.

Director Michael Showalter chats about Atlanta-filmed rom-com The Idea of You
Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine in The Idea of You

Photograph courtesy of MGM and Amazon Prime

You not only directed this film but co-wrote the screenplay. What attracted you to this story?
I love romantic movies, rom-coms, romantic dramedies. As a filmmaker, there are so many things you can do in this genre. There’s great performances and an opportunity for great dialogue, drama and comedy. There’s so many different ways to do things in this genre. I just loved these characters and this story that [The Idea of You novelist and co-screenwriter] Robinne Lee created. Anne Hathaway was already attached so it was the opportunity to work with her as well. I’m such a fan of hers so I was really excited to take this on.

I feel like I’ve blinked blink twice and somehow 23 years have gone by and Anne Hathaway is now playing the mom of a teenage daughter in a movie. She’s in a new place in her career. How did you go about directing her in this new phase?
I’m just a fan of her work. She’s such a talented actress who has such a range of things she can do, from comedy to drama. She’s sexy, she’s relatable. So for me, it was the opportunity to collaborate with such a great actress and to learn from her.

You shot this entirely on location here in Georgia. From my perspective visiting location shoots it always feels like a pressure cooker for the director who has a limited amount of time to get the shots they need. What were your experiences like here?
We had a great time making this movie. Most of the cast and crew aren’t from Atlanta so we were all here away from our families and our lives, which meant there was a lot of bonding, a lot of hanging out, a lot of late nights, and a lot of eating dinner at all the fine restaurants here. We had a blast. For me, being on location is difficult because I’m away from my family. But from a creative standpoint, being able to create and to be completely immersed in the work from the moment you wake up in the morning until you go to bed at night is really good. My focus is so singular whereas if I’m working from home, I come home to my family and I have other responsibilities. Being able to have that singularity of focus is a really nice thing.

Director Michael Showalter chats about Atlanta-filmed rom-com The Idea of You
Nicholas Galitzine in The Idea of You

Photograph courtesy of MGM and Amazon Prime

This might be a historic first—the Atlanta Motor Speedway is doubling for Coachella in this film, so thank you for that.
[Showalter laughs]

I love those sequences and this is new territory for you as a director too, shooting concert sequences like this, right?
Oh yeah, for sure. It was so important to get it right. It’s a massive sequence in the film and it was important not to cut any corners in terms of grasping the scope of it so the audience watching the movie really feels like you’re there at a big music festival. You get a sense of what these guys are like and what this band is like onstage. So we built our own Coachella right there at the speedway. There’s a little bit of VFX [visual effects] involved. The crowd wasn’t quite as big as you see in the film. We had a great night shooting those scenes, dancing, and having a blast.

You were able to shoot all that in one night?
The actual concert sequence we were able to do in one night. There’s a lot of other stuff going on there, the trailer stuff and the tent stuff too. I think we were on location there for maybe three days, but definitely not more than that.

Locations-wise, you cover a lot of geography in this movie. You shot in Savannah, Poncey-Highland, where Solene’s house is located. Buckhead is represented and Candler Park is where her art gallery is set. Were there any particular locations you liked working at?
We were able to go all over town and we really liked all of the different places we were in. I’m actually back in Atlanta now prepping another movie and I’m in Cabbagetown, which is such an interesting and amazing place with those houses. So because I’m here, I’ll say Cabbagetown at the moment.

And let’s not forget, you shot a pivotal scene at Big Boi’s Stankonia Studios.
Oh, yes! That was really fun to be in there for sure!

In addition to the thrill of getting to see Anne Hathaway utter the phrase “f***boi” in this movie, I love the Thai food scene where she’s talking to her ex-husband’s new and younger wife. She nails that one line and had me on the floor laughing. With all of the dramatic roles she done, it’s easy to forget why Garry Marshall hired her for The Princess Diaries. She has an amazing sense of comedic timing, doesn’t she?
Oh yeah, she’s a natural comedienne for sure. I love that moment too. I also love that both the Thai food line and Anne’s response were both adlibbed in the moment. It was a great moment of capturing a couple of actors having fun.

Director Michael Showalter chats about Atlanta-filmed rom-com The Idea of You
Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine in The Idea of You

Photograph courtesy of MGM and Amazon Prime

Another thing I loved about this movie is that it tackles the societal double standard of women catching hell when they date a younger man but older men dating younger women don’t face the same scrutiny. I loved that you weave in the boy band fandom, the social media craziness, and the hatred that unspools online. Why was that theme important for you to tackle?
I want to tell stories that are both entertaining and fun. I love genre films and all that, but I also like it when a movie can be about a little bit more. And so a lot of the movies that I love in this genre, Say Anything or Four Weddings and a Funeral, there’s something else being talked about in addition to will they or won’t they? They tend to be about family, career, and love lost. This very much felt like that for me. In addition to this great love story, there’s also a commentary about our society. Hopefully when you watch a movie like this, it forces you to think a little bit. It challenges you to look at the world we live in and whether there are ways we can make it a better world.

What can you tell us about the new movie you’re shooting here?
It’s a holiday ensemble film with an amazing cast led by Michelle Pfeiffer. This film is going to be a lot more comedic than my last few films but it’s got a lot of heart and it’s about something. We’re going to shoot it here over the next few months.

The shot-in-Atlanta Idea of You starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine, directed by Michael Showalter begins streaming on Amazon Prime Friday, May 3.

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